Torchwood is one of those series that probably would have never seen the light of day on American television. But the BBC has managed to create a thoughtful, challenging series that forces viewers to consider sometimes questionable or morally reprehensible acts in the context of science fiction. Since spinning off from the rebooted Doctor Who franchise, Torchwood has survived two seasons and has now come out with the Children of Earth mini-season.
To provide a bit of background, Torchwood deals primarily with extraterrestrial incidents in the U.K. An organization known as the Torchwood Institute investigates ET activity and tries to find alien technologies to use itself to further investigate incidents and protect the Earth.
This is not like the original Doctor Who series nor the rebooted version. Torchwood is more extreme in many ways than any other science fiction I have ever seen. It brings in gay relationships, nudity, violence, and some of the most brilliant, challenging stories ever brought to sci-fi television.
By the time of this mini-season, the cast has changed slightly through attrition. Characters die in Torchwood somewhat regularly, including at the end of season two. So when Children of Earth begins, we're left with Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) as our Torchwood team. I would highly recommend that you find the seasons one and two to catch up on what's happened so far prior to seeing this, but it's not essential viewing in order to understand and enjoy the mini-season.
At the beginning of Children of Earth, children around the world suddenly stop where they are and begin screaming. A few moments later, they go back to normal like nothing had happened, with no memory of the event. This action repeats itself several times until all the children chant "We are coming."
This is an alien invasion story, but not one like we've seen before. Without spoiling the surprise, I'll say that the sins of the past come back to haunt a number of people. What blew me away was how shocking, yet realistic, the behavior of the individuals in positions of power seem to be. These are men and women in the highest echelons of government and the military who are making impossibly difficult moral choices.
That's why this series is so groundbreaking. This isn't one of those "comfortable" alien invasions that we've seen time and time again. It's so far from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The 4400 that it is an almost entirely different genre. Maybe if you merge the original V and an alien abduction story, you might come close to the plot, but even that is a stretch.
Though I enjoyed Torchwood: Children of Earth, I have to say that I felt the first two seasons work better. The mini-season is a series of five hour-long episodes that comprise a single story arc and it feels drawn out a bit in places. The longer set of episodes that comprise a normal season provide much more room to play out various aspects of different story threads.
Included in this two disc collection is the special "Children of Earth Declassified," which aired on BBC America alongside the mini-season. It goes into the production utilizing interviews with producers, writers, cast, and crew. Everyone involved seemed to feel that this was something special. Simply having another opportunity to explore the world of Torchwood is a treat, especially from an insider's perspective.
If you love good science fiction, you can't get much better than Torchwood and Torchwood: Children of Earth continues their amazing run with a great story and some shocking revelations about the past. Be sure to check it out at your favorite rental or retail store as well as the Torchwood season one and two collections.
By the way, if you're a Torchwood fan, the BBC announced at the end of July 2009 that the series has been renewed for a fourth season. I can't wait!Powered by Sidelines