Review: Torchwood – Children of Earth – Part 1

Back to the quality of the first episode

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




  • I have to confess I was pleasantly surprised by this (though I did enjoy series 2 much more then I did series 1). Could’t stand Gwen’s doe eyes though. And ffs, how easy was it to lead baddies to the old guy? Also surely Jack’s body would have blown up and therefore not be able to come back this time. How will that work . Don’t understand how Torchwood have never heard of the civil service secret army, but then they have Ianto on their side (-:
    I think you’re right that RTD did more to deepen characters – the Jack storyline was particularly interesting, but I do have a real problem CARING about any of them, in a way I don’t with Dr Who, but maybe that’s Chris Chibnal’s fault and RTD will have me feeling the love again.
    Many apologies for accidental spoilering earlier. Memo to self. Don’t respond to tweets without thinking it through.

  • I thought it was good… for Torchwood. Not particularly great. The TW team still come across as idiots a lot of the time. At least there were no real WTF? moments though – except Jack at the end… the least he could do was move away from the sodding lift.

  • I went back and re-read Rosby’s squee report from the BFI event and totally understood why she was so delirious. Yes it’s Torchwood, but it actually worked.
    Let’s put it like this, I watched a whole hour of Torchwood without once wanting to throw something at the TV. Bonus I say.

  • bob

    Loved it but then again I have loved all the Torchwood we have been given. I missed the good actors (that played Tosh and Owen) but the director managed to eek out good stuff from those that remained in comparison to past directors and episodes. I missed the musings on life and death and all the metaphysical themes that usually permeate the show but the Spooks style action and governmental conspiracy worked for me too. I love the serial story telling and I find the pace perfect; it leaves me breathless after each episode.
    The small snippets of the characters’ lives within the framework of aliens and conspiracy is very much welcome. More depth has been given to Ianto especially in that one episode than in the previous series.

  • stu-n

    Two episodes down and it’s still working, although Evil Government Assassin is annoying. If she had a moustache, she’d twirl it. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she kept a moustache in her pocket, just for twirling purposes.
    I do like the backroom tech who’s building the machines, and the alien-sniffing chap is great (but that actor’s been in everything, and he’s always good). Lois is also surprisingly effective.

  • Missed last night’s ep as my mum staying and she doesn’t do SF (-: Missing tonight as out at HC summer party. Will have to have marathon sess tomorrow to catch up! Glad it’s still ok, Stu!

  • Missed last night’s ep as my mum staying and she doesn’t do SF (-: Missing tonight as out at HC summer party. Will have to have marathon sess tomorrow to catch up! Glad it’s still ok, Stu!

  • Anonymous

    true fan you get it p.s. i’m 54 and its busting

  • Anonymous

    true fan you get it p.s. i’m 54 and its busting

  • Wtf? I can’t get my head around this. Have been utterly gripped by Torchwood. And squeeing like a demon last night. Crikey. What a turnout for the books. I even liked Ianto (-: (Watching 3 episodes back to back not such a clever idea)

  • Wtf? I can’t get my head around this. Have been utterly gripped by Torchwood. And squeeing like a demon last night. Crikey. What a turnout for the books. I even liked Ianto (-: (Watching 3 episodes back to back not such a clever idea)

  • MediumRob

    “Wtf? I can’t get my head around this. Have been utterly gripped by Torchwood. ”
    Odd, isn’t it? It’s been variable, episode two being more than a bit arse. But episode four actually scored a zero on the Carusometer (or close enough – would have been a straight zero if Nick Briggs hadn’t been so rubbish), which is something I never thought would happen with a Torchwood episode.
    I’ll do a series round-up after the final episode.
    BTW everyone, remember the spoiler tags for the sake of our American friends/anyone on iPlayer. I had the Ianto death scene spoilt the fuck out of by Twitter last night.

  • MediumRob

    “Wtf? I can’t get my head around this. Have been utterly gripped by Torchwood. ”
    Odd, isn’t it? It’s been variable, episode two being more than a bit arse. But episode four actually scored a zero on the Carusometer (or close enough – would have been a straight zero if Nick Briggs hadn’t been so rubbish), which is something I never thought would happen with a Torchwood episode.
    I’ll do a series round-up after the final episode.
    BTW everyone, remember the spoiler tags for the sake of our American friends/anyone on iPlayer. I had the Ianto death scene spoilt the fuck out of by Twitter last night.

  • Matt M

    Same happened to me: rumours about poor Ianto were all over Twitter and certain forums for most of yesterday. It then became a trending topic on the former once the episode had aired. I think US fans are going to find it extremely difficult to avoid spoilers.
    It’s hard enough for us in the UK – especially now that some people have seen the DVD. Anyone can pop over to a site like IMDb and find out what happens.
    So I’m avoiding sites like Twitter until after I’ve seen the episode tonight.

