Thursday, July 09, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 3x01: "Children Of Earth: Day One"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Euros Lyn

The Children: “We are coming, we are coming.”
Gwen: “Oh my God.”
The Children: “We are coming, we are coming.”

I guarantee one thing – a group of kids chanting ‘we are coming’ should be the very thing to make grown men weep. Torchwood’s always sort of styled itself on both The X-Files and Spooks and now that’s even more so with this excellent five part season.

My biggest peeves about the new season (aside from the fifteen month wait for it) include the fact that it’s five episodes instead of thirteen, that there are no individual episode titles and also that it’s airing for five consecutive nights.

With the last one, it’s a bit annoying from a reviewing perspective but the first five minutes almost made all of those peeves disappear. Torchwood, oh how I’ve missed you so much.

In Scotland 1965, a group of children took a fatal bus trip in the middle of the night and got blinded by aliens. One young boy didn’t seem to follow and forty four years later that was something that would prove relevant.

Gwen was the first person to spot the madness as was Rhys in his van. It’s always going to be alarming seeing virtually every single child stopping on the streets and when it was revealed that it was happening all over the world, there was a bigger cause for alarm.

Having the government of sorts involved in the alien invasion (it is an invasion, right?) was fine for me. Governments are always inept, secretive, outright danger and generally incompetent and with the likes of the Prime Minister, John Frobisher and Bridget Spears and that Colonel bloke whose name I didn’t actually get, all of them ticked the respective boxes.

The alien threat in this story is something called the 456. Not exceptionally the best name for an alien threat but I’m sure the lack of a cool name is nothing compared to the damage that they’re likely to cause within the next four episodes though.

Stopping kids in the streets is one thing but when an older man named Timothy Whites was doing the same thing, there was something of an obvious connection. He had to have been that young boy from 1965 and while it took Gwen a while for him to open up about it, I liked that I was right, even if I wasn’t in a minority there.

With all these incidents happenings, having the government declare an assassination attempt on Torchwood was mind blowing. Can I just say that I love Johnson, hard core, extremist bitch that she is? I had a soft spot for Liz May Brice on Bad Girls and I think it’s brilliant that she was cast as Johnson.

The Hub blowing was certainly a spectacular moments. Gwen managed to run away in time but Ianto was going up the lift at the time and while I don’t doubt that he’ll be alive next episode, I am worried about Jack. Yeah, he can’t die but it seems that Johnson isn’t for want of trying.

She literally had him cause that explosion in the Hub after she had gotten Rupesh to betray Jack and shoot him. I actually thought that Rupesh was going to be a new team member or a playmate for Jack/Ianto, what I’m a slasher? The episode teased it with Jack and Ianto spying on him and Gwen even trying to recruit him for Torchwood.

In the end, cute as he was, Rupesh was a plant for Johnson and when he tried to scarper, she had no problem in executing him. I suppose I shouldn’t gripe about one cute guy meeting an untimely end on the show but Torchwood wise, we are destined for some new recruits.

Back in the first season, I would’ve found it hard to imagine the idea of Rhys wanting to join Torchwood. Note that I said want rather than him being capable. Rhys might be an ordinary bloke but he’s no dummy and I wanted to high five him when he wondered if the moments when all the kids stopped were deliberate. Gwen telling him that he was brilliant however just covered it.

Rhys is potentially going to be a Torchwood employee, which means he’ll have to put up with Jack’s flirty behaviour even more so. Another person who clearly looks destined for future Torchwood employment is Lois Habiba.

I had to laugh when she told Jack that she had no idea of Torchwood’s existence because at this point, everyone is aware of them. Lois did however show a natural suspicion towards Frobisher, Decker and Bridget and she had realised too late that Torchwood were going to be put out of business.

Assuming she makes it past this season alive (and signs are good, right?), Lois could be a promising addition to the Torchwood team. For one thing, she’ll help even out the gender ratio and if she’s impervious to Jack’s flirtatiousness, then her and Rhys will have something in common too.

When alien threats weren’t dominating the proceedings, another huge strength of the season premiere was the interpersonal stuff. I kind of wished that I hadn’t read spoilers due to certain scenes but regardless of that, everything that was ‘spoiled’ for me wasn’t in the sense that they didn’t lose their impact.

Gwen’s meeting with Clement ‘Clem’ MacDonald (Timothy’s real name) not only revealed that he knew about the 456 but the reveal of her pregnancy was excellently handled. It should also tie in perfectly with Eve Myles’s real life pregnancy as well. Gwen wasn’t enthusiastic when Rhys brought up the issue of kids but as soon as she got over her initial shock she warmed to the idea of becoming a mother. Here’s hoping that surviving being nearly blown to smithereens hasn’t affected her.

As for Jack, is it really a massive shock to learn that he’s got a daughter named Alice and a grandson named Steven? Not really but again, the excellent casting continued with Cape Wrath’s Lucy Cohu cast as the daughter in question. Jack trying to pass himself off as Steven’s uncle also made a lot of sense.

What I also loved was Jack discussing the idea of telling Steven the truth about himself. It made sense for Alice to be against the idea and I certainly didn’t blame her when she objected Jack wanting to use his grandson as a means of figuring out the frequency as well in regards to the 456.

