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[personal profile] fairyd123


This is a little late as I was out all of Friday and Saturday but I finally got round to watching Day 5.

To me good drama has the ability to challenge, inspire and provoke its audience. It's never been a requisite that a decent drama series must have a happy ending. Life isn't like that so why should a drama serial reflect anything else? But for me a good drama series should also be entertaining.

For me Children of Earth took Torchwood from being a fun Hollywood Blockbuster style enterprise with beautiful character moments and turned it into one of those oh so worthy and horribly depressing Oscar contender movies that people in pubs pretend they've seen so that they look intellectual when really they switched it off after 15 minutes and watched the latest Jason Statham movie instead.

Put simply if I wanted to feel suicidal I'd just watch the news 24/7.

Children of Earth was a well written, beautifully acted and directed and utterly nihilistic piece of drama which decimated virtually everything we knew and loved about Torchwood and left it nigh on impossible for the show to continue in its present form.

Where do I start?

Jack's reaction to Ianto's death was both perfect and utterly infuriating at the same time.

By killing Ianto the 456 did to Jack what they'd done to all the children previously.

He just...stopped.

Jack had gone to fight the 456. He declared war on them in a foolish moment of sheer bravado as a quite insane way of making up with Ianto. He wanted to show Ianto that he was every inch the man that Ianto believed him to be - that he could fight, that he could stand up to be counted and not be the man who just handed over 12 children in 1965 without blinking. That he was worthy of Ianto's love.

But without Ianto by his side, with him gone Jack just completely and totally caved.

You've got Gwen all passion and fire and grief hell bent on bringing down the government if they don't allow Torchwood to help and Jack? Well he's just sat there, red eyed, grief etched deeply on his features, looking at the body bags and going "whatever honey- we've lost. I don't care anymore."

It's a very human reaction to tragedy. Jack has been through so much, lost so much in such a short period of time and losing Ianto is the straw that broke the camel's back. He just completely and totally gives up and is quite content to just sit passively in his prison cell and wallow in his pain and grief and guilt. Because the man that loved him, who thought that he truly was more than the superficial selfish coward that I think Jack still believes himself deep down to be (which makes me ache for him) has gone - so what does it matter anymore?

Nor do I think the reaction was particularly out of character. Russell has depicted Jack like this previously. In The Stolen Earth/Journey's End Jack's reaction to seeing the Dalek fleet was sheer terror followed by him immediately giving up. He kissed Gwen and Ianto goodbye and was quite content to stay huddled away with the two of them in the Hub, like rats in a trap, letting his fear master him until Harriet Jones showed up on the video feed and shamed him into action.

To me Jack's reaction was so very human and in character - but it was also absolutely infuriating. Because Captain Jack Harkness has the world to save - he can't allow himself to hide away and leave it to everyone else to sort out. He's the hero and the hero's job is to step up when noone else will. And while he was sitting there completely broken in his prison cell I wanted to reach into the tv and shake him. You could practically hear Ianto screaming at from the heavens to get a grip and pull himself together. Plenty of time to wallow in self pity after you've wiped the 456 off the face of the earth. But instead Jack just sat there head bowed, totally broken. It didn't make a huge deal of sense that he went back to being the all action super hero when Johnson had him broken out of his cell either. I guess we were supposed to assume that he pulled himself together because his daughter was relying on him - that it was her faith that spurred him to action - but that didn't quite come across.

And of course Jack had to kill his own grandson. Of course he did. And it was a horrible and nasty, utterly OTT, bleak death. And a death which left me curiously unmoved. Which is a truly awful thing to say about the death of a child - particularly a death as gruesomely depicted as Steven's death was but whilst I cried at the deaths of Frobisher and his family and was deeply profoundly distressed at all the scenes of the army taking screaming and crying children away while their frantic screaming mothers looked on (truly astonishing work from some of the extras there) Stephen's death left me completely dry-eyed.

To me it was so clear from the second that Alice and Steven were introduced that they had purely been introduced for the purposes of killing one or both of them off by the end of the series. They served no purpose in the narrative other than to further torture Captain Jack. And I loathe it when writers introduce characters purely for the purposes of killing them off. To me that's a cheap and tawdry trick. It's emotional manipulation at its basest. I mean the kid was even wearing a bloody red jacket in his death scene - red shirt indeed.

