Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Children of Earth: Day One written by Russell T Davies and directed by Euros Lyn

This story in a nutshell: One day all the Children of the Earth stopped…

Hunky Hero: Jack has the potential to be such a fascinating character it really pissed me off that the writers of the first season tried to suggest he was an all out action thug who solves his problems with a shotgun and sleeps with anything that comes to hand. I couldn’t relate to him in the slightest despite John Barrowman’s occasional attempts to make him gentler. This is a man who has lived through the entire 20th century waiting for the Doctor to turn up and rescue him. There is so much potential for a man who has lived through some of the most shocking, romantic and unforgettable historical events. Towards the end of the last series they began to shows us what he had been up to in that time, joining Torchwood, working in a circus…and here Davies introduces us to Jack’s daughter and his grandson who thinks Jack is his uncle. His character is developing very nicely; I hope they can keep this up. Alice asks Jack to stay away because she looks older than her father, he makes her feel old. She can see right through her father and his wish to spend time with his grandson on the day that all the children stood still and she warns him away. Jack really objects to being told he is part of a couple and is surprisingly brutal towards Ianto. Poor Jack is shot dead and soon as he wakes up is shot dead again!

There’s Lovely: What a wonderful little touch when Gwen touches the photograph of her two dead comrades and says good morning to them. Gwen’s approach to recruiting is much more touchy feeling than Jack’s, she goes out to the poor sap that they have lured in and she talks to him. Brilliant, beautiful and completely bloody magic – her life is bigger since she joined Torchwood. Rhys is very understanding of Gwen’s job these days, he’s such an adorable fella she is lucky to keep hold of him. When Gwen is told she is pregnant she is left reeling with shock, it was the last thing she expected to hear. Once it is confirmed she thinks the news is bloody brilliant.

Jack’s Fella: Ianto is suddenly in very safe hands with Russell T Davies and he suddenly feels less like a spare part and more like a real person. He is childishly excited when Jack acknowledges their relationship in public and grins that this is all a bit new to him. The scenes between Ianto and his sister are vital because they ground the character like never before and are beautifully performed by both actors. When their father died he couldn’t wait to get away from his family and move to London almost as if he was ashamed of his background. When Ianto quietly admits his relationship with another man (‘its not men…its just him’) I actually felt something for the character for the first time.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We are coming…’
‘What’s in there?’ ‘Big science fiction super base!’
‘The civil service…the cockroaches of government.’
‘I’m going into England! Farewell forever!’
‘Have you gone bender?’

The Good Stuff: I love that they have disposed of the ridiculously camp theme tune and simply gone for a simple, gripping introduction instead – it really feels like this show has grown up. What’s even scarier than Village of the Damned style evil children – the thought of the children of this planet being manipulated into doing nothing. Aliens that induce endorphins in the body making you dying happy – you’ve got to love considerate nasties! Its great to finally see the government tackling with all these alien menaces that the Doctor, Sarah Jane and the Torchwood crew have been handling, its long past time we saw the serious bureaucratic side to alien incursions. Peter Capaldi is such a superb actor it is wonderful to see him earning such a pivotal, unforgettable role in this story. He adds a touch of class to every scene he appears in. Rupesh stalking Torchwood mirroring Gwen’s introduction really hits home how they fudged the first episode and how Davies is now showing how they deal with things. The camera gliding through the groups of children screaming in unison is really scary. All the children of the world talking at once…and one old man, now that’s intriguing. Ian Gelder is brilliantly creepy as Mr Dekker; there is something unbelievably unnerving about his smiling confidence in the face of such terrifying events. Lois is an instantly likable character in a way none of the regulars were in the first season. I love Ianto’s greedy niece and nephew who snatched at the notes he offers without a thank you. I love the Welsh scum stealing the SUV and mooning out the window as they drive past whilst Ianto’s brother in law throws bricks at the car! There is a quiet intensity to Susan Brown’s performance as Bridget that is mesmerising. Lois discovering the order to kill on Jack is excitingly directed and perfectly paced. Rupesh shooting Jack is a fantastic shock – it comes completely by surprise and I jumped out of my skin the first time I watched it. The thought of Jackexploding is horrible and surely there is no way back for the character even given his invulnerability. The final word of the episode chills the blood.

The Bad Stuff: This is gripping stuff, for once no complaints.

The Shallow Bit: Rik Makarem as Rupesh is just about the most mouth-watering bloke I have seen on the telly in years. What a shame he had to turn rogue and be shot! Is it my imagination or does Charles Abomeli look like a coloured slightly plumper Colin Baker?

Result: Torchwood has graduated from Cardiff and is now taking place on an impressive national scale. Whereas the focus of the first two seasons was ‘isn’t Torchwood cool?’ and for the most part proving the exact opposite it is brilliant and bold step to twist a knife into that reputation and have the government not only considering them a pain in the ass but to actively seek out to eliminate them from these proceedings. To have our team as victims automatically wins the audience over and suddenly we care about these three renegades in a way that we never did when they were heroes. The show feels bigger, bolder, far more confident and features a cast to die for – Children of Earth was a quantum leap forward for this show and it shocked an unforgiving audience into giving it a second chance. The character work that Jack and Ianto receive is incredible and suddenly they are real people with families and a relationship to question. With all these innovations it’s easy to skip over Euros Lyn’s typically stunning direction, the sweeping musical score and a cliffhanging final five minutes that will leave you reeling. The mission statement is clear and by the end of the episode that daft SUV is gone and the daft secret underground base has gone and Torchwood has finally grown up. This is event television and at it’s finest and the perfect opening step for this mini series: 10/10

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