It’s funny that Ianto also had the same idea in regards to his niece, Mischa as well. Wow, family really is a dominant part of this episode. We know that Gwen and Rhys have a baby on the way, we’ve met Jack’s daughter and grandson and now we’ve met Ianto’s sister, niece, nephew and idiot brother in law.

One of the best things about this episode was addressing Jack and Ianto’s relationship. They both deeply care for each other, would sacrifice themselves for the other, certainly know how to light up a screen with a kiss in the moment of danger but the label of ‘couple’ is strange to them.

Everyone seemed to comment on them being a couple. Rupesh automatically assumed they were a couple, Gwen teased them for talking like a couple in an affectionate way and Rhiannon also didn’t give up until Ianto admitted that him and Jack were an item. However the very word was hard for both of them.

For Jack, I guess Ianto’s mortality is always going to be a factor and for Ianto, he openly admitted to his sister that it was just Jack he was into, not men. I absolutely loved Gareth David-Lloyd in that scene and I also thought that Russell T. Davies wrote something very truthful and I liked Rhiannon as well. Couldn’t however give a monkey about her idiot husband and his dumbass solutions for trying to get Ianto’s SUV back when a group of Chavs nicked it.

As for the bad guys of the episode, it’s hard to get a real feel for them. I get the feeling that Frobisher might not be as evil as he seemed (and it was him who got Bridget to blow up Torchwood) but Johnson seems ruthless to the core and the Prime Minister, Bridget and Decker also seem typically bureaucratic as well. Thankfully we’ll have more episodes to develop them then.

Also in “Children Of Earth: Day One”

The opening credits were a white background and Kai Owen was promoted to series regular.

Rupesh (re Mr Williams): “There’d have to be an autopsy but I’d say his heart gave out.”
Ianto: “Brave old heart.”

Gwen’s ‘what’s occurring?’ line will only make sense if you’ve seen Gavin And Stacy and we did have Ruth Jones in “Adrift”.

Rupesh: “You’re Torchwood.”
Captain Jack: “Never heard of them.”

Colonel (to Frobisher): “As far as we can tell, at 8.40 this morning every child in the world stopped.”

Torchwood’s elevation to BBC3 to BBC1 in three seasons is good. It also follows the Five Days/Criminal Justice trend by trying to air all the third season in a week.

Gwen (re Rupesh): “You just let him follow you?”
Ianto: “Ask about Torchwood and you get pointed to the bay.”

Captain Jack: “I hate the word, ‘couple’.”
Ianto: “Me too.”

In the build up to Season 3, we had a series of radio plays such as “Asylum”, “The Dead Line and “Golden Age” to whet our appetites.

Rupesh (re the Hub): “What’s in there?”
Gwen: “Big science fiction super base. Honestly, see you later.”

Captain Jack: “You’re working for the Home Office and you’ve never heard of Torchwood?”
Lois: “I’m new. Just started today.”

Martha was mentioned in this episode (The Doctor wasn’t though). Gwen said she was on honeymoon and there were a few allusions to “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End” as well.

Prime Minister: “You never told me, I was never part of it. I never knew, is that understood?”
Frobisher: “Yes, sir. Then I assume the blank page is left to me.”

Alice (to Captain Jack): “Yeah. I just can't stand it dad. I look older than you do and it's never going to stop. I get older and older and you stay the same. One day you're going to be standing at my funeral... looking just like you did when you were standing at Mum's. No wonder she was so furious. You make us feel old.

I loved that little scene where Gwen said hello to the picture of Owen and Toshiko at the start of the episode. I also wasn’t surprised that she used alien tech to confirm her pregnancy as well.

Ianto (to Rhiannon, re Captain Jack): “It’s weird. It’s different. It’s not men, it’s him. It’s only him and I don’t know what it is.”

Gwen: “You know what I think it was – aliens?”
Clem: “There’s no such thing.”
Gwen: “Those days are long gone.”

I’m guessing the flayed body that we saw Johnson with for the next episode is Jack. Reading the Buffy comics, I think I’ve had my fill of flayed dudes.

Rupesh (re Captain Jack): “He was dead.”
Johnson: “And now he’s dead again.”

Captain Jack (re pregnancy): “Oh my God, is that? How long?”
Gwen: “Three weeks.”
Captain Jack: “That’s good, isn’t it? From where I’m standing, it looks good to me.”
Gwen: “Yeah. Bloody hell. It’s brilliant.”

The DVD for the whole third season is coming out on July 27th. BBC America airs it from July 20th-24th and there’s ComicCon with John Barrowman, David Tennant, Russell T. Davies and Euros Lyn on the 26th.

Captain Jack (to Ianto): “I’ll come back. I always do.”

Chronology: It’s hard to determine though it’s believed that Rupesh might have been watching them for a long while. He admitted to being in Cardiff for 18 months.

“Children Of Earth: Day One” certainly opened things on a high but with the distance we had to wait and the reduced number of episodes this season, we needed something big and chock full of shocks and character moments. I don’t know if the remaining four episodes will sustain the storyline but things are more than off to a good start, I’ll give you that.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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