I never connected with Alice and Steven at all. GDL and Katy Wix managed with precious little screentime to convince me that Rhiannon and Ianto did have a deep, if awkward relationship but there was just no connection between Alice and Jack. John Barrowman tried desperately in his first scene with Lucy to forge a similar connection but it just didn't work. I wasn't that impressed with the actress and there was just no chemistry with JB - no connection. I noted that they resorted to dressing her in a coat which superficially resembled Jack' coat in Day 5 to try and show some sort of visual connection but the whole thing just didn't work (and yes I know this is daft but I do also wish they had cast a child which had at least a passing resemblance to either Lucy Cohu or JB - had the child looked like either of them I think it would have been harder).

So Jack loses his grandson and daughter in one fell swoop. And it didn't matter that he had absolutely no choice in the matter (I stopped reading over people's reactions to this episode pretty quickly as so many seemed to feel that Jack was a total monster in Day 5. Were they watching the same show as me? He either used the only child in the building to start the construction wave and wipe out the 456 or doom 10% of the world's children to a fate worse than death. One child or millions. With those sort of numbers at stake Jack did the only thing he could do- he made the same decision he made in Small Worlds and he was clearly totally and utterly devastated while doing it - crying throughout. John Barrowman was amazing in that sequence and my heart just bled for Jack. It was pure torture porn that sequence. Monster? Please.)

They very rarely give out Baftas for shows like Children of Earth which is a shame as Peter Capaldi deserves every single award going. His was an astonishing and incredibly performance. He did so much with silences and pauses - never has someone said so much by standing still and not speaking. The sequence in the Prime Minister's offices when Green coldly tells Frobisher that his children will be taken was absolutely unbearable to watch. Frobisher's dawning horror as he realises what the Prime Minister is telling him, his frantic pleas that they're only girls, despair reducing him to incoherence with the Prime Minister sealing his fate by telling him he's very busy.

And his oh so British goodbye scene with Bridget conveying his thanks and appreciation for her and all her years of support with one single peck on the cheek her knowing that she will never ever see him again. I'm still somewhat in awe that they managed to so completely make me sympathise with this man even though so many of his actions were appalling.

I was however really rather annoyed that poor Lois Habiba spent virtually the entire episode in a prison cell - what a lousy, unsatisfying resolution for her character. Although I was delighted that when push came to shove Bridget's loyalty to Frobisher overcame her loyalty to Queen and Country and she was determined to fuck over the Prime Minister who had so callously thrown over "a good man". We'll ignore the fact that I have no idea who was actually recording the lens cam sequences given that Rhys was being saving kids up in Wales.

Johnson also came into her own in this episode with Lisa May Brice giving a very subtle performance - Johnson may not blink at instructing her men to seize Steven and lead him to his death locking out his distraught mother but doesn't mean she won't cry throughout. She'd be a great addition to any future cast.

I have major issues with the 456's motivations. They're shooting up on kids? Seriously? That's it? That's just... Well, silly beyond words. And if they have the capacity to transport millions of children at once then why the hell didn't they simply park their ships in orbit, beam up all the kids they wanted and then leave high as a kite? And what was the deal with Clem being able to sniff things? And why the hell kill Clem anyway? Jack couldn't have destroyed them if they hadn't been so stupid as to show everyone the exact frequency needed to kill them by using it to to kill Clem. I wish they'd shown us that Clem had the potential to hurt them and that's why they eliminated him - that just didn't come across in the narrative at all.

And apart from the cheap parlor trick of managing to make all the kids speak at once and releasing poison gas into one building that they were physically present in did the 456 actually do anything that showed that they were a credible enough threat to wipe out the species? The children speaking at once was similar to the blood magic trick in The Christmas Invasion and possibly just as harmless.

But then I guess that didn't matter. Because the 456 weren't the villains of Children of Earth. We were. When faced with a cheap ventriloquists act and a smoke shrouded cracked out rubber monster demanding children or else the British politicians instantly caved, coldly decided who was the most expendable and diligently organising plans for carrying the mass kidnapping of hundreds of thousand of children. The echoes of the Final Solution in their choices were not subtle and the sequences of the soldiers taking the children downright distressing.

With all this going on Team Torchwood seemed a little lost (my biggest complaint about this series) but what little they had to do was done well for the most part. Liked the humour and pathos of Gwen and Andy breaking the news of Ianto's death to his devastated sister with Johnny's main concern being the return of his car and Andy more focused on Ianto's sexuality than anything else. Because a tragic death doesn't stop people being practical or nosy. But oh Ianto sweetie. Lying about his father's job. Why did he do that? Because he felt pressured when in London surrounded by all these posh (to Ianto anyway) operatives at Torchwood one making sheep shagger jokes at him to fudge his father's background? And that once he'd told those lies there they became second nature to him so he just kept on lying. I believe that he told Jack the truth but he clearly hadn't told Gwen and the lock of hurt on her face when she realised that she didn't really know him was brilliantly played by Eve and just upsetting to watch.

