Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Kai Owen, Peter Capaldi, Paul Copley
My, how Russell T Davies’s baby has grown. Widely slated in its first year, its latest growth spurt sees it mature into ratings-smash event television. How the hell did that happen?
Partly by leaving home territory behind. Torchwood’s aggressive Welshness was, sadly, always going to be a bar to acceptance in some quarters (that may explain why it’s been better received in America). That credibility gap is effortlessly vaulted by relocating most of the action to London, bringing the Hub trio into opposition with the ruthless professionalism of government – the sort of people who, when they hatch a plan, come up with something a little more thought-through than “Tell the aliens to piss off”... That and turning the darkness dial up to 11, chillingly illustrating how inhumanly clinical we can become when pushed into a corner.
It makes you chuckle to recall that season two had edited pre-watershed repeats. Imagine doing that with Children Of Earth - it’d be a succession of blipverts. Jack’s controversial final decision is the big talking point, but it’s not entirely out of character - he made an equally cold choice in season one’s “Small Worlds”, and here he has a much better justification. Still, it’s hard to square the ruthless Jack of Children Of Earth with the loveable Jack of Doctor Who, hard to slot these two universes together. Best not to think about it.
It’s not perfect. Most of the killer twists are guessable (after all, why give Jack a family if you’re not going to shatter it?). After five episodes of build-up, the solution is a little pat. And the final instalment is slightly tinged with disappointment: promised the sight of civilisation going to hell in a handcart, what we actually get are a few blokes on a council estate lobbing rocks.
No matter. By any sane criteria, Children Of Earth is a triumph - and not despite the fact that it’s Torchwood, but because it’s Torchwood. The series’ essential nuttiness remains intact, smuggled onto BBC One like a bomb in the belly, and it’s the lunatic moments we treasure the most. In what other show could the lead character be encased in concrete, rescued by bulldozer, dropped off a cliff, and walk away from the rubble in need of little more than a shampoo and blow dry? We can only assume that Jack’s miraculous self-healing powers extend as far as extruding slivers of concrete from his urethra...