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BBC Announces Return of Torchwood

The BBC website today reports that the extraterrestrial-combatting Torchwood team will return for a new series courtesy of BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Worldwide and the US Starz Network.

After the much-debated deal with the Fox network fell through, it seems 10 episodes have now been commissioned, to be written by a team of writers headed up by series creator and geek household name Russell T. Davies.

The focus will be shifting from the streets of Cardiff to encompass more global storylines – hopefully this new series will have the budget to deal with this intriguing development.

The BBC also confirms that John Barrowman and Eve Myles will return and will be joined by “new faces”.

Watch this space!

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Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day 5 Review

 

In brief: And that’s why Torchwood is most definitely not like Doctor Who.

In depth:

I feel numb.

That was an emotionally intense hour that alternately gripped, chilled and horrified. It was not filled with action per say and daring do, just the lengths that some people will go to under desperate circumstances.

And may I say, Russell T. Davies either hates Captain Jack or loves putting him through the emotional wringer. That character will be lucky if his daughter never speaks to him. And that sentence is not missing a word.

Please be aware, despite what I said about my reviews… major spoilers are within. Frankly, after that, how could there NOT be?!

The episode starts with a short piece of Gwen facing the camera, clearly a handheld due to the grainy image. She talks of Jack, wondering why she never asked him properly about that “Doctor” of his and why he isn’t always there when the world needs saving… she knows the answer now though…

“Sometimes. He must look at this world… and turn away in shame.”

It’s a nice nod to the Doctor to include his absence. So many times I wanted him to walk into frame to shout, condemn and rant and marvellously fix the problem. And it didn’t happen.

The government, in particularly the Prime Minister Greene (who is now under the thumb of the American general who feels that Britain has botched the whole situation so now they have to make the best of it) releases a statement to the news services where they go with cover story of sending the kids back to schools to receive “inoculations” to stop the kids from speaking in unison again. It’s all a ruse to ensure that the lesser achieving schools simply have full classes again, so the troops can move in and clear them out.

I don’t know where the hell the BBC got the budget to pull all of this off but everything was too realistic, too possible, all too real as those trucks and buses pulled in to the local schools. As the teachers have to watch in horror, unable to do anything but insist that the soldiers don’t have the right to remove the kids, and they carry on anyway. It’s shocking.

Taking a moment, the American general sends in the UNIT operative who has appeared throughout the days to talk to the 456. Before they proceed, they must know… they’ve seen how the 456 are connected to the children. But why they need to know why. Is it life support?

“No. They make chemicals. They make us… feel… good.”

That’s the twist. That’s the turn. The 456 are addicted to the chemicals that pre-pubescent children create. The alien menaces are drug users. It’s such a simple revelation, so utterly casual. Don’t get me wrong. The delivery is chilling. The set up for it disgusting. But it’s not the big end of the world shocking news you’re expecting and it completely hits you for six and makes you feel ill.

Back in cabinet session, the PM Greene sits back as the events unfold around him. He’s no longer in control. There is one scene where himself and Frobisher sit down and Greene explains, uncomfortably, that in order for the public to trust what the government are doing; Frobisher’s children will take the inoculation on live television. Frobisher doesn’t take long to understand the full implications of what this means when Greene admits that the government must come out of the crisis looking as though they suffered too, that there was some loss on their part… so Frobisher’s children are to be taken by the 456. The terror here scene is palpable as Frobisher is fraught, and horrified by where events have led him and he knows is powerless against it.

Well, almost powerless. Once outside of the room he asks his assistant to fulfil requisition 31 to which she complies, confused, and returns with a closed box. Frobisher simply takes the box from her, turns away, then turns back and plants a gentle kiss on her cheek, and he leaves. Without a word. Capaldi represents a man who has made a choice and will stand by it. Determined, terrified, but resolute.

He arrives home, drives around the press, and this entire scene is played without sound as it intercuts with another that does have sound. His kids greet him at the door, joyous, he’s all smiles, and he asks them to go upstairs. His wife hugs him tight, and she looks concerned, confused, but he gestures upstairs for her, too. When they’ve gone, he proceeds over to the table, opens the box, and pulls out a gun.

You don’t see it happen, but the following sound of four gunshots is all you need to understand. The end of Frobisher is as depressing and gritty and forecast from the moment that Frobisher leaves Greene’s office. Capaldi played that suicidal figure perfectly. Horrifically.

