Torchwood: Children of the Earth

Actors: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Peter Capaldi, Paul Copley
Euros Lynn
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs: 2
BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: July 28, 2009
Run Time: 300 minutes



Many fans of this British science fiction show, which can be accurately described as “Doctor Who for adults”, were disappointed by Torchwood: Children of Earth, the five-part “mini-series” that were broadcast in July of 2009 in lieu of an actual 13-part season as before.

And who can blame them? Anyone would rather want a full season instead of a handful of episodes of this excellent BBC show. After some adolescent growing pains during its first season, Torchwood quickly ditched all the boinking that earned it its “for adults” label and found its own voice during its second season with some intelligent and complex science fiction storylines and characters. In the process it came more than a mere dumping ground for reject Doctor Who scripts.

To recap: Torchwood is the name a secret organization created by the British government to battle extraterrestrial threats to Earth. Its Cardiff branch is led by the charismatic Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) whom viewers will know from earlier episodes of the current Doctor Who series. Torchwood is a bit like The X-Files – except they have a bigger budget and staff. Each episode the handful of Torchwood members would investigate some unexplained phenomena usually related to alien activity in Cardiff.

Children of Earth kicks off where series 2 ended. Torchwood is now running on a reduced staff complement following the death of some staff members (it is after all a risky job and as civil servants they probably don’t paid enough). One day all of the world’s children simply stand still and start chanting “they are coming” in unison, as if they are all in on a giant prank by some kids who saw Village of the Damned on TCM one night. Only problem is that it is a world-wide phenomenon and for some reason all the kids are speaking English. Considering how difficult it is to get the French to speak so much as a word of English, it is only obvious that some sort of alien presence is “possessing” the children. But who are these aliens and what do they want? One thing is for sure though: it ain’t good. . .

To make matters worse, the UK government decides to eliminate Torchwood for some reason. If you think your recent retrenchment process was tough, spare a thought for the Torchwood team. They simply aren’t being pink slipped. No, instead an elite, highly-trained death squad is dispatched to assassinate them all! Obviously the UK government is trying to cover up something with this drastic measure. But what?

To be honest the new mini-series format may not be entirely suited to the Torchwood premise. This series is slow to start and perhaps an entire episode could have been dropped altogether. However, once things do truly get going by the final two episodes found on the second disc, Children of Earth makes for compulsive and addictive viewing. This is prime Torchwood and all concerns that this is going to be a tame Children of the Damned rip-off goes right out the window.

WORTH IT? Yes. Torchwood: Children of Earth continues an age-old science fiction genre convention: namely a healthy mistrust of government and authority . . .

However, unlike the right-wing UN black helicopters / Waco compound / survivalist / libertarian strand found in American shows such as The X-Files, Torchwood is decidedly more European in its sensibilities and leans to the Left spectrum of politics. This has always been a show which has been politically Liberal in its sentiments. Unlike many American shows and movies, it is never homophobic towards its own characters for instance. Torchwood not only features homosexual characters and, erm, situations, but the show actually likes them and never depicts them as stereotypical objects of sitcom humor.

Children of the Earth is also a stridently angry piece of film-making. It posits that the UK government – and probably all government by implication – is more interested in its own survival than it is in the welfare of the very citizenry it is supposed to protect. The UK government not only keeps the truth from its electorate, but will go to any length to ensure its own continued existence, including actual class warfare against its own population.

When the hero of the piece declares that “an injury to one is an injury to all” one might as well picture him as an angry union stop steward railing against management’s poor safety record. It is the classical divide between the collective ideal behind Socialism vs. the Thatcherite individualism of Capitalism.

Towards the end of the mini-series one is made to cheer for working class types as they duke it out with British riot police. It is difficult to dislike a show with an attitude such as this - even if one does not necessarily share the political sentiments.

It is simply a welcome antidote to the stifling law & order conservatism found in American TV shows where the heroes are always lawyers or cops. In the process Torchwood is also not afraid to break a few other unwritten Hollywood laws. Hint: one of them involves children . . .

RECOMMENDATION: Children of Earth is aimed at long-time fans of this show. If you’re new to Torchwood, then it is probably best that you first check out the previous seasons of this show as well as a few relevant episodes of Doctor Who. Torchwood fans might argue that the show’s resolution and setup is stereotypical and that the five episode format simply stretches the story out for too long, but the series’ strengths outweigh its weaknesses by far.

Torchwood has always been a show that is not afraid to treat science fiction viewers as intelligent adults and Children of Earth continues this grand tradition.



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