Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Day Three)

“John Frobisher’s a good man. And, better than that, he’s expendable.”

Blimey, it’s Trinity Wells again!

Last episode was getting the pieces into position; this time there’s a lot going on and lots are revealed. And in spite of some nice humorous moments courtesy of RTD and James Moran’s script, this is a tense and dramatic episode.

The gang are back together, and after a few minutes of The Real Hustle they can start to plan their fightback. And it’s an interesting fightback. The thefts are morally compromising in an obvious but arguably petty way, but Gwen’s use of Lois is arguably worse, especially in terms of Kantian morality, quite blatantly using another person as a means and not an end, if I can just be a pretentious git for a minute. Lois says “Giving you information is one thing, but that’s putting me right on the front line.” This talk of the “front line” means I can’t help but wonder if we’re looking at a parallel with the prime minister’s rather cowardly comments to Frobisher last episode. Instinctively I think not, but the parallels in the dialogue mentioning the “front line” are striking.

Meanwhile, Jack and Ianto are having another one of those conversations where Jack doesn’t quite open up as much as Ianto would like. They fail to get intimate in more ways than one, but everything’s ok because there’s talk about Jack watching Ianto grow old and die. This in no way tempts fate or indicates anything bad is going to happen to Ianto. I’m sure things will be fine.

We get hints at this point that Jack is morally compromised to a much greater degree than Gwen, as we get our first hint about his links to the incident in 1965.

Lois, on the other hand, is brave, heroic and incredibly resourceful. I suspect she won’t have a happy ending, not after Gwen offered her a potential job last episode. I love her way of getting a world-wearily resentful Bridget Spears to include her in the activity at Thames House. Spears’ “You’re not the first, you know,” speaks volumes about both her (repressed?) feelings for Frobisher and of course Frobisher himself.

The big moment is, of course, “We are here.” And the children pointing. This section is, once again, brilliantly shot. The visuals of the aliens hidden in the glass behind an opaque gas are superbly effective. Less is more. And the tension in Frobisher’s initial dialogue with the 456 is palpable. The long pauses, the subdued lighting, the slight hint of claws and the magnificence of Peter Capaldi give this scene such incredible power. Oh, and the vomiting. That too. And the magnificence of Peter Capaldi, every second he’s on screen, just can’t be emphasised enough.

It’s amusing to see the PM get a right good telling off from the military representative of UNIT and the USA (where have I seen the American actor from?), but of course the fallout is that the PM drops Frobisher even further in it. It’s clear from the conversation in the lift that Spears understands this.

But then we’re reminded that Frobisher is far from being a saint as he speaks on the phone to Jack who, we’ve already established, is equally compromised following the events of 1965. Yet, although each is able to threaten the other’s children, Frobisher knows that Jack won’t act on his threats “because you’re a better man than me.”

There’s just one short light-hearted interlude, in which we learn how you can do almost as many things with a pair of contact lenses as you can with a stopwatch, before we’re back to the heavy stuff. The 456, with their silences and monosyllabic comments, are sinister as hell. They seem to be colluding in the cover-up with Frobisher. Oh, and they want ten percent of all the children in the world. And just when we think things can’t get any worse, Clem forces Jack to tell the truth: he personally handed twelve kids over to the 456 back in 1965. I’m sure everyone watching had already worked it out, but it’s a powerful ending nonetheless.

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