Back with Alice and Johnson, they chat. Alice convinces Johnson who, originally cold and calculating in parts one and two, has showed a more reasonable side to her character. Her turning to show some genuine concern for unfolding events and the governments dealings and Alice’s persuasion makes her bust Jack out of prison to find a different solution to the crisis.

And what of Torchwood?

Jack is a man broken. He’s lost Ianto and he now recognises that there is nothing left to do.

Gwen is still determined to fight, but with a few words Jack convinces her that there is nothing left she can do except go home and tell Ianto’s sister he’s died. Be safe. As she boards a helicopter with Rhys, to return to Cardiff, Jack and Gwen embrace, and he whispers into her ear.

“They’re after the children. Ianto has a niece and nephew. Save them.”

Jack is locked in a cell and Gwen flies home. Again during these sequences it painful to watch as the events unfold without any intervention from Torchwood. You’re left in despair but still clinging to some hope that Jack will find a way to come back… and it’s only when Johnson and gang bust Jack out that you feel your spirits lift.

Back in Cardiff there are nice moments of humour as PC Andy is oblivious to the real events unfolding, and Gwen and Rhys can’t tell him, and small jokes are cracked at the parentage of Gwen’s baby. Given the coming events it’s good to have these small moments. But when Gwen reveals to Ianto’s sister about his death… it’s heartbreaking. In 5 episodes we’ve come to care for this little splash of Cardiff life and Ianto’s poignant death only serves to intensify our protective feelings for this little group.

It’s also particularly telling of Russell’s writing, that even in death, we still find out facts about Ianto. In her attempts to convince Gwen to believe her and listen to her about the government coming for the kids, she tells her that Ianto used to talk about her and her father. How their father was a master tailor… and Ianto’s sister explodes that the guy worked in Debenhams! It’s a small lie Ianto told, which indicates some shame about his background.

When the soldiers come for the kids though, it’s nothing short of intense as the adults shuffle the kids out the backdoor, promises of sweets, and lead them to hide in an abandoned farmhouse. Particularly fun, yet scarily effective, is when the council estate locals, rallied by Ianto’s brother in law, start a riot against the soldiers. It’s painful watching them fight each other, although a good punch the air moment as PC Andy throws himself into the fight on the side of council estate. Good for you!

But while Gwen continues her desperate mission of mercy, the events for Jack are still unfolding and just getting worse. Not only did Johnson grab Jack, but they grabbed the technology guy Decker who studied the 456 frequency and other equipment from his lab.

With all this, as the children are being gathered en masse on open airfields around the world and with minutes to spare, can Jack mount a defence?

As Decker shouts behind them it can’t be done, Johnson shows little patience as she turns and promptly shoots the man in the leg. Vicious. It reminds us of whom her character is and notches up the tension.

As the plot turns, Jack figures out that the death of Clem doesn’t fit the 456’s agenda so far. Why do that? How was he affecting them? Unless his remnant status was a potential threat…

By analysing a recording of the 456’s sound wave that killed Clem, Decker manages to confirm that it’s a brand new sound that they aren’t familiar with. Jack reasons that if they send it back at the 456, using some technobabble process, it could kill them. But they have no transmitter.

Decker is coldly logical. The 456 have been using the children as transmitters so it will work backwards, too. Except that frequency will, like Clem, destroy the child’s brain. It’s one child for the sake of millions.

And there’s only one child close enough.

Steven Carter. Jack’s grandson.

Alice breaks ranks. Terrified for her son, running for him, screaming as the soldiers grab her and grab him, separating them.

John Barrowman plays this moment so well as he gives the hesitant, heartbreaking nod to Johnson to collect Steven and bring him there. It’s horrific as Steven is placed in the middle of the equipment, scared, and simply asking out loud:

“Uncle Jack?!”

And Jack has no words. He activates the equipment. Steven’s eyes unfocus and he starts to scream a synthesized, unnatural sound. All the children across the world start to scream, too and we cut back to alien gas tank where the 456 remain silent, but start to shake, and we cut back to Steven who starts to fit on the spot.

It’s a damn uncomfortable scene to watch. The death of this innocent child. It’s too affecting as we cut back to Jack in unshed tears as he kills his own flesh and blood.

