Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth (Day One)

“Severn Bridge… I’m going into England. Farewell forever.”

“Good luck. Have you got currency?”

“Yes, and I’ve had my injections.”

Right. Well, that’s an awful lot of notes for a single hour-long episode. No way am I waiting until I’ve finished and then writing one big review; there’s so much going on in this episode alone. Expect five separate posts on this thread in the near future, all of which should be quite unnecessarily long. Next one probably not till Sunday or Monday though; pub quiz, pub, possibly pub again, possibly some non-pubby stuff, etc. The rest should follow through next week.

Anyway, this is bloody good so far. And I mean I, Clavdivs / The Sopranos / The Wire/ State of Play / The Second Coming bloody good, although a comparison to something by Nigel Kneale might be more appropriate. I might as well say it before I’ve even said anything; I won’t vote until I’m reviewing Day Five, but there’s zero chance of this getting anything less than a 5/5 if the rest is as good as I remember. Still, pre-Marathon viewings don’t count, so I’ll try and ignore them.

For such a long story the story doesn’t waste time in getting straight to the plot; first there’s the flashback in 1965 Scotland, then all of the children on Earth… stop. And the reaction develops, slowly. First, though, we get some of Torchwood’s obligatory shots of Cardiff in the style of Angel. Then Gwen says “What’s occurring?” BBC Wales have obviously been making Gwen & Stacy in the Whoniverse, no doubt following on from their success with the revival of Professor X. Sorry.

Gwen and Rhys have a lovely, loving, easy relationship right through the episode; their issues have been dealt with. Issues are coming to the fore with Jack and Ianto, though, as we get several hints that Ianto wants to put their relationship on a more official standing. Oh dear. The rules of TV drama do not decree that this bodes well... what was that you just said to Ianto, Jack? “No, you get killed, not me. You die like a dog, an ugly dog.” Hmm. Still, this Rupesh looks a nice bloke. Bet he joins the team.

We get a nicely economic introduction to new characters Lois Habiba, the rather scary Bridget Spears, and Mr Frobisher, played with absolute sublimity by the magnificent Peter Capaldi. We’re on Lois’ side from the beginning- she’s running late as we meet her, which automatically garners our sympathy- while Bridget Spears is portrayed essentially from Lois’ POV. So we side with the likeable Lois as she slides down the slippery slope of committing more and more naughty offences against the Official Secrets Act…

A couple of namedrops later (Martha’s on honeymoon and that Colonel Mace is somewhere near Vancouver), and the children stop again, and start shrieking. Then come words: “We are coming.” Ooh. And this is worldwide. And in English. And, as Rhys cleverly points out, deliberately aimed at the British school run and British school break times. Oh, and there’s one 55 year old man in a mental institution saying it all too. There’s a lot going on; for a slow-paced, character-based drama this feels pretty pacey.

Things get even creepier with the appearance of Dekker, a strange kind of cross between the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files (you’d never get away with such a character in today’s abstemious times!) and Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes, Minister. He knows of “the 456”, and where the bodies are buried. Plus, he has no kids, so is he bovvered?

Frobisher has a short interview with the Prime Minister, who immediately ducks all responsibility for a difficult decision, the “blank page”, showing himself to be a moral coward. Capaldi’s facial expression here is just superb. He’s already under intolerable pressure and things can only get worse.

Our three Torchwood operatives get their individual family visits, all, fascinating. For Gwen the family connection is a little oblique (Clem can tell she’s pregnant) but the parallels and contrasts between Jack’s and Ianto’s expeditions to find a child are fascinating, seeing as both are prepared to use their own flesh and blood as guinea pigs. Gosh, could this be foreshadowing?

We see Jack’s daughter and grandson. And, while the fact that he never ages is a source of inevitable difficulty for his ageing descendents, this is very much secondary to the fact he just can’t be trusted. Ianto’s reaction with his sister, on the other hand, is much more natural and warm. RTD has a real gift for portraying the way working-class families talk to one another.

Oh dear: the blank page is a signal to kill a named list of people, one of whom is Jack. And the fact that this is communicated by the pre-arranged signal of a blank page (interesting how Frobisher now himself delegates the dirty work to Bridget Spears), so no one can possibly find out. Except, er, by email- nice little comment on the stupidity of keeping too much official information on official databases there. And Lois sees what’s happening.

The black ops team gets to work, not-so-nice Rupesh is one of them, and Jack gets shot. Twice. With a bomb being shoved inside his stomach in-between. Oh, and the team leader shoots Rupesh for good measure. This woman is bad-ass.

There’s one last nice little contrast (both Gwen and Jack have something inside them) until the Torchwood Hub blows sky-high. Even if they survive this, they’re now hunted fugitives. And the kids are at it again. And Peter Capaldi is shouting at his kids to stop. This is so, so good.

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