In the final episode of the Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries, Gwen Cooper fights for the lives of a small group of children at a council estate while Jack is forced to choose between two horrifying options. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Torchwood.
This really wasn’t ever going to end well, was it?
I don’t know that I actually expected some sort of joyous end to this story, but the amount of tragedy left behind by the appearance of the 456 is just….holy god, this is so bleak. Torchwood haven’t always been successful, but aside from defeating the 456 themselves, what good came from all of this?
There are a lot of things here that frightened and disturbed me. I don’t know why I thought the 456 would have some “noble” purpose behind their visit. Given what they’d done to everyone upon their second visit, this actually makes no sense at all. Still, they’re using the children for RECREATIONAL DRUG USE? I can barely process the idea. That means that the original visit in 1965 was merely a gateway, in a sense, to an addiction on behalf of the 456. They became addicted. TO CHILDREN.
this show. THIS SHOW.
The horrors of this concept, though, seem to pale in comparison to the actions taken by the British government. I really do adore that “Day Five” opens with Gwen’s recorded monologue about the absence of the Doctor. Obviously, I love any and all references to Doctor Who, but it’s more of a thematic idea that is presented here: Sometimes, humans do things that are absolutely atrocious. The events we watch on screen are terrifying in a completely different way for a show so heavily steeped in science fiction. “Day Five” instead chooses to show us how a government can work against its own people. I commented yesterday that the conversation in the Cobra meeting about the league tables unsettled me because of how real it seemed. Given my country’s actions during World War II when we interned thousands of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I don’t doubt for one second that something similar to the events on screen in “Day Five” could happen again.
Humans have a history of treating each other horrifically in times of crisis. It’s incredibly difficult to watch a bunch of soldiers essentially kidnap the lowest performing ten percent of Britain’s children, sometimes right in front of their parents. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so helpless while watching a TV show, so consumed by a futile rage and knowing that this entire situation seems impossible. Once the children start being rounded up, I started thinking that this was actually going to happen, that at least one nation was seriously going to give up their children to the 456. How could I not? The opening of “Day Five” showed Gwen and Jack admitting the most ultimate defeat. (That was also a brilliantly acted scene, too, especially when Gwen called Rhys to tell him that it was all over.)
Torchwood gave up. They conceded. i feel no good things at all.
If anything, Children of Earth is a story about failure, and what people do when their traditional avenues of action and agency provide them with no answers and no relief. How do human beings treat each other when chaos looms around the corner? How does a government behave when forced into the most inane decision imaginable? How does one man react to the revelation that there’s a way to save the world, but only if he destroys his family in the process? There really aren’t too many science fiction stories that focus on the ramifications of chaos and destruction and, in that sense, I’m reminded of why The Walking Dead has been such a revealing graphic novel series. Hell, the zombie genre in general approaches the idea of futile, impossible chaos and shows us what human beings will do when faced with abject terror. (Can I just take this moment to recommend World War Z to each and every one of you? It’s possibly the best thing the entire zombie world has ever given us, and on top of it, it is a brilliantly written book.)
I think that by exploring this idea, as difficult as it is, the various writers of “Day Five” have taken every single character to a fascinating place, even if I don’t necessarily like where they end up. Ianto’s death was sudden, the result of a bluff being called and the lack of planning on his and Jack’s part, but throughout Children of Earth, his relationship with an immortal man was taken to it’s inevitable, depressing conclusion: one day, Jack would have to watch him die, and there was nothing he could do but move on. Obviously, I don’t want this, and it would be silly to say so, since….ugh, I really liked Ianto a lot, even more so during Children of Earth. But what does a man do when faced with his coming death, knowing the man he loves isn’t ever going to die?
For Gwen, she’s faced with the prospect of raising a child in a world where leaders can write away the fate of millions of children in a single meeting, where the human race might always be subject to the drug-fueled cravings of a seemingly-invincible alien species. She makes an offhand comment to Rhys about the future of their own child. It’s a statement made in a moment of desperate fear, too, but when she heads to Rhiannon’s estate to notify Ianto’s sister about his death, she is forced to see first-hand just how horrifying this world is going to be. Honestly, the scenes at the council estates filled me with a rage I’d not really experienced while watching television. It wasn’t that the writing was bad, or offensive, or poorly acted. That’s a different kind of rage. This is that dull, constant sensation of realizing just how unfair the world can be, and how the powerless can be utterly useless to fight against those with all of the power. It’s that feeling I got in junior high when I was bullied. It’s the feeling I get when I see governments centering the majority in ways to screw over the minority, when I feel as if nothing is ever going to change, that anything I do is pointless and futile.
Just so I’m clear, this is a compliment about “Day Five.” Christ, this is so good.
But is there any character arc better written (or more tragic) than that of John Frobisher? His story is ultimately about the disposability of the middleman, of how his government used him to make contact with alien beings in the most important act of diplomacy in the history of the world. In every sense, Frobisher was a hero to the world for what he did, even if he was part of a decision-making process that ultimately sold out the most disadvantaged citizens. I viewed Frobisher’s actions as uniquely unselfish in many ways: he sacrificed the happiness of his family. He ignored his own personal moral crisis. He did everything he could to not only do his job, but to navigate a frightening, jarring, and confusing world disaster with force and control.
I was horrified (but not surprised) to learn that a “vote” had been taken, and Frobisher’s children were chosen for the “inoculation.” I wanted to punch the Prime Minister in the face, but this isn’t real and I’m being silly. No, but seriously, watch how he doesn’t even look up at Frobisher for the most part, as if he just told him something. For all of the work that Frobisher has done in the past four days, his reward is this: he’ll be the public facing savior for the government. He’s already done this in private, and the government uses him once more. I can’t deny that once Frobisher finally seemed to crack, yelling at the Prime Minister, I felt tears suddenly well in my eyes. I’d grown attached to a character I’d only been around for four and a half hours. I wanted so badly for Frobisher to break from the government, or to find freedom, or to experience some sort of joy, but we were given none of this. If there is anyone that the government failed miserably in the end, it was Frobisher. Here was a dedicated civil servant, devoted to his job and his family, and they took all of it away from him. Knowing what would happen to his children, what choice was left to him? Could he live with the thought that his children would be used to fuel an alien race’s drug addiction while his colleagues continued to pretend it was all an accident?
