Torchwood: Children of Earth [BBC America, Monday through Friday, 9-10:15/10:00-11:15C] is a mini-series event that in the words of creator/co-writer Russell T. Davies, “will rip your guts out!” He is not kidding; this is not hyperbole. Children of Earth is as powerful a television event as you’ll see all year.
It begins with the children of the world stopping. Whether they’re walking to school; eating a bit of brekkie, or playing in the park, they all simply stop. Then they scream – in unison; around the world. FInally, they repeat the ominous message, “We are coming.” Then they start up again. Hours later, the pattern repeats. Each time the children stop, the message changes, slightly – from “We are coming,” to “We are coming… back!” and so on.
Almost simultaneously, Torchwood and the British government discover a curious thing – the children’s stops are timed with U.K. time. John Frobisher [Peter Capaldi], Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, recommends a Blank Page [though the Prime Minister, played by Nicholas Ferrell, refuses to have his name on it] – and the order goes out to kill a list of people, among them the surviving members of Torchwood – who have only just recovered from the loss of two of their friends and colleagues.
In the ensuing five episodes of Children of Earth, we learn why the government has targeted Torchwood – even though they would normally be the ones to deal with this kind of event. We also learn what the aliens want [the children of Earth – just like it says on the box]; why they want them, and why it is so important to Torchwood leader Captain Jack Harkness [John Barrowman] to stop them. Secrets are revealed – including a couple of huge ones from Jack’s past, and an even bigger one concerning the British government!
Jack, Ianto Jones [Gareth David-Lloyd] and Gwen Cooper [Eve Myles] are joined by Gwen’s husband Rhys Williams [Kai Owen] in the effort to sort out this of-the-charts situation – and why Torchwood has been placed on a government hit list. Before the mini-series concludes, Jack will have to make the most difficult decision o his life – one that could tear Torchwood apart – if they can survive the government’s efforts to destroy them. Sacrifice. Remember that word.
Torchwood: Children of Earth is, quite simply, the best Torchwood adventure, yet. The writing is superb throughout – Russell T. Davis, John Fay and James Moran achieve a consistent feel that goes well beyond the call. Director Euros Lyn adds further to the unity of tone and story by directing all five episodes. Technically, Children of Men looks amazing. Lyn has met the demands of the script’s action and its range of emotional struggle beautifully. The effects are even better than we’ve come to expect from the series – and they are all absolutely and precisely what is required to make the events of the mini-series convincing.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Regulars Barrowman, Myles, David-Lloyd and Owen are called upon to go to emotional places they’ve never had to before – and the superb guest cast [especially Capaldi, Cush Jumbo as Lois Habiba, and Paul Copley as Clem Macdonald – who has a unique connection to events] match the regulars beat for beat, emotion for emotion.
Even if you haven’t watched Torchwood before, you can jump in here. Everything you need to know is provided, subtly, but thoroughly. Fans of the series will find it to be more of every good quality that Torchwood has displayed in the past – and, yes, I say again, it will rip your guts out. But not until you’ve experienced something fresh, bold and maybe even groundbreaking for a genre television program.
Final Grade: A