Torchwood: “Children of Earth, Day Three”
Posted by therebelprince on July 23, 2009
“That’s exactly what we need: middle men.”
– The Prime Minister
Day Three of Children of Earth neatly pulls together the disparate plots from Days One and Two, while somehow managing to incorporate a good dose of comedy. In fact, its probably the best installment yet.
On the run – with the Torchwood building destroyed and their identities in jeopardy – the team take refuge in a warehouse, where they set up the servers and get to work investigating the 4 5 6. In a hilarious montage, the four of them (yes – four, since it seems Rhys (Kai Owen) is one of them now) set about committing crimes in order to survive. Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) commits credit card fraud, Gwen (Eve Myles, left) goes bag snatching, Rhys gets into fist fights, and Jack (John Barrowman) – stuck in a pair of tracksuit pants which horrify his style-conscious self – even manages to steal a car. It’s a little bit silly given their bedraggled outfits and Ianto’s bleeding face wound, but it does the job, and is an enjoyable sequence.
(My only nitpick is how Ianto managed to find a vintage coat exactly the same as Captain Jack’s… I mean, if the writers were going to get it back so easily anyway why bother destroying it? It would have been more fitting had Ianto managed to hold on to it initially, I’d have thought.)
The series, meanwhile, continues to break its format: much as last episode didn’t involve Captain Jack, this week the team remains exiled in their bunker while the action happens to those around them.
“The world’s always ending… and I have missed that coat.”
– Ianto Jones
Their time locked away gives us some nice character nuggets. Ianto and Jack, as they used to do seemingly daily at the old Torchwood, attempt to get some intimate time together but Rhys’ ignorance as to the situation delightfully throws that attempt overboard. It’s amusing that Ianto is the one to suggest it, since generally that would be Jack’s domain. Perhaps the Captain is rubbing off on him after all. Thank God Russell T. Davies is restraining himself, as all of the character interaction so far has felt natural and apt for the situation.
Meanwhile, when Rhys finds out that Jack knew about the pregnancy first, it invokes a typical outraged Rhys response – but it quickly dissipates. One of the developments of the Rhys/Gwen relationship is their understanding of Torchwood’s place in their lives, and this episode is full of cute little couple moments between them. Perhaps it needed Jack and Ianto to be together before audiences could be convinced that he wasn’t going to steal Gwen away after all. And Jack gets time to consider his immortality, while Ianto realises that he’s going to get old and die before Jack ages a moment. (Or at least, before he becomes the Face of Boe)
Elsewhere, things move ahead full throttle. Lois (Cush Jumbo) turns in a good Torchwood-esque performance when she cons her way into the travelling party journeying to the construction site, by convincing Ms Spears (Susan Brown) that she’s going along as a sexual plaything for Frobisher (Peter Capaldi). Brown is great as the experienced assistant, who has nothing but disdain for Frobisher’s “new girls”. Later, she proves herself as more than that by shrewdly assessing the Prime Minister’s motives in assigning Frobisher as point man.
What probably will follow is Lois Habiba as the newest member of Torchwood. Through to Day Two, I suspected that she would die bravely in the final episode. Now, however, I’ll say that she’ll live to be a new member. I do like Lois, but I was really enjoying the smaller dynamic provided by the Torchwood trio, and I kind of wanted any new arrivals to be as charismatic as Jack, for a change. (And a challenge!)
Anyway, after a meeting with world leaders – including UNIT’s Clonel Oduya and the American General Pierce, powerfully played by Colin McFarlane – the Prime Minister (Nicholas Farrell) agrees that middle men are necessary for the confrontation with the 456, who descend in a “pillar of fire” into the room specially built for them by Mr. Dekker (Ian Gelder) I don’t think the Prime Minister is evil, in fact he seems to be the most moral of all the bureaucrats we’ve met so far. And I’m not sure how much of the various situations he knows about. But, he’s still shrewed enough to realise that Frobisher is expendable in this situation, and his hand has been forced by the international pressure of the situation – not to mention the clear implications of what the 4 5 6 can do if they choose to.