As Steven’s nose bleeds and he fits more violently, the 456 meet their end in an explosion of blood inside the tank. Their forms are then sucked back up into the sky by the pillar of fire that dropped them there in the first place.

We see Gwen with the children she was attempting to rescue, smiling, as they all seem relieved. We cut back to the gob smacked government officials and army operatives in the cabinet room, unsure of what just happened…

And we see Alice as she’s let into the room where her son has died. She runs to his lifeless body on the floor, bleeding from his ears and nose and she cradles him, desperately holding onto her only son, crying out for help, but knowing, knowing he’s gone and that her own father did it.

It’s really powerful stuff. How Russell T. Davies wrote this I have no idea. But he’s gone for gut punching, heart wrenching issues and he hits them bang on the head. It’s also stunningly brave to turn Jack into such an… is anti-hero an appropriate term? He certainly isn’t the heroic, takes no lives figure that the Doctor represents.

It’s like an alternative to who the Doctor could be if he couldn’t always save the day, if he lived in a world where he wasn’t as brilliant or clever as the character is. Damaged, tormented, broken… the Doctor is all of these things to some degree, yes, but with Jack… Jack is still a human, and it’s more terrifying for us to see him capable of these things. And as I said at the start, Jack will be lucky if his daughter never speaks to him again, because the things she would want to say would only tear him further apart.

There’s some suitable pathos as we return to the cabinet room, and the PM Greene comments that he regards the whole situation as “lucky”. When Denise his fellow government official and Frobisher’s secretary ask what he means, Greene elaborates that because the Americans took over the situation, without authorisation from the UN, they can blame the days events on them.

Greene is now no longer a fish out of water, he is an odious, slimy, self-serving manipulator and we want to see him taken down.

So!

It’s rather lovely that RTD allows the quiet but strict, put upon and largely underrated secretary of Frobisher’s’ (I’ve looked up her name now…) Bridget Spears, to speak up. See, she paid a visit to see Lois Habiba, Torchwood’s girl on the inside so to speak, who was locked in a cell and charged with espionage after standing up for Torchwood. There, in a pitch perfect scene it is revealed just how loyal Bridget was to her boss, how they first met and the events that led them to work together.

And this scene is so crucial as it plays after Frobisher has returned home to commit suicide and kill his family, after Bridget gave him the gun. Originally we are led to believe that’s all that went on in that cell, so that we don’t frown too much on Frobisher’s’ actions which are admittedly horrific, but we try to understand where he was coming from.

We now discover though, that while there, she took the opportunity to ask Lois about the Torchwood contact lenses that she used to spy and record the governmental meetings. She then used her privileges to remove those lenses from evidence holding, and in turn use them herself to record each and every last word in the sessions of Day 5. Including Greene’s statement of how they were ‘lucky’ and that she has every intention of seeing that those recordings are made public.

Strike another punch the air moment, although given the previous events only a few minutes ago, it’s a very subdued punch as we remain emotionally drained. It’s wonderful though to see this character twist, to see Bridget go from loyal yet condescending to a principal character in her own right with her own motivations and moral conscious. Just brilliant. Kudos to Susan Brown.

And so Torchwood Day 5 comes to its end. Before I look at the last scene of the episode, I want to round up this as whole.

I think Series 3 has proved exactly what this show was always capable of – serious, gritty, dark, disturbing and yet totally human. That’s really what this series has been about as well. The 456 also serve as a plot device external to the workings of the script. It’s not the threat they represent to humanity. But how we respond to that threat. It’s been a depressing as heck journey on the whole as we see exactly what humanity is capable of at it’s most put upon. In the face of overwhelming odds, how are we prepared to go? How far is our government prepared to go? Is it best to sacrifice a few so the many can live?

These are real questions with no easy answers and Torchwood: Children of Earth should be commended for not offering any. Hard choices are made. Disgust is evident. Most importantly of all though, these episodes have moved me. I’ve seen characters twist and turn in both the darkness and the light. I’ve seen humanity at their best and at their worst.

A mirror has been held up and the question has been asked – what if?

What more can you expect from good science fiction story telling?

And that final scene.

Well blow me down, I almost feel as if Russell T. Davies had a masterplan. I’ve said for a while that I don’t think Captain Jack works as the leading man, and I find myself wondering if there’s an admittance to that in this last scene.

