"Have you gone bender?"
Torchwood: Children of Earth - Episode One is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for the next 11 days.
Secretly I was hoping that the new Torchwood would be as rubbish as the previous two seasons were, but I was also wondering if the few sparks of brilliance shown on the odd occasion could result in something a little bit closer to the excellence of Doctor Who and further away from some of the more... dubious... moments the show gave us before. Torchwood previously felt like an adolescent manic depressive - alternating between ravaging horny nonsense, half formed and ridiculous fantasies and occasionally deep and clever moments. So you could say I'm suffering a little from cognitive dissonance over Torchwood - on one hand I want it to be rubbish so I can rip into it, on the other I genuinely want it to be good because it's got real potential and has a good idea at it's core.
Be warned, light spoilers follow...
It's too early to say exactly where Torchwood: Children of Earth stands on the scale, but if the improvement shown here is at least sustained and maybe even shows some growth then it could be a rather entertaining story, it's already better than 90% of things which have come before it. Personally I'm all for the five episode ongoing storyline, it's something which Doctor Who itself suffers a lack of these days - I recall the years where you used to spend all week in suspense waiting to find out if the Doctor would escape the latest "end of episode jeopardy" he was in. You always knew he would, but there was that little bit of doubt there from week to week. Sometimes it's good to have a little space to stew about what you've just seen.
Now we're only stuck waiting a day for the next part of this story, so it's not too bad on that front and the show does have the makings of an interesting storyline. The mystery is being laid thick at this point - there's clearly something BIG going on, but exactly what isn't entirely clear. A bunch of children were kidnapped by a 4400 style white light back in the day but one escaped and he's now in a mental asylum with magic powers of smell (I thought he was pretty good, and with that ability Torchwood should snap him up - prediction, he dies). Now all the children of the Earth are reciting "We are coming" at set intervals, occasionally getting themselves run down by passing cars and one would assume even drowning or falling off things. See? Torchwood is edgy, they're not afraid of killing off children - as long as it's not done on screen.
The main thing which holds me back at this point is the name on the script, yes it's Rusty (Russell T. Davies) who's notorious for writing himself into a corner with huge sweeping moments until he realises he has no way out of this except for the old "magic button". I can't help but predict it's going to be something similar this time. Also the episode went to the old standby of killing Jack off - yes, we get it, he can't die, blah blah blah. Oh there's a bomb in him? Well it's the first episode so he'll survive that obviously (Spoilered by the "next episode" bit for anyone with at least 30% of their brain working). The only neat part of "Jack can't die" was the introduction of his daughter who (supposedly) looks older than he does - that was a great idea, giving him family adds something to the character and provides some emotional grounding for Jack. Same with Ianto's family, though they're just as comedic as he is (which isn't a bad thing really).
Good things, Ianto having to watch the Bumble-mobile wander past with some chav's arse hanging out of it was just humiliation for him and comedy for us (loved the brick tossing). He's really rubbish at his job isn't he? Likewise the line "Have you gone bender?" just cracked me up, there's nothing like the Welsh accent for asking things like that and making them sound hilarious. But that's Torchwood for you, might as well paint Ianto's face up white, give him big shoes, a red nose, a wig and call him Mr Jolly. That's his role - he's either doing nothing useful or making a fool out of himself. Honk honk!
No surprise, but it's Rhys who provides the biggest insight in the episode - it's a rather inspired thought of "The chants are being timed at times in the UK where there are lots of children gathered together." Seriously Torchwood, Rhys has more intelligence than the rest of you put together. Hurry up and hand him a giant pile of cash to get him to sign up, he's much better than the rest of the team - both as a character and as an individual.
Rupesh Patanjali was barely worth mentioning, an interesting character with potential thrown away by the needs of the script and story. Shame really, because a three person Torchwood team is pretty dull, there's not much hope of crazy office romances getting in the way of "serious" sci-fi action with this group at the moment. Fortunately London lass will join the team (prediction!) There was also woman in black who shot Jack and stuffed the bomb in him - putting the Jack death count at three by the end of the episode, two shootings and one tummy upset.
Short Version: Shows a lot of promise and I'll certainly be returning to watch the remaining four episodes. Just don't let us down with the ending Rusty!
Oh and Gwen's pregnant. Yay?
For alternative takes on this episode check out Snark and Fury, Dan's Media Digest or The Medium is not Enough.