Timestamp #TW30: Children of Earth – Day Four

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Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Four
(1 episode, s03e04, 2009)

 

Torchwood suffers a terrible loss.

Confronted by Clem, Jack recalls his actions in 1965. The 456 offered a cure for a deadly flu pandemic that was about to break out, but they wanted twelve children in exchange with the promise that those children would live forever. Jack was specifically chosen because they needed someone who couldn’t die and didn’t care.

The children were taken to the specific coordinates, during which Clem escaped. His escape went unnoticed because the 456 left before disappeared first. Jack didn’t notice his escape, and it’s uncertain why the 456 didn’t notice either. It’s possible that Clem was on the verge of puberty and was thus undesirable to the aliens.

Clem, haunted by Jack’s face in his nightmares, steals Gwen’s gun and shoots Jack. After Jack resurrects, Gwen talks Clem down. Ianto is upset that Jack never mentioned this before.

Meanwhile, Agent Johnson takes Alice and Steven to her facility. Alice warns Johnson not to anger Jack.

The Torchwood team tunes back into the summit with the 456. While Frobisher questions what will happen to the children they demanded, the aliens state that a “remnant” is watching. Clem assumes that the 456 is speaking of him, while everyone else believes that it is the camera linking the summit to the party in the Prime Minister’s office.

The 456 demand that Frobisher sends a camera into the tank. When he does, a 456 is captured in profile and three heartbeats and distinct forms of life are detected. One of them is a child, one of the chosen from 1965, who has not aged a day since. The child’s eyes widen in shock. Presumably, it has not seen another human in the decades since its abduction.

The cameraman leaves as the 456 spew more green goo and transmit a recording of Frobisher’s voice announcing that this is off the record. The 456 says they do not harm the children, that they feel no pain, but if humanity refuses their demands, the entire species will be destroyed.

The Americans are furious. They demand all the records of the 1965 encounter and threaten Prime Minister Green with United Nations sanctions for withholding the information.

Ianto feels betrayed by Jack’s secrecy about 1965. Jack leaves to call Frobisher. Confirming that the 456 have returned, Jack warns that their return is proof that they cannot be trusted. After the call, Frobisher is summoned to the Prime Minister’s office for an emergency planning meeting. Lois continues to record the proceedings as the PM decides to negotiate with the 456 as they explore options for viable children that no one would miss.

Frobisher returns to the isolation room and offers the 456 one child per million people on the planet, approximately 6,700 in total. The 456 refuse and the children around the world start chanting various numbers, each country with a different value.

The hard line is ten percent of the children of Earth. No negotiation.

Agent Johnson discovers that her unit has been cut off by the government, so she decides to go to London to get more information. As she travels, the assembled officials try to decide how best to select the “units” for delivery and how to sell it to the pubic. The meeting becomes contentious as they bounce from random lottery to alphabetical selection to simply filtering out the “drains on society”.

They finally decide that those who are less likely to contribute to society are the viable targets, including those living on benefits and those destined for prisons, based on school league tables and academic performance.

The proposal is accepted and given to Frobisher for execution.

The Torchwood team decides to use the recording as leverage to blackmail the Cabinet. Jack and Ianto head to Thames House while Gwen secures Lois’s cooperation. As Jack and Ianto hit gridlock in the city, Ianto calls his sister to warn her, fully aware that the line is being traced. He extends the warning to the government officials monitoring the call before telling his family that he loves them. He also calls Gwen, therefore providing Johnson with the location of the new Hub.

Frobisher outlines his plan to the Cabinet, offering a vaccine against the chanting as a cover story. When the vaccine goes wrong, they can pretend that they didn’t know and that the 456 were behind it all. When Jack is in position, Lois addresses the Cabinet on behalf of Torchwood, informing them of the recording. Jack and Ianto surrender themselves at the entrance of Thames House.

When Johnson arrives at the Torchwood warehouse, Gwen shows her the recording and informs them of the gravity of the situation. Rhys has a copy of the recordings and is ready to send them to the public if anything goes wrong.

Jack and Ianto are taken before the 456. The 456 refuse to yield and Jack declares that they are making it a war. The 456 responds by releasing a virus into the facility, prompting an immediate lockdown. Ianto demands that an anti-virus be deployed or he will destroy the tank. The 456 refuse, and the tank is bulletproof. The 456 starts to shriek, a scream that goes beyond the recording as Clem screams in agony and starts to bleed. The 456 declare that the Remnant will be disconnected and Clement dies in Gwen’s arms.

Jack promises to get Ianto out, but it’s too late. Ianto has already been exposed. Ianto collapses and Jack catches him.

Dekker has donned an environmental suit. Jack is immortal. Everyone else in Thames House dies.

Including Ianto.

Jack says that it’s all his fault, but Ianto says no. Ianto says that he loves Jack and asks him to never forget him. As Ianto slips away, the 456 tells Jack that humanity will deliver the children. Jack succumbs to the virus as he kisses Ianto goodbye.

The Cabinet is left with two choices: Deliver 35 million children or face annihilation. Brian Green chooses to deliver the children.

Gwen arrives some time later in a room filled with body bags. She finds Ianto and Jack, knowing that Jack will come back but Ianto has paid the price for their efforts. As Gwen mourns, she declares that there is nothing they can do.

 

Working with Torchwood is not conducive to a long life. We learned this on Gwen’s first adventure, and it was reinforced with Suzie Costello, Owen Harper, and Toshiko Sato. But this one was a deep cut for Jack, the team, and the fans. Jack lost the man he loved and the team has already seen so much death, but the fans reacted by building a shrine in Cardiff Bay. The memorial was a persistent feature for several years and eventually became a permanent attraction in the area.

This episode and its terrible toll also proved that the 456 were a significant threat. In fact, one to be taken seriously. One that could not be defeated by sheer strength alone. The team was outmatched and outmaneuvered, and they’re left with little hope at the end of the chapter.

That makes this part a very powerful one.

A minor note comes by way of the mention that the 456 are only in the market for pre-pubescent children. That explains why the Bannerman Road Gang does not crossover into this series.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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