See, it takes place 6 months after the events over the 5 days, Gwen is heavily pregnant, as both her and Rhys have driven into the country to a hill that overlooks what I presume is Cardiff. As they walk the last few parts of the distance, they spy Jack at the top.

It’s evident it’s been awhile since they last met, and I found myself wondering what the current state of Torchwood is. A few jokes fly back and forth, gentle smiles and reluctant ones.

And then Jack reveals how sorry he is for all the deaths he feels he’s caused. Gwen tries to reassure him. He saved them all. They weren’t all his fault. But Jack is resolute and lists Steven, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, Suzie… all the people that have worked for him and Torchwood.

He feels he failed them. He took charge and look what happened…

He tells her that there’s a spaceship on the edge of the solar system, he just needs to give it a signal and it’ll drop by and transport him up. Gwen hands over his wrist device that he uses, commenting that it is indestructible. Though Rhys bought a new strap…

“50 quid that cost me!”
”Bill me!”

I like RTD’s grasp on character very much.

But Jack… he’s lived an awful lot of lives, done so many different things, but now he feels it’s time to carry on wandering. Gwen thinks he should stay, will he come back… he can’t just run away.

Jack smiles.

“Oh just watch me.”

With a flash, Jack is gone and beamed up into the sky.

So where does that leave us? Well if Russell wanted to finish off Torchwood he certainly did so he damn good fashion; and he’s also left that door ajar just in case of a future visit. Gwen talking about finding the wrist device in the rubble means she’s been clearing through the remains of the Hub, I suppose.

But would Gwen then lead the team? Would Torchwood even be allowed to exist given the previous events? Though I suppose you could argue that maybe if the government had involved Torchwood from the start the situation could have been resolved differently…

Perhaps it’s a good time for a new Torchwood to start. One with closer ties to the government, but still capable of existing under its own autonomy. But should it come back with Captain Jack in charge?

Like I said, I think there’s a confession of some aspect of Jack’s personality that doesn’t take well to leadership. Here, at the end, in one respect Jack is running away from his problems. But then can I really blame him? After all he’d seen, all he’d done, all he’d lost… at his own hand no less.

Who wouldn’t want to run? And if he had the option… how could he not run?

Jack tried too hard to be the man in charge, instead of being the man in charge. That might owe some explanation to Barrowman’s portrayal but regardless… I still like Jack’s character. I still like Barrowman’s portrayal. The potential there is rich.

I’d like to see a return to Torchwood in the future. With writing, casting, direction and production of this degree and calibre, how could I not?!

To every single person involved in this miniseries, whether you helped create it or simply posted bulletins about it for press releases, fantastic work. Brilliant. This was television used for astonishing affect.

5 out of 5 Captain Jack’s beaming away into the night…

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Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day 4 Review

In brief: Flashback! Government! Offence! Death!

In depth:

Ok then!

Day 4 spends its first 10 minutes picking up on that dangled plot thread and sort of answering the question as to why Jack handed over 12 children in 1965. I was particularly fond of the “…we need a man who doesn’t care…” exchange. This is a bitter Jack, a man who can’t die and who doesn’t yet understand his purpose in this world, and we’re left to come to our own determinations. If you’re disgusted by Jack’s actions though, Clem’s reaction to it will probably still throw you off track.

Did with me. But it was perfectly in character for Clem; that’s why it worked so well.

The reveal of exactly what the 456 did with the children is quite odd. Invited inside the gas tank to see what fate awaits the children, a cameraman boldly goes. What follows is a scene of tension as he makes his way through the gas, there are glimpses of what I presume are 456 heads, but no full body shots, and then finally the reveal of a child. It’s an unsettling visual. But it still doesn’t answer the question of what the child is before used for… I await Day 5…

Probably one of the highlights in this episode though is when the British government, now faced with having to hand over 10% of the world’s child population, sits down to talk about it. It’s perhaps too scarily close to how such a discussion would go: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, focus on the greater societal needs than the immediate social ones… Literally this scene is 12 people sat around a table, just talking, and only 4 or 5 of them even have lines, and you are gripped by it. The cold pressing logic of their discussion. Who to give up? Why are they being given up? Is there a good spin on this?

It’s bloody terrifying.

