Monday, 13 July 2009

Torchwood: Children Of Earth - Review

As the entire population of the World's children stop and in unison chant "we are coming... we are coming" Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), on the run from the Government who are trying to kill him, looks on as a frantic mother desperately tries to free her child from its trance. When the chanting stops, Ianto approaches her, arms outstretched and asks her if she is OK.

Taken aback by this stranger's concern and fear for the welfare of her daughter, the mother snatches her and tells Ianto to "Piss off you perv". This brief moment amongst the special effects, drama, tension, excitement and tragedy of Torchwood: Children Of Earth strikes at the heart of a story which is about our relationship and obsession with children.

We perceive see children as innocents and under our collective protection. Unfortunately, in recent years we've also been forced to come to terms with the reality that, in some people's eyes, children are not special or precious or sacrosanct. Despite, all the press hysteria, panics, neighborhood riots, hatred and vilification of paedophiles and child abusers, sexual abuse and cruelty to children still takes place, often behind a veil of secrecy constructed by institutions and family.

In the UK, we have become much more uptight about the presence of adults who aren't parents among children, fearing that they may want to take their child away or that they are thinking evil and perverse thoughts.

In David Goldblatt's book "The Ball Is Round", a history of Football, there is this fantastic picture taken before the War of a crowded football terrace of men passing a child of no more then ten years over their heads to the bottom of the terrace so the young fella can watch the game. The idea of such a thing occurring today is unthinkable because we are too scared of leaving children in other's care, not because their are more abusers and paedophiles around, but because we are more aware of their existence or more willing to talk about them than we were back then, even if this discourse does take place in the form of tabloid headlines.

Perhaps it is right that we do this? Perhaps, after generations of refusing to discuss these matters openly, we are now paying a price for our collective complicity by being unable to interact with children without being family or passing a background check.

Yet despite our paranoia and suspision, over 4 million children in the UK live in poverty. As The 365 pointed out to Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) from behind its frosted glass, millions of children die from preventable causes every year but when it comes to surrendering 10 percent of the child's population, humanity suddenly becomes defiant. As though the act of surrender was more important than the fate of the children. When John Frobisher (Tony Capaldi) is told that he must give up his own children, he would sooner kill them, along with their mother and himself than hand them over.

Of course its not as simple as that, but Torchwood: Children Of Earth exposes an uncomfortable hypocrisy in our culture. Our kids are special and anyone who tries to interfere with them should be killed or castrated or both. But those kids on the other hand are a nuisance. They don't want to learn, they disrespect their elders and they're looking for trouble. And when it comes to the crunch, they are expendable. At no point during the British Cabinet's grotesque deliberations over whose children were to be sacrificed did the writers include the possibility that the human race may choose extinction rather than to give up their young. Perhaps it didn't occur to them or perhaps they felt it was unrealistic. Alien abduction is easy for a TV audience to swallow but self sacrifice is too hard a sell, even for Russell T Davies.

The symbol of hope of course is Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and her unborn child. Plus Ianto's family who fight to defend their children and their community's children from the British Army. The story's climax of a mother's heartbreak and the exploitation of a child bring the programme's sub text to the fore and surely draws the Torchwood series to a close. It does so having made a significant contribution to television drama and British Science Fiction.

If this review hasn't given too much away and you live in the UK. All Five episodes of Torchwood: Childen Of Earth are still available on BBC's iPlayer.


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