Torchwood – Children of Earth

The past week saw the return of Torchwood, for a special 5 day run on BBC1. Torchwood is one of those things that I quite enjoy, but I have to admit that I didn’t have very high hopes for this. I was wrong. It was good tv.
Since folks may not have caught up with it yet, I’m going to avoid any significant spoilers, but here were the highlights for me:

  • It retained its sense of humour. Admittedly, less so as the week went on, but there were still some good funny moments that were in keeping with the show.
  • The scenes with the cabinet, where they tried to work out what to do about the alien’s demands. I know that public opinion of our politicions is at an all-time low, but I think it was a fair reflection of what could happen in such an impossible situation.
  • It retained it’s Britishness. Right from the start, the look of the camerawork said BBC drama. With Torchwood being so successful in the US, it was possible that they might have watered down some of the local feel, but it was still there, with great lines like “Otherwise, what use are league tables?”
  • The big reveal of why the aliens wanted the children was really good. Really chilling. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it did. That explanation put other things into context too, like why there were no sleek and gleaming alien battleships, for instance.
  • And a nice role for Nicholas Briggs, who normally voices the Daleks, and here managed to get an on-screen role, playing an equally nasty piece of work in the cabinet.

The other thing that interests me is that, although I don’t think that it looked cheap in any way, it did not go over the top with the special effects. The children were eery, but did not require any special effects, just acting. Likewise the 456 themselves, who by appearing in clouds of chemical mist never needed to be done with sophisticated prosthetics. I can’t help thinking that this is a return to traditional values in a way, and showing that good stuff can be done with creativity and imagination, rather than lots of money and computers.

Because of how things ended up, I don’t think that Torchwood will be back after this. And yet its huge success in America makes it almost certain that the BBC would want to keep it going for as long as possible. So it will be interesting to see what happens next on that front.

But if it is the end, I think it had a great finish – a drama that raised moral questions about prices that are and are not worth paying for peace. And in a one-liner by the 456, it asked an even better question – why we would fight so hard for one set of children, while another group of children die every day, in the real world.

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