In the first episode of the Torchwood: Children of Earth mini-series, the Torchwood team begins to track a mysterious phenomenon: something is controlling all of the earth’s children and getting them to speak the same message at the same time, warning that, “We are coming.” Intrigued? Then it’s (finally) time for Mark to watch Torchwood.
Surprised you, didn’t I? I know that Battlestar: Galactica is going to take me a while, so I wanted to do a brief trip through another show before starting that, and the Children of Earth “season” fits perfectly into a single week. Since I finished watching Doctor Who for this site, I did manage to watch the first two seasons of Torchwood on my own. I’ve liked it so far. Perhaps not nearly as much as Doctor Who, but it’s been a fun (and fairly queer) ride so far, even if it’s not the most consistent show ever.
To make sure we’re all on the same page, anything that has aired before this series is not considered a spoiler, so feel free to discuss anything and everything pertaining to series one and two. However, anything that takes place beyond this episode will be considered a spoiler, so please be as careful as possible, ok? Thanks!
More so than probably anything I’ve watched for this site, the first “day” of the Children of Earth mini-series felt like I was watching a British version of The X-Files. It’s not a secret anymore that The X-Files is my favorite television show of all time, so when another show faithfully reminds me of it, you can accept that as a compliment. At the same time, I must admit that Children of Earth seems a tad jarring in comparison with the past two series. The show has conquered wide-scale attacks, creepy imagery, and alien invasion many times before, but the quality of the writing, cinematography, and character interactions just feels…different? It’s been hard to quantify exactly what feels so different this time around. Is the writing inherently taking itself more seriously? I get a sense of that, but that seems a bit unfair to Russell T Davies. I don’t think Torchwood is a joke by any means, but it is kind of campy at times, certainly more so than Doctor Who. (Well…ok, maybe not all the time, as both Davies and Moffat have done some over-the-top entertainment quite well.)
And if you’re going to use the trope of “Children Doing Creepy Things,” there’s got to be something done to make sure it’s extra creepy. So why not have every single child on the planet suddenly stop whatever they’re doing, stare into the middle distance, and then repeat the words, “We are coming,” over and over again? That’s a good start, I think!
On top of that, “Day One” continues in more interesting character developments that also keep my attention, particularly when it comes to Ianto and Jack’s relationship. I found myself mostly enjoying Gwen Cooper over the others in terms of a favorite character, but I personally identify more with what Ianto has gone through. (Again: sort of. Obviously my life is nothing like the Torchwood team, though I would not complain if it was.) I’m not going to lie: I was pleased to see Ianto and Jack acknowledged as an actual couple for the first time, and I just wanted to curl up in a blankie and dream of puppy dogs frolicking in a field of cotton balls. Of course, things are not that easy, as Jack himself doesn’t have the same desire as Ianto to rigidly define their relationship. (When I was younger, I fell far more into Ianto’s camp on this one, for what it’s worth.)
“Day One” also introduces one of the most attractive dudes to ever grace my screen: Dr. Rupesh Pantanjali. Not apologizing for that one. Since Torchwood was down to three at this point, Rupesh’s infectious excitement seemed to make him a fairly good candidate for the next member to join Torchwood, and after Gwen met with him (and they both witnessed yet another bizarre incident with the children), it seemed pretty obvious that he would be next.
Oh, red herrings!
I don’t want this to seem like any sort of criticism of the writing, but I found myself far more intrigued by the subplot involving Lois Habiba, UNIT, and the Home Office. I have no qualms about liking this specific trope, but I’m a fan of stories that hint at a larger conspiracy by giving us tiny, seemingly unimportant clues that then get larger and more out of control. Hey, I’m a simple dude sometimes! Of course Lois was going to use her superior’s login to “spy” on what was going on the office, but what does it all mean??? In a way, the Torchwood team were actually behind on everything throughout all of “Day One.” They acted mostly as the audience up until the UNIT plot began to reveal a lot more of the story to us. Because of this and my insatiable desire to know these stories since I watch things in such an unnatural manner, I found myself aching to return to Lois and John Frobisher’s stories.
