Review: 5 Nights With Torchwood Children Of The Earth

fb share tweet share

torchOne of the strengths of the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood has always been its ability to get right to the point, without sacrificing character development. By delivering the next installment of the show as a 5-part miniseries, they’ve attempted to go in the other direction. Rather than squeezing a two hour story into a forty-five minute episode, Torchwood: Children of the Earth feels like they squeezed a two hour story into forty-five minutes, and then stretched it out into a five hours.

As a result, Torchwood: Children of the Earth ends up being about a lot more than your usual Torchwood episode. The focus here isn’t really on the Torchwood team as much as it is on a series of new characters brought in to flesh out their extra running time. At times you’ll be left wondering when they’ll get to the point, but for the most part it works, if only because those new supporting characters are so good.

In particular there’s John Frobisher, a civil servant, the equivalent of government middle management. Late in the story we’re told by one of his loyal underlings: “John Frobisher was a good man. Always remember that.” And that’s the real tragedy of his story. He is a good man, a hard working man, a uniquely British man who puts his head down and simply tries to get done what needs to get done. But when the unthinkable happens he’s forced into a series of horrible, hopeless choices.

torch3The unthinkable involves aliens and a terrifying choice involving the world’s children. To say more would be to tread into spoiler territory. Suffice to say everyone on the planet is dead unless we do what these recently landed aliens want. The aliens are particularly terrifying because they’re never fully seen. They land in Britain’s government center riding a beam of vicious fire and they’re contained inside a glass room where the atmosphere has been replaced with the murky poison they prefer to breath. In that deadly fog we see only horrible shapes and flailing claws. When they speak there’s a thrashing about and the splashing of some hideous fluid. It’s a brilliant piece of production design, suspenseful and frightening, all done on a modest budget.

While the government attempts to deal with the nightmare in their midst, in the background works what’s left of the Torchwood team. After two seasons they’re now down to three members; Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), and the immortal (literally) Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman); and someone wants them dead. Since it’s Torchwood, you know that means there’s a very good chance that by the time it’s over one or more of them really could be dead, which keeps the stakes high not only because of some vague threat to the world as a whole, but on a more intimate level for the people you’ve already come to know over two seasons of watching them on the show.

Yet because they’re trying not to end up as corpses, the Torchwood team is mostly left out of what’s happening with the whole alien invasion plot. They’re left working around the fringes while something bigger unfolds. It works, at times it’s even brilliant, but fans may be disappointed that Jack Harkness isn’t always in the thick of things. Still the cast is fantastic, especially Peter Capaldi as Frobisher. It’s compelling science fiction, full of suspense and terrifying truths. If there’s a problem, it’s only that the whole thing is a huge, huge downer. Remember that sickening ending to The Mist? Now imagine that emotional punch in the gut stretched over five hours and you’ll have some inkling of what Children of the Earth has in store for you. It’s a wrenching story, thoughtful and smart, but also dark and depressing.

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel in any episode of Torchwood. There never is. There’s only the choice between bad and even worse. If there’s hope, it’s found only in the people forced to make those choices, people who bear up under the worst life has to offer, put their head down, and keep on going as long as they can. It’s a uniquely British perspective and one that pays dividends in thoughtful, heart-wrenching science fiction like this.


  1. torchmother says:

    There are huge plot holes, manipulative writing, and the only redeemable quality is the acting. DO NOT watch this 5 hours. It is a waste of your time and the world is already depressing enough without adding to it.

    • satur8 says:

      There are huge plot holes and manipulative writing, this is true. However, these are qualities of Russell T. Davies' production and will never go away. That being said, this was certainly not a waste of time. This was five hours of good science fiction television and surprisingly dark for R.T.D. As a matter of fact, this may have been his best work to date, his work on Doctor Who included. The ending and (lack of) global resolution are a bit dodgy, but almost anything made for a mass audience usually is. I highly recommend it.

      Also, as you mentioned, the acting was surpurb, easily the best yet for the Torchwood crew. If there is a follow up, it will be interesting.

