Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police. Fighting for the future on behalf of the human race. The twenty-first century is when everything changes. And Torchwood is ready.
If you’re a “Torchwood” fan, that quote should sound very familiar. A similar variation has preceded every episode of the popular BBC series to date. However, the recognizable intro is noticeably missing from the new miniseries, “Torchwood: Children of Earth,” letting viewers know right from the start that everything is about to change. Over the course of five nights, the Torchwood crew faces some of their greatest challenges and none of the characters will come through unscathed.
When a television show makes the infrequent leap to the big screen, it always faces the challenge of not “feeling” merely like a longer episode of the series. “Children Of Earth” is so epic that it would feel perfectly at home on the big screen. A lot of the credit must go to the director, Euros Lyn, whose credits include some of the most memorable episodes in current “Doctor Who” history such as “The End Of The World” and “The Girl In The Fireplace.” His sweeping views and big action scenes are fit for any big budget film and make us wish that some cinema somewhere would host an all-day “Children of Earth” marathon.
“Torchwood” has always been much darker then its parent show, “Doctor Who,” mainly due to its violent and sexual content. While there are a lot of children involved in the “Children of Earth,” by no means does this make the miniseries kid-friendly. In fact, the inclusion of children ratchets up the drama and makes the foe even more threatening. Though its cheeky humor is still evident, “Torchwood” takes a dramatic turn in the final two nights that is far darker than the show has ever been, resulting in a “needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few” dilemma that leaves Spock’s choice in “Wrath Of Kahn” look like he was deciding whether or not to mark the organ donor box on his Driver’s License.
The writers — most notably Russell T. Davies, who writes the first, third and fifth installments — pull from the vast continuity already established in the “Torchwood” series to show us sides of some characters that until now remained unknown, while at the same time showing us how little we really knew about others. They also play with our minds by introducing characters who fall into conventional roles before suddenly zigging when they should have zagged. The writers have also mastered the art of knowing when not to write; that tightrope of showing too much and then not enough, letting the viewers’ minds fill in the missing pieces.
The acting in “Children of Earth” is similarly first rate. Eve Myles continues to be the true heart of “Torchwood” and shows her acting chops by delivering a speech (some of which has been shown already in commercials) that is so stirring and completely heartbreaking at the same time. John Barrowman manages to balance his cheeky charm with a dark underside that we have yet to see from Captain Jack Harkness, as we delve past the dashing exterior to see what lies beneath. Viewers also get the opportunity to find out just how far his ability to come back from the dead can be pushed. Gareth David-Lloyd brings new life to Ianto as he finally comes into his own as a member of Torchwood, far from the role of man-servant in series one. Rhys Williams, Gwen Cooper’s better half, even takes part in the action and the humor. Probably the most surprising is Tom Price, who reprises his role as PC Andy — a minor character who was seen in only six other episodes — to deliver a performance that will bring tears to some eyes.
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” is a stunning masterpiece that rightfully earns the praise it has garnered. From “Star Trek” to the new “Battlestar Galactica,” the earmark of great science fiction is the way a show can turn a mirror on society. This is great science fiction. Everything from the writing to the directing to the acting to even the sound design gets high marks and sets a new standard for sci fi on television. I was initially upset to hear that we would not be getting a full season of “Torchwood” but instead a miniseries, but if this is the quality of what you get, I look forward to another miniseries next year. If you’re a fan of the show, you will already be on board, but even if you haven’t seen a single episode, tune in and enjoy as this is what makes television worth watching.
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” airs in the U.S. this Monday, July 20 at 9:00PM (8:00PM central) on BBC America.