Christ. What a depressing character arc. How haunting and poetic is it that Ms Spears gives her monologue about Frobisher being a “good man” while images of his actions at home are shown on screen? God, it’s so unsettling, but it’s a fitting tribute to a character who absolutely held together this entire mini-series.
But in terms of an actual discussion, I’m fascinated by the gutting moral decision Jack Harkness is faced with at the end of “Day Five.” After the colossal mistake at the end of “Day Four,” where his Doctor-lite bluff was called and Ianto and many others were murdered by the 456, the level of guilt and shame that Jack is feeling about his actions is at an all-time high. The writers have taken Jack to an extremely dark place for his character, as those two emotions can cause people to make poor decisions. But it’s not as simple as that. What if the two choices you have are just as awful as each other? Do you err on the side of your own family and those close to you? Or do you save the entire world while killing your own grandson?
It was simply awful to watch John Barrowman’s face during this scene, his eyes glassed over with tears of his choice, because it looked so real. The anguish that Lucy Cohu displays cuts right to your heart, too, her horrified screams permeating the entire scene. Even Johnson’s face is unbearable to look at. I’m glad that this show did not portray any of this as a victory because it’s not. Yes, it’s probably way more practical that one child is sacrificed in order to save the world, but we’d been shown that Jack’s daughter was finally growing close to him. AND NOPE. GONE. DESTROYED. NO CHANCE. Holy shit, THIS IS BRUTAL.
What’s satisfying to me (in a really odd way, I must admit) is how Children of Earth is wrapped up in a way that actually doesn’t wrap many things up. When the 456 disappear due to Jack’s reconstitution wave, it doesn’t solve the government’s problems. Not only does Ms Spears’s recording of the proceedings with the Torchwood contact lenses add a wrinkle to any containment problems, the British government is left with the mess to end all messes in its hands. How on earth do they explain to their own people the reasoning behind kidnapping hundreds of thousands of students? Or the decision process? I actually like that it’s not explained and we’re left to imagine the disaster that remains. (Bravo to Ms. Spears, by the way, for finally standing up to these assholes.)
For us, though, the end of “Day Five” spells out the dissolution of Torchwood. What a bleak, depressing end to this mini-series: Jack cannot escape his guilt, so he simply runs away from his problems and his friends, leaving Gwen Cooper in tears on that remote hillside. There can be no Torchwood at this point.
In that sense, this mini-series highlights what people and organizations do when everything goes wrong. As much as it is about the horrors of a drug-addicted race that invades earth, I was always frightened more by the political realism. The writers took a huge chance in centering Peter Capaldi’s character throughout the narrative, but it paid off brilliantly. John Frobisher was given one of the best character arcs imaginable, and Capaldi gave the performance of a lifetime. Again, I’m still reminded just how different this five-part mini-series is when compared to the previous two seasons, but it doesn’t really matter to me. This story was fascinating, thrilling, terrifying, and a bit too real at times, and it’s among some of the best television I’ve ever experienced.
Thanks for joining me on this brief journey. On Monday, I’ll be starting Battlestar Galactica with the first half of the miniseries. You should join me for that as well!
Ah, Children of Earth. Known in my house as "the incredibly compelling, well written, bottomless pit of neverending despair". The scenes of the soldiers dragging the kids away (especially knowing it was done under threats to their own families), and the "rougher" neighborhoods fighting back, was almost too much for me.
And now, knowing how he ended up there, seeing Jack at the bar in "The End of Time" is even more bittersweet.
Looking forward greatly to BSG. Its quite a ride.
HOLY SHIT I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THAT. omg omg 🙁
Yeah this why Jack ends up as an utter mess in that bar.
I find it interesting that Jack shows up in Doctor Who after every season of Torchwood. After the first season he helps Martha and the Doctor against the Master; after season two Jack, Gwen and Ianto all appear and do their best fighting Daleks; and after Children of Earth Jack shows up in a bar where the Doctor sets him up with Alonso. Who I desperately hope shows up in Torchwood at some point, because that would be amazing.
I wonder if this trend will continue, as I'd love to see Jack interact with Eleven and Rory.
As would I. I think it would be a very interesting dynamic. (Amy and Jack would be good, to, but I think we'd all be in for a flirt fest.)
I can't stand Amy, despite her being among the most attractive companions. A lot about her character is just… terrible. I don't know if I can forgive her for how she treated Rory for the first half of the season. And the first episode Rory was in.
Well, I’m glad you’re not basing your enjoyment of companions on how they look XD
No, I agree- Amy was pretty shitty towards Rory in the first half a season 5. But for some reason I don’t mind her nearly as much as I did Rose. Maybe because in the show it was acknowledged more that it wasn’t a nice thing to do. Also, I think she’s genuinely grown out of it, and come to be a better person. So yay, character development!
"Looking forward greatly to BSG. Its quite a ride."
ROFL understatement of the century. 😛
That is the most excellent description of CoE i've ever seen. Bravo.
Oh god, the scene of John Frobisher walking up those stairs as the voice over tells how much of a good man he was has always been one of the most chilling television scenes in my opinion.
And Jack's "oh yes I can….just watch me" is such a bittersweet ending, I like that Gwen was pregnant though, some happiness for her to look forward too.
This series was such an emotional whiplash from the previous two series that, as excellent as it was, I honestly think I was a little traumatized by it. I was happy to see that you were watching it because I hoped I might be able to heal a little from it. I think I might have.
I think I have to keep this series and the first two series completely separate in my head. They have some of the same characters, yes, but they have nothing to do with each other.
Capaldi is brilliant, I'll say it again! And he can be very funny, too. Good casting, no question, and a great actor.
Ugh, this special depresses me. It's so, so good… but just… ouch.
