If you had any doubts about how a five-part mini [[Torchwood (TV Series)|Torchwood]] series would work out, then the first episode of Torchwood: Children Of Earth should have soothed those fears.
I’ll confess, I went into this episode expecting a train wreck. The ‘Children of Earth’ concept bugged me slightly – hoardes of brats around the world suddenly frozen and chanting the words of their alien overlords. Hmmm, wasn’t it the old [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]] special, The Christmas Invasion, where aliens remote controlled a subset of the human population? Forgive me for seeing a slightly recycled concept here.
Warning: Spoilers from this point forward…
Day 1 of Children Of Earth saw much better plot lines: the developing relationship between [[Ianto Jones|Ianto]] and [[Captain Jack Harkness|Jack]], and a long-overdue look into both of their private lives. We discover that Jack has an estranged daughter and grandson living in Cardiff, and Ianto has family he sees very little of as well. This fulfils one of Den Of Geek’s Children Of Earth wishlist points.
It’s unlikely that they’d introduce this array of new characters for such brief scenes, so I’m expecting the relatives to pop up again over the next few days. I took a shine to the rough Cardiff estate-dwellers that Ianto is related to – nearly choked when his sister asked “‘ave you gone bender?”
Before long, we realise that some shady agency is watching events in the Home Office, but it comes as a complete surprise when Torchwood itself is infiltrated. As a grizzled sci-fi viewer, it’s difficult to be shocked these days, but I was not expecting the seemingly innocent doctor to shoot Jack. Actually, quite clever having Jack shot by a doctor, considering Who he sometimes hangs out with…
Jack gets an unwanted object dropped into his stomach while unconscious, and unwittingly takes it back to Torchwood. Luckily, Gwen seems to be giving herself some kind of hi-tech untrasound, having been told by an alien abductee that she’s knocked up. He smelt it, you see. As you do.
Anyway, back to Jack’s belly, and it appears to be a ticking time-bomb. He evacuates Ianto and Gwen and then – judging from the special effects – redecorates the walls ot Torchwood with his intestines. (I predict that only his head remains, and that Ianto will have to find the newly born Face Of Boe a vase or bucket to live in until they can get a decent-sized fishbowl from Pets At Home.)
Without rehashing the plot – they’re trying to keep spoilers to a minimum for the American audience – this first episode took Torchwood to entirely new levels of drama. It was tightly written, incredibly tense and the writers managed to juggle several developing plotlines excellently. Killing Cap’n Jack three times in one episode? Brilliant. Is Torchwood destroyed? Dunno, but it immediately throws the team to the winds for the remaining episodes.
A normal episode of Torchwood brings up a single issue or storyline. This five-parter, episode per night concept gives the story room to breathe, and space for the writers to play with the audience. Better still, the Torchwood team is already depleted from the end of series 2, and with Jack in mortal peril, Gwen knocked up and Ianto…out of the closet, they guys seem to be on the back foot. And someone knows of Jack’s immortality…how did that leak out?
While the episode was airing, I was watching the buzz on Twitter – it was unanimously positive. Anyone else see the episode? What’s your verdict?