I review Torchwood: Children of Earth, a British sci-fi mini-series that deserves your attention whether you’ve seen any of the previous Torchwood (or Doctor Who) episodes or not.
TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH
Okay, I’ll admit it – I didn’t expect anything this good to come out of a spin-off series. I’d watched the first two episodes of the first season and whilst I found them to be entertaining, even if its original ‘adult, darker version of Doctor Who’ briefing apparently just translated to everyone in the cast is bisexual/homosexual and there’s a lot of swearing involved. I largely lost track of it, coming to it like most things late – until Miracle Day, which frankly – was an overlong, dragged out show that ranks as one of the worst TV seasons that I’ve ever seen. But after seeing this five-episode mini-series set before the events of Miracle Day in a second-hand store for under £5, there was no way I was going to pass it up, especially with the near-constant praise that I’ve seen for it.
And Oh. My. God. I loved it. With this mini-series alone, Torchwood has turned itself into an awesome series for me and has done what Miracle Day could not. Sure, it may borrow from another high-concept idea, but its fast-paced scripting coupled by fantastic acting from all areas of the field, most notably Peter Capaldi (Yes, that Peter Capaldi) as John Frobisher, and John Barrowman – who plays a great Captain Jack Harkness as we start to learn more about his life whilst he was stranded on Earth as an immortal ex-time agent/ex-conman. All elements of the cast are very strong here as well, and pretty much every performance was very strong. Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd get great outings as the last two surviving members of Torchwood (apart from Jack Harkness), Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones – and Gwen’s husband Rhys Williams, played by Kai Owen – gets more to do than just act clueless whilst his wife is off saving the world.
In a brilliant establishing opening scene, Children of Earth sets up the stakes immediately. The enemy – in this case the 456, one that humanity know next to nothing about – take control of all of the children of Earth, hence the title – getting them to speak three words. “We Are Coming.” All across the world, all at exactly the same time. Wondering why they all speak the same language – English? It’s something that’s perfectly justified later on. But I won’t spoil anything more than that – because seriously, the less you know about Children of Earth, the more it will surprise you.
Some viewers may complain that Doctor Who is too predictable. The Doctor will show up, defeat the big bad – save people’s lives without the use of weapons, maybe lose someone dear to him usually at the end of a season finale, end up making a big speech, thus saving the day. Torchwood, or at least Children of Earth – is not like that at all. It’s utterly unpredictable, and if you go in expecting a happy and uplifting ending, your expectations will be crushed. It’s dark, wonderfully executed – and bar a few minor flaws, one of my favourite mini-series that I’ve ever seen on TV.
Every sci-fi fan should check this out. Aside from the backstory behind Captain Jack Harkness (he will come back to life after each death and is effectively immortal) and the fact that Torchwood was an organisation originally formed by Queen Victoria to hunt aliens (before going under severe organisational changes over the course of its existence) you don’t really need to know that much about the either Torchwood or Doctor Who. It’s easily accessible to newcomers, and whilst the technology used here may have no basis on actual real life tech, that doesn’t really allow for any harm to come to the story and instead allows for some many fun sequences across the entire five hour long episodes.
There are a few flaws though The soundtrack, provided by Murray Gold, is fairly weak, feeling too loud in places whilst it doesn’t fit the flow of the episode in others, and there’s a techno-babble explanation towards the end, but if you’re a fan of Russell T. Davies’ work then this is something you’ll come to expect. But don’t let that put you off from viewing it though, Torchwood: Children of Earth really is something that will appeal to pretty much every SF fan. Really worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.
[A note on the Verdict: The flaws can be overlooked for this one. Children of Earth is just that good.]