Timestamp #TW31: Children of Earth – Day Five

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Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Five
(1 episode, s03e05, 2009)

 

The world is safe, but is it worth the cost?

Gwen appears on a camcorder recording, asking why the Doctor has not appeared to save the world. Sometimes, she muses, he must be appalled at how humanity deals with crisis. This tape is her record of the world ended.

Prime Minister Green appears on public television to announce his inoculation plan. Rhiannon and Johnny Davies, following Ianto’s warning, open their doors to the local children and keep their own hidden. The Frobishers also take refuge in their own home.

Colonel Oduya of UNIT talks to the 456, asking why they need the children. The 456 reveals that they are used as recreational drugs. Despite being appalled in their part of an intergalactic drug trade, the government still proceeds on course. The public relations campaign is shifted into full gear while Gwen and Jack meet with Frobisher and Spears.

During the discussion, they realize that the tapes are no longer valid leverage. Releasing them will only hasten the collapse. Gwen calls Rhys to let him know that it’s over, also informing him that Ianto has died. Jack asks Frobisher about his family and to let Gwen inform Ianto’s family of his fate. The government agrees, and Jack is placed into custody as Gwen and Rhys are set free. He’s placed in a cell near Lois.

At Agent Johnson’s facility, Alice and Steven are released. Alice is brought up to speed on the situation, and she tells Johnson that she needs Jack Harkness.

Frobisher is called to the Prime Minister’s office and informed that his children will be inoculated publicly in order to sell the ruse to the public. They will also be taken for processing. Frobisher threatens to tell the world about this campaign, but Green is not swayed. Frobisher has been betrayed despite his loyalty, and he asks Bridget Spears to requisition a gun for him.

With one hour before the operation begins, troops are deployed to start gathering the children. Frobisher returns home while Spears pays a visit to Lois Habiba and tells her the story of how she and Frobisher met. While she tells the story, Frobisher gathers his family upstairs, murders them, and then commits suicide.

Spears tells Lois that John Frobisher was a good man. That this wasn’t his fault. That history will not remember him this way.

Gwen and Rhys meet up with PC Andy Davison and travel to the Davies home. Gwen tells them about Ianto and warns that special forces are on their way to take the children. Jack’s request of her to save the kids has just gotten more complicated.

The soldiers start rounding up the children, causing parents to start panicking and revolting. The soldiers also start canvassing the local neighborhoods, so Gwen, Rhiannon, and Rhys start moving the kids to a hiding place. Johnny informs the local parents that the soldiers are there for the children, and a fight erupts on the street. Davidson joins the fight, but the adults are soon pacified. The distraction worked. The kids are safe for now.

But the rest of the country’s children are not. In the abandoned shelter, Gwen makes her video recording and then talks to Rhys about their unborn child. She had considered abortion, unwilling to bring a child into this new world, but changed her mind when she considered how it would affect Rhys. They’re forced to run again as the soldiers discover the hiding spot.

Jack is taken to Johnson’s facility where he’s reunited with his family. He’s taken to a warehouse with Dekker to devise a plan that will use the 456 wavelength that killed Clem to attack the aliens. Meanwhile, at eighty percent completion, Colonel Oduya asks the 456 if that’s enough. The 456 demand the rest.

Jack analyses the wavelength and considers Clem, realizing that Clem was killed because he was a weapon that could be used against the aliens. Jack deduces that they need to use a child as an antenna to transmit the deadly wavelength. Unfortunately, they only have one child at their disposal: Steven.

And the effort will kill the child.

In a heartbreaking moment, Jack decides to use Steven. Alice pleads for Steven to run, but Steven has blind faith in his “uncle”. Jack ignores Steven’s questions and initiates the wave. As Steven beings singing the wavelength, the children of Earth follow suit, and the 456 react violently, smashing into the glass and exploding. The remains are transported away as the 456 retreat.

Jack watches tearfully as Steven dies a terrible death. Alice is a wreck and the room mourns with her, but the children of Earth are safe.

The Cabinet disbands, leaving Prime Minister Brian Green alone with Bridget Spears and Denise Riley. When Green tries to save himself by framing the American general, Bridget responds that she has recorded the proceedings with help from Lois and the Torchwood lenses. Riley takes charge, promising to have Lois released and that Green’s days as PM are over.

With the threat behind them, Jack waits for Alice in an attempt to apologize. She won’t speak with him, so he leaves without a word.

Six months pass. Gwen and Rhys travel to a remote location, heeding a request for a meeting with Jack. He has been traveling the world, trying to absolve his guilt, but it’s not enough. Gwen gives him his vortex manipulator, which she saved from the Hub. Jack uses it to transport himself to a cold fusion freighter in the solar system, trying to run from what he did.

Gwen cries with her husband as they walk away. Torchwood is finished.

 

Jack has a point: Death follows him, both literally and figuratively. He dies and resurrects a lot, but he’s also lost several people who were close to him. Suzie CostelloOwen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Ianto Jones, and now Steven Carter. It’s a lot to handle.

Especially since he made such a horrific (but necessary) choice, one which shattered the families he had left.

This story also brings the reverse of a trope highlighted by Meat, Reset, and Planet of the Ood: This time around, humans are the ones being captured and exploited for resources. It also marks one of the few times when a child is explicitly killed on screen.

The shock and awe are only amplified by the masterful performance by Peter Capaldi. Frobisher makes a hard decision because he doesn’t see another choice, and the sequence is heartbreaking.

All of this, the drama and conflict and emotions that tear all of us apart, make for great television and storytelling.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth (Series Three) Summary

 

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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