After two seasons of Torchwood, the third season is a mini series. Entitled Torchwood: Children of the Earth, BBC’s Doctor Who spinoff provides it’s freshest story yet. Children of the Earth shakes up the entire formula and produces not only the finest arc of story in Torchwood’s short history but creates one of the best mini series in the history of the genre. Fans of V or other classic mini series will definitely enjoy this one and you almost don’t need to see the previous seasons to understand what’s going on. A testament to crafty writing.

Children of the Earth engages us with an intriguing story without focusing too much on the complete destruction of the Torchwood team from the previous season. Instead we center in on the mystery of why kids all over the Earth are suddenly speaking cryptic messages. In a flash the drama changes as we find the UK government out to take down Torchwood itself, so they can address the issue of the children without Torchwood’s interference.

The first hour is gripping and intriguing. At first it looks as though Torchwood is rebuilding the team, only to have that notion torn apart. We also learn a bit more backstory about some of the other characters. We learn that Jack Harkness has a daughter, which really isn’t that crazy of an idea considering he’s hundreds of years old. We also learn about Ianto’s sister and his apparently rough upbringing.

There’s a fair amount of humor in the mini series which helps to lighten the otherwise depressing tone. The show is known for dabbling in a few laughs despite being ultimately pretty grim. One particularly funny theme for the specials is Ianto being gay for Jack. Is Ianto gay? Not really. He just digs Jack. This plays into some rather humorous situations.

Torchwood rebuilds, falls apart and struggles throughout. Their enemies are not just the UK government but the cause of the children’s cryptic messages, the alien entity known as the 4, 5, 6… Named after the frequency in which they use to communicate. The 456 is a fascinating alien creature and perhaps the best part of the show is how creepy the alien invasion or lack thereof truly is.

Unfortunately Jack Harkness is treated a bit more like Superman than anything else and the mini series plods around a bit by working to free Jack only to have him prove to be anything but Superman. We find out that Jack is partially responsible for the chaos that’s been unleashed on the world and Torchwood in particular.

The final hours of the mini series manage to dimish the legacy of the characters by having them utterly fail before opting for another deus ex machina ending. While the ending is a much more logical payoff than most, the ultimate defeat of the aliens seems overshadowed by all the other wreckage that has been caused to the characters. Rhys remains the most likeable guy in the program while Jack Harkness becomes a failure, a coward and almost a villain. It’s hardly Harkness’ finest hour.

Perhaps the best characters in the program are not the Torchwood team themselves. We see a lot of the government characters with one in particular becoming one of the better sotries int he entire franchise. At some point there is a bit of a tease that maybe everything will work out alright, that perhaps the Doctor will show up and right all the wrongs, but it doesn’t happen.

Ultimately that’s the downfall of Torchwood: Children of the Earth and the entire Torchwood show itself. There is a lot of great buildup, good storytelling and interesting characters but there are no happy endings. Everything is gloomy and that’s okay on occasion but the show is at it’s best when the characters are likeable and the stories interesting but the heroes should win from time to time. I suppose Torchwood is more realistic in the sense that everything doesn’t always work out perfectly, but the show forces too much sacrifice. The three seasons of doom and gloom could have been better in my view if the sadness and failure had been sprinkled in throughout as opposed to beating you over the head with it.

At the end, Torchwood: Children of the Earth is an excellent science fiction mini series that almost feels like a story that the Torchwood characters are just in, as opposed to based around. It’s the hallmark of an excellent adventure, but as with the two previous seasons there are parts that make me wish it had been better focused and less reliant on death and doom as it’s key plot points.

Highly recommended however.

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