K. (infinitemonkeys) wrote,

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Is it just me or was that excellent?

Damn you, Torchwood. Every time I think I have you pigeonholed as the slightly crap, campy show, the show that makes little sense but is fun to go for a ride with, you go and do something extraordinary that makes me care. Occasionally, it is something dreadful -- yes, Cyberwoman, I'm looking at you -- but lately, it's been something great. And it might just be me, but I thought Children of Earth was *fantastic*. Can't wait until tomorrow.

True, there were plotholes and one development required a mighty disregard for data protection and common sense, but this is a country where you can find national secrets on eBay hard drives and on the Silverlink train at Clapham Junction, so it's not, you know, *out* of the realms of possibility.

I didn't get home from work until 10.30pm tonight, but I watched it straight away and, having finished it, wanted to watch it all over again on iPlayer. Which I am now doing, only with the subtitles turned on, because there were two bits I missed.

This is important: watch it unspoiled. This review is tl;dr.

Okay, so there was inappropriate laughter once. When there was the big reveal that the bad guys had implanted a bomb inside Jack in order to destroy the Hub and the entire Torchwood team, I did mutter "there's a bomb in the boss" in a Keanu Reeves voice. I have watched Speed too many times and I used to write horrible puns for a living and I am very, very sorry. It will probably happen again.

So, Children of Earth...

Have you ever rolled something heavy down a hill? Day One worked in the same way -- starting so slowly with reintroducing the characters for a primetime audience, and gaining momentum until by the end it was a breathless sprint to the final explosion.

The idea of all the children in the world stopping dead and speaking with one voice at the behest of the alien 456s worked really well. Possession, whether demonic or alien, is always terrifying. RTD must have noted how creepy using sound was in Midnight and reworked the idea. I only hope that their announcement of the aliens' return turns out to have a reason, rather than being something that sounded cool in the writer's room, like the evil overlord explaining his plans to the hero before the hero's demise turns out to be rather less inevitable than hoped.

Day One came on like a Spooks crossover, with the sense of subterranean intelligence services with their own agendas. It's hard to judge how good the plot is yet, but the set-up was excellent. In 1965, an alien force arrived, was named after the radio frequency it communicated on as '456' and some kind of deal was done in which Her Majesty's government played a very shady role. Now the 456 are back, and factions -- we don't know who yet -- are making their power plays.

The government, as ever, is all sharky smiles and knives in the back. At the heart of it is the mysterious Mr Frobisher, played by Peter Capaldi (Excuse me, I must go away and swoon for a bit. Okay, back now) There are secret assassination orders, plausible deniability, and at the heart of it, I fear, is lovely old Unit. I suspect that the reason that excuses have been made for Col Mace and Martha Jones -- the two Unit officers who we know to be decent and unimpeachable and on active duty -- is to facilitate this plot. This makes me grumpy but I'll go with it for now. I am intrigued.

The second fine piece of work RTD does is to introduce Rupesh Patanjali as the bright, observant and curious doctor. He's funny and charming in an ordinary way, smart and persistant, and an ideal replacement for Owen Harper. So ideal, in fact, that he turns out to have been a plant by whichever faction wants Jack dead, and what is more, a plant who has murdered to sucker Jack into the morgue.

When Rupesh killed Jack I was utterly surprised. When he, in his turn, was murdered, I was shocked and thought it was a real waste. How good would Rupesh have been as a Turlough-like Torchwood operative, turned after treachery and working for the object of his previous murderous attentions? It could've been season one Ianto done right. I lament the offing of yet another interesting character of colour in Torchwood, but as a twist, killing the handsome young doctor worked.

The third reason to watch is Paul Copley as Clem MacDonald, the damaged child who didn't meet the 456 in 1965, and the only adult who detects them now. Copley played Clem as someone who was deeply unsettling while all the while inspiring pity. His hyperosmia was played first for oddness, then for suspense. The idea that someone could smell when someone was lying or detect pregnancy isn't entirely out of the realms of possibility.

The treat, though, was the way it treated the regulars. Day One sets up three dynamics: Jack and Ianto's tentative moves into declared coupledom; Gwen's affectionate, bickering sibling relationship with both of them; and Gwen and Rhys as rock-solid team.

Gwen and Rhys continue to be the world's most adorable couple. Rhys is allowed to thrive and be clever in what would have been the 'wife' role twenty years ago. I do not understand Torchwood fans who do not like Gwen. She is funny, a good friend, agreeably flawed and only stupid when the script fouls up. Moreover, you can see why she and Rhys make a good couple now that she has let him into the Torchwood secret -- they're great friends who can talk to each other. Their relationship only doesn't work when they can't talk.

Meanwhile, as predicted by everyone who listened to the last of the radio plays, Jack and Ianto are no longer 'dabbling', but rather have moved to a level of commitment that neither can accurately gauge. Ianto, bless his librarian self, seems to want to place the relationship in a category, voicing the word 'couple' to see what Jack does. Jack's impatience with this is the only note of doubt.

Their backgrounds were also fleshed out a little more: Ianto gained a sister and Jack gained an estranged daughter. I loved that Jack went to visit his daughter in order to use his grandson to help find the 456. I like the little reminders that Jack used to be a conman and is not above a spot of ruthless expediency or using. I don't think it's out of character. I like that he loves and he's noble despite his instincts, not because of them, and oftentimes, he messes up because of his arrogance and sociopathic bent.

The scenes with Ianto and his sister were lovely: she wasn't that arsed whether he was gay or not, only hurt that he hadn't talked to her about it. When her husband came in, I was all ready for some kind of bigotry when it turned out that he wasn't that bothered either, except in the interests of taking the piss out of Ianto. It was a lovely subversion of expectations. And by the way, the actor who played Ianto's sister played that scene beautifully. There was a real shimmer of hurt when she spoke about him never talking to her any more.

Given Torchwood's fearless and stupid record of killing off great characters, and the giant anvils of 'They Really Love Each Other' that were raining from the sky in each scene where their relationship was mentioned, this would suggest that Ianto is destined for the Great Refrigerator In The Sky. I can only hope that RTD will not be so *bloody obvious*. Let the gay couple survive. And do not, under pain of something quite bad, kill Rhys.

I only hope that by Day Five I am not looking back on this review and shaking my head at the credulous, hopeful fool who watched Day One and thought this was going to be a coherently plotted week of glorious telly. For Doctor Who RTD has always written knock-out set-ups and pisspoor denouements. Let this be the exception. Let this be a QAF: series one or Second Coming. Not another Journey's End.
Tags: torchwood
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