Torchwood: Children of Earth, which aired last week on BBC America is out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, but I’ve had the opportunity to view the DVD today. I do not believe the Blu-ray differs in content, other than it has an HD audio track compared to the DVD’s standard Dolby 5.1 track (and of course, an HD transfer).
1965: Twelve children are gathered together on a deserted moorland before being surrounded by a harsh, bright light? and then they are gone.
Today: All over planet Earth, children stop moving. Stop playing. Stop laughing. Stop everything. Then, as one, they begin to speak with the same voice, announcing to the governments of the world the imminent arrival of a new alien threat. ?We Are Coming, We Are Coming?? As the British Government closes ranks, it issues a death warrant against Captain Jack and Torchwood. Now forced to flee for their lives, it becomes clear to the Torchwood team that this isn?t the aliens? first visit to Earth, and a terrible price is going to be paid for sins of the past?
Although many consider “Children Of Earth” to be the third series of Torchwood, it is more like a 5-hour mini-series (without commercials), about half the running time of a typical 13-episode series. Each episode represents one day of real time, and they are titled, “Day One”, etc.
“Children Of Earth” opens with a short pre-title scene from 1965 Scotland, with a bus containing 12 children who are then unloaded and walk towards a bright light and disappearing, with only an unidentified adult looking on. This scene gets explained further on. Then we skip to the present, where we see various scenes of children who appear to have simply stopped in their tracks, ignoring their parents, and then suddenly snapping out of it as if nothing happens. The remaining members of Torchwood, while investigating reports of bodies going missing, begin to notice these incidents occurring with increasing regularity. The children begin to chant in unison, all over the world – first, just the word “We,”, then “We are,” then “We are coming…”, until the chilling “We are coming…back.”
The question is, who is coming back, when were they here before, why were they here, and who were they talking to? And it appears that Captain Jack Harkness knows something about it – and that isn’t his only secret we learn about…
What follows is a lot of political intrigue, assassinations, destruction – and decisions so vile, you’ll begin to question just who might have your best interests in mind.
It is difficult to say much more without spoiling the twists in the plot, but I can tell you this – I don’t know if it is because I myself am a parent, but I found it hard to watch something so evil, so vile – and I’m not talking about the aliens – do what they did. And it raises the question – if you HAD to decide, how would you? Who should sacrifice, and how much? And could you do it yourself for the greater good?
We learn a little bit more about the background of Jack (and when you see the scene, it isn’t quite what you think at first, but “related”…) and the horrible decision he must make, but we learn more about Ianto’s family, which we previously knew nothing about.
There is even a very direct reference to the Doctor, and where he was…and you even kind of expect him to show up.
The actors had a lot to do – there are a number of heart wrenching and emotional scenes, and they did wonderful with it. An especially interesting performance is put out by Peter Capaldi as John Frobisher, the Permanent Secretary (i.e. career civil servant) to the Home Office, who acts for the government doing what he believes is right, but when called upon to sacrifice more than is reasonable, makes a decision that will hurt you.
And a special cameo by Nicholas Briggs, the voice of the Daleks and Cybermen, on screen as Rick Yates, a government “spin doctor”. And I also found it humorous that a character billed as “PC Andy”, a police constable (the real meaning of PC here), gets into a fistfight with soldiers…
Throughout, you will wonder, will anyone survive?
After it is all over, there is one question left…is it over?
Overall, this is a huge emotional ride that may leave you spent, but it is extremely well done. The best storytelling thus far from Torchwood.
Some of the technical details of the DVD:
The two-disc set comes in a cardboard slipcase with a nicely done metallic image of the three Torchwood members, Gwen with guns crossed and Jack and Ianto on either side. Inside is a cardboard folder with the same design, which opens up to two clear plastic disc holders with more of the metallic stuff in the background, giving it a nice smoky effect. The discs themselves are screen printed identically with the same image from the case.
The menus are animated with a video loop of scenes from the series, as seen through the “Torchwood contacts” (although it is also blue filtered). The menus themselves are simple.
There is only a single special feature – “Torchwood Declassified”. Do NOT watch first, as there are spoilers. It is a behind the scenes featurette that contains some of the material for the short segments aired after each episode on BBC America, but there is other stuff as well, squeezed into a single 32 minute segment. It includes a nice tribute to one of the characters.
Torchwood: Children Of Earth is both riveting and hurtful, and some of the best SF television to be done to date.