Torchwood: Children of Earth

Been pretty busy lately, but I finally had a chance to catch up on the new Torchwood mini-series CHILDREN OF EARTH, which I’d taped off BBC America a few weeks ago. Instead of a normal third season of the show – it’s a spinoff from Dr. Who – this “season” of Torchwood was aired over five consecutive nights, and was one self-contained storyline. For those who wanted a complete season of Torchwood, this is a bit of a cheat. But the quality of these episodes was so good, that it helps take the sting out.

I will go so far as to say that the CHILDREN OF EARTH miniseries was one of the best science-fiction television shows I have ever seen. The writing, acting, and direction were all top-notch. And if you’re not already a fan of this show, chances are pretty high this miniseries will hook you.

Torchwood itself (the show’s name is an anagram of Doctor Who), is a clandestine government agency which deals with alien encounters. Kind of a British version of X-Files crossed with Men in Black (but way cooler than either of them). There is a hub into another dimension in Wales, and creatures always seem to be coming out of it. Torchwood deals with these, but they also deal with threats that come directly from outer space as well.

After a devastating second season that left two main characters dead, there’s only a handful of Torchwood people left: leader Captain Jack Hartness, newest member Gwen Cooper (she started with them the first episode of Season 1, so the show is really her story), and her husband Rhys (who’s sort of become a member by default), and Ianto Jones, who I believe had a more administrative role early in the show, but he now happens to also be Jack’s lover.

When strange aliens take over the children of the earth, putting them all into a trance state where they shout “We Are Coming” over and over, people begin to freak out. What has a hold over Earth’s children, and what do they want from us? Well, to begin with, they communicate over a frequency called 456, and that’s what they’re called. The first thing the aliens demand is that a holding room be built which replicates their atmosphere (which is poisonous to us) and then transport an “ambassador” within the room to communicate with us.

The aliens themselves, when they finally arrive, are very strange and unlike most TV aliens we’ve encountered before. The murky atmosphere (we’re told it would be poisonous to humans) makes it hard to see the creature, but it appears to have several bird-like heads and constantly vomits at its glass enclosure (we can’t exactly be sure that’s what is happening, but that’s how it looks like).

It turns out that these aliens have been to Earth before, and members of the British government had dealings with them back in the 1960s. And Captain Jack was involved with this previous encounter – which led to him doing something he still feels incredibly guilty for.

At the risk of making a very likable lead character unlikable – he was complicit in something awful in the past – the show is willing to take chances and flesh the characters out in many shades of gray – not the usual black and white morality of most shows.

There are more deaths this time. And the storyline is an emotional roller-coaster, but I cannot recommend this one highly enough. You care about these characters and what happens to them – and you get absorbed into the alien plot and how it will have major repercussions on mankind. How often does that happen while watching a sf TV show? All five episodes just came out on DVD in a special set, and I totally recommend you rent it. If you’re a Torchwood fan, you might want to buy it.

It’s simply terrific.

Am I the only one who has a problem with Nora Ephron’s new movie, JULIA AND JULIE? I mean, she goes to the trouble of getting Meryl Streep to play the great Julia Child, and supposedly Streep turns in a remarkable performance (hell, I’ve often said she is overrated, but she is a chameleon in these kinds of roles), and yet, instead of devoting the entire film to Child’s life, and giving us a decent biopic, Streep is only in HALF of the film, showing us Child’s years in France and how she started out as a master chef. But the other half of the film involves the titular Julie (played by Amy Adams), a modern-day blogger (huh?) who made headlines by taking Child’s Art of French Cooking and made one meal from it a day, until she had made all of the recipes.

Why does this Julie warrant attention at all? She writes a blog and cooks up dishes. Fine. But does she need a movie? Isn’t Child’s life interesting enough to warrant an entire film of her own? I won’t be seeing this flick, precisely because I have no interest in see half of a Meryl Streep movie.

Once again Nora Ephron proves her tastes run toward the superficial. By giving us a modern day “heroine” for movie-goers to relate to, and distancing us from the real subject of the movie, she shoots herself in the foot.

I don’t care about some blog-writing yuppie who likes to cook. I wanted a film about someone worthy of screen time. Which just goes to prove that some directors are just idiots when it comes to worthwhile film concepts.


And finally, I got a tooth pulled last week. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s got me a bit concerned. You see, this is the second molar I’ve lost because it was cracked due to grinding my teeth at night. It’s hard to prevent that, since most mouth guards make me gag. But I guess this is the result of years and years of grinding. Will it lead to more lost teeth? I hope not, but I’m not too optimistic.


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