Well, until the team found out about Timothy White. I am a bit tired of the idea of using someone in a mental institution to solve crimes. Not only has it appeared in science fiction and drama a quarter of a billion times, it just seems silly that people who are mentally ill can only appear in shows like this if they exist solely to aid people in an investigation, only to be forgotten or then murdered later on. To be fair, though, I did find the character of Timothy White to be played believably and with a dash of charm to him. I was also completely fascinated by the revelation that he was one of the boys on the bus in the cold open of the show. If all those children were taken, how did he get away? I wondered. I think White’s / MacDonald’s story line could have been completely forgettable, but I adored that Gwen treated him with respect and trust, as I imagine that Clem / Timothy had not received that sort of attention in a long while. I think that was part of the reason Clem was comfortable enough to tell Gwen that she was pregnant. Which…WHAT THE HELL. That came out of nowhere!
But how was all of this connected? We learn that a group of aliens named “The 456,” after the frequency they had previously sent information on back in 1965, appear to be the ones behind these messages and child control. But what are they doing this for? Why use children? Since Clem escaped, is he susceptible to the messages as well? Whatever the answer is, the show does an incredibly job showing us just how serious this situation is. Even though I felt as if they were speaking in code, the conversation between Frobisher and Mr. Dekker was electrifying. Bless Peter Capaldi, who played Frobisher, for having such an expressive face when acting. I didn’t know what a blank page was, but in the moment Frobisher realized he’d have to ultimately be responsible for it, he looked as if he was about to throw up. What was he being told to do???
I now feel that Lois is going to have a much bigger part in the coming episodes. When she discovers that the blank page is an order for assassination, we never see her actually contact Jack to warn him of the coming danger. Instead, I get all sad to discover that Rupesh was actually a spy the whole time, purposely sent to infiltrate Torchwood. (Was he working for the Home Office? Or another organization? I don’t know quite yet, unless I was just awful at paying attention.) I also found myself still shocked every time that Jack Harkness is murdered, even though I know he can’t die. Is this silly? Yes. 100% absurd. I flinched both times that he was shot, which is a ludicrous concept. IT DOESN’T MATTER, MARK, JUST CALM DOWN. why does my brain work this way
Then Rupesh is shot (THIS SCENE COMPLETELY GUTTED ME. He is so sad to realize he is disposable!!!), and some woman named Johnson orders her men to put something inside of Jack. A homing device? Something to infiltrate Torchwood with?
The end scene of “Day One” (before the chaos) is touching, as Gwen confirms her pregnancy and both Ianto and Jack are ecstatic to hear the news. The best part, though, is the fact that Jack doesn’t think twice about telling her that she doesn’t have to worry about her position in Torchwood. That is pretty awesome, if you ask me.
BUT OH WAIT THERE IS A BOMB IN JACK’S STOMACH AND…ok, I’m not fooling myself this time. He can’t die! Right? Right? But has he been blown up before? Is this an exception??? How does he put himself together after that? Oh, christ, maybe he can’t survive. Either way, HOLY HELL, WHAT A KISS. Right? I mean, imagine some guy you just started dating kisses you like that before he…um…blows up? Ok, I can’t imagine that. STILL. Why blow up Torchwood? Is the Home Office or the MI5 interested in allowing this alien invasion to take place? I AM CONFUSED.
Seriously, though, what a cliffhanger. I’m guessing all these episodes will have them, won’t they? “We are coming….back.” OH GOD THEY WHERE HERE BEFORE WHAT IS GOING ON.
- Wow, the scene between Ianto and his sister Rhiannon was both really adorable and painfully awkward. I totally get that Rhiannon was well meaning and cared for her brother, but I have personally been through that exact scenario when someone pressures you into outing yourself in a way that seems so entitled. As if that person deserves to know your business. I’m glad the scene didn’t ignore that, but UNCOMFORTABLE CITY, right?
- Are we going to meet the other three characters who were on the blank page?
- JACK HAS A DAUGHTER AND A GRANDSON. wtf.
- omg if martha jones is in this i will die I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
- I think it’s kind of neat that in the Torchwood universe, the world actually believes in aliens. Well….half of it, that is.
- “Is now a good time to tell you I lost the car?” I’m guessing YES.