Thursday, 25 July 2013

Review: Torchwood 3.1: Day One

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"...among those dark, Satanic mills."
Torchwood - Children of Earth, Day One
Written 26/4/13

The third series never properly materialised. Despite plans for Freema Agyemen and Noel Clarke to pop over from Doctor Who and fill out the cast, both actors had other commitments (More important than Torchwood? Bah) and the planned thirteen episodes were cut down to five. Torchwood had left Episode Avenue and gone straight to Serial Junction, with the new planned series playing out over five consecutive days in the middle of 2009's Who-less Summer.
     One morning, every child in the world stops for a solid minute. Jack and Ianto come back from attempting to stealth-recruit Dr. Rupesh Patanjali and discover the scale of the problem. In Whitehall, admin woman Lois Habiba starts her job as assistant to Bridget Spears, herself the assistant to civil servant John Frobisher. Around breaktime, all the children stop again and scream, following it with an ominous "We are coming". Frobisher is told by the techy Mr. Dekker that the 456 are coming back. Torchwood notices that the transmissions were focussed around Britain, being in English and scheduled for times when children are out in the open. Gwen meets an old man who is also being affected, who tells her that she's pregnant. Before they learn any further, Rupesh reveals his position as a spy, and Jack has a bomb placed in his chest by government agent Johnson (Liz May Brice, Bad Girls). Ianto and Gwen get out alive but the Hub is blown up and Torchwood is now on the run.
     The shift to BBC One came with a shift towards a more adult drama in terms of setting and the way that the show treated the titular organisation. Children of Earth immediately treats Torchwood like a real political entity that poses a threat in a governmental crisis rather than a merry band of outcasts hunting aliens across Cardiff. I don't really know whether I like the change or not - it's gone all explody and secret agenty. It feels a little more like Spooks now than it does the ballsy cult show it was before. I suppose I'm saying it's all gone a bit mainstream. Dear lord, didn't think I'd ever end up using that argument. But they did blow up my precious Hub, and I really can't forgive them for that.
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Jack gets a serious case of indigestion.
     I appreciated the look into both Jack and Ianto's pasts - Jack's daughter Alice and his grandson Steven, Ianto's sister and her family. Jack's personal mythology is large enough and complex enough that it was often hard to get a good grasp on anyone he might call family, so I think that was well done, and Ianto's family are immediately fun due to comedienne Katy Wix in the role of his sister.
     Children of Earth certainly gets off to a strong start, with the changes both bad and good making themselves firmly known. There's enough left of the old style for it to feel fairly continuous, but it's quite clear that this is a very different beast to what we once called Torchwood. I had to really question whether I could do this week-long story in five bits, but so far it's looking pretty good.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Day Two, naturally.

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