Saturday, July 25, 2009

TV Review: "Torchwood: Children of Earth"

I just finished watching all five episodes of the BBC mini-series "Torchwood: Children of Earth" and while I thought it included some of the best ensemble acting ever and featured some of the most heart-wrenchingly human writing in the history of Science Fiction television, I am officially pissed off at series creator Russell T. Davies.

I've talked a little about "Torchwood" before. I love its humor and freshness. I love its frank sexuality, where no one is limited by gender, race or even age (and sometimes even terrestrialism). A spin-off the BBC's long-lived and much-loved "Doctor Who" (created in the 60's and revived by Davies in 2005), "Torchwood" is geared toward adults, while still maintaining the wow-factor geekiness upon which Sci-Fi fans of all ages thrive.

This year, rather than the usual 13 episode season, "Torchwood" ran as a 5 night miniseries, "Children of the Earth." I DVR'd them all and watched them today as part of my own private marathon.

The premise, in a nutshell: At 8;40 GMT, every child on Earth stops and stands or sits still, staring blankly without acknowledging any stimuli at all. Then suddenly, it's over and they go back to being themselves. But at 10:30, they all stop again, only this time speaking in unison: "We. We are. We are coming." Stunned and frightened, people demand answers.

Captain Jack Harkness and the remaining members of his Torchwood team (Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones) are trying to piece together what's happening when their facility is compromised and destroyed, with the aim of killing all of them. Now fugitives on the run, the three (and Gwen's devoted husband, Rhys) must find out who wants them dead, while trying to keep an alien race from simply taking 10% of the world's children to another world for less-than-noble reasons. The subsequent story involves political whitewashing; familial dysfunction; espionage; betrayal and redemption; love; loss and the indomitable Human Spirit.

While the plots of the first two seasons (mostly the first) may have bordered on silly and sometimes seemed soap-opera-ish, "Children of Earth" plays more like a hard-line Sci-Fi drama, complete with political criticism and a strong condemnation of Big-Brother style government. Like all great drama, "Children of Earth" isn't afraid to take a look at the ugly side of the Human Condition. Expertly acted by John Barrowman; Eve Myles; Gareth David-Lloyd and Kai Owen, COE takes on parents' worst fears, lovers' worst pain and children's worst nightmares, surrounds them with questions no one should ever have to ask and delivers the only conclusion it can, no matter how much it may pain both the characters or the audience. This isn't your father's "Doctor Who," kids.


The following paragraph, while not divulging specific information, may contain references which those who have not yet watched the miniseries may not want to read.

I have followed "Torchwood" from the beginning and find myself thoroughly invested in the show, so I must admit that I hope "Children of Earth" isn't its end. I imagine it will come back next year, though (like "Desperate Housewives") I think it will pick up again several years in the future. Two and a half seasons are most definitely NOT enough, Mr. Davies, and the fans demand (and deserve) more. If they're smart, they'll do a feature film leading up to the season.


As always with "Torchwood," I laughed, cried, got angry and felt relief, then cried some more. Superb writing, excellent acting and better-than-average SFX continue to help make "Torchwood" one of the best Sci-Fi programs ever. **** (Four out of For Stars).

Here's the Official Trailer:

More, anon.


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