Thursday, 9 July 2009

TV Snark - Torchwood: Children of Earth - Day Four OR Nicholas Briggs Is In This One!

The penultimate episode of season three of Torchwood has arrived, does it improve on yesterday's dull offering? Yes, but...

Recap: Scotland 1965 and Jack is selected to round up some sacrificial orphans in order to obtain the cure to a virus from the 456. Jack is selected because he's deemed to be "someone who doesn't care." So Jack does his duty and sends Clem's friends into the light, Clem wanders off and escapes instead.

In the present day, the Torchwood crew are in the Hub2 which is located in London apparently; guess I was wrong yesterday but the show still uses Cardiff locations to double as London so it IS confusing to a Cardiff resident like myself. Confusing geography aside, the crew are forced to deal with a manic Clem who shoots Jack dead out of fear of the immortal child catcher. Clem freaks out after committing murder but calms down once Gwen uses her cow eyes to influence him.

Frobisher demands to know what the 456 intend to do with the children once they have them. The alien allows one person to enter its special atmospheric chamber and the government mook (who wears a red suit but doesn't get killed) discovers that the children get turned into ventriloquist dummies (sitting at the heart of the alien form I guess). Apparently they becoming unaging but do suffer from woodworm.

The government consider the 456 demand of 10% of the Earth's children whilst Torchwood record the entire meeting through Lois's contact lenses. Nicholas Briggs (the voice of the Daleks and top man at Big Finish, the producers of Doctor Who audio plays) appears as a minister, which shatters the fourth wall for me and a few other dorks that recognise him. The gathered ministers debate the morality of handing over the kids to the 456 and eventually decide to haggle the figure down to 6700.

The 456 alien does not want to haggle though and insists on 10% or the entire human race will be destroyed (where will it get its children from after that though?). To hammer home the point the 456 force children around the Earth to quote the 10% figure for each of their respective nations.

The government ministers have another meeting and decide to give up the kids. Various selection methods are proposed, lottery for example, but sadly no-one thinks of a bake sale competition. Torchwood ruin the civil service plans for rounding up child sacrifices though when Lois reveals that she's recorded everything they've discussed and will release it to the public unless Torchwood are allowed to take over the operation.

Jack and Ianto storm off to the building that houses the alien whilst Rhys runs off with the blackmail evidence. Gwen and Clem stay behind to be arrested by Johnson and her crack team of bumbling idiots.

Jack and Ianto face off against the 456 alien and demand that it drops its demands and sods off back into space. The alien replies by unleashing a deadly virus (from its sealed environment chamber?) which quickly spreads throughout the building. The building is sealed to prevent its escape into the general populace, leaving Jack, Ianto and hordes of screaming civil servants to die. Jack and Ianto try shooting the alien with the magic pistols of neverending ammo but the environmental chamber is bullet proof.

The alien releases a strange noise that carries over the webcam into the Hub2 and kills Clem through psychic nosebleeds. Gwen uses her cow eyes and Johnson looks slightly concerned.

Ianto eventually succumbs to the virus and dies in Jack's arms. Nooooooooooooooo! Now who'll make the tea and do the hoovering?

Thoughts: Well this episode was a vast improvement on yesterday's offering as the story progressed and offered some genuinely interesting moments. However, the pacing is still a bit 'off' as the characters were very static and didn't move anywhere until the final 15 minutes. Most of the time was spent with characters sitting around discussing events, and whilst some of those scenes were interesting discussions on the morality of child sacrifice and the overpopulation of the Earth, it would be nice to have a change of pace throughout an episode to avoid things getting too stale.

Another problem I have is that at sixty minutes, the episodes outstay their welcome. I don't know why the format was changed from forty-five but the longer episode length seems to leave each episode floundering, desperately trying to pad the runtime. Perhaps five, forty-five minute episodes would be better?

The death of Ianto was unexpected but it seems to be an attempt at creating a 24 style shock rather than for any good storyline reason. It's a shame that Ianto's background was actually placed in the show as a cheap attempt to build a connection to a doomed character. Still Ianto's death gives Jack some angry vengeance to dish out in the last episode whilst giving Barrowman some emotional scenes to cry through rather than just showing his arse and grinning.

The success or failure of this storyline depends on tomorrow's conclusion; it's definitely a story that could've (and should've) been told in three parts and would have been much leaner and exciting for it. A strong conclusion could elevate this story into a decent sci-fi thriller (albeit with a very flawed middle). A limp or patented Torchwood stupid conclusion will render it a dull, flabby, miserable attempt at mainstream acceptance. I hope for the former, I expect the latter.


Zoso said...

Jack: "Bugger off or we'll FIGHT! YEAH! Six BILLION of us, reckon you can take us on? Threaten our kids, and nothing will stop us, BRING IT!"

456: "Right-o!"
*locks building, floods with poison gas, kills handful of civil servants and the bloke that makes coffee*

Jack: "Shit. I was kidding! Don't kill them, the whole thing about fighting was a pun! Wait, not a pun, what's the one that's the same backwards as it is forwards? Oh, bugger."

Matt M said...

Sorry to be pedantic, but weren't previous Torchwood episodes fifty minutes long rather than forty-five?

Aaron said...

@Zoso You sir, win the comments section. Well done.

@Matt M I'm not sure but either way I think the episodes are struggling to cover the extra running time.