Torchwood: Children of Earth begins tonight
The Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, returns to BBC America tonight with an epic mini-series called Children of Earth. An hour-long episode airs every night this week, and if you've never watched the show, this series is an excellent place to begin. Torchwood is nothing like Doctor Who. It's an adult program, with language, nudity and themes that would scare the kiddies to death. Speaking of kiddies, this series of Torchwood is all about them.
Torchwood agent Gwen Cooper's videotaped message (that's the clip above) is one of the more chilling scenes from the series, as she asks why the Doctor has not come to help the Earth in its moment of greatest peril. She can only surmise that the Doctor must look away in shame at the horrors we inflict upon ourselves. And while aliens are up to no good in Children of Earth, it is ultimately human beings who are to blame. This is some of the darkest television I've ever seen. It is brilliantly written, acted and filmed, but the despair is deep and there is very little redemption at the end.
Torchwood, for those who've never watched the show, is an organization created by Queen Victoria in 1879 (after an unfortunate run-in with the Doctor) to fight future invasions of the Earth by aliens. Torchwood is a special ops unit that acts outside the government and is based in Cardiff, Wales in a secret, subterranean headquarters called The Hub. The group is led by Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a mysterious alien in human form, who was made immortal by Rose Tyler in the Doctor Who series. He can be shot, knifed, dropped from tall buildings and exploded into millions of pieces, yet he always regenerates. Gwen Cooper (the brilliant Eve Myles) is a former Cardiff police officer recruited to Torchwood in its first series. She's grown from being a nervous, uncertain accomplice to being a serious, ass-kicking agent. Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) is Torchwood's multi-purpose agent and Captain Jack's lover, which adds some red-hot, same-sex appeal to the show. Tech wizard Toshiko Sato and Dr. Owen Harper were the other Torchwood agents, but they were killed in the last series, so The Hub is not operating at full capacity.
In Children of Earth, every child on the planet begins stopping in place and uttering the words, "We are coming." Seems a bit silly, but the way it's scripted and filmed is downright spooky. Torchwood knows it's alien activity, but then the UK government sends assassins to kill the team and destroy The Hub. What's the government hiding? Back in 1965, an alien race known as The 456 offered a cure for a virus that would have killed 25 million people. In exchange for the vaccine, The 456 demanded a dozen children. The government rounded up the kids from orphanages and made the exchange. Now, The 456 are back and they want millions of children or they will destroy the entire planet. What The 456 do with the kids is horrifying, but even more so is the governments of the world rounding up children identified as under-achieving and living in poverty to give to the aliens. Yes, it's science fiction, but there is a realism in this series of Torchwood that rings cold and true, especially when it comes to what governments will do for the "greater good."
Russell T. Davies, who brought Doctor Who back to life and created Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, loves to explore the darkness of the human (and alien) soul, and many fans believe he's gone a step too far in Children of Earth. The way Davies dispatches characters and sets up no-win situations borders on nihilism, but you can't turn away. Children of Earth is quite possibly the best five hours of television you're likely to see all year.
Find out more and get caught up on Torchwood at the BBC America site.