Loved Johnny and the boys standing up to the army and Andy deciding that when it came to it saving those children was more important than his job, removing every trace of his uniform before getting stuck in with the rest (and in my world Johnny and Andy are bruised but perfectly fine - no deaths here please!)

Whilst Gwen's video about the Doctor was perfectly fine as a coming soon trailer clip it didn't work in the context of the episode at all. We certainly didn't need it twice for a start and making that video about the world ending when you're huddled in a building trying to be quiet and surrounded by 19 absolutely terrified children? Made no sense whatsoever. I was like "Do be quiet Gwen you drama queen". It also makes me angry as it does grave injustice to the character of the Doctor and makes it seem as if he would turn his back on the world and let the 456 take the children which is something he would never ever do. I get that Rusty wanted to answer the obvious question "Why doesn't Jack just contact the Doctor?" but it didn't work for me at all.

Although Eve and Kai's moment when Rhys asks Gwen whether she would really have an abortion made me cry - wonderful acting from both of them. And I was getting quite distressed at the scene of the soldiers chasing them down as they fled from the building - ripping David away from his screaming mother.

And after an emotionally exhausting episode how did it end? With Jack leaving with no plans to return. I liked that 6 months on Jack still wasn't even close to being over the events and the loss of Ianto, Steven and his daughter. None of what happened was his fault but he still clearly blames himself, blaming himself for liking becoming the hero too much. He clearly blames his own arrogance for Ianto's death which isn't fair. And even Gwen begging him to stay wasn't enough for him to change his mind about leaving. So without Ianto and having lost his family Jack reverts to the selfish, cowardly con man always on the move that he always believed himself to be (and never really was) and runs away from all his problems. The character has come full circle and I'm really not sure at all how I feel about that. Its feels like they've gone backwards in his character development.

Children of Earth was a stunningly good if unnecessarily bleak piece of drama but it just didn't feel like Torchwood when all was said and done. Day 1 was pure Torchwood but days 2-5 felt like an original drama series that the characters of Torchwood were shoe horned into. My friend said it would be quite interesting to watch the series and assess the different amounts of screen time people had - I bet Frobisher and Lois had more screentime than Jack. Jack felt very much at times like a cameo player in this and whilst I was engrossed in Lois and Frobisher's trials and tribulations there were times when I was looking at the clock and wondering quite when we'd get back to seeing Team Torchwood who are after all the characters that I love and the reason that I was watching in the first place.

And where the hell could they possibly go from here?

Torchwood is now in this very bizarre position of having earned unexpectedly stellar ratings (never in my wildest dreams had I thought it would get ratings anything like this) in a traditionally fallow period for television programming and yet creatively RTD has pretty much run the show into the ground. He hasn't just destroyed Torchwood - he's napalmed it to hell and back and salted and burned the remains.
Torchwood was Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness. With 3 of the 5 main cast gone, Gwen pregnant and Jack gone how could you possibly have another series in the same format? How can you bring Jack back from all the profound truly horrible tragic events that have befallen him and have him wandering around Cardiff in his swishy coat, cracking jokes and shooting aliens in the face? Are we really going to have Gwen juggling motherhood with fighting aliens? I had expected in that last sequence that we would get some hint at the Torchwood team re-building. Maybe have Lois in the car or Johnson? (I could see a team of Jack, Gwen, Lois, Johnson and the fierce Bridget Spears as Jack's new secretary) But there was nothing. No tiny glimmer of hope. Just darkness.

Personally I don't really want another series in the current format. Even if Jack returned and claimed he'd been travelling for hundreds of years and was over it all now Jack and Gwen and a bunch of newbies wasn't what made me fall in love with the show in the first place. A radically different approach, say Torchwood through the ages with Jack as the only constant with an episode set in Victorian Torchwood, the first or second world war, an episode showing us Lucia Moretti and her relationship with Jack, episode with Alex showing us that team and what lead him to shoot them on New Years Eve 1999, episode with the original cast leaving any of them (including Indira Varma) free to come back and an episode in the future? That would appeal to me.

But another series of Torchwood in the current format without the majority of the characters that I loved - holds zero appeal to me. And if this is the end of Torchwood well at least it went out with consummate style.

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August 2009

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