TV EYE: Torching the Wood – ‘Children of Earth’ : Day Three

And the Torchwood tennis match continues. After episode 2 proved to be something of a mess, episode 3 did turn out to be an improvement, and far more satisfying and enjoyable. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments that annoyed the hell out of me, and most of them were contained in the first twenty minutes, mainly consisting of those god-awful sequences that seem to consist of nothing but the characters giving each other high-fives and making it perfectly clear how fantastically cool they all think they are. It’s the kind of thing Who used to be bad at, and Torchwood has done it frequently – I guess I don’t like it when a show feels the need to reach out of the screen and hit me across the head with how AWESOME the characters are. That and the fact that I’m finding Eve Myles’ performance largely rather annoying means that there were points in episode 3 that were furstrating – and yet there was an awful lot more that it got right.

Bizarrely enough, large sections of the plot are almost playing like a large-scale (and much better executed) version of The Sound of Drums, and it took me until this episode to realise that they’ve really eased down on the boy-kissing here. Yes, there was the slightly overdone “Let’s go and have sex as the world is ending” moment, but on the whole they’ve actually been playing Jack and Ianto’s relationship fairly well, and not going for the “Look! Men Snogging!” option they were still employing in S2. I’m certain there will be lip-lockage, of course, but the fact that they haven’t put it so upfront (like Barrowman and Marsters’ absurd bit of tongue-action in the Season 2 opener) definitely helps. The plot is moving along much better now, and we’ve also got the very effective sequences with Peter Capaldi conversing with the 456 ambassador – and one of the things which is really helping is that this is an alien race with a genuine sense of threat. For such a supposedly ‘adult’ show, Torchwood’s been pretty bad at creating intimidating (or even interesting) villains, and has often gone for the camp and cartoony option, but there’s absolutely nothing cartoony here. It’s pure fear of the unknown stuff, and while I suspect we will be getting a better look at the 456 eventually (especially if the Day Four trailer is anything to go by), the scenes are very well put together and downright unsettling. Who has rarely gone for totally alien aliens – and new Who has been very guilty of sticking familiar creatures’ heads on human bodies and calling it an exciting new species – but there’s something very scary about the sheer disconnect and unpredictability of those scenes, and enough “What the hell is THAT?” moments (especially with the fluid hitting the walls) to make the 456 into a palpable, undefinable and yet very intimidating threat. It’s backed up by some really fine work from Peter Capaldi, and the story is certainly heading in a very interesting direction (especially if some of RTD’s comments about the final two episodes are to be believed). It’s still something of a rollercoaster from genuinely effective to eye-rolling, but the Spooks/X-Files style fits Torchwood much better than the slightly confused Whedon-influenced mish-mash it was before, and while I may not be giving it a whole-hearted thumbs up, it’s definitely the most impressive the show has been yet – streets ahead of S1, and avoiding most of the pitfalls that made S2 such a trying experience. I am still reserving judgement until the Friday wrap-up, but for now, consider me a little bit happier than yesterday.

Okay – Day Four will be appearing on iPlayer pretty soon. Let’s see how it goes…

One thought on “TV EYE: Torching the Wood – ‘Children of Earth’ : Day Three

  1. It’s worrying just how much I’m enjoying this Torchwood mini-series, despite some dodgy TBO bits. It’s hitting a lot of Quatermass buttons, but as you say also evoking Spooks and The X-Files. Far and away the least terrible Torchwood has ever been.

    Like

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