K. (infinitemonkeys) wrote,
K.
infinitemonkeys

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You can't get back from there

About eleven years ago, just as The X-Files began to make cultural and ratings waves, the BBC decided to commission a serious science fiction series. It was to be written by Jed Mercurio, who was just coming off the success of Cardiac Arrest. It was called Invasion: Earth, it had a big budget and it was about a mysterious encounter with an alien lifeform in the past (wartime, rather than 1965); which left the survivor of that encounter permanently changed (Clem v Tyrell in I:E) and which had repercussions in the present. The alien baddies in question are harvesting humans -- the nDs in Invasion: Earth were trans-dimensional farmers who used humans for power, I think (haven't seen it for a decade), whereas the 456 just liked the high from chemicals inside a child -- which does at least explain why those taken must be pre-pubescent.

I've never met anyone who watched that show, largely because no one really watched it. It was like Star Cops, only without the tiny fanatical following.

Ultimately Invasion: Earth tanked because it just wasn't fast enough, dramatic enough, funny enough. Too many of its characters were bland ciphers. However, it did have a strong military bent, humanity on the losing side and the bleakest of endings. Do you think RTD was maybe taking notes?

I finally watched Children of Earth: Day Five, in which Russell T Davies demonstrated once more that beneath the facade of the jovial, giant Welshman beats the heart of a misanthropic sadist of epic proportions.

Who can't write a bloody coherently thought-through ending to save his life and who just blew a giant hole in the secondary franchise. And as per usual for RTD, there were moments of exquisitely bleak writing and moments of utter fail.

Edited to say: I think I've been unclear: I thought 75% of it was brilliant -- but [spoilers redacted] felt gratuitous and the last ten minutes were, as a commenter below puts it, flabby and self-indulgent in a very particular RTD way. Also, LORD, it was bleak.

SON OF ETA: SPOILERS AND SPEC FOR THE WHO XMAS SPECIALS IN THE COMMENTS



I think that this is either (a) a farewell to Torchwood in which they are trying to go out on a high; or (b) an attempt to set up the franchise sans Barrowman because of his ubiquity and expense by clearing the decks, setting up some great characters (Lois, Andy, Johnson) and making it near-impossible for Jack to come back as the leader

Truly, I don't see how they can let him back in charge of a supposedly heroic unit, or into the mothership and be all flirtatious, fun Captain Jack after this. The kids might take it but the anyone else is going to experience severe cognitive dissonance at the sight of someone who threw their lover's life away in a desperate bluff and then sacrificed his own grandchild to the greater good being the quippy light action man once more.

This, though, was the best-written Torchwood I've ever watched even though the ball was dropped at the end. Surely a government clever enough to calculate which fragment of the population it wishes to be rid of will realise that if 20% of pupils at the first tranche of schools nominated doesn't show up, you don't send in troops to drag them kicking and screaming from their homes, you just keeping moving to the bottom 11%, the bottom 12% and so on, no fuss, no panic.

We never really did find out where the 456 came from, or why they could not synthesise the chemicals. Did they keep coming back to Earth to try different vintages of human, like the stoner who runs through his stash and decides to try smoking the oregano from the kitchen? Why didn't killing one mean raining fiery death on Earth? Was there only one of them, with a massive appetite? Why did they take so long to come back? Why come to Britain in the first place?

And what happened to Clem -- was his hyperosmia a bizarre but mundanely acquired skill or part of the 456's affects on him. Why did the 456 decide to end his life? I know it was necessary for his death to be seen to lead to the conclusion of the episode but too much was unexplained.

There was also the most giant copout in the end. So many people knew about that plan to sacrifice the children, and once the army steamed in to the estates, where cameraphones are rife, to take the children, public trust in all kinds of authority would crumble. Taking children is such a primal crime that the world would not get over it. Skipping to a melodramatic, feel-my-manpain six months' later scene misses out on all this, glosses over it and answers no questions.

The thing I have loved about Torchweek was how wonderfully the characters were written and played. I've always loved Gwen, and Gwen and Rhys as a couple, but this week they were believably brilliant. I was already drawing wee sparkly hearts around Peter Capaldi for The Thick Of It -- and the man has an Oscar for God's sake -- but he was tremendous in this. I hope he gets a Bafta nod. All the Spooks-like stuff was very powerful -- the scenes of brutal expediency in the COBRA room were some of the best-written drama all year

But the incessant bleakness did begin to wear me down by Day Five and I thought Ianto's death -- well done though it was -- was just unnecessary. Killing him was the cheap angst option. Killing Stephen was far braver and could have driven a wedge between Jack and Ianto on its own that would have been knottier and more interesting. Instead we have uncomplicated manpain and one of the few out gay pairings on TV has kicked the bucket. I know dramatists must be allowed to kill who they like, but did RTD really have to reinforce the cliche of "MUST NEVER BE HAPPY!" in that way?

I still sort of miss the cracky goodness of season II Torchwood, when we mocked and rolled our eyes with affection, sniped at the lousy bits and cooed happily at the clever and funny dialogue. I miss Owen, and I really miss Tosh and now I miss Ianto. I don't miss Jack. Wasn't watching it for him.

Firstly, may I suggest that Russell T Davies move on from things I love fannishly. Please. GO AWAY AND DO OTHER STUFF SO I CAN LIKE YOU AGAIN. Thank you.

And finally, taking the piss out of fans of Jack/Ianto for their supposed over-reaction is Not On. Leave them alone to grieve. I cried at the end of Sure of You. I wanted to set the underpants of TPTB on fire after Requiem. There's nothing wrong with experiencing that sort of emotion, it's not sad or deviant. Look at all those footie fans who cry on the terrace when their team is relegated: it's all part of the same continuum.

Though, the people planning Comic-Con demos and such? You do scare me a little.
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