Sunday, May 22, 2011

TV Series Review: Torchwood Children of Earth (season 3)

So, I know I said I was going to watch Angel next but I tried a few episodes and decided that, since I wasn't in love with the show, that I might as well watch something else that I was more likely to enjoy. Which is a bit odd for me, I've noticed I tend to drop shows more often if it's currently airing, but unless someone else can convince me otherwise I just don't feel the urge to try Angel again. Speaking of dropping shows, I wonder if I would have dropped Torchwood if I had been watching it when it aired since this show has just never managed to grab me the way that Doctor Who has. I think I liked this mini-series (just five episodes long with one, continuous plot) more than I would have liked Angel but I'm not sure, I did want to yell at my computer screen every ten minutes or so...

Torchwood: Children of Earth

Summary: While Torchwood 3 is smaller than ever it's remaining employees are still dedicated to keeping Cardiff, and the rest of the world, safe from alien threats. But this time the threat may be bigger than they can handle, between worldwide reports of mind-controlled children and the government trying to kill them it's certainly not going to be easy to save the day.

The Good: The characters have finally found their stride on the show and they are amazing. Gwen is likable, badass and caring all at once, Ianto is more active than he was in previous seasons and proves that he's just as capable as Gwen is in the field and Jack has already proved himself to be all of those things. A number of side characters all get a chance to shine as well, Louis's actions (a stand in for Martha, they even look a bit alike) are vital to Torchwood, Ianto's sister Rhianno and her husband Johnny are the most capable civilians in all three of the seasons (aside from Rhys who practically is a member of Torchwood at this point, the actor is even given equal billing) and it's always nice to see civilians clue in and figure out what's going on. Even more characters have a chance to shine later on (saying who would be spoilers) so anyone who watches Torchwood for the characters (which would be a lot, if not most of, it's fans) will really enjoy watching the characters take action and do something.  

The Bad: As strong and interesting as many of the individual characters were this season the government (of the United Kingdom), the reason the plot progresses the way it does, is thoroughly unsatisfying as a psuedo-antagonist or even for what's supposed to be a group of intelligent people. The first few minutes of the first episode reveal that over 40 years ago 12 children were taken by aliens (presumably for nefarious purposes) and strongly hints that the government had a hand in it. Combine that with the fact that the government is desperately trying to keep both alien fighting organizations (UNIT and Torchwood) from doing their jobs, even though both groups are very good at keeping Earth safe from alien threats, and there is no reason to sympathize with the government at all. The series spends a great deal of time trying to make the government sympathetic (too much time, the series could have been four or possibly even just three episodes long if some of those conversations were cut down) and portraying in a realistic fashion how the leaders of the UK would respond to the fact that they have mere days to gather up huge numbers of children or risk planet wide extinction. However, this is not a realistic show, this is a show where there have been shown to be at least one, if not multiple, weapons that can take down alien spaceships from orbit and that makes it even harder to sympathize with the people who got the whole world into this mess. 

The Music: On Wikipedia it says that there was a second soundtrack for the series released which consisted of 40 tracks used in these five episodes but the music didn't feel that new. A lot of the pieces played at various points felt familiar and the series iconic opening is cut down to about ten or fifteen seconds and the credits were shortened as well so there's barely any music there. So, as before, the music worked well as background noise, so well in fact it's hard to tell that it's new at all.

The Visuals: As said above, the shows opening sequence is incredibly short this time but the white background with red text (as opposed to black background with red text) accompanied by the "duuun" in the background with the date (Day One, Day Two, ect) makes it seem even more dramatic. There's no problem with video quality or shots that are over or underexposed, not surprising since this was shot very recently, so it all looks rather good. True the aliens aren't as convincing as they would have been on a full movie budget but if you aren't used to that yet then you probably never will be. 

I apologize if I got too rant-y in the bad section, I honestly tried to keep it down but I really have so many complaints with this season. One I didn't even bring up, given all the events involving aliens in both Torchwood and Doctor Who, events that are common knowledge at least in Great Britain, how did the government even think they could keep the truth about this quiet? Does this world not have Wikileaks or something? It's mentioned in the episode that the government hacked Torchwood years ago even (hell, didn't Mickey hack it at least partially back in season two of Doctor Who?), I will admit that this series was made before Wikileaks got big and it's hard to write about something that doesn't exist yet. I will probably make a big blog post about this over on my livejournal (not this week, too busy preparing for a con, I'll try to get it up in about two weeks) with even more complaints on this because frankly, for a plot-centric and plot-heavy mini-series, the reason the plot became what it was was a really stupid reason that seemed more unbelievable than a group of aliens mind-controlling every prepubescent child on Earth, at least that part was in character for the series.   

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