Day 3 of Torchwood’s Children Of Earth could have gone so badly. As I remarked to someone earlier today, the first two days have been taken up with the shennanigans with the Hub getting blown up and Jack needing to regrow his body. And stuff.
Now we get to the real meat of the story, that simmering alien plot that the British government are somehow complicit in. And if you were wondering if Jack would see out the rest of the miniseries in t-shirt and trackies, fear not. [[Ianto Jones|Ianto]] manages to track down an authentic copy of his original overcoat.
Now, lest you need some warning, spoilers ahead.
Tonight’s third episode took us further into the story proper, and we have discovered that the sinister 456 are using the Earth as some kind of fast food joint – “I’ll have 10% of the Earth’s children to go, please. Can I get some prawn crackers with that?”
Yes, the 456, having taken a consignment of earthlings back in the 60’s, have come back for more. A lot more. And we discover that [[Captain Jack Harkness|Jack Harkness]] and the other three on the Home Office kill order were there for that original meeting. Hence the need to bump them off. Nothing personal about that stomach-bomb, Jack, eh?
But before all that unravels, the Torchwood gang have to set themselves up a temporary Hub. So they resort to some nifty stealing to get the money and laptops they need. Well, they were already outside the government. Now they’re outside the law. Hey! I’ve just noticed that they don’t do that Captain Jack voiceover during the intro sequence! Not missing that much.
It needs pointing out that out of all the Torchwood tech in the last two series’, [[Gwen Cooper|Gwen]] manages to casually drop in supercool contact lenses and lipreading software for surveilance. Yes. We need more cool gadgets for Torchwood to use! Anyway, Gwen gives these to Lois, their spy in John Frobisher’s office, who promptly gets herself whisked into the intergalactic meet-n-greet with the 456. I was waiting for her to get eaten by it or something, but so far she’s evaded detection.
Frobisher’s problems increase in this episode. Not only does he get completely shit upon by the British government (they want him to be the liaison with the aliens, which might be slightly dangerious), but Harkness is alive and has realised what’s going on. Frobisher has to also manage to cover up the earlier abduction in 1965 (hence the hit on Jack and the others) and his people have now kidnapped Jack’s daughter in order to ensure his silence.
The arrival of the aliens is quite spectacular. Not over the top, just a ‘pillar of fire’ coming down from the skies and all the Children Of Earth pointing at it. The alien (or aliens) contained within the fire arrive in the chamber of gas which was prepared for them. Conveniently for the F/X budget, the mist hides the creature(s) inside and all we get to see are claw-like things and a sloshing of foul liquid whenever the E.T. gets expressive. We think that they’ve locked Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin in there…
Seriously though, not seeing the aliens adds to the air of mystery and tension surrounding the 456. How do they communicate? What do they look like? Are they sinister? What do they want the children for, and will they return them when they’re finished? As much as my head wants to denounce the gas chamber as a hackneyed plot device, the air of menace the 456 gives off is quite authentic. I’m impressed. Partly along the way to forgiving Russell T Davies for that train wreck of an Easter special. Partly, Russell. We’re not done yet.
So that’s it. Ianto’s extended family deserve extra credit for their appearance – his brother-in-law’s attempts to turn their home into a creche because the schools had closed was brilliant. Although slightly misconceived whenever the children started pointing again.
One blog I read today suggested that we be wary of Davies’ ability to close a storyline. Actually, it was io9, who were claiming that Torchwood was on its way to surpassing Doctor Who as a series. The cautionary tale:
I often feel like there are two Russell T. Davieses — there’s the one who creates storylines like this one, or the Doctor Who episodes “Midnight” and “Turn Left”: jagged dramas where people are pushed to the edge and they reveal their inner ugliness as well as their inner courage. And then there’s the one who wants you to bathe in a swimming pool full of schmaltz and bombard you with a rough sequence of over-the-top “moments” that are disconnected from each other and from any sense of storytelling — like last season’s “Journey’s End.”
Sadly, the trailers for the next episode are so vague that they give nothing away. That’s not a bad thing – I’m desperate for the next installment, but gratified that I only have to wait until tomorrow. For now, though 3 out of 5 episodes have been brilliant.