Soap Opera Weekly: Read at Joe’s 7/29/09

One might say TORCHWOOD creator Russell T Davies took the name of his show literally when he essentially burned the sci-fi series to the ground with the just-completed five-part CHILDREN OF EARTH miniseries. CoE saw and alien race called the 456 descend on London to demand that 10 percent of the planet’s children be surrendered to them or they will unleash a global virus that kills in minutes. I really loved this story because, unlike series that promise “nothing will ever be the same” only to revert to the status quo almost instantly, TORCHWOOD can never go back to the way it was. With the tragic death of Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) and Captain Jack’s self-exile to space, only a pregnant Gwen (Eve Myles) is left to carry on the institute’s name. Davies has completely the deconstruction of the team that began with last season’s slaughter of Owen and Tosh (who also died in Jack’s arms). The loss of Ianto was a dramatic necessity. Viewers had to understand that the stakes really were high; that the 456 were playing for keeps — and so was Jack (John Barrowman). Ianto was a key team member and a vividly drawn character. And, oh yeah, he happened to be gay. (Let’s not forget that both Tosh and Owen were bisexual.) And Ianto was Jack’s lover. I thought the most poignant thing about Ianto’s death was his fear that the immortal, voraciously omnisexual Jack would forget him in a thousand years or so. But Jack promised he never would, and I almost believed him.

It’s important to remember that Jack is not a noble guy; he never was. He was liar, a thief and a con man when he first met the Ninth Doctor in the parent series, DOCTOR WHO. And Jack is no Doctor. While Jack stepped up and made a decision when no one else would (just like the Doctor does), the Time Lord would have made a different decision. The Doctor would have insisted on somehow using himself as the resonator for the constructive wave. And the story made me wonder: How was Jack different from Prime Minister Green? They both used children as pawns to deal with the 456. The difference is, Jack was fighting the aliens, no trying to appease them. And while Green made a point to exploit other people’s children, Jack paid dearly for his choice; he sentenced his own grandchild to death.

And I kept wondering: What about the “children of Earth”? What if the aliens had not demanded children? What if they merely asked for 10 percent of Earth’s total population? I could imagine an almost-eager rush to empty the world’s prisons and foist off other assorted undesireables on the 456. It simply would not be as dramatic without the hot-button issue of kids. And Davies did not back down from suggesting that some kids may be, if not “expendable,” then certainly not as equal as others. The capper had to be the twisted use the 456 planned for the kids: children are like narcotics to the aliens, who wanted to milk them alive for intoxicating chemicals. The idea that the children would be used for recreational purposes was the most perverted twist possible. While the 456 at first appeared to be an intergalactic protection racket, they were, in fact, interstellar drug dealers. And let’s hope they never come back.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

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