The scene where Frobisher and the diplomats come face to face with the 4 5 6 is well-shot and bewildering. The creature, inside a giant opaque tank, occasionally spews out a mustard-coloured liquid and emits a high-pitched scream. It chooses to be referred to as the 4 5 6, since that is what Earth calls them (from the frequency used when they last arrived in 1965) and manages to have a surprisingly amiable dialogue with Frobisher. He has previously spoken to it, to make sure that the 1965 incident – whatever it may be – is not mentioned during dialogue with the world. The design is not exactly new – Independence Day set the bar for creepy aliens in tanks attempting to communicate – but it works pretty well here, with shadows of whatever the creature may be. I’m sure that we’ll end up seeing the 4 5 6 on Day Five, but I personally hope we don’t. So far the creature (voiced by Simon Poland) is creepy and has an unimaginable power. No matter how terrifying the thing in the goo is, I think it will wield a lot less power once it leaves our imaginations and comes on screen.
Meanwhile Lois tries to be subtle as she uses her Torchwood-installed contact lenses to allow the team to see what is happening in this private meeting. It’s a tense sequence, by the end of which Ms. Spears has noticed the chance in her behaviour, and I daresay she’ll be the one to figure out Lois’ treacherous acts. But that’s for next time.
And what do the 4 5 6 want? Why, Earth’s children of course: 10% of them. (They never actually specify whether it’s Earth’s children or England’s, so I’m not entirely sure here.) The scariest thing is that despite the looks of horror on the faces of Frobisher and Dekker, we can tell that they’re going to say yes, and Frobisher is already considering how this can possibly be done.
“Gran always said there’d be trouble.”
– Steven Carter
Along the way, supporting characters all get their moments: Ianto’s sister Rhiannon (Katy Wix) and Johnny (Rhodri Lewis) have taken in neighbouring children for the day, so face a nightmare when the 4 5 6 inhabit them again. And Alice (Lucy Cohu, left) is a bit too forthright in her search for Jack, which leads Frobisher’s militia straight to her door. Johnson (Liz May Brice, above) seems to show a certain amount of heart in the scene where she captures Alice and Steven, and takes them away. I don’t think that she’ll turn against her masters any time soon, but she’s certainly a bit terrified of the situation herself. There’s a nice reference to Steven’s “Gran” – a former Torchwood member herself in the ’60s – and Alice proves herself to be canny, as she almost manages to escape. I’m really appreciating the fact that the family members are so clever – admittedly, they mostly have been in Davies’ world – and there are no oafish brother-in-laws so end up giving the game away. Instead, Rhiannon and Johnny – and their neighbours – function very well while being watched by spies.
Jack finds his way to Frobisher’s wife (Hilary McLean) and gets in contact with the man himself. Frobisher, however, now has Alice up his sleeve, leaving Jack as the underdog again.
And then there’s Clement (Paul Copley). I’ve really neglected to mention him so far, but this man – who met the 4 5 6 as a boy in ’65 and has since been institutionalised – now wadners from pub to pub, losing it every time he is possessed. It’s always a challenge for sci fi shows, having to find strong enough actors – often, it seems, older men – to be reasonably possessed and/or insane. (It’s why Derek Jacobi began The Master’s arc on Doctor Who). Paul Copley is one such man, and he’s heartbreaking when Gwen finally finds Clem in a police cell.
The ending sets up the character’s endgame: Jack returns to the new Torchwood to find Clem there, and they recognise one another. Jack – along with the three others who were ordered dead by Dekker (assumedly succesfull) – were the people who he remembers with terror from 1965. They gave 12 children to the aliens (Clem ran), and subsequently covered it up. Why? At this point, that’s anyone’s guess, but it’s going to lead to some great tension between Jack and Ianto, and hopefully some genuine remorse on the part of the Captain.
I’m really impressed with how well all of the balls have been juggled so far, and by the fact that the supporting characters – Frobisher and Ms. Spears, particularly – have become as fascinating as Clem or Ianto. I’ll be interested to see where their paths take them on Day Four.
My main hope for this series is that it doesn’t forget what it has done here. The only other crisis in Russell T Davies’ universe to have affected the entire world so entirely was the Master’s return – which was hastily reset by a time travel experience. I doubt Torchwood will do the same, which means that this crisis will affect the whole world. For the series to develop, this needs to have implications for the nature of people in both Doctor Who and Torchwood.
Anyway, it’s a well-crafted installment which leaves us with lots of questions, and a good deal of tension, for Day Four: The Taking of the Children of Earth.