Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review: Torchwood 3.4: Day Four

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"I'll never let go!" Dude, wrong Jack
Torchwood - Children of Earth, Day Four
Written 5/5/13

Day Four is the best episode of Children of Earth, if only because, like any good Torchwood episode, it has something to say. It may not be all car-chases and explosions, but it does show our characters fighting the good fight in a way which is manipulated to feel extraordinarily triumphant until the soul-shattering conclusion. Everything dark, everything truly scary about Children of Earth is right here - a mixture of Adult Fears, tearing away at the comfortable assumptions of trust we have in our day-to-day lives and showing what monsters ordinary people can become.
     Torchwood watches as the government deliberates over how to respond to the 456's demands. Initially Frobisher is sent to offer 62 kids (0.0001% of the overall population of Britain.) As the gang reel from discovering Jack's involvement in 1965, the 456 responds, reasserting to each country that they want 10%. The Cabinet decides to honour their demands, with Ryan Yates (Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs) deciding that a population reduction would be good, while truly evil Denise (Deborah Findley) decided to pick off the 10% from the lowest performing schools, claiming that if you're from the lower classes then you're obviously set for the dole or the prison cells. In a combined move, Torchwood gets ready to save the day: Lois bribes the cabinet to allow Jack and Ianto onto Floor 13, while they deliberately let Johnson trace their location to win her round to the Torchwood cause with the evidence presented. Just before their triumph is complete, the 456 responds to Jack's bravado by sealing off the MI5 building and releasing a virus that kills everyone inside except Jack and a lucky Mr. Dekker. As Gwen and Jack mourn Ianto's death, they admit that they don't know what to do from hereon in.
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I doubt they could have done Children of Earth in the current
climate of secret paedos everywhere.
     The cabinet scene is perhaps one of the most difficult things I've ever had to watch for this blog. I'm used to a sort of cackling evil that comes with Classic Who, the glint in the eye of Max Capricorn. This is exactly what Midnight tried and failed to be - the slow, methodical translation of human faults and fears and self-preservation into despicable, banal, calculated evil. The politicians trying to protect their families - that I understand. But as a Northerner I've been subject to enough Government scorn because of the perceptions of my class and geographical position, because of snobbery and ignorance, that seeing the logical and quite realistic ramifications of that in this scenario hit quite close to home.
    Even more gruesome, though, was the revelation of what exactly the 456 wanted with the children. We were shown that they use the kids to harvest some kind of addictive substance, and the reason why they've come back is because they're on the last kid and they're beginning to suffer some serious withdrawl. So, in other words, the 456 are selfish space junkies, scooping up your kids and sucking them dry to get high. It's certainly novel, and it carries the series into territory that most people didn't think it could. In Miracle Day we end up with Death Camps specifically for burning people alive, and I think that they couldn't have gotten away with that without this issue to basically say, "Yeah, we went there."
    Ianto's death scene is probably what most people remember from this episode, and true to form I'm an apathetic douchebag. Ianto was cool, but for me he never really shined as anything other than a walking snark dispenser, as opposed to Owen and Tosh, who both had in-depth characterisations and storylines that didn't include hiding half-Cyber-converted girlfriends in the basement. Their last stand of firing bullets at the bullet-proof glass made me giggle more than anything - Jack can survive entering the 456's chamber, so the only reason I can think of why he didn't go in and put the gun to the creature's face is for drama and silliness.
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"What else are the league tables for?" indeed....
     Day Four is, in the end, a spectacular example of what I think RTD was aiming for with this series. It had the action, the well-developed characters and concepts, and it explored the darkness of the human soul in a way which prime-time British TV rarely ever does. Ianto's death was unnecessary and sensationalist, done for the sole reason of simply having a death and not as part of any noticable character beats, but it did add to a sense of hopelessness that next week's hasty resolution will suffer because of. The bell tolls, my friends.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The last RTD-written thing I'll ever review.

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