fans of this British science fiction show, which can be accurately described
as “Doctor Who for adults”, were disappointed by
Torchwood: Children of Earth, the five-part “mini-series” that were
broadcast in July of 2009 in lieu of an actual 13-part season as before.
And who can blame them? Anyone would rather want a full
season instead of a handful of episodes of this excellent BBC show. After
some adolescent growing pains during its first season,
Torchwood quickly ditched all the
boinking that earned it its “for adults” label and found its own voice
during its second season with some intelligent and complex science fiction
storylines and characters. In the process it came more than a mere dumping
ground for reject Doctor Who
To recap: Torchwood is the name a secret organization
created by the British government to battle extraterrestrial threats to
Earth. Its Cardiff branch is led by the charismatic Jack Harkness (John
Barrowman) whom viewers will know from earlier episodes of the current
Doctor Who series. Torchwood is a bit like The
X-Files – except they have a bigger budget and staff. Each episode the
handful of Torchwood members would investigate some unexplained phenomena
usually related to alien activity in Cardiff.
Children of Earth kicks off where series 2 ended.
Torchwood is now running on a reduced staff complement following the death
of some staff members (it is after all a risky job and as civil servants
they probably don’t paid enough). One day all of the world’s children simply
stand still and start chanting “they are coming” in unison, as if they are
all in on a giant prank by some kids who saw
Village of the Damned on TCM one night. Only problem is that it is a
world-wide phenomenon and for some reason all the kids are speaking English.
Considering how difficult it is to get the French to speak so much as a word
of English, it is only obvious that some sort of alien presence is
“possessing” the children. But who are these aliens and what do they want?
One thing is for sure though: it ain’t good. . .
To make matters worse, the UK government decides to
eliminate Torchwood for some reason. If you think your recent retrenchment
process was tough, spare a thought for the Torchwood team. They simply
aren’t being pink slipped. No, instead an elite, highly-trained death squad
is dispatched to assassinate them all! Obviously the UK government is trying
to cover up something with this drastic measure. But what?
To be honest the new mini-series format may not be
entirely suited to the Torchwood premise. This series is slow to
start and perhaps an entire episode could have been dropped altogether.
However, once things do truly get going by the final two episodes found on
the second disc, Children of Earth makes for compulsive and addictive
viewing. This is prime Torchwood and all concerns that this is going to be a
tame Children of the Damned rip-off goes right
out the window.
IT? Yes. Torchwood: Children of Earth continues an age-old
science fiction genre convention: namely a healthy mistrust of government
and authority . . .
However, unlike the right-wing UN black helicopters / Waco
compound / survivalist / libertarian strand found in American shows such as
The X-Files, Torchwood is decidedly more
European in its sensibilities and leans to the Left spectrum of politics.
This has always been a show which has been politically Liberal in its
sentiments. Unlike many American shows and movies, it is never homophobic
towards its own characters for instance. Torchwood not only features
homosexual characters and, erm, situations, but the show actually likes them
and never depicts them as stereotypical objects of sitcom humor.
Children of the Earth is also a stridently angry
piece of film-making. It posits that the UK government – and probably all
government by implication – is more interested in its own survival than it
is in the welfare of the very citizenry it is supposed to protect. The UK
government not only keeps the truth from its electorate, but will go to any
length to ensure its own continued existence, including actual class warfare
against its own population.
When the hero of the piece declares that “an
injury to one is an injury to all” one might as well picture him as an angry
union stop steward railing against management’s poor safety record. It is
the classical divide between the collective ideal behind Socialism vs. the Thatcherite individualism of Capitalism.
Towards the end of the mini-series one is made to cheer
for working class types as they duke it out with British riot police. It is
difficult to dislike a show with an attitude such as this - even if one does
not necessarily share the political sentiments.
It is simply a welcome
antidote to the stifling law & order conservatism found in American TV shows
where the heroes are always lawyers or cops. In the process Torchwood
is also not afraid to break a few other unwritten Hollywood laws. Hint: one
of them involves children . . .
RECOMMENDATION: Children of Earth is aimed
at long-time fans of this show. If you’re new to Torchwood, then it is
probably best that you first check out the previous seasons of this show as
well as a few relevant episodes of
Doctor Who. Torchwood fans might argue that the show’s resolution and
setup is stereotypical and that the five episode format simply stretches the
story out for too long, but the series’ strengths outweigh its weaknesses by
Torchwood has always been a show that is not afraid to treat
science fiction viewers as intelligent adults and Children of Earth
continues this grand tradition.