And seeing characters turn is astounding. There’s one particular government official in the room, Denise is her name I think… She starts off quite hesitant and concerned about their seriously considering the 456’s “request” and you warm to her… and yet by the end of the discussion, I was disgusted! She’s the one who has led them to their conclusion of sending the ones least likely to contribute. She’s the one who kicks off the discussion about ensuring that their own children, the ones sat around this particular table, are not going to be picked.

Like I said, terrifying. Brutal. Cold. Honest.

How would our government react to this crisis?

It’s interesting to see Frobisher’s character turn in the unfolding events around him. Watch Capaldi’s expressions. He’s clearly uncomfortable being involved in these discussions, scared for the children, anxious for the situation to be over.

I also liked the exchange between Frobisher and the 456 as he goes back to “haggle” with the 456 for reduced units (it’s what the government call the children. Awful). When Frobisher states that the requested amount is unacceptable, the 456 respond by playing back Frobisher’s’ own words about a request for privacy on the previous arrangement. Clever. It puts the British government in a rather uncomfortable position with their foreign allies to say the least! Prime Ministers certainly don’t seem to last long in their positions in the Whoniverse…

And what about Torchwood I hear you ask? The gang are most certainly back in the saddle…

With the new revelations about Jack’s past actions before them, the team force themselves to focus on the problem. Confronted with himself, Jack agonizes. Who he was then, who is he now, the things he’s seen and done… Time to make things right. To stick it to them.

Loved the quiet scene where Ianto queries Jack about the past. And Jack’s flippant. Ianto barges through it. It’s really sweet to see how much he cares, how much he pours into this man he loves. And how telling it is that Jack is terrified to reveal too much back.

The moment where he tells Ianto about his daughter and grandson… it’s quick and delivered in a spitfire manner. But it’s telling that he’s telling Ianto about it.

More telling is the scene where Alice and Steven are escorted by Johnson into a cell. Johnson is acerbic with her. And Alice just reminds her that she’s spent her whole life running away from her father. The man who can’t die. Why would she do that? It’s food for thought for the assassin and it’s a nicely underplayed scene.

Please don’t kill Jack’s family. Thanks.

And when the team really goes to work, pulling Lois into doing one momentously heart-stopping favour, it’s sheer genius. I love Lois’ character. Brave. Smart. Endearing. Hopeful.

“Let them do their job.”

The final 15 minutes are a curious concoction. Torchwood takes the fight to the 456 by blackmailing the government with their recordings of their off the record dealings. Jack and Ianto stand side by side and refuse to meet the 456’s demands. Jack was there before. He’s here this time, and they are saying no. The human race is saying no. The 456 response is chilling:

“You yielded before.”

Jack is resolute. They would rather war.

So be it.

The episode ends on an emotional punch. Jack is hit particularly hard by the ensuing events as Torchwood moved in to lay down the terms and they are left without hope, without option, without weapons by episodes end.

The government prepares to use it’s own horrific solution for the situation; compliance.

Jack is left broken.

It’s another solid episode bolstered by some incredible performances and good writing. I’d like to single out Paul Copley once again for his representation of a man of fear, innocence, shame and devastation. For Gareth David-Lloyd for his asides, one liners, and bringing to life of a character who wasn’t neither showman or a leader but a man trying to do his best in the light. And for Capaldi for showing how an ordinary man squirms in the dark.

It’s not quite as explosive or introductory as Day 1, it’s not quite as fast as Day 2, and it’s not quite as setting and building upon what came before as Day 3. This is an episode that runs with it’s own internal ideas, follows through nicely from what came before, and hurtles us towards a conclusion by raising us up as Torchwood begin to turn the tide, and then dragging us back down with their fall…

The question is, with Torchwood once more down and out, where will they go from here?

3 and a half tears rolling down camera lenses hidden inside contact lenses out of five.

Bring on Day 5.

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Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day 3 Review

In brief: Torchwood “2”. Steal. Tension… tension… more tension…

In depth:

Well that first half hour was fun! Second half… tense fun!

Now that the gang are back together, plus Rhys (!), they start to pick up the pieces and while they don’t quite get down to my requested ass kicking from yesterday’s review, they do go on a more ingenious form of offence by gathering intelligence and working on coming back from being one step behind the government.

It’s very entertaining as the gang enters their new base of operations, Torchwood “2”, and start to appropriate the necessary equipment and supplies – think “Hustle” on the small scale. My particular delight was Ianto’s swooping in on a customer sat a small table, cut on cheek and still getting away with it.