In that sense, this mini-series highlights what people and organizations do when everything goes wrong. As much as it is about the horrors of a drug-addicted race that invades earth, I was always frightened more by the political realism.
This is really what I like about it, though. In the original Torchwood series everything feels disconnected from reality; there's no way you could ever believe an organisation that badly organised or managed would be trusted with the incredible technology and responsibility they are, and so it's easy to suspend your sense of disbelief.
But with Children of Earth, political leaders are forced to make horrifying choices. There are no good options. And these are bodies of power that we can identify with: the police, parliament, the army; they're all much more real threats.
And so when Jack does what he does it hits that much harder, because the surrealism isn't at the same heights that it normally would be. They aliens don't become the main centrepiece of the ending. There's a crying child, and a confused man doing what he feels he must. The story of drug addicted aliens wasn't just to get guys in costumes, but to ask horrifying question: what would you do in Jack's place?
I'm not sure what the right thing would have been, and I don't think I would have had the stomach. But it gets you thinking, and that's what makes this special work much better for me than the television series, which never struck the same emotional chord.
Can't wait for BSG, Mark.
Alright, so- first time ever commenting on Mark Does Stuff!
I've been lurking Mark Reads since Mockingjay, and Mark Watches since Season 2 of Avatar, but never really felt the need to comment. You've been great helping me to think more critically about media, and inspired me to read The Book Thief and watch Avatar which I probably wouldn't have done otherwise. You've also been a great teacher of tolerance, and equality, and all sorts of things that I couldn't learn stuck in my conservative, Lutheran family in a small New England town.
So, I probably won't really ever be an active commentor, but I just wanted to thank you for the positive influence you've had on my life and my worldview through some of the worst months of my life.
Plus- just got World War Z today at Borders this morning! I'll be bringing it to camp next week. It'll probably be done within the week, plus with my other books- I've never had the patience to draw out the experience of reading a book. I salute your restraint, and look forward to reading your BSG reviews. I read the TVTropes page, and trust me: Not. Prepared.
OH MY GOD YOU WILL LOVE THAT BOOK.
Thank you for this super sweet comment, Lauren. 🙂 <3
Interesting that you found 'they are ADDICTED TO CHILDREN' horrifying and I just found it incredibly ridiculous and couldn't take CoE at all seriously after that revelation.
(Can I just take this moment to recommend World War Z to each and every one of you? It’s possibly the best thing the entire zombie world has ever given us, and on top of it, it is a brilliantly written book.)
I haven't read World War Z, but Mira Grant (open alias of Seanan McGuire)'s Newsflesh trilogy (Feed and Deadline are out now, Blackout comes out next year) is the most amazing zombie-related thing ever. It's really more like a political thriller with zombies in Feed, and a conspiracy thriller with zombies in Deadline. (And I say this not really liking thrillers *or* zombies. I read these books because I follow her on lj and liked her urban fantasy series, October Daye.) They are *amazing*. And hard-hitting. And gripping. And awesome. There are people who poke zombies with sticks on video for a living, and they're called Irwins, and they have a Golden Steve-O award, and basically Newsflesh is the best thing in zombies ever.
Children do produce different hormones and such than adolescents/adults do. It's plausible, considering they're a totally nonterrestrial biology. I did wonder, though, why they couldn't just synthetically produce whatever chemicals in the children got them high.
They're *using children as drugs*. It's not the plausibility I object to, it's the utter ridiculousness/inanity of CHILD ADDICT ALIENS.
For me, I don't mind. Something that bothers me with sci-fi in general (and Doctor Who and Torchwood have this problem to a ridiculous extent) is how human they all are. 80% of the aliens either look just like aliens or are obviously humanoid. Many of them have alien motiviations, but they're ones we can understand, and maybe even see reflected in ourselves. Sontarans are a war species? Okay, we can sort of see cultures like that. Daleks are ultimate xenophobes? Well, they were based on the Nazis, afterall. Cybermen? See how we love new gadgets, it could happen.
But creatures with such a foreign motivation\- a motivation which humans can only achieve by throwing themselves completely into substance abuse- that's alien. And all the more horrifying for it.
There's the thing – lots of humans suffer from addictions. It's not an alien thing. I wouldn't mind a properly alien thing, I like nonhumans that are inhuman (though usually coming at that from a fantasy context, because I don't love scifi as a genre. Kyprioth, for example, from Tamora Pierce's Daughter Of The Lioness, is chillingly inhuman, and it shows, even though a lot of the time we just see him as a delightfully rogueish Trickster. I *love* things that don't make gods just humans but bigger.).
I feel that THEY PRODUCE CHEMICALSSSSSS or whatever the line is is just silly. But obviously most of the fanbase feels differently! That's fine! I just can't take it seriously.
(I can't take the Kandy Man seriously either! There are lots of Whoniverse things I can't take seriously. The difference is that most of them aren't trying to hard to be all DARK and EDGY and SRS BSNS. The Happiness Patrol is gloriously campy, and that's *fine*! I love it! But villains I can't take seriously plus SUPER SRS EPISODE is just really jarring and throws me out completely. Like if the Kandy Man showed up in A Good Man Goes To War.)
Well the way they communicate overall is silly in that it's all severely straightforward. *shrug*
I didn’t actually find Kypiroth all that odd, but then maybe I’m just really used to mythology where, as a rule, the gods act like giant assholes and use the humans. (Goes even more for the trickster gods, of course, that’s sort of their thing.)
I suppose it comes down to what you personally think sounds silly. For me, the idea that a person could be irrevocably changed by drugs is pretty horrifying, and why I tend to be wary of even things like alcohol. When encapsulated into an alien….well, for me, that’s pretty scary. But for someone else, it might be silly.
(I'd comment on the Kandy Man, but I haven't seen the Happiness Patrol yet. I know, I know, I'm planning onto getting one of Seven's episodes, I'll be there eventually.)
