Typing Faster

July 25, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Filed under: Craft, Stuff I Like — petertypingfaster @ 9:00 am

Wow. Just….wow.

What an incredible five hours of television. Just fabulous. Huge kudos to Russell T. Davies and co.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Torchwood or Doctor Who, but after watching Children of Earth I’m seriously thinking of going back and giving them a try.

And really can you blame me? There is so much to like in Children of Earth, and practically all of it comes from Davies adherence to one of the bedrock principles of storytelling. Take your characters, put them in the worst possible situation, and then see what they do. Instant drama.

Spoilers ahead (in case it wasn’t obvious).

And the drama in Children of Earth is delicious, and it gets worse for our characters with each of the five episodes.

From heroes, to fugitives on the run. From giving the aliens a few children in the ’60s, to giving them millions in the present day. From inadvertently causing the death of your lover, to deliberately sacrificing your grandchild. Things keep getting worse and worse for Jack Harkness and the rest of Torchwood.

And that’s what makes these five hours of television so great. It’s because of the Sophie’s Choice that all the characters are forced to make. Which children do they save? Which do they sacrifice? It’s unrelentingly bleak, and I can’t help but wonder if a North American broadcaster would have let the writers tell a story as dark as this.

Just look at Harkness, our hero. Not only does he reveal that he gave these very aliens a bunch of kids in 1965, but his guilt over doing so makes him sacrifice not only his lover, but his only grandchild. Talk about putting your hero through the wringer!

And it’s not only our heroes that are squeezed. One of the more sympathetic characters, or if not sympathetic, at least tragic, is that of John Frobisher, the man who orders the assassination of our hero. Forced to be the point man, negotiating with the aliens, for the majority of the series he’s definitely a villain.

And then he kills his children, his wife, and himself, rather than give them up to the aliens. It’s an incredibly powerful moment. Just great, great television.

Just take a look at what Alan Sepinwall had to say.

I have to applaud Russell T. Davies and company for having the courage of their convictions. While I took issue with a few things in the finale, overall it felt very much of a piece with the thrilling, squirm-inducing four hours that preceded it. There was no attempt at false uplift. Yes, The 4-5-6 are killed(*), and the British Prime Minister is basically stripped of his power, but his replacement is the equally odious Denise. John Frobisher kills his family and himself for what turns out to be a solveable problem. Many are still dead, many others are still traumatized, and in the end, our hero — smiling Captain Jack, the man who’s supposed to be perfect at everything, who can conjure a solution to any problem out of thin air, who lets the world wash off his back — is left with the image not only of his dead lover, but of the grandson he chose to kill in order to save millions of other children. In that moment, he has to make a similar decision to the one Denise was proposing last night — needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few (or the one) — but he does it in a very different way. Where Denise and the rest of the British government were all about protecting their own kin at all costs, Jack has to sacrifice his grandson, because there isn’t any time to find someone to take Steven’s place.

And it’s that last bit that really makes Children of Earth work so well. Davies was brave enough to put his heroes in an untenable position, and then let them make a brutal choice to get out of it.

Just incredible. Great, great stuff.

You can find the rest of Alan Sepinwall’s review here.

Maureen Ryan also has some interesting thoughts over at her digs that are worth checking out. I agree with a lot of her objections, but I found that, much like the finale for Battlestar Galactica, the great, emotional character moments were strong enough to pull me through the gaping plot holes.

Anyways, what did everybody else think?

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