Once suited and booted (for Jack a big deal) they crack open the Torchwood server on the internet and start to use the software on there to work out exactly what’s going on (does that work? Can people do that? How clever…). The team dynamic is genuinely warming as they banter and work; perhaps another nod towards its parent show?

Regardless, all this good humour would be without purpose if there wasn’t some alien threat still brewing in the background and oh it so does brew. It’s surely a nod to the testament of the writing and plotting of this series that I found it bloody brilliant that almost bang on the two and a half hour mark, the 456 make their arrival in style in a column of fire, straight into Floor 13 and the tank of gas that the government has been building for them. That is exactly halfway through the episode, through the series.

Nicely done.

And it’s this second half hour where the fun and humour dissipates away and it becomes more about ramping up the tension. I didn’t expect to see the 456 immediately after their arrival in the tank, but I was still on edge as Frobisher approached the tank, those dark shapes just hovering outside of view. I was a little disappointed in the gunk thrown at the inside of the walls which reminded me a little too much of old Saturday morning kids tv shows, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to know just what the heck was in there!

And surely, for those last twenty minutes… it’s a very, very hard balancing act to keep ramping up the tension, whilst cutting back between two different location scenes in which repeating dialogue is shown, which we as the audience have just seen a split second ago, whilst throwing in the occasional comic aside (oh Ianto. Gwen. Rhys. Never leave J), effectively showing us a tank full of gas and a shadow… and it working. It occurred to me that it shouldn’t be working, by all accounts, I should be exasperated that I’m watching Ianto repeat exactly what the 456 just said, but it works! I couldn’t stop watching, waiting, wanting to know what the 456 want!

And now we know. We definitely know. We sort of knew. We suspected. But now we know. We just don’t know why.

This tension teased throughout the episode, and then ramped up in those last 20 minutes, was nicely developed. For example, when Jack’s daughter, Alice, walks outside her house and you just realise that she knows something is wrong, it’s brilliant. It’s a short sequence. Only about 3 minutes in length, but as she grabs her son, and arms herself, and tells him to play a game she taught him when he was younger… it’s quick, it’s clever, it gives her some history as we know a certain someone must have prepared her… and her “showdown” of sorts with assassin Johnson is brilliant. In a few short lines I hated Johnson, couldn’t understand her motives or attitudes, and was surprised by her frank honesty.

And Alice makes one believable threat against her.

Or how about the scene where Jack, suddenly understanding exactly who else the people were that were killed on the same day Johnson tried to kill him, drives off in a rush… and the next we see him he’s standing inside Frobisher’s house… near his family… followed by that phone call to the man himself. It’s a well-written scene. And both Barrowman and Capaldi do very well with it.

And as for Frobisher… Brave man. Smart man. Foolish man. He’s doing what he genuinely believes he has to do, and I suppose he’s caught between a rock and a hard place. But exactly what are his motives? Why is it Frobisher? Is it just because he is a middleman that he’s involved? Or has it always been planned by the government that a middleman would have to be in charge? So many questions!

The children. Loved the scene on the council estate as Ianto’s husband in law makes the most of a government curfew on kids not being allowed outside. Loved how every child in the world announced the 456’s arrival with words, and by pointing straight at Britain. You’d think a few heads would be turning now so of course…

Loved the showdown in government between American general and British Prime Minister. How proper. How necessary.

Honestly, I’m not sure what just happened. This episode wasn’t at all what I was expecting… and yet it was! It was exactly what I needed to see rather than what I wanted. How exhilarating!

The only big disappointment I had was the ending, which I could see coming… I just hoped they would do something else with it. Perhaps Clem freaking out but then maybe the softly softly approach works better and they’ll capitalize on it more with Day Four.

It’s an episode where nothing particularly new or revelatory was had (ending aside…) but what it did with what it had was brilliant. What it built upon was nice.

So, what on EARTH will happen next? And more importantly, Jack, just what the heck did you think you were doing?!

Director Euros Lyn, writers Russell T. Davies and James Moran. Awesome. Thank you.

More please!

3 and a half hidden cameras inside contact lenses out of 5.

Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day Two Review

 

In brief: What happened next… run!

In depth:

John Fay has perhaps the uncomfortable position of following on from the, dare I say it, explosive series opener. Now all the pieces are in play, how does he proceed?