I didn't say he was odd, I said he was inhuman 😛 And he's different from, say…. Ozorne. Who is a powerful human who uses other humans, but he's still very human. (Well. Until he's a Stormwing. :P) Kyprioth didn't understand why Aly would mourn Elsren and… whatshisface. Dunstan? Something like that. And Mithros and the Mother clearly didn't care about the raka at all. (This has been bothering me: Why doesn't the Great Mother Goddess get a *name*? Mithros has a name. Kyprioth has a name. Ganiel has a name. Weiryn has a name.)
Well yes, addiction is scary, but it isn't inhuman, and I just found THE CHILDREN PRODUCE CHEMICALSSSSSS incurably ridiculous. (I don't do alcohol either! Drugs freak me out. But children as drugs I just find too weird to be scary.)
(ACE IS THE BEST FOREVER. And if I had to pick a favourite Doctor, it'd be Seven.)
I thought it was pretty rediculous too, but everything else in the series was really good and hey the whole thing is a five hour argument against standardized testing so I let it slide.
I really like how at the end the government is worried about possibly losing a swing election, you know rather than worrying about swinging from lampposts from a short length of rope. Personally I always thought that the 456 might just be the universal equivalant of a drunk guy asking for a cigarette and trying to rob you but being too off his head to do anything. Like they just shake down planets that don't know any better and hope they don't run into anyone tougher than them like the Doctor. Them coming back too earth was like "holy shit guys last time they gave us 11, how much do you reckon we could get if we came back and threatened them some more?"
Wellll, they did kind of kill hundreds of people in 1 building with no warning within the span of a few minutes. Just as a way to intimidate one country. Someone up in the mothership's gotta be sober.
yeah, but only after they made said people build them their own dead trap. That's like telling people to build you a gun and put in the bullets and then hand it over to you, so you can use it to kill them.
Yeaaah, good point. Damn people.
Well, a better analogy would be asking someone who'd never seen bullets make it. The humans were quite in the dark; for all the government knew, they could have ray gunned the planet or something.
Afterall, I thought the implication was that the 456 created the Spanish Flu.
Two great moments in this ep where when Gwen warns Rhiannon, she doesn't just keep her own children at home, she instantly offers to look after all the other neighborhood kids as well, for free. Trying to save them as well.
Or PC Andy, taking off his vest and siding with the civilians trying to protect the children instead of following orders. Because even in the worst moments of despair there are still good people doing the right thing for the right reasons.
YES TO THIS.
I honestly think most soldiers and police would be like Andy really. Alot of them have kids and they wouldn't be willing to go to schools and steal other peoples children without extensive indoctrination that would take awhile. Also as I said yesterday our government cannot organise a pissup in a brewery with months of planning let alone a clandestine nationwide kidnapping plan in less than a day.
I mean they plan it and then let the army know, army calls in all the soldiers at home currently and lets them know the plans. That alone would take a couple days, then they have to get all the trucks and set up wherever they're planning to fake all these deaths while also secretly taking the kids to wherever they would be given to 456 and also pacifying a now incredibly pissed off populace who have had the most important thing in the world stolen from them.
The people in the Cobra room said that if any militaryperson didn't comply, their children would be taken for inoculation. Pretty good incentive for some.
You'd be amazed what people can do for a job, under the pretense of orders. Just look at some of the things which happened in the Vietnam war- napalming of children, just because they might be commie. Of course, these soldiers haven't had years of propoganda or desensitization, but someone else pointed out that their own families would be taken if they didn't do it. That's a pretty good incentive.
I suppose but then you have to add sorting the children as well and once they start threatening soldiers who's going to do the enforcing? Keeping in mind that the soldiers themselves wouldn't know about the aliens, they would be told that they're rounding kids up for innoculations or whatever. So the threat would be "round up these kids forcibly, ignoring any precedent, moral or legal problems and if you don't well then we'll take your kids away. To be innoculated, which is a good thing as far as you know. So us using it as a punishment is slightly suspect". Sorry, I don't overthink Doctor Who like this. Torchwood just brings it out in me I guess.
Yes! It was good to have some genuine bright spots in this otherwise landscape of horribleness.
YES. When that working class neighborhood just fights back and Andy joins in, I feel such utter joy, every time.
It's what everyone should have done from the beginning, instead of selling each other out, just fight back, TOGETHER.
I think that was PC Andy's best moment, really.
Someone in the last post mentioned that they thought that any human, not just politicians, would try to save their own at the expense of others, maybe because we're just so selfish when it comes to our loved ones.
So… what does that make Jack Harkness now?
The saddest thing about Frobisher's story is that now it's all for naught. He did probably the best thing, in all honesty, in the face of inevitability, but it's sad that now we know his children would've never actually been abducted.
Poor Gwen. She's alone. I mean, yes she has Rhys and her family, but even while Rhys was with her through this story, there's no one left that really knew what it was life to be with Torchwood. She's thrust back into the world without anyone who can truly relate to her experience.
And I think fandom's figured that in Tennant's last episode, when Harkness is at the space bar and he sees the Doctor, it takes place after this episode.
Just sad all the fuck around.
I think it only makes sense for Jack to have shown up after this episode. Before this, Jack was on Earth pretty much 24/7. It can't be too far in the future because Alonso was there, looking pretty young. And after this, who would blame him for trying to drown his sorrows?
But yeah, this is a sad, sad end. Painful, bleak, and while the bad guys are defeated, the day is saved….everything sucks.
As for what Jack Harkness is- he's pragmatic. He's been through at least three wars. He's seen his best friend tortured in front of him. He's been buried alive for 2,000 years. He's made responsibility his code. And he did what was better for the greater good. The captain should be respected, but pitied too, I think.
Oh I agree with all those things about Jack, I was just suggesting that maybe he's all these things in such a combination to make him… well, not more or less, but something a bit deviant from 'human'.
I remember basically crying throughout the last two episodes of this miniseries. I had a major headache when I finished.
Also, ILU for encouraging people to read WWZ. I have a weakness for zombies, and that's one of my favorite books. I am so excite they're turning it into a movie!