      • torchmother says:

        We must agree to disagree. I found it a colossal waste of good actors and an opportunity for Torchwood.

  2. Name says:

    Probably one of the worst shows made. Clunky and amateuristic. Almost as bad as Canadian TV.

  3. person says:

    Woah. 2 posters who probably wouldn't know good sci-fi if it leaped out of their chest.

  4. kieran says:

    eh torchwood is the best children of earth is very good i know alot about torchwood. i cant wait for season 4.

  5. Rob says:

    Um, this was aired some two weeks ago, so this seems pretty pointless, you're not exactly spoiling it when everyone who wanted to watch it probably already has, since it's up on every bit torrent site I know as well as the BBC's own iPlayer

    • cinemablend says:

      Um it debuts in the United States TODAY and most people aren't British or pirates.

      And who said he was trying to spoil it? Your comment makes no sense. Smells like a troll.

    • CapJack says:

      Um it debuts in the United States TODAY and most people aren't British or pirates.

      And who said he was trying to spoil it? Your comment makes no sense. Smells like a troll.

      • Rob says:

        I don't know anyone who isn't a pirate.

        I smell a cock guzzler, oh wait, your nickname is CapJack — So do you guzzle cock.

      • r says:

        most people are pirates really but ya im waching it on tv

  6. t says:

    ending of this season was horrid. completely ruined the show imo.

  7. sharonedreyer says:

    This article to exactly correct! Torchwood is one of the best science fiction series on BBC America. Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

  8. Otto4242 says:

    I dunno. I liked it a lot, but you're correct in that it is drawn out quite a bit, and the ending is highly depressing.

    Still, very much worth watching. An hour a night is not too bad to deal with, and it'll give you something to watch over the next week.

  9. B. Wrijus says:

    this shows the writer had way too much power cause the story could have been sooo much better, all the holes could have been filled and made for awesome ending and it didn't have to be a sappy one, that been said the ending made the whole thing suck!!!

  10. Name says:

    Have people already forgot about the X-files?? remember Mulder and his search for his sister? remember how he discovered the govt gave a bunch of children to the aliens in exchange for tech and so forth?

    not exactly the same, but really damn close – close enough to be a bunch of poop this time around

    and aliens using people as drugs isnt quite that original either.. (see: subgenius thoughts on the 'elder gods')

    also – isnt this supposed to be sci-fi? where are the aliens? why dont we see them for more than 20 minutes in the entire 5 hour block? where are the space ships? the freaky weird stuff? where is the damn sci-fi ACTION? Children of the Earth is just a bunch of idiot govt and military types strutting around like peacocks, and a bunch of average blokes running around and pumping their fists, etc. its an apocalyptic crap-fest.. its just hokey, and really damn uninteresting for anyone whos ALREADY SEEN THE X-FILES

    i could see every plot twist from 10 miles away, and its pretty retarded to hinge your whole premise on something that is patently ridiculous to overlook..

    i cant believe this is the same Torchwood.. so totally, hugely LAME in every way compared to the first seasons

  11. disneyactingauditions says:

    I think I find myself mostly with Gareth on this one. I have very fond memories of playing at Star Wars disney acting auditions (my friends and I were more the role playing and writing stories type as opposed to toy collectors ) and I was disappointed – ok, disgusted with – the new movies – I had the sense that I I must have been expecting them to grow up with me and they certainly did not. But, when those movies came out, it was the excitement of the then amazing special effects.

  12. disneyactingauditions says:

    Once you see a show or two, try another type of show. While every show will be different than any before (thanks to the guest interaction), you ought to try out different type of skits to see which would be ideal for you. While I relish the solo character walking around for the intimate feel it brings with it, others enjoy the larger scale shows for the great gags disney acting auditions you'll find there. Regardless of what show you see, I think you'll find the entire notion of Streetmosphere highly entertaining. There are usually many shows throughout the day and it's a great way to plug up some time if you're between attractions or waiting for a show or even a dining reservation.