We can’t really expect massive new revelations to come screaming at us from our television sets just yet… it’s only the second episode. So that said… well… he fares a damn sight better than I might have otherwise expected.

The Torchwood team have been torn to pieces. Quite literally (like what I did there? No? Anyone? Damn). Gwen stumbles away, and there’s some nice quick cuts of her own perception… muted sound and shaky vision. She’s held back from the site though by two seemingly concerned paramedics who pull her into an ambulance saying to themselves “No witnesses.” The following sequence shows quite nicely Gwen’s current state of mind.

Ianto meanwhile, literally stumbles out from the wreckage of the Hub. And I mean, wreckage. I do wonder exactly how badly the Hub was destroyed mind because I didn’t see much that reminded me of the set. More generic girders and rubble. But then I’m not a keen Torchwood watcher. Please feel free to correct me! The dust covered and worn Mr. Jones then has to promptly make a run for it as a sniper starts taking shots…

As for Jack… well… it’s not spoiling much to say that he lives through this death. But as one character notes, given the way he comes back and what he has to go through, perhaps he would have been better staying dead…

Splitting up the team like this works. It provides ample material to keep this hour running quite nicely. The main story on the approaching alien menace, the 456, and the kids’ eerie possessions does take a back burner for most of the hour though. This is no big loss as it gives the plot time to twist and turn as the Torchwood team scramble to protect themselves and their loved ones from the female assassin Johnson, nicely portrayed by Liz May Brice, and her armed soldiers. Her introduction in the previous episode, particularly her cold dispatch of a junior officer, was just enough to get us interested, but her attempts here are downright vicious. What she does to Jack is smart, and the way she says it, sinister. We know our heroes’ are in peril…

That said, the tension from the main alien threat still permeates throughout the hour, thanks to the cuts back to London and the government department being overseen by John Frobisher. In particular, when the children announce that the 456 will be here “…tomorrow…” and the government continues to prepare for their arrival according to some very specific instructions… you can hear more pieces of the puzzle slotting into place. Some very important questions are then brought to our attention by Lois Habiba, the charming and apparently very quick study secretary for said department – just who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys?

Thanks to some well written and performed moments, there is good humour present throughout the whole. It’s never enough to completely dismiss the bubbling tension, but it is enough to keep us interested and aware. It makes the characters more human and relatable. Rhys is used to fine effect as a comedic foil to Gwen’s more serious, intoned understandings of the situation.

I think Ianto still wins with his “Underappreciated ones” lines, mind!

I suppose it helps the episode starts grim and fraught, moves out into slightly warmer territory, dives back into the tension, and then back to the warmth. There’s enough to keep you involved and keep you watching.

As Gwen and Rhys launch a hastily planned assault of their own, I did have to keep my tongue firmly in cheek as I pondered the chances of their action (oh so difficult being vague!) and by the time all hope is lost, and Ianto shows up to save the day in a fantastically crowd pleasing moment that reminds you exactly who’s the parent show of this young pup… I was properly entertained!

Good effects, good make up (a few particular examples, see Jack, which reminds you exactly why this show isn’t Doctor Who) and nicely simmering music all thrown into the mix, and you have here a very nice continuation of the first episode.

The team have been blown apart, hunted, and have now regrouped. It’s a slightly slower and contains less new set up for later episodes piece (the 456 and their natures aside!), instead encapsulating on what came before and building upon it (and I very much liked the short cuts back to Jack’s daughter Alice and her son. I wonder where that might be going…), but I refuse to call it filler because it didn’t feel like filler. This was necessary for what came before and what must now come after.

It was an extremely solid and worthwhile continuation of the first episode… however… could we commence with the ass kicking now?

3 and a half JCB trucks out of 5.

See you… “tomorrow.”

Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day One Review

In brief:  Zoom. BOOM.

In depth:

Torchwood is back.

After an undisclosed period of time after the deaths of Owen and Toshiko, life in Cardiff goes on as, well, normal. That said, I did have to have a quiet chuckle to myself when, after the opening credits sprawled, in big letters at the bottom of the screen came “CARDIFF”. It’s just not something you see everyday… sorry…

What we have had presented this evening though was a fine hour of entertainment. We are pulled quickly into the story through the opening sequence, nicely shot at night and with just enough hints at possible later storylines, like the one child hanging slightly back for example…

And then I think it takes, what, 2 minutes into the episode itself before we see exactly what’s been touted in all the trailers for the last month or so. Children, our children, stopping whatever they are doing and just being motionless. Speechless.