Also also, I've been watching BSG, and I must say I'm loving it so far. I've always meant to watch it (kinda like with Avatar), so thank you once again for giving me an excuse to get invested in a new piece of amazingness.
Children of Earth is without doubt some of the most gripping television i have ever watched, loved it.
This is a great essay dealing with how the miniseries handles it's female characters. It's well thought out and if you care even in the slightest about the portrayal of woman in the media, it can only make you like the miniseries even more.
This is excellent, thank you! I like that they point out the easier tropes/archetypes the writing could've gone for, it really shows how this is an improvement from the typical.
ugh that is so good. I love what they wrote about Ms Spears and how Martha would not have been as good as Lois Habiba.
I do think that Lois was better in this situation. Its not that I don't love Martha- I do, I do!- but here it was the moral conflict that made her character interesting. Would Martha have hesitated? Nah, she would have been right in there, doing what she thinks is good for her country. Lois was not used to this whole "fight the aliens, even at the cost of your job and your loyalty."
RTD is by no means a perfect writer (even though I do love him), and he isn't perfect when it comes to female characters wither. But by and large I think he does a pretty great job writing for women. Each of his companions had pretty great character arcs that I find to be pretty empowering.
He's excellent at writing women as individuals rather than archetypes, but he does fall repeatedly into cultural traps regarding the treatment of female characters.
And so ends Children of Earth and the best part? We still don't know what the aliens look like and let's face it that makes them far more scary and mysterious.
Ah Children of Earth, one can only hope history will recognize your rightful place as a cult masterpiece.
I dont know if this phenomenon exists in America, but sometimes after some programs on British TV there is a voiceover that tells you if any of the issues addressed in the program have affected you in any way, to call such and such a number helpline type thing and you can talk about it. I never really understood this, in fact members of my family have joked about it and made fun of it in the past, but honestly nothing on TV has ever in the past (or since for that matter) affected me quite like Frobisher going home to kill his family and then himself. I think its a tribute to the writers and the actors equally that that scene more than gave me chills, it terrified me to my very bones. It didnt even make me want to cry, it was done so well and felt so real that I felt hollow and scared.
I dont think Im succeeding very well in describing just how much that scene got to me, but I wont ever forget it. It still scares me, thinking back on it now.
o_o I do not think such a thing exists in America, or if so I've never seen it. Damn.
I may have seen something like that once or twice. After an episode of Smallville maybe?
I do think I remember some show (maybe Smallville maybe not) putting up a number for a suicide hotline after an episode that dealt with it.
When you say that this is some of the best television that you have ever experienced, I have to agree wholeheartedly. I was not expected CoE to be this good. I didn't even watch it until months after it aired because I wasn't super impressed with s1 or s2 of Torchwood and wasn't in any hurry to watch more TW. But this miniseries took all my expectations and was like "LOL NO". It absolutely blew me away. It is so expertly written with fabulous character and it explores so many unsettling themes that reflect the worst of humanity. Seriously compelling stuff.
Guh. This episode. The idea of the Doctor turning away in shame is striking. I don't know if I'd call it an official explanation of the Doctor's absence. I think the out of universe explanation is that the show was about Torchwood and not the Doctor so he needed to not be there. But I think that a plausible in universe explanation is that the Doctor is not omniscient. Most of the time he stumbles upon these events where he has to save the day and doesn't go looking for them.
Anyway, that moment where Frobisher kills himself and his family is absolutely gutting. He'd been completely used by the government, and in the end, I think he just couldn't live with what he'd done and the person he'd become. But it is SO chilling when the government official (is he the PM or is the Home Secretary?) just tells Frobisher in a completely detached way that he is going to have to sacrifice his children is awful. It's just so cold.
Also, I loved Gwen, Rhys, Rhiannon, and her husband working to save the kids and fight back against the government. It was a nice little scene of empowerment in the fact of all this utter helplessness.
Now I tend to take the piss out of John Barrowman's acting most of the time, but he was actually really good in this episode. That look on his face after he sacrificed Steven for the sake of the rest of the children was just like a punch in the gut. Seeing Alice's reaction was the worst though. It was an absolutely heart breaking sequence. There were no winners here. This was not a victory. Everything about this was a tragedy. But it was awful in the best of ways. But it makes me think. What would I do if I were Jack? Would I sacrifice one of my own family members to save millions? Would I be able to live with myself if I did? Would I be able to live with myself if I DIDN'T?
TV rarely affects me the way that CoE affects me, but this mini series turned me into a wreck. It just contains these kernels of truth that make it uncomfortable to watch. I totally believe that a government would do what the government did in this scenario. Humanity can be ugly. I don't think humanity is all bad, but I definitely believe that we're fooling ourselves if we don't see the potential for this ugliness in mankind.
Now I tend to take the piss out of John Barrowman's acting most of the time, but he was actually really good in this episode. That look on his face after he sacrificed Steven for the sake of the rest of the children was just like a punch in the gut.
Er, it cut off my actual comment there!
Anyway – a hundred times this! He is so hit or miss, because he's fundamentally a musical theatre actor, but he really knocks it out of the park when it counts.
Oh, Jack. D:
Do as Mark says: Read World War Z. So good.
Anyway, Day Five: I only just watched this two days ago, so my feelings toward this miniseries are still very much in the raw, reactionary stage. When I think "CoE: Day Five" the first thing to come to mind is the image of Gwen, Rhys, and Ianto's sister running from the soldiers with the children. I've seen a lot of hate for Gwen online, mostly from those who watched Torchwood in the first two seasons. I guess in that sense, these people know her character more and therefore have more valid grasps of her character. But I seriously love her. Even when all of the other children were caught by the soldiers, she kept running, just for that one child. That, to me, says so much about her.
<img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/20qjgcn.gif" border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
I love Gwen. IDGAF. I've seen the first two series of Tochwood too. But I do love Gwen. She is flawed, but she also feels very real. I understand her motivations even if I don't agree with her actions all the time.
Appropriate gif is appropriate.
