Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Ok, everyone was right.  Children of Earth was a game changer for Torchwood.  Before CofE Torchwood was an enjoyable but uneven program that couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to emphasize science fiction or detective story.  After CofE Torchwood is a Serious Television Show.

When all the children on earth freeze for minutes at a time and then start to recite the same words together, well that’s a clue that something is going on that might not be of this world.  So far, pretty typical.  But then the writers set us up to believe that a new character is going to join the Torchwood team only to reveal that he is part of a group working against Torchwood.  Then we find out that the government has ordered a hit on Captain Jack because … well, we don’t know why.  Then the government tries to kill Captain Jack but he can’t die, even when he’s blown up.  Then they decide to encase him in concrete.  It’s all very exciting but all the time there is a big scary alien coming that has something to do with the children. 

Then when Torchwood finally manages to force its way into the situation and take control of the situation, it all goes horribly wrong.  And the ending.  Captain Jack had a hard choice to make and he made it. 

Lots of deaths.  Lots of people important to Jack dying because of Jack.

After all that, who can blame him for deciding he needed some time away and beaming up to the nearest starship a la Arthur Dent.  He must come back to earth though because I hear he’s in the new series that starts next month. 

Last time I wrote about Torchwood I said that they needed to create either a Big Bad institution or a Big Bad person for Jack to go up against.   I also said I didn’t think that Ianto and Jack didn’t have any chemistry and I wouldn’t be sorry to see him go. 

They created a governmental Big Bad that was a bad as anything I’ve ever seen.  There is a scene where the government is trying to decide whose children to sacrifice to the alien and they decide it can’t be the children of the elite, not their children.  It was a pretty chilling scene as they made the decision that it was the low achievers who had to go.  So it was a good Big Bad to put Jack up against.  It allowed Jack to be Jack without any necessity of toning down his act.

And they got rid of Ianto.  I admit that I was sad when he died.  But I still didn’t think that he and Jack had chemistry.  I’m going to admit here that it went through my mind at the end of Season 2 that Ianto was a double agent sent to infiltrate Torchwood and be a honey trap for Jack.  I never believed that he really cared for Jack. He had more passion for the robowoman in Season 1 than he ever showed for Jack. But, in CofE I did believe that he cared for Jack.   I still didn’t think they were good together but I stopped thinking that the writers had some evil plot that hadn’t yet been revealed.    But now that he’s gone, I’ll drop it and just say I’m sad he had to die a horrible death.

So now we wait for the next season, which I won’t see because I don’t have cable.  Coming off of CofE, I have high hopes.  Plus Jane Espenson is one of the writers.  Plus they are moving part of the action to Los Angeles.  Normally I wouldn’t be excited by that but I think Jack in Los Angeles could be fun.  Los Angeles is BIG and Jack is BIG.  And the people of Los Angeles … well they seem kind of alien to me.

I continue to think that Jack plays better in a setting that is a little, oh, less than normal.  Los Angeles is certainly that.

I tried to watch Torchwood and Doctor Who in the order in which they aired.  So I saw the last few Doctor Who episodes after the end of CofE.  In the episode where the Tenth Doctor dies and regenerates, he has a chance to visit all of his friends one last time and do something nice for them.  In one scene he looks up Captain Jack.  Jack is in a space bar (very reminiscent of Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars).  So the Doctor gets to see a lot of the aliens he has encountered in this lifetime as well as Jack.

It seems right that Jack is in a bar.  He’s lost Ianto and he’s lost a member of his own family.  He’s sitting at a bar drinking.  He’s not the same Jack. And the Doctor gives him a little push to get back into the human scene.  Sure, this scene could have been a Torchwood scene.  But Torchwood took place in Cardiff.  He would have been sitting in a bar in Cardiff and the lighting would have been dark.  Very Torchwoodesque and dark.  But since this scene took place in Doctor Who, they could set it in a space bar and make it Really Fun!  And that’s what Jack needs – a really fun setting.  Because his character is Really Fun.   And as I watched that scene I thought …. Yeah, this could be Los Angeles.

See what I mean: