I just finished watching Torchwood: Children of the Earth last night. And it was sooo cool! I feel the need to burble about it a little. But watch out, because there will be spoilers below.

[If you haven’t watched it yet, its on youtube, and some of it is on the pirate bay]

Ok, sure you want to read on? Here goes…

Holy hotness! Its Capin' Jack and his cute earthling groupies!

Holy hotness! Its Capin' Jack and his cute earthling groupies!

The new Torchwood mini series was just fantastic. Ok, so there were some pretty big holes in the plot and dead end leads that were untidily left lying about (the ominous caretaker guy who seemed to have all that ominousness for nothing? Or why the 456 didn’t take the 12th child back in 1965, but left him with some combination of super powers and an imaginary friend?). But still. It was damn entertaining, and I was jumping up and down in my seat right till the very end.

Ianto’s death felt a bit pointless – after all, he wasn’t sacrificing himself to save the world as Toshiko and Owen did – instead just being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the one hand, we could take that as a sign that his death (and therefore his character) is really more about Jack, and the theme of him having to sacrifice everyone he loves. This is a tad annoying because it takes away from Ianto as a character himself. On the other hand, we can see it as a theme that ordinary people without super heros do die in stupid, casual ways when they try to fight aliens. Torchwood (and Dr Who) have always been about emphasising the “normalness” of their characters, and in this sense are prepared to kill them off rather than twist believability in annoying “oh well he might be a trained sniper who has killed off plenty of extras, but the main characters will always be able to jump out of the way of his bullets” kind of way. So Ianto dying so unexpectedly is a way of saying, yeah, mortal people sometimes die when they fight aliens, and it sucks.

But Torchwood’s habit of killing off its characters – after all, it killed off the much promoted Suzie Costello in the first episode! – does seem like the series has a suicide wish. Despite the complaints that its all just a vehicle for Captain Jack, the original two series were ensemble pieces. The dynamics of the team were a huge part of the appeal – with only two of the original six left, even recruiting in spares from Dr Who won’t help. And while the new girl Lois looks promising… I don’t think its going to be enough. Having taken Torchwood out of obscurity with this prime time stunt, they seem to have inadvertently fucked themselves over by assuming it wouldn’t be as popular – or as good – as it always was. Its like the Frobisher character: things look rough so a glorious suicide seems the best idea, but in retrospect, it would have been better if they had hung on a little longer.

But anyway, back to the plot itself. Its obvious Russell Davies has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about politics these days. The whole civil service v. elected politicians looking out for their own skin theme was just fantastic, and very topical right now. But I did feel that they could have made it stronger by making Frobisher’s character a little less spineless. The point of the civil service, surely, is that is is less about single individual heroics or personalities in the way that the politicians are, and more about collective departments and groups who remain despite the changing fads of party politics. That Frobisher had no-one other than his secretaries to turn to failed to explore that dynamic. But then, I assumed they were making a veiled reference to David Kelly, particularly with his suicide.

(Don’t forget that Frobisher only stood up and did something when his own kids were threatened, implying that he was more than a spineless fool, he was also just as guilty for “following orders” to harm other’s without risk to himself. What do we do with that?)

That the real monsters are our politicians, who are prepared to calmly discuss how to cull 10% of other people’s children without touching their own, was a wonderful twist that added far more suspense than any goo squirting three headed alien could have. It was that moment of thinking: yes, yes they really are going to do it, its happening. Standing back in disbelief, feeling powerless to stop or shout out that its wrong. When everyone waits for a hero to stand up to say no, or a solution to appear that never comes. The feeling that surely this can’t happen, its so obviously wrong – but it still does.

Now where have we felt that before?

In that respect, the deux ex machine ending was rather a shame. Coming so close to the very end, in the last ten minutes, it was a bit holey even with the concept of the sacrifice of one for many thrown in. Given the theme of exploring Jack’s dark side it made sense, but in a plot based on the corruption of politics, it would have been better to have let the “gift” happen. To have had the children taken, and the people of the world rise up in anger and destroy their leaders. Now that would have been amazing. That would have underlined the feeling of powerlessness – not to aliens, but to the corruption of our own society.

Sadly, Torchwood is still a BBC family friendly drama and not a call for revolution. But then, Dr Who has always suffered from Russell T. Davies’ inability to come up with satisfying endings – the most annoying episodes are always the ones written by him. He can build up a great story line (Bad Wolf. The whole Donna thing.) raising the suspense and curiosity bit by bit, drip by drip. But the finales are always stupid. I mean really – that hand thing in Journey’s End? What was that all about?!

(Having said that, I’ve been watching the last few series backwards so may have missed something essential. I saw series 4 first, then 2 and half of 1 last summer, and only got round to watching the end of series 1 and working out what had happened to Rose this christmas. Finally.)

At the end of the day though, this show has a lot going for it. Its fun, its thought provoking, its a change from the other special FX soaked, super hero, too serious for its own good sci-fi out there. And tts truly refreshing to see gay relationships portrayed so well – inserted into the plot to make a point about a relationship, not about ticking a “gay” box. In that respect, it has something in common with The Wire. Sure, John Barrowman is a tad on the hammy side. But he’s hot. And very entertaining.

Overall, I’m sad that this will probably be the end of Torchwood. But what a way to end! Now all we have to look forward to is the new pretty boy whose going to play the next Doctor. But on the plus side, at least we are rid of Russell T Davies annoying writing.

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