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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “Children of Earth: Day One”

Warning: spoilers ahead. Assumes you’ve seen all five episodes of Children of Earth

(Before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood.)

(previous: Season 2, Episode 13: “Exit Wounds”)
So, this is only my second go-through of Children of Earth. I watched the whole five-hour shebang in one sitting just as it finished in July (I wrote about that here), and I haven’t watched it again since. Part of the reason for that is a lack of time… but part of the reason is the dread that gripped me when I thought about sitting through this again. That first viewing was just too devastating.

But it was time to get the episode-by-episode blogging out of the way, so I finally just watched “Day One” again. And I found myself focusing, early in the episode, on some of the little things, the nice touches. Like how Gwen is in such a good mood as the episode opens, joking with the guy outside the Hub entrance about sea monsters in the bay. Like how she says good morning to the photo of Tosh and Owen on her computer:

Like how Ianto and Jack are pretending to be “such good neighbors” of the dead old man, when they really just want to dig an alien hitchhiker out of his chest, which may not even be a bad hitchhiker, some people say they’re “positively beneficial…” And Ianto’s dealing with the strangeness of being a couple with Jack. He’s not squicked out when cute doctor Rupesh treats them like a pair — he’s just not used to it yet. (I love how Ianto explains it to his sister: “It’s not men, it’s just him — it’s only him.” Maybe that’s a way that any guy would justify falling in love with another guy for the first time when all along it was just a normal possibility that the guy had never acknowledged… but that seems like the perfect way to explain Jack: there is something very special about him.)

It’s all as normal as weird gets.

But then it gets as weird as weird gets. There seems to be extra creepiness in the very way Russell Davies structured this story: it’s all about children being used, children in a kind of danger that no one can even begin to imagine, it’s that awful… and this from a show that’s a spinoff of what was a children’s show from the beginning. There’s something almost perverse about that, and I don’t necessarily mean in a bad way. It’s just… it’s like an extra little notice that this is not your father’s Doctor Who. This is something that is going where Doctor Who would never, ever have gone.

It’s funny, though, too — funny ha-ha and funny ironic — how hardly anyone even seems to notice that first instance of the kids being taken over. Ianto’s niece and nephew staring at the TV… have they been taken over by aliens, or are they just enraptured by a cartoon? The Home Office guy Frobisher and his wife: they don’t appear to see that their daughters are just staring off into space. It’s like people barely notice their kids at all, well, except when they’re causing trouble, like freezing in the street when mommy’s got to get to work. You almost want to berate the parents for not noticing the kids, except, of course, why would anyone notice?

It just sort of underlines in advance how much notice people will be taking of their children in later episodes.

Ooo, and I do remember, watching this first episode a second time, how it doesn’t register at first — and again, why would it? — that the little blond boy is anyone special at all. But Jack… he has a grandson, Steven. And a daughter, Alice. (Who was Alice’s mother?!) And now that you think on it, it’s probably obvious enough that Jack has had lots of other children and grandchildren: It’s easy to imagine that he might not have taken special care not to have had children when he first arrived on Earth as an immortal in the 19th century, and so he would have had children, and would have discovered all the heartbreak that comes with outliving your own progeny. But he’s still having children. Alice can’t be more than 40 or so, which means Jack was still fathering children a century after he arrived on Earth and knew full well that he was going to outlive everyone. Is this a special instance of hope triumphing over experience? Have any of these familial relationships gone well for Jack?

Sneaky bastard, Russell Davies, dropping in a little something that blows wide open Jack’s character, and yet doesn’t give us any of the answers to the questions it raises…

Oh, the foreshadowing! Alice knows Jack’s a “bastard” who would experiment on her son. But she doesn’t know how far he’ll go…

But then other things aren’t harbingers of anything. Like Lois. She’s super nosy and super curious, and yet is so sweet and harmless than Bridget, Frobisher’s executive assistant or megasecretary or whatever she is, trusts Lois enough to give her a secret password. She instantly asking prying questions — “What’s his uniform, that’s not British army, is it?” — that I was sure she had to be a reporter, a Sarah Jane Smith for the 21st century, or a spy, or something. But she turns out in later episodes to just be a nice office worker with no hidden agenda. At least not for starters.

(On the other hand, even the second time around, I was convinced that Rupesh would turn out to be a good guy, the new Owen coming aboard to deal with Torchwood’s medical issues. *sigh*)

And the Torchwood SUV gets stolen from outside Ianto’s sister’s house… and it never shows up again, not for the rest of the story. I was sure it’d have to reappear just at the moment when all hope seems lost — like, maybe some vital piece of equipment was in the back of the SUV and escaped being blown up. But no. It’s stolen, and it’s gone, and that’s that.

Other portents that turn out to be not at all the sources of suspense we expected them to be:

• Gwen is pregnant… and is still pregnant (and not tragically no-longer-pregnant) by the time all is said and done.

• “I can survive anything,” Jack says, and how can you not wonder that he could possibly include in that “getting blown apart”? But he does.

• Government weasels like Frobisher know — or think they know — what’s going on with the children, and they’re more concerned with covering their asses than anything. And it turns out they’ve got good reason to be.

• “We are coming… back.” Yup, they’re not kidding.

Random thoughts on “Children of Earth: Day One”:

• Hmmmm. Why does this:

make me think of this:

Hmmmm… (If you play this episode backwards, you can clearly hear, “Paul is Jack, Paul is Jack…”)

• Jack found a gray hair! So perhaps he’s aging after all, only very, very slowly…

• I love listening to Gwen talking about the obscene largeness of her paycheck. That’s a switch from the typical: “the pay sucks but you love the work” thing.

• Does Gwen have a sonic screwdriver?

Neat.

• Hello, security goes totally out the window when you start handing out secret passwords like candy:

Sheesh.

• There are so many untold UNIT stories out there. There must be, for Frobisher to plead to Colonel Oduya, “Just for once, tell me it’s easy.” To have created such a pissing contest as the one Oduya suggests exists between UNIT and Torchwood. For there to be an active “UNIT based in Washington,” as Jack mentions. I want to hear some of these stories.

(next: Episode 2: “Children of Earth: Day Two”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb

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