Sure the writers did some major fuck-ups with how they chose to utilize her character at first, but she's still an awesome character.
I disliked her at first because she was really poorly written – it was the classic perspective character errors; other characters describing her as someone wonderful, while her actions were… otherwise.
But yeah, I really warmed to her in CoE, and she's awesome so far in Miracle Day.
The ending was even more sad, because I really thought that it meant the end of Torchwood on TV 🙁
Depending on whether Miracle Day succeeds or fails (up in the air for now but it's certainly not as good of CoE) one might end up wishing for it to have ended with Children of Earth. It was a perfectly satisfactory ending to the series.
So far I think Miracle Day isn't as good as CoE, but its better than the first two seasons. I think the season long plot thing works well. Its really let's us dive into the characters and moral ideas.
Also, its a really cool premise, and as I scientist I love thinking about the affect it would actually have.
I'm hoping Miracle Day will tighten up in the next few episodes. The first two are mostly setup: I think once we get the antagonist properly introduced it'll get a lot more interesting.
Jesus Christ on a bike, that was bleak. I'm just so…impressed by this story. Not because of any one thing that I can put my finger on really; not the acting, or the plotline, or the characterisation, thought they were all brilliant. The whole thing just WORKS so well, it all fits together and makes sense and is real and believable and there isn't one scene I was disappointed in. It's really really depressing, but strangely cathartic too.
Ironically, I feel the same way about BSG. It can be bleak as fuck, but it's just so entertaining. It's weird how a great show can have really depressing or cynical subject matter, but since it's done so well, can still be really enjoyable to watch.
I'm really looking forward to Monday!!!!!! Wow, I never thought I'd say that.
On another note, World War Z is epic. Just thought I'd throw in another plug for it there. It's one of my favourite books and everyone should read it. 😛
More info on World War Z, please? Like who's the author and whether it can be acquired in the other side of the world without Amazon or any other online service.
The Internet says it is by Max Brooks. Whether or not you can acquire it without Amazon depends on where you are, I guess… It's published by Random House, which is a pretty big publisher, so probably if you're near a bookstore you could ask them to order it for you?
I've heard it's very good, but like CoE, pretty unrelentingly bleak.
I live in Argentina and bookstores are not very reliable on the whole bringing you something they don't make money out of. Some importers work with Random House but this year I've noticed a BIG change in their business approach: that they no longer bring into the country any material that isn't related to study or liable to be used in a classroom. For a small example of this, let me inform you that I've been asking for the Sally Lockhart books for three years already and this year I went direcly to the importers who told me they don't bring it because they don't use it in the classroom.
Does that give you a small idea of how likely I may be to get the books I want from here?
Hm, that's tricky. I don't know what to recommend unless you know someone in the US who'd be willing to ship it directly to you?
That's exactly what I don't have, otherwise the problem would be solved. Moreover, the shipping expenses are a minimum of 400% the value of the material thanks to the exhorbitant Customs taxes. I learned that my country has the privilege of one of the most expensive Customs in the world. The President this year raised it even higher, to the point that many products aren't even allowed to enter the country due to a new policy for improving local manufacturing, so it means for us a shortage in many products and a raise in prices again.
This may in time become a rightful policy, but for now is simply starving the commerce.
Have you considered getting a kindle, that way you could buy the books directly from amazon. I have one, i think it's fantastic.
You do realise that we still have the problem of my being completely unable to buy online in any way because I don't have the possibility of a paypal account. That's what I meant by no online service of any kind. Kindle is also out of the question for the same exact reason: no product without paypal, and no paypal without credit card. Not in this country. I've tried.
Mm. Then I think your only option is probably ebooks, either legally with a Kindle or other e-reader, or illegally. :/
No internet money of ANY kind available to me. You need a credit card for a paypal account, it's the ONLY option here. Kindle is unavailable in my country, you need to log in from another country and also paypal required. The only ways I've found to try to find the ebooks I want is by paying through paypal, even illegal copies. And there are still others that were never made into ebooks. Not everything has become digital yet.
I need specifically a way to acquire things without having to own a credit card, that's out of the question. And for a paypal acct, you MUST own a credit card, there's no other way, so there's NO WAY available for me to send money through the internet. The f*cking local rules.
uhm, contact me privately as lilithdemonmom on aim, I might be able to uhm, help you out.
I don't have aim, only msn. I always wondered about aim but was never able to create an acct. I do have twitter so I'll add you there, I'm @Tiljaunique.
Seems I can add you also in LJ. Another Spn fan is always a good addition. 🙂
So Children of Earth: It's brilliant, superb, gripping and generally top notch TV… that I never ever EVER want to see again.
It also kinda destroys the character of Jack too… I mean, if we see the happy go-lucky Jack back ever again it's going to feel like a massive cheat, surely. Main reason I was so glad he didn't show up as part of the Doctor's army in A Good Man Goes To War actually.
Could we also maybe get a shout out for Nick Briggs, the voice of the Daleks, Cybermen, Judoon… well, more or less all the memorable races in the Whoniverse really… actually getting to appear on screen as himself and doing a top notch job (he's part of the cabinet). Should also mention that Martha and Mickey were meant to be in this but Freema took a job on Law and Order UK and with no Martha Mickey's part went out the window as well.
Really looking forward to BSG, well most of it anyway, although I still think Mark's crazy for even thinking of trying Mark Reads with Tolkien… THAT'S going to be an interesting few weeks / months.
Who did Nick Briggs play???
This guy: http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Rick_Yates
The spotters guide is basicaly: watch the cabinet scenes for the bald guy 😀 He's pretty damn good as an on-screen presence too, saw him playing Churchill in the Doctor Who Live show they did last year and very impressed indeed (though more impressed with his Judoon singing cause… it's the Judoon. Singing).
Well… I will buy him showing up happy again, but it would take a lot to get over that. I like to assume that he went off and lived and fought and had adventures and healed for at least a few decades and then managed to time-travel back for Miracle Day. We do see Ten setting him up with Alonso, so… maybe that helped? In any case I think kicking around for awhile away from Earth and back in the future would help a lot.
