After a breakneck opening episode, it was almost inevitable that Torchwood: Children Of Earth would have to relax the pace as it headed into episode two. With John Fay taking over the writing reigns, the first business is to clear up the ‘cliffhanger’ from the first episode. Last time, we saw the Torchwood base blown up with Jack inside it (and the bomb inside him), as a result of an order from Government Home Office minister, Mr Frobisher. We’re not quite sure why he gave the order, but nonetheless, he gave it nonetheless.
Thus, we get to see Eve Myles’ Gwen making a fairly ineffective Lara Croft clone, unconvincingly firing her guns at supposed sharp shooters who were in turn trying to gun her down. Somehow, she escaped, although don’t ask this reviewer how. Meanwhile, Ianto too is being chased down, and he too escapes capture, thanks to the most incompetent enemy firing this side of a Star Wars movie.
Jack, though, has seemingly been blown into pieces. Given that the Torchwood hub has been destroyed, the theory is that Captain Jack will now be permanently dead. Yet actually the explosion has had strange side effects, namely he’s been plastered in red makeup and told to roll around a bed in agony. Fair game, John Barrowman is more than up to the job.
Frobisher, meanwhile, finally gets the detail of the message that was broadcast on the 456 frequency, which appears to be plans to build something. But that aside, we don’t get too much more about chanting children, or more of the 456, until later in the episode. Instead, the first half of the episode is building up some of the human elements of the story. Saves a few quid in the process, we suspect.
Thus, Ianto manages to get a meeting with his sister, courtesy of some help with local neighbours in detracting prying eyes. He takes her laptop, thanks her, and moves on quickly. Gwen, meanwhile, escapes to London with her bloke (Rhys) – after a quick escape from government officials (with the help of an officious, Health and Safety-quoting police officer) – on top of a bunch of potatoes. She reveals to her bloke that she’s pregnant. He’s happy. That’s nice. And we move swiftly on, as she ends up arranging a meeting, so she thinks, with Frobisher.
Only it isn’t Frobisher who turns up, rather Lois Habiba. For someone on the second day on the job, she’s throwing official information around – gleamed from some sort of extraterrestrial Facebook – with abandon. Surely there’s got to be more to her than this, rather than a plot facilitator? Is she really the goodie two shoes she’s coming across as here?
Jack, meanwhile, is firmly in trouble. His captors, once he washes his red makeup off, have realised he can’t be killed, and thus they’ve taken the next logical step and contained him in concrete instead. That sounds likes a good plan, to be fair, even if it makes him Torchwood‘s equivalent of a Han Solo figure. Yikes. You also wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
Still, mysteries continue. Just why is the government, and Frobisher, so keen to get Torchwood out of the way? There’s still not much in the way of a clue there. Why is the incoming threat targeted so specifically at the UK? Is it because of limits in the BBC’s budget, as it spent all of the overseas sci-fi allowance on the Doctor Who special earlier in the year?
Also, what exactly is coming? Given that the programme is called ‘Children Of Earth’, there’s a distinct lack of, well, children in this episode. We get the ankelbiters chanting in unison again, telling us they’re arriving tomorrow, and we’d wager that means somewhere around 9.45pm tomorrow night. But even they only pop up once here, and it does dilute a little of the momentum and sinister feel of episode one.
The back end of the episode also has its fair share of nonsense, to be fair. Gwen, Rhys and Ianto look to bust Jack out of his concrete prison, promptly get cornered, and then somehow contrive to break away using a forklift truck. More to the point, a forklift truck weighed down by a concrete block. Never mind that the pursuing troops could overtake it on foot if they tried, they instead take up firing positions from long distance. Why? Where’s the threat? Did I miss something there? It’s not as if Gwen can shoot straight or anything.
Even when they somehow manage to set a tanker to explode with what may as well be a loose Swan Vesta, surely all it takes a group of troops to do is walk round said explosion, amble in the direction of the forklift – which for good measure then takes an age to drop its concrete payload – take out the Torchwood team and be back home in time for Countdown?
Sillyness aside, the episode then converges back on Frobisher, and the containment tank he’s built in double quick time – that’s science fiction government contractors for you – in response to the instructions from the 456. Filled with a poisonous gas, we’re tantalised with the question of why us, and clearly Frobisher has more to do with this than he’s letting on.
It did all feel like the foot was a little off the gas compared to episode one (and the move to BBC One does seem to have tamed Torchwood a little), but Children Of Earth is still, for my money, bubbling up quite nicely. Granted, it felt like some of the budget was being banked, and the old sonic device was taking out cameras like there was no tomorrow. But heck, whatever’s coming is coming tomorrow, so there’s a beer in my fridge and a reserved seat on my sofa to see just what’s around the corner.
Thus far, even though Torchwood has toned down a little for its new home, this five episode season idea is proving it’s got legs…