Torchwood: Children of Earth: Day One (U.S.)
by Mike Moody, posted Jul 21st 2009 11:39AM
Captain Jack is back, and Torchwood is facing its biggest threat yet: An alien assault on the world's children.
The first hour of Children of Earth was a great set-up for what promises to be an epic story for the Doctor Who spinoff. The epic feel, with the helicopter shots and the grandiose music, surprisingly suits Torchwood, a show known for its balance of intimate character moments and goofy B-movie tropes. The camaraderie between the characters is still there, and so is the goofiness, as evidenced by the fun early scene with Jack and Ianto extracting the "hitchhiker" from their "neighbor."
The main plot --- with the children stopping and screaming (creepy) and then chanting a warning (creepier) to the people of Earth – didn't overwhelm hour one. The real meat here was in the surprising character revelations. I like that the impending alien invasion gave our trio a reason to reflect on their roots and ponder their future. Ianto, Gwen and Jack had some great moments away from Torchwood central.
Let's start with the big surprise: Gwen is pregnant! I knew this was going to happen sometime, but I didn't see it coming in the first hour. I loved Gwen's shift from shock and disbelief to joy and anticipation. It was such a relief to see that she was happy about the baby, even while the world seems to be falling apart.
Ianto and Jack's relationship felt a bit awkward at first, but I appreciated it more once Ianto was away from Jack and able to talk about him with his sister. Finally, Ianto seems to be full of life and responsibility instead of being stuck in a corner. I'm not sure if this relationship is the best idea for Torchwood overall, but I like the way Ianto is developing because of his involvement with Jack.
Jacks' reveal was actually the most shocking for me. A trip to his daughter's (!) home reminded us about his unique but sometimes sad situation. It's hard to know what to make of Jack sometimes. He seems capable of great love and emotion, but he's also a steely tactician. I almost wanted to slap him when he tried to nab his grandkid only to use him for research. This does not seem like a man who's ready for a big commitment.
There was a lot going on with civil servant John Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) reminding us that the government can never be trusted in the wake of an alien invasion. The other new characters were also given a lot of screen time. I really thought Dr. Patanjali was going to work out. Maybe Miss Habiba (Cush Jumbo) will take his place as the group's possible new recruit sometime later this week. (Torchwood is in need of a new computer genius.)
I loved our old friends Tosh and Owen, but I'm really enjoying the trio of Jack, Ianto and Gwen. I'm sure Torchwood will add some new recruits before the miniseries' ends, but everything feels a lot more intimate with only three leads.
The final act hooked me with a cliffhanger ending left me with tons of questions: Who do the mysterious people who "killed" Jack work for? Do they worship the alien threat? Are they the government's hit squad? And why does the government have a hit list with Jack's name on it? I'm looking forward to finding out the answers over the next four nights.