  • Matt M

    Same happened to me: rumours about poor Ianto were all over Twitter and certain forums for most of yesterday. It then became a trending topic on the former once the episode had aired. I think US fans are going to find it extremely difficult to avoid spoilers.
    It’s hard enough for us in the UK – especially now that some people have seen the DVD. Anyone can pop over to a site like IMDb and find out what happens.
    So I’m avoiding sites like Twitter until after I’ve seen the episode tonight.

  • MediumRob

    “Same happened to me: rumours about poor Ianto were all over Twitter and certain forums for most of yesterday. It then became a trending topic on the former once the episode had aired. I think US fans are going to find it extremely difficult to avoid spoilers. It’s hard enough for us in the UK – especially now that some people have seen the DVD. Anyone can pop over to a site like IMDb and find out what happens. So I’m avoiding sites like Twitter until after I’ve seen the episode tonight.”
    See, I have no problems with people in forums or even IMDB doing it – provided, of course, it’s signposted. It’s something like Twitter which in the great analogy of things is like a great open-air party compared to the backyard BBQ of Facebook. If you’re following 10 people and they can’t even be arsed to use hashtags for filtering and just shout out things like OMG, they killed Ianto!, what option do you have? Unfollow them all? Not using Twitter, right now, is a lot like not using the Internet or email – it’s really not an option.
    My sister, apparently, has a secret method for not getting tweets from particular people she’s following so I might ask her.

  • MediumRob

    “Same happened to me: rumours about poor Ianto were all over Twitter and certain forums for most of yesterday. It then became a trending topic on the former once the episode had aired. I think US fans are going to find it extremely difficult to avoid spoilers. It’s hard enough for us in the UK – especially now that some people have seen the DVD. Anyone can pop over to a site like IMDb and find out what happens. So I’m avoiding sites like Twitter until after I’ve seen the episode tonight.”
    See, I have no problems with people in forums or even IMDB doing it – provided, of course, it’s signposted. It’s something like Twitter which in the great analogy of things is like a great open-air party compared to the backyard BBQ of Facebook. If you’re following 10 people and they can’t even be arsed to use hashtags for filtering and just shout out things like OMG, they killed Ianto!, what option do you have? Unfollow them all? Not using Twitter, right now, is a lot like not using the Internet or email – it’s really not an option.
    My sister, apparently, has a secret method for not getting tweets from particular people she’s following so I might ask her.

  • SK

    I can’t pretend to be a Twitter expert, but how is ‘not getting tweets from people you’re following’ different from ‘not following them’?
    (But then, I think that not using Twitter is entirely an option)

  • SK

    I can’t pretend to be a Twitter expert, but how is ‘not getting tweets from people you’re following’ different from ‘not following them’?
    (But then, I think that not using Twitter is entirely an option)

  • MediumRob

    “I can’t pretend to be a Twitter expert, but how is ‘not getting tweets from people you’re following’ different from ‘not following them’?”
    Because unfollowing is the same as “I don’t want to be your friend any more”, whereas simply not getting their Tweets (until you want to) is like sending them to voicemail when you’re down the pub.
    “(But then, I think that not using Twitter is entirely an option)”
    I’m guessing you don’t have to write a daily news column and social network with editors in order to make a living.

  • MediumRob

    “I can’t pretend to be a Twitter expert, but how is ‘not getting tweets from people you’re following’ different from ‘not following them’?”
    Because unfollowing is the same as “I don’t want to be your friend any more”, whereas simply not getting their Tweets (until you want to) is like sending them to voicemail when you’re down the pub.
    “(But then, I think that not using Twitter is entirely an option)”
    I’m guessing you don’t have to write a daily news column and social network with editors in order to make a living.

  • SK

    (Oh, I should say something on the topic, shouldn’t I?)
    Everyone in Torchwood-land is still stupid, I see: nobody’s thought to ask whether the four-five-six can carry out their threat, and as an alien threat they’ve been pretty crappy so far. But that’s nothing compared to having juniors secretaries in to take minutes to a criminal conspiracy (how exactly did they think they would keep that quiet? Did they not consider that new-Torchwood-girl might have children that she wanted to wanr?)

  • SK

    (Oh, I should say something on the topic, shouldn’t I?)
    Everyone in Torchwood-land is still stupid, I see: nobody’s thought to ask whether the four-five-six can carry out their threat, and as an alien threat they’ve been pretty crappy so far. But that’s nothing compared to having juniors secretaries in to take minutes to a criminal conspiracy (how exactly did they think they would keep that quiet? Did they not consider that new-Torchwood-girl might have children that she wanted to wanr?)

  • SK

    I don’t, no; it sounds horrible.
    (I can’t get the hang of this internet ‘not following is saying you don’t want to be their friend’ stuff.)

  • SK

    I don’t, no; it sounds horrible.
    (I can’t get the hang of this internet ‘not following is saying you don’t want to be their friend’ stuff.)

  • MediumRob

    “I don’t, no; it sounds horrible.(I can’t get the hang of this internet ‘not following is saying you don’t want to be their friend’ stuff.)”
    ‘Relationship management’ is by far and away the worst part of freelance journalism. Envy me not.

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