LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD!
Whatever happened to the expression TGIF? Aren’t we all meant to have a good time at the weekend? Isn’t it our right to party? Shouldn’t we be allowed to have fun? Russell T Davies doesn’t think we should. He wants to hurt us. He wants us to feel actual pain, all in the name of entertainment!
Day Five, the finale of Torchwood: Children of Earth, was not the Friday night viewing I thought that RTD & Co. had in store for us. I expected, foolishly as it now transpires, an upbeat resolution with some good old fashioned British fight. There was the latter but sadly we were fighting one another. After Day Four I didn’t think my bleak-o-meter could go below ‘Absolute Bleak’ but tonight it did. Harrowingly so.
It kicks off with Gwen (Eve Myles) talking directly to a digital camera, almost in a Cloverfield-style message, citing The Doctor (you know, from that other show) and why he may turn his back on us now and again. Chilling stuff from the get-go. But the despair continues as the Government put into plan the abstraction of 10% of our children and the Prime Minster (ghoulishy played by the excellent Nicholas Farrell) has another terrible plan. He uses Frobisher (played by the even more excellent and BAFTA contender Peter Capaldi) and his family to ‘sell’ the idea of inoculation (how they refer to taking the kids) to the population.
And this is where Children of Earth dipped to the very lowest in its horror. The scene where Frobisher returns to his family in order to end their lives was ghastly and even disgusting. But ultimately, heart-breaking. Director Euros Lyn handles these moments delicately and with great sensitivity – the audience hears the testimony of his life from his secretary, now hero, as she praises this “good man” to Lois Habiba (who we didn’t really get to see much of, sadly). Certainly, one of the most powerful moments I have witnessed in many, many years.
Of course, that wasn’t only unpleasantness on show. The scenes where the children are dragged off by the army from their families was distressing in the extreme. (And I don’t even have kids!) Add to this the revelation that The 456 don’t actually need the children, they are merely a “hit” for them, then you’ve got yourself a real nasty feeling in your stomach. Top marks and a gold star to writer Russell T Davies for this idea; drug dealing on an intergalactic scale.
If there’s one point about the finale that I would take some issue with, it’s the resolution. I didn’t quite ‘get’ it on first viewing so I had to go back and try and figure out just how and why The 456 were defeated. I’m still not totally convinced by what went on and it does seem that Captain Jack was merely guessing that the frequency that destroyed Clem (in the previous episode) could be turned on its master to the same effect. Jack makes some leaps of logic to come to this conclusion (and pretty quickly) but this paled into insignificance when presented with the sight of Jack’s grandson shaking to death and bleeding out of his face. Gruesome stuff again.
Children of Earth as an entity was startling proof that Russell T Davies knows how to entertain and knows how to create ‘event television’ (if I may use such a useless and vacuous phrase). And, again, Rusty D demonstrates his ability to utterly destroy you with the power of drama; he knows where the tear ducts are and just how to make them work. But it isn’t all down to one man. Euros Lyn was at his directorial best and the vast cast were supreme and utterly convincing.
With shows falling and being axed as regular as my bowel movements, it would surely be a real crime if the Beeb did not stick with Torchwood. Children Of Earth has risen above everything else around it, with much confidence, and demonstrated the need for a unique televisual experience. A unique and markedly different experience to the usual prime-time garbage pumped out by the terrestrial channels here in the UK. This ‘five night gamble’ has paid off so remarkably that even RTD himself must be wondering if he’s living in some parallel world where sci-fi has become the genre of choice on telly (and in the middle of flippin’ summer!); a parallel world where John Barrowman beats off soap stars (in the ratings). As Rufus Wainwright would say, “Oh, what a world we live in.”
But, here’s the real question: Is Torchwood now better than Doctor Who?
Let the discussions commence…