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Review: Torchwood - Children of Earth - Part 1

Posted on July 7, 2009 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Torchwood - Children of Earth

In the UK: Monday 6th July, 9pm, BBC1. Parts 2-5 airing Tuesday-Friday
In the US: Monday 20th July, 9/8c, BBC America. Parts 2-5 airing 21st-24th

You know Apple, right? Makes iPods.

Well, it was set up by a guy called Steve Jobs. You know him, right? He has a reality distortion field.

Anyway, he got thrown out - and the whole company fell apart. When he came back, it suddenly became great again. Insanely great.

All of Apple's intervening bosses said more or less the same thing: Apple has Steve Jobs' DNA. Only Steve Jobs can run it.

I'm beginning to wonder if Russell T Davies is the Steve Jobs of Torchwood. He created it. It's his baby. He wrote the first ever episode, which was really very promising. Since then, he's had minimal input and it's range from absolutely horrifically bad to not bad but still not great.

However, has it ever quite achieved the heights we thought it could achieve?

No.

Essentially, it's an embodiment of all his obsessions and interests: sci-fi, soapy relationships, sexuality, Welshness, action and Doctor Who. Who else could ever work with those themes as well as he can?

Well, guess what? After moving from BBC3 to BBC2 and now to BBC1, Torchwood once again has Russell T Davies in charge for a five-part, nightly mini-series called Children of Earth. I won't pretend episode one was an absolute classic of television, but it really was pretty good.

See what I mean? He'll be creating the TorchPod before you know it.

Plot
When every single child on Earth stops, Torchwood is thrown into a world of terror.

Was it any good?
Given the time slot, you might have been expecting something a little grittier, a little more realistic, a little less cartoony, maybe with a bit of sex and some proper swearing.

Sadly, you'd have been sorely disappointed - this is Torchwood, not Battlestar Galactica, you nutter.

All the same, this was Rusty playing Wimbledon, lobbing the ball over the net and into the court - not doing a Chris Chibnall and sitting there on the grass with a PlayStation, eating a vindaloo. This was something that obeyed the forms of dramatic television, and indulged in its many requirements: subtleties like originality, character development, a plot that makes at least some kind of sense, and people who behave roughly like people, rather than plot requirements in a straight-to-DVD action movie.

He even threw in plenty of trademark colour, such as a few Welsh jokes (loved Gwen's conversation going over the Severn bridge) and did 'adult' in just the right way: dealing with adult issues, but without throwing in swearing and sex for the sake of it. The developments in the relationships of the regulars were also done just right.

In fact, if I were to draw up a list of things wrong with the episode, it would look like this:

  1. The acting (mostly bad)
  2. The music (truly awful throughout)
  3. Captain Jack and co all wear panto costumes, rather than real clothes
  4. The stupid Torchwood car
  5. Peter Capaldi's glasses

I'd go on, but it's getting trivial now.

But you notice how none of those are Rusty things, they're all everybody's else's fault. Rusty, in fact, has been doing his level best to remove everything that's part of the Torchwood set-up that sucks - the stupid Hub, Jack's coat, etc - in favour of more interesting alternatives. He even plays around with his own ideas, such as the Jack never dying bit, and asks "Well how does that work then?"

Okay, the story has a few issues. Kids stopping for a few minutes and not even blinking - that's going to lead to some corneal damage. You ought to watch that. Minor Home Office officials with death squads and easy-to-guess passwords?

As for the British army setting off a bomb in the Torchwood hub that has a one-mile blast radius? Hmm, that would include pretty much all of Cardiff Bay, including the Welsh Assembly buildings. Didn't something bad happen to the last person who tried to blow up one of our parliaments? Wouldn't it even be described as a coup and therefore slightly anti-constitutional?

The pacing was off, too. This really was way too long, with too much time spent on clever people being handily stupid, attempts to build suspense which left you baffled as to what the puzzle actually is and whether you should watch tomorrow, and yet another top secret government organisation being revealed: sure, the civil service would have its own version of Torchwood… in Bizarroworld.

But this was good stuff for Torchwood. I'm actually looking forward to tonight's episode and even finding out what it's all about: who are the aliens (is there a hint of A for Andromeda in the trailer for part 2)? What do they want? And where is that nobber, the Doctor (I can guess what the matter is with Team Sarah Jane)?

Well, I would be looking forward to it if I didn't know that Rusty hasn't written all the remaining episodes. It could all go badly wrong. I've seen Gwen with two guns in pictures and trailers. How does she steady her shot? How does she aim properly? How does she reload? And how does she do all that with only five minutes' practice on a gun range with Jack nearly three years ago?

But, Torchwood on the run. Could be fun, particularly if they have to kill a load of kids.

Here's a trailer for part two, followed by links to some other fine review.

Other reviews
Rev, Aaron, Dan, Stuart. Leave a link with your own review if you have one

Related entries

  • July 13, 2009: Series finale: Torchwood - Children of Earth
    A review of Torchwood: Children of Earth

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