Two Years Later – My Thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth

I watched the last episode of the five day Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth after waiting nearly two years from when it originally aired, and because it gave me a bunch of feelings, I decided to write up my final thoughts on the series. There will be spoilers, so proceed with caution and please don’t complain to me if you read something you didn’t want to.

On the whole, I liked it. As a piece of television, without any of the baggage I carry from previous seasons of Torchwood, I liked it. It’s dramatic, it makes very interesting points, and it’s very beautifully shot, edited, and scored. I love the build up between the five days; it almost feels Shakespearean to me, which is a topic I definitely want to explore on another day. I love how each episode represents one day in the series and the series aired five days in a row, making it feel like it’s happening in real time. As a writer myself, I’m drawn to pieces of work that both play with and adhere to our own perception of time, which is exactly what this series does. I love how every one of our main characters gets a chance to be brave and badass and amazing. The scenes with the British government and the American liason are chilling because I can actually picture something like that happening in our world right now, and it’s terrifying. I think that’s exactly what RTD was going for and it absolutely worked.
I love that Rhys joined the remaining team and helped them out in their time of need. I love Rhys and Gwen together, now that they’ve worked out all of their drama, and how their relationship is going to work now that Rhys knows that Gwen works for Torchwood. It’s one of my favorite things to see a couple work as a team and love each other despite any outside issues that may try to force them apart. I love Ianto and Jack tiptoeing around their relationship, trying to figure out exactly what they are to each other. I love Ianto’s sister and brother-in-law. Seeing the little hint of his relationship with his family, and seeing that Ianto is, even after his death, still as much of a mystery as he was when we were first introduced to him is heartbreaking but very fitting. He is, after all, the character who lied his way into Torchwood in the first place. I loved the little nod toward Tosh and Owen in the beginning and at the end; I didn’t mind at all that they’d been killed off then and after watching Children of Earth I still didn’t mind. I liked the reminder that the lives of Torchwood agents are often short and their deaths are brutal. In the very first series we are told this, and yet not one of our main cast dies. The ending of the second series brings it home, and the end to Children of Earth helps to reinforce it.

The acting was phenomenal. The main cast was at the top of their game, especially John Barrowman. He’s notorious for overacting due to his theatre roots, but Euros Lyn manages to channel his over the top tendencies into great performances. Eve Myles is gorgeous and beautiful and perfection, and Gareth does very well with all the material he’s been given (which just about equals everything he’d been given in the previous two seasons if you take out Cyberwoman and the ghost movies episode). The guest stars were also brilliant. I can’t pick just one to single out, they all were fantastic, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say that Peter Capaldi nailed it the whole way through; when he went home on Day Five, it was perfect. His look of resignation, his body language, they were perfect.

However, as an episode of Torchwood, the Torchwood of the first two seasons, I don’t like it. The first season was a mix of awful and wonderful, and I love how over the top it was, how much heart and spunk it had. It certainly wasn’t the best season of television ever written, but it had potential. The second season… well, you know how people say they have ‘their doctor?’ Well, I have seasons, and the second season of Torchwood is mine. It’s the perfect mixture of crack, fun, and seriousness, with enough room for fandom to fill in the blanks. Children of Earth turns that all on its head. There are some funny moments, but they’re overshadowed by the gloom and despair that the whole series ends on. So, I can value it as general good storytelling, but overall it’s not what I look for when I watch Torchwood.

I HATE that Ianto had to die. I loved his death scene itself, because how romantic and touching could you have asked for and oh Ianto you poor brave misunderstood lying soul! It’s no wonder that the whole fandom fell in love with you. How could you ask for anything more if your couple were to have a death scene? I can’t say, however, that I loved the fact that Ianto died. As much as RTD wants to explain it away, he still killed one half of the most interesting queer couples on television. He’s obviously a fan of the Joss Whedon School of Relationships Where No One Can Ever Be Happy and the only way to cause drama and pain in a character’s life is to kill them off. That’s bad enough when it’s applied to a heterosexual couple, but when it’s applied to a queer couple? Not cool. I am not a fan of Joss Whedon’s idea of adding drama to a series because it’s bad writing, and yet it’s used in so many forms of entertainment. That, however, is a rant for another day.

Jack Harkness is the Character Who Must Not Be Happy Ever plus the Character Who Cannot Be Tied Down Ever, but does that mean we have to kill off everyone he loves? Evidently it does, and that’s just what Children of Earth accomplishes, except perhaps for Gwen. The ending was completely in character for Jack and for what we’ve seen him do, but the way it was written, it feels like it was done solely to shock the viewers. It happened so abruptly for such a long, drawn out series, and Jack’s daughter and grandson seemed to be added for this sole ending, this deus ex machina of Jack using his grandson to push the 456 off the planet at the cost of his grandson’s life, that it feels like it’s just for the emotional manipulation of the audience and of Jack Harkness himself.

Despite all of these problems, I do like the series and I’m excited to see the fourth season entitled Torchwood: Miracle Day, the first episode of which airs on the Starz network on July 8th, 2011. I’m just going to view it as an alternate universe, which shouldn’t be a problem. Alternate universes are just another day for the denizens of the Whoniverse, after all, and perhaps one day we’ll see Toshiko, Owen, and Ianto back on our screens.

  1. #1 by Anthony Kuhns on June 2, 2011 - 2:18 pm

    Good review, especially your discussion about the merits of the death of Ianto!

    Did you catch who Harkness’s hook up was at the end? Alonso (Russell Tovey… dreamy…) from the Kylie/Titanic Christmas special! I just wish we could have seen them pash.

    • #2 by Erinn on June 2, 2011 - 6:53 pm

      You mean at the end of the Doctor Who specials? I did! I loved that! Part of the reason I’m not a big fan of the new series with Matt Smith is the lack of crossover between the different series. As over the top and cheesy as it was, I loved the season four finale because EVERYONE was there.

      On one hand, his death scene was heartbreaking and beautiful. On the other, why’d you have to kill off a queer character, Mr. Davies?

      Thanks for commenting!

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