I gave Torchwood another chance last season, when Martha Jones was appearing on it, and it wasn’t too bad. I even stayed for a bit after she left. So, yes, I did see the horribly inane season two finale, which hardened my heart against the show once again.
So, when Torchwood: Children of Earth was announced — a five-part, entire-season story written by Russell T. Davies himself — I was tempted, to be sure, but more than willing to let others beta-test it for me first. Once I got back some generally positive reports on it, I was willing to plunge into it myself. We watched it this weekend, and here’s what we thought.
I’ll start by saying that if this is what the usual Torchwood had been, I would probably have been watching it. The plot, pacing, and characters were very well done, and Ianto actually getting to do some things for a change meant that there weren’t any “chaff” characters we were dragging along for the ride. (That said, I won’t be mourning Ianto. Though I was glad that the show was putting a homosexual relationship front and center, I never felt like I was given much of a reason to care about him beyond being Jack’s boyfriend. This story was the first in which he seemed to emerge as a full character unto himself.)
The aliens — the “456” were particularly creepy, and I don’t creep easily. When their plan is revealed, I was truly horrified; the image and the idea is not something that will leave me any time soon. It was great having truly alien aliens, who we don’t have an entire dossier on already.
That said, there are some issue I have, largely due to the usual Russell Davies issues: namely, he has no idea how to end a story. No one went glowy at the end of this one, but they did the next best thing, and it was disappointing after such build-up. (I was hoping Jack would “reverse the polarity” on the 456’s teleport beam and instead of bringing the children to the ship, it would bring the 456 to Earth, where they couldn’t breathe and would die.)
There were other issues as well…the 456 have a lousy plan that the humans never bother to exploit. If they don’t get all the kids they want they’ll wipe out humanity. Really? And get NO kids? I call that bluff, junkie. That’s the thing…their goal is their weakness. They’re junkies, looking for another hit, and we’re the suppliers. We have all the power in this relationship, but nobody tries to exploit that because they kill off one building worth of people, a building they happen to already be in. (and which, afterwards, nobody bothers to walk into with any kind of Haz-Mat protection or anything.)
I’m not saying we should have bargained them down — the true horrifying aspect of the politicians is that it’s the numbers involved in the request, not the request itself, that bothers them. I’m just saying, if this is what they want, maybe we can talk. Maybe we can figure out how to synthesize whatever it is they are getting from the kids and sell it to them at a reasonable cost. Maybe we can offer them some kids in exchange for technology and then double cross them after we receive it. Maybe we can do something other than roll over immediately because talking smack and shooting at the alien didn’t work.
The ending is also problematic. Torchwood is now, essentially, just Gwen. Does she parlay the information she has on the Prime Minister, USA, and UNIT into making them fully fund a big-ass Torchwood project now, like the one we thought we were getting when the show first started? Or are we back to some dudes standing in a warehouse watching stuff happen on a laptop? How could any of them live with NOT exposing the information they have? Why on Earth would any of them continue to work in any capacity with these people? (And god help them all if the Doctor finds out about any of this.) Theoretically these issues would have to be raised in season 4, but I’m not confident they will be.
To sum up, probably the best Torchwood story so far, but not something I’d rave about were it in any given series of Doctor Who. And beyond just the faults of this particular story, it still doesn’t seem like Torchwood knows what it is yet, even with three seasons behind it.