I know that I’ve been dismissive of Torchwood (the Doctor Who spinoff) in the past. But the current five-episode story Children of Earth has changed my mind. Last night’s episode (number 4) was simply stunning. Not because of special effects or action sequences, but because of the writing and playing of one scene in particular. The scene of the British Prime Minister and his cabinet discussing how to justify to themselves and the country the method of choosing the 10% of British children who are to be sacrificed to the aliens was chilling and horribly real. There was other good stuff as well; Simon Brew’s review over at Den of Geek spells it out (warning: spoilers).
This was very good TV, I only hope that tonight’s finale won’t let us down.
Update: well, the finale was pretty good; perhaps not quite as good as episode 4, but certainly streets ahead of most of the dross on TV. There was some class writing from Russell T. Davies brought to almost unbearable life by excellent actors. For me, the highlights of the whole series were the scene in the Cabinet Room of episode 4 (mentioned above), and the scene in episode 5 of Frobisher going to kill his children, his wife and himself being intercut with the monologue from his loyal secretary to Lois about how Frobisher was "a good man". RTD knows how to push my emotional buttons, and he comes up with some audacious ideas (e.g. the aliens are hooked on the secretions of living human children).
Yes, the destruction of the aliens was pretty pat, but RTD used it to pose one more moral dilemma – is the death of one child to save humanity worth the price? – and to send Captain Jack off with a huge burden of guilt; it was his grandchild who was sacrificed, and Captain Jack himself pushed the button.
I think what brought me round to liking Torchwood in this series was that this story was never really about aliens, it was about the real monsters: us, and what we are prepared to do in the name of drivers such as love, politics, religion or just simple expediency. Great TV. Here’s the review of episode 5 in The Guardian. I was struck by one of the comments where someone favourably compared RTD with the late, great, Dennis Potter. You know, there’s something in that, I think.