There's also a theory I've seen around that posits that Jack's fixed-point-in-time healing works for his mental health as well, which is why he didn't go insane from, say, a year of being tortured by the Master or 2000 years buried underground. D:
I think it's brilliant that you decided to review this miniseries just as the new Torchwood year started. I haven't watched Miracle Day yet but I will. Soon, this week. I first wanted to read the end of your reviews. I was most concerned about Day Five and what everything came down to. I wanted to know how you'd take it.
I haven't watched BSG so I'll do my best to watch it now along with you. I tried watching it but it wasn't really down my alley. Maybe if I watch it one chapter per day I may be able to go into it for long enough to understand what's so good about it. 🙂
And THAT, Mark, is why we wanted so desperately for you to watch Children of Earth.
Not for the Doctor Who spin-off-y goodness. Not for more Captain Jack. Not so you can fall in love with the characters introduced in The Stolen Earth/Journey's End. Those all may have been relevant factors, yes. But Children of Earth, in it's own right, is some of the greatest television you'll ever watch in your life. It's television that actually takes you into a depth of story and characters that you can feel the despair, the hopelessness, the fright, and the disgust of how humans are so willing to throw one another under the bus.
I'm so glad that we could share this experience with you.
Ugh this mini series will forever slay me. ;-; Are you planning on watching the new one (Miracle Day) as well? It’ll only be 3 episodes in once tonight’s airs. 🙂
Yay BSG, I’m so excited. :’D
UK has it a week after USA for some reason, we have only had the 2nd episode.
And this is where I leave you…for now.:) But I’ll be back for Buffy, even if you don’t get to it til about…when, early winter? Excite!
That's what I said when he started Avatar, then I was like "oh wait I can watch it along with him". Got to episode 3 and thought "nah balls to going this slow" and binged through them in 4 days. Will probably do the same with BSG, don't know how you can wait a day between episodes of the awesome shows people lead you into watching Mark.
It's weird that up to now pretty much everything on Mark's docket for both sites (with the exception of Fringe and The Hunger Games, I think?) has been stuff I was planning on reading/watching anyway.
And I'm pretty sure it would take about a month to do a season of BSG, so…mid-November, I think? ETA: Its first season is 15 episodes and the rest are 20, so it would actually be early November.
Oh Torchwood, you tear inducing show you.
But yay for BSG. I actually have not watched it past the miniseries if you can believe it. I watched the miniseries when it came on thought it was awesome and then the shows came on when I was busy with college (night classes suck, don't they?) and had no access to DVR at that point. So I'm looking forward to sitting down and finally seeing the rest of the show that people assure me keeps up the quality till the end.
At least you had the good sense to watch the miniseries first. 😛
I totally didn't realise it existed and started on episode 1 of season 1…I was very confused for about half a season until I finally ordered the miniseries and sat down to watch it.
They missed out by not doing it while Naoko Mori was in the cast – she and Barrowman did Miss Saigon on the West End pre-Torchwood.
This has been today's edition of There Are Only 50 Actors in Britain!
And all of them are in Harry Potter 😛
I watched the first few seasons of Qi on Youtube and man… that was like a Who's Who of British celebrities/actors. After that, I actually recognized people when they showed up on Top Gear or other British shows.
QI only tends to have comedians on the show, and a lot of them appear repeatedly…
Ugh. This show. THIS SHOW.
Like I said in the review for Day One, I spoiled myself for the entire special by reading TV Tropes. So I knew everything that was coming when I went in– Jack being blown up and buried in concrete, Ianto dying, and Jack having to kill his own grandson to save the world. And this show still gutted me. The entire final hour I was sitting there going "No, no no no there has to be another way, there's gotta be something else, you won't really kill your grandson, will you? Will you? PLEASE DO SOMETHING ELSE." I was frozen by the horror of it and desperately wishing for another solution, even though I knew what was going to happen.
I think this season was actually more painful than Mockingjay, and I'm pretty sure I sobbed through the second half of Mockingjay. D: Because in the end… this is even more painful and futile.
Watching Torchwood, I often thought that the point of it was mostly to make Jack miserable, and that the show was always a bit unfair towards him— he's a man who's put in the position to make impossible decisions, and he does the best he can. But it's usually not a good outcome even when he saves the world, and everyone gives him grief for it. This showed up as early as the season 1 episode with the fairies, where he lets the little girl go to stop people dying. Everyone hates him for that, but really, what other option does he have? This is basically the same situation magnified by millions. His decision is absolutely fucking awful and you can see it tearing him apart, but there is no other choice, because letting millions of children be taken away to be used as drugs is no option at all.
I don't blame Jack for running away after that. How the hell do you get over that kind of guilt?
I've been waiting all damn week to say this.
Children of Earth isn't about Torchwood. Yes, it features Torchwood in a big way, but in the end, this story is about a good man torn down and betrayed by his own people.
Children of Earth is about John Frobisher. It's about a man who just wanted to help, forced to take actions he would never take of his own volition, a man who did everything for his government, and who had to stand there and take it when that government turned around and stabbed him in the heart.
Is there any scene more horrific than watching that bedroom door swing closed while the voiceover talks about remembering him as a good man? If there is, I don't want to know about it!
This miniseries and its story was a massive risk on the part of the Torchwood team, and it paid off in spades. Despite the fan insanity surrounding Ianto, it remains the most intense, traumatising, horrific, downright CRUEL five hours of television I've ever seen.
There was something I wanted to say yesterday, but couldn't, because of Day 5 spoilers.
Basically, I agree that Ianto's death was about their bluff being called and the inherent dangerousness of being in Torchwood, but I actually think there was something else going on.
One of the themes of Children of Earth is that Jack isn't really a good man. He did give those children to the 456 the first time. And remember how he started out on Doctor Who. He plays the hero sometimes, but he's kind of morally ambiguous. A bit like the Doctor. And like the Doctor, I think he chooses to surround himself with good people because it's his friends who end up defining him. The Doctor needs his companions to remind him to be a better person, and that's why Jack needs Torchwood. Ianto was very good at that. Ianto made Jack a better man. Jack was ashamed to let Ianto know some of the things he'd done, because Ianto was his conscience.
