Torchwood is one of those series that probably would have never seen the light of day on American television. But the BBC has managed to create thoughtful, challenging series that forces viewers to consider sometimes questionable or morally reprehensible acts in the context of science fiction. Since spinning off from the rebooted Doctor Who franchise, Torchwood has survived two seasons and now come out with the Children of Earth miniseries.
[amazon-product]B002BVYBJW[/amazon-product]To provide a bit of background, Torchwood deals primarily with extraterrestrial incidents in the U.K. An organization known as the Torchwood Institute investigates ET activity and tries to find alien technologies to use itself to investigate further and protect the Earth.
This is not like the Doctor Who series from the 1980s, nor is it the rebooted series. Torchwood is more extreme in many ways than any other science fiction I have ever seen. It brings in gay relationships, nudity, violence, and some of the most brilliant, challenging stories ever brought to sci-fi television.
By the time of the miniseries, the cast has changed slightly through attrition. Characters die in Torchwood somewhat regularly, including at the end of season two. So when Children of Earth begins, we’re left with Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd). I would highly recommend that you find the Season One and Season Two DVD sets for Torchwood to catch up on what’s happened so far. But it’s not really necessary to understand and enjoy the miniseries.
At the beginning of Children of Earth, children around the world suddenly stop where they are and begin screaming. A few moments later, they go back to normal like nothing had happened, with no memory of the event. This progresses over a number of like events until all the children chant “We are coming.”
This is an alien invasion story, but not one like we’ve seen before. Without spoiling the surprise, I’ll say that the sins of the past come back to haunt a number of people. And what blew me away was how shocking, yet realistic, the behavior of those individuals in positions of power seemed to be. These are men and women in the highest eschelons of government and the military making impossibly difficult moral choices.
And that’s why this series is so groundbreaking for me. This isn’t one of those “comfortable” alien invasions that we’ve seen time and time again. It’s so far from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The 4400 that it’s crazy. Maybe if you merge V from the 1980s and an alien abduction story, you might come close to the plot, but even that is a stretch.
Though I enjoyed Torchwood: Children of Earth, I have to say that I felt the first two seasons worked better for me. The miniseries is a series of five hour long episodes that comprise the story arc and it feels drawn out a bit in places. The longer sets of episodes that comprise a normal season provide much more room to play out various aspects of different story threads.
Included in this two-DVD collection is the special “Children of Earth Declassified”, which also aired on BBC America while the miniseries was airing. It goes a bit deeper into the production with interviews of producers, writers, cast, and crew. Everyone involved seemed to feel that this was something special. Simply having another opportunity to explore the world of Torchwood is a treat, especially from an insider’s perspective.
If you love good science fiction, you can’t get much better than Torchwood and Torchwood: Children of Earth continues their amazing run with a great story and some shocking revelations about the past. Be sure to check it out at your favorite rental or retail store as well as the Torchwood season one and two collections.
By the way, if you’re a Torchwood fan, the BBC announced at the end of July 2009 that the series has been renewed for a fourth season. I can’t wait!
p.s. Be sure to pick up the miniseries and other DVD sets for Torchwood!
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