Tuesday, 7 July 2009

TV Snark - Torchwood: Children of Earth - Day Two OR Gwen is NOT Jack Bauer

Episode two was more viscerally entertaining than the first episode due to a heavy dose of action but the story is already beginning to feel a bit stretched out...

Recap: Crawling from the wreckage of the Hub, Gwen is attacked by two paramedics who are government hitmen in disguise. She handily defeats them with a fire extinguisher and twin pistols that WILL NEVER BE RELOADED EVER. Ianto crawls from the wreckage too and is shot at by the world's worst sniper, but Ianto jogs away from this threat and escapes into the night.

Gwen turns into Jack Bauer as she interrogates one of the fake paramedics by shooting him in the foot and yelling, "WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?!" This proves that RTD finally got around to watching 24 and decided to steal liberally from it. She learns that the evil government are hunting Torchwood. She runs directly home but luckily for her the government are inept and haven't already monitored her home - in fact agent Johnson doesn't know where Gwen lives until she finds PC Andy who leads her there. Gwen picks up Rhys and flees into the wild Cardiff night.

Ianto doesn't take refuge, he decides to wander around Cardiff city centre in his bomb damaged clothes before eventually deciding to get in contact with his council estate dwelling relatives via coded letter. Ianto evades capture through dumb luck rather than skill.

Meanwhile, Jack's various body parts are salvaged from the Hub's remains and are zipped up in a body bag and locked in a cell. In a move that surprises no one apart from the people trying to kill him, Jack's body begins to regrow. Evil government agents Johnson decides to chain him up in the cell (giving the audience the cheap thrill of seeing a naked John Barrowman in bondage) and fill the room with concrete.

Gwen and Rhys manage to sneak aboard a truck full of potatoes headed for London, Gwen reveals she's pregnant which causes Rhys to worry a lot more than usual. Gwen arrives in London and makes the bizarre decision of phoning the government that wants her dead. Luckily for Gwen she speaks to the new girl in the civil service, Lois Habiba, who decides to aid Torchwood by leaking secret files and information to Gwen and Rhys over a meal of steak pie and chips.

Callum, the man armed with super power of supersmell doesn't do a lot other than act mental in a pub and smell something that makes him run around a lot.

Gwen and Rhys manage to infiltrate the secret facility that is holding Jack (due to two inept guards that really shouldn't be guarding a top secret building) but they eventually make a mess of things and are discovered. Gwen fires her two pistols a lot whilst being entirely unconvincing. Just as Johnson is about to capture Gwen and Rhys, Ianto shows up in a big forklift truck and steals the now encased in concrete Jack. The Torchwood team escape in the very slow truck while vehicles explode and the government doesn't really bother to follow. To quote The Simpsons, "They're very slowly getting away!"

In a scene that seems to last forever, Ianto...very...slowly...drops...the...concrete...block...into...a...quarry. This releases Jack giving us some shots of John Barrowman's arse. The Torchwood crew are reunited and drive off.

The government have followed some detailed instructions sent by the 456 to construct something. That something turns out to be a dry ice room, or a special chamber filled with a poisonous atmosphere to house an alien, depending on how willing you are to suspend your disbelief. The creepy man who built the chamber looks into it and breathes heavily on the glass. That is our cliffhanger for episode two. Rubbish.

Thoughts: Children of Earth's structure is beginning to resemble an overlong old series Doctor Who adventure, the plot is somewhat thin and is beginning to crack already under the pressure of sustaining five episodes. Although there was some much needed action as Gwen did her best Jack Bauer impression, the 456 plot didn't really progress other than having Torchwood escape the immediate trouble they were in. The aliens announced that they would appear tomorrow, which given the daily format, seemed to break the fourth wall as they were basically announcing they would arrive in the next episode. Other than that, the civil servants conducted more meetings and read some memos and built a special chamber. The lack of advancement of the overall story made this episode seem like mid storyline filler - the equivalent of the Doctor and companion running down corridors, getting captured, and then escaping again.

The fact that Torchwood still aren't coming across as competent is frustrating as they seem to get by on luck and coincidence rather than meticulous planning and competence. The attempt at crafting spy thriller action into the show immediately conjures up thoughts of 24, The Bourne Identity and Casino Royale, which causes Torchwood to appear as the ridiculous sci-fi show that it is. Gwen's unconvincing gunplay is particularly embarrassing.

What I found frustrating is that RTD (as script editor, he didn't write this episode) is recycling ideas from his tenure on Doctor Who as the council estate characters rise up to aid Ianto in a fashion similar to Rose's mother and Mickey. This isn't a bad idea by any means but it is one we've seen before in the same universe and the Torchwood audience will be fully aware of it.

On some levels I enjoyed this episode more than the first because it provided cheap action thrills, gave me something to laugh at (as Torchwood's inherent silliness and stupidity crept back in,) and it didn't make my attention deficient brain seek other distractions. But despite the titillation this was a step back to Torchwood's childish roots as it attempts to act grown up, like a small child trying on Daddy's business suit and then playing in the mud.

1 comment:

Zoso said...

I kinda like the Old Skool Who vibe; the Prime Minister/Frobisher (I really he is a shape-shifter) stuff is quite reminiscent of the Pertwee era, but if the show was weekly instead of daily I'd probably be yelling "GET ON WITH IT!" more...

Then the action sequences do perk things up, but like you say also stretch belief severely when the main reason the bumblers of Torchwood prevail is that the Keystone Anti Terrorist Kops manage to be even less competent. Still, be fun to see where it goes.