To do what he did in Day 5, Jack couldn't be a good man. He had to be a ruthless, practical man. The same man who was told to deliver the children in the 60's because he was the only one heartless enough to do it. I don't think he could have done it, with Ianto watching him. Though it would have been interesting if he had, and Ianto had left him.
(A friend theorizes that another reason they killed off so many characters was that the actors might have been getting expensive, or wanted to do other things, or even that they suspected they'd have to team up with an American network and wanted room in the cast. I don't know if any of this is true, but if so, it would have been an interesting alternate way to write Ianto out.)
This has probably been asked a million times, but Mark, are you watching Miracle Day?
Torchwood fandom exploded over this partly because some would not accept Ianto's death, but some because they couldn't connect with the points you've identified here. Some fans watch Torchwood as light entertainment and shut out any view of the program that didn't fit that.
Children of Earth was possibly my favourite piece of science fiction ever, because of the points you make, and because it explores and exposes so well to what happens in reality while framing it in the context of science fiction. A friend of mine related this episode to current child atrocities happening all over the world.
Thank you for sharing your reactions and thoughts, and I hope they might open the eyes of some people who still think of Torchwood as nothing but light fluffy sexy sci-fi
Glad you liked this, Mark. I really did too. I still describe it to my friends thusly:
Children of Earth: SHIT GOES DOWN.
MARK YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD I WAS FLAILING DURING THIS EPISODE. SERIOUSLY MY MUM WAS LIKE "sit down" AND I WAS CALL "CAN'T, TOO INTENSE KL'Pgfradhklsgk;dfk;dfh|"
UGH THIS MINISERIES. My heart broke at least a thousand times. JACK AND HIS GRANDSON WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME, RUSTY? of course it was only a tiny snapshot of the horrors that would await me in season five with the moff (PSYCHOTIC SUPEROLD RORY AND HIS CORRIDOR OF MENTAL BREAKDOWNS WILL NEVER FAIL TO GIVE ME NIGHTMARES FOREVER) but after like,… four? (can't remember exactly when CoE first aired) seasons of mostly lighthearted sci-fi THEN BAM, "GRIMDARK TORCHWOOD OH SHIT Y'ALLS DEAD IN THIS." IT WAS AS IF LAUREN FAUST SUDDENLY TURNED AROUND AND SAID TO THE BRONY COMMUNITY "Oh, that fanfic, Cupcakes? It's canon. And I wrote it."
URGH just that scene where she looks at him then just turns around and walks out brb tearbending (OH I AM PLANNING TO WATCH AVATAR NOW, THANK YOU FOR INTRODUCING ME TO IT <333333) Seriously, RTD might not be the best writer when it comes to badass season finales (NOT THAT 'THE END OF TIME' WASN'T FUCKING AWESOME) but when it's stuff like this? He knows just what he's doing.
in conclusion: NO ONE WAS PREPARED OMG
ALSO MARK, are you planning to watch Miracle Day? If so are you watching it before or after it finishes broadcasting? Because the UK gets all the episodes like, a week after the US and I am so paranoid that I will not be able to resist reading the reviews and spoil myself nnnrggghnn
YOU SEE, THIS IS WHY I SHOULD NOT COMMENT WHILE FLAILING ALL OVER. Please excuse my typos. orz
Again, Mark – read "Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale – The Final Chapter". RTD mentions in there that he got a message at one point stating that Björn and Benny of ABBA fame were Torchwood fans and interested in doing a Torchwood musical, however nothing came out of that.
God, I sobbed so hard when little Stephan died. 🙁
I thought Children of Earth was amazing. Horribly depressing but amazing.
I LOVE musical episodes of TV shows!!=So AWESOME
I'm so excited to start watching BSG with you Mark. I've never seen it either, so I am just as unprepared.
not sure if your into Fan-fiction but if you love Ianto and jack and want so see there continued adventures after the end of this mini sires check out http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5435461/1/Intersectin…
there is some sex but is more implied then descriptive.
First time commenter, but I have to say that this miniseries, and this episode in particular completely changed my feelings about gun control. The horror of watching a government rounding up people's children and their parents being powerless to prevent it sunk home what the actual point of the right to bear arms is: to give people a last resort way to find against their government in situations like this.
I mean, ok, I realize that turning this into a gun battle wouldn't have necessarily made anyone safer, and I still hate guns personally, but the point is that this TV show about aliens profoundly changed my opinions about the world we live in. It's just stunning art.
My words as I started reading this review:
"Oh, Mark, you are SO not prepared."
I often lead a Peter Capaldi appreciation life.
Former major-league Torchwood fan here. I loved Torchwood until I watched the ending of COE. John Frobisher's story was spectacular and the climax was bleak. But the show made a serious mistake in how they handled the ending. Children don't die without severe emotional consequences. The devastation that causes has to be addressed. The Ancient Greeks had many fears that they turned into monsters, but no fear was greater, no monster more terrible, than the Kindly Ones, the avenging goddesses who ripped your soul to shreds for the crime of killing your own child. I knew when I was a teenager reading that that it referred to a great inner turmoil. A decade ago I experienced it firsthand with the death of my first son. It's an emotional trainwre
(Sorry, I have a toddler "helping" me.) It's an emotional trainwreck like nothing else, and it takes years to recover from. Suppress it, as some people do, and it comes back with an even greater vengeance later, as a learned from working as a grief counselor for other grieving families. Where is that trauma here? When will it be addressed? I fear never, as RTD seems to consider it "inconvenient" to deal with "old issues" before I new audience.
That failure has ripped my suspension of disbelief to shreds. I can still believe the aliens are alien, but now the humans seem alien as well. Real humans feel far more grief than these beloved figures now reduced to cartoons have been allowed to experience.