Except that great big evil tease of a man Russell T. Davies knows that that’s what we’re waiting for, so instead of the alien speech from these kids, after 30 seconds of nothing, it’s back to normal as if they were just mucking around.

Damn you, Russell. Now I have to watch.

And I’m going to forego any more explicit spoilers here, sorry. Except suffice to say that the first 40 minutes set up some very nice groundwork for the next 4 episodes, and then the last 20 minutes is just, well, excitement/run/boom. I really hope the momentum can be kept up and every last ounce of possibility can be extracted for good use!

What I will also say is that the last hour of television was a tightly scripted, well-directed and fine performances from all around. There’s drama and tension and some absolutely delightful family fun scenes for Ianto, which balance nicely against Jack’s more tense family life… From potentially morally bankrupt government department heads to perhaps slightly too inquisitive for their own future good secretaries, and good natured doctors to charismatic Jack… I was involved. And speaking as person who finds the character of Captain Jack sorely lacking without somekind of authority figure weighing him down… that means something! I’ve always seen his character as more of a support than a leading man, that when thrust into that position, he overcompensates. He seems much more toned down here while still retaining that essential… Jack-ness.

I like it.

In fact character seems to be the key here. I don’t think there wasn’t a single character with prominent screen time, that wasn’t given a moment to be fully emotionally human. Even the government shady figure, Frobisher, who we are not supposed to like… he is terrified for his kids. 

I’d like to take quick moment here to single out Paul Copley for some particular praise. I was alternately scared, endeared and sympathetic to his character. Some very nice writing with some damn fine acting building a superb performance. 

I do wonder if it’s perhaps the scale of the story that has helped Torchwood with this particular outing. As the story whips from 40 years ago to the present day, from Cardiff, to London, there’s a sense of development and progress. The story just feels bigger and I think it makes the Torchwood concept stronger because of that.

I think most people will love the cliff-hanger ending, which, is nice and action-ey and proper chocka with explosions, but for me it was more of the emotional (and completely unforeseen but makes perfect sense given the way the government officials have been talking so negatively about Torchwood) plot twist that occurs near the end of the program that won me over.

In fact I was so impressed by the twist that I remember looking down at the time to see if that was the end and the cliff-hanger moment.

Torchwood has had a tough old time of it, being the spin off from nuWho, and expectations were high for series one. I remember being thoroughly shoved out of episode one by the mention of the dreaded F word within the first 5 minutes. I could not get back into the show for a while after that. It might sound silly, but for me it felt so much like the show was attempting to say “WE ARE MORE GROWN UP THAN DOCTOR WHO. LISTEN TO US BE ALL TRUE TO LIFE.”

It didn’t need that. You just need sensible, appropriate story-telling. There’s a nice small moment in the episode where Gwen is talking to a possible new member of the team, a young doctor. He reveals that, since the first public appearance and following awareness of extraterrestrial life 4 years in the Whoniverse, the suicide rates have actually doubled.

There’s also the concept of Jack’s immortality. In Doctor Who, it’s more of a wondrous marvel but here we can see that it can also be a curse. Remember Jack’s family life I mentioned? Since he’s immortal, he will constantly be seeing people he comes to care for and love having to die. And he will always look the same to them. How painful must that be for both sides.

Now in the parent show, Doctor Who, these themes would never be appropriate. Not in a million years to the blunt extent at which they are offered here. At its heart, Doctor Who is about great and noble deeds being done against all odds, the joy and wonder and excitement from infinite possibilities throughout the cosmos…

Torchwood though, is closer to home and it can handle those more disturbing elements. Not necessarily darker, just subversive and negative. Like say, some kind of government conspiracy cover up for events that while they may have been alien in origin, were resolved by entirely self-serving human interests.

Not sure yet. The jury is still out, and this episode has proved already that appearances are most deceiving… stopping with that thought.

Intelligent, witty, topical, self-aware, and human.

Most importantly, it seems that Torchwood has found and now firmly planted its feet. 

Here we go. A nice, well deserved 4 out of 5 Torchwood company cars being stolen by Cardiff teenagers. Despite triple deadlocks. 

Keep it up! Please!