Saturday, July 25, 2009

My (boring, tl;dr, and disorganized) thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth

If you are somehow the last living Torchwood fan who hasn't watched Children of Earth, there will be spoilers here. Also, what is your excuse? It's been on BBC America by now, and there's also the internet, and just... go watch it. Now. There may also be spoilers up to current Doctor Who, depending on how I'm feeling. I'm evil like that.

I watched Torchwood: Children of Earth with my uncle (as one does) roughly two weeks ago, and I'm just now getting my thoughts together enough to write about it. I realize how that sounds. It's television. I should not be so affected by it that it takes me two weeks to get my wits about me enough to post some blathering on a silly blog.

But you know what? Children of Earth really was that good, and that sad, and that infuriating (in some respects). Perhaps part of what made it so good was that I wasn't really expecting it to be that good. Before Children of Earth, Torchwood was a silly, frankly not that great sci-fi show I watched out of my loyalty to Doctor Who, and my deep and abiding love of Captain Jack. The shame. The shame. (More on that later.) But Children of Earth was riveting, excellent drama.

I'm not going to go on and on about why I thought it was excellent television (which I did). Instead, I'd like to talk about 1) Season 4 and why I don't think there will be one, 2) Ianto dying, and 3) Captain Jack. Why? Because it's my (and Anna's, mainly Anna's, she's much better about posting than I've been lately, I'm sorry children, I will try to do better) blog, and no one can stop me. (Well, really, Anna could stop me quite easily. Perhaps you could band together with her for a mutiny if you really wanted.)

So, stop one. I don't think that there is going to be another season of Torchwood. Of course, since I said that, someone more on top of gossip than I am will leap forth into the comments and tell me it's going to happen. I'm aware that there is (supposedly) a fourth season written, but I'm not anticipating it happening. I think Children of Earth is a good place for Torchwood to stop, for many reasons. For starters, it is always a good idea to go out on top, and CoE is undoubtedly Torchwood's pinnacle. Torchwood is also not a show that was meant to run forever. Unlike Doctor Who (which can theoretically run forever as you can change out the main actor infinitely) or indeed most other shows (where the show can continue for some time as the actors age), Torchwood is not meant to run past a few seasons. It's a show where the main character supposedly doesn't age (except when/if he becomes the Face of Boe. Plot holes yay!). Unfortunately, actors do age, and at some point it would have to go off the air. Also, with only two people left (and one of them floating off in space somewhere), who's going to run Torchwood? I think that the remaining characters could occasionally show up in episodes of Doctor Who. I'm actually really hoping that we can see a discussion between the Doctor and any of the remaining characters in Torchwood about the events of CoE in the next season, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

So, onto the next one. Ianto. Because I have no willpower whatsoever, and people were tweeting things like "OMG, DAY FOUR OF COE, SOOOOO SAD", I had to go looking for spoilers, so I went into Day Four knowing Ianto was going to die. And you know what? It still made me cry, and I was still really upset by it. But it wasn't until much later that I started thinking to myself that it was actually a bit nonsensical that Ianto had died. I mean, it didn't HAVE to be him, really, in my sad little brain at least. Some people have said that it would have been implausible that nobody would have died during the series, and Ianto was convenient. While this is true, when has Torchwood ever been bound by plausibility? It also pissed me off a bit that what's-his-face scientist man (forgive me, it's been two whole weeks, alright?) survived because he put on a hazmat suit, but Jack and Ianto would, for inexplicable reasons, show up to confront an alien force that lives on toxic gas and was threatening the earth with a deadly virus bearing only guns. I mean, really? Ianto always struck me as the kind of guy who would say "You know what, Jack? I think we should procure gas masks" in that kind of situation. Alas, I am not RTD and thus have no say in the matter. One last thought on Ianto's death: I (and a lot of other people) felt disappointed at Ianto's death not just because he was a character I really liked, but because of my perhaps foolish hope that Torchwood would be an exception to the rule that gay couples are not (in most mainstream film and television) allowed to have happy endings. In CoE, the remaining main characters were couples: Jack and Ianto, Gwen and Rhys. Within the show, Gwen has (to me at least) always represented normalcy. Jack is an ex-time agent with serious issues, Ianto hides his cyberwoman girlfriend in the basement, Owen dies and gets resurrected and then dies again, Tosh isn't allowed to love anyone without them turning out to be an evil alien or being taken away from her, but Gwen is Normal. She has a nice, bumbling fiancee, a life and friends outside of Torchwood, and in early episodes is the "human" presence in the organization. As such, it stands to reason that if someone in CoE had to die, it certainly wouldn't be Gwen or Rhys. Why kill half of a straight couple when there's a perfectly good gay couple wandering about? Yes, I'm being sarcastic and bitter and lots of other unpleasant adjectives, but even if it wasn't intentional, Ianto's death felt like just another unhappy ending for a gay couple. Blah.

I will now try to cast off my gloom to trouble you with one last observation, this one regarding Captain Jack. One of the myriad of things that I read people talking about repeatedly after CoE aired was anger over Jack being "turned into" an amoral, unsympathetic character. To these people, I say: have we been watching the same show? While CoE's portrayal of Jack is perhaps a bit more harsh than that of previous seasons, Jack has (in my opinion) never been a squeaky-clean, unproblematic character. He's a womanizing (and... maninizing? Is there a word for that in English? If you know of one you should inform me of it, it would be quite useful) ex-con man who has lived through wars, killed people, watched people die, and is incapable of dying himself (which is bound to make you a bit messed up). He's not exactly a choirboy. Of course some of his actions in CoE (I'm thinking specifically of, well, sacrificing his own grandson) are deeply upsetting, but I think it's a bit disingenuous to claim to be shocked that he would do something you might consider ethically questionable.

Okay, I lied in that last paragraph. I have one more thing to burden you with. I know it belongs in the "blah blah blah fourth series" paragraph, but I wanted to end with it. I've heard a lot of people saying that even if there is a fourth season, they won't watch, because RTD is an asshole (which he totally is, I'm not disputing that. If you don't think he is, I raise my eyebrow at you and encourage you to read this.) I think this is a ridiculous justification. If you don't want to watch Torchwood next season, don't. Don't watch it because you didn't like the writing, or because you can't be bothered now that Ianto is dead. Not watching/listening/consuming something because you don't like the person who produced it might seem like a reasonable idea initially, but in honesty if we all lived that way we'd probably spend our leisure time staring at blank walls. Is RTD an asshole? Yes. But if there's another season of Torchwood, I will be plunked on the couch watching it faithfully, probably cursing him the whole time. It's the way of the masochistic geek.


  1. If indeed there is a Torchwood S4, I think it would be incredibly hard to trop -- or even MEET -- the quality of CoE. So I don't even think they should try.

    I've sometimes foiund it a chore to watch Torchwood (as you say, I stuck through it out of alligiance to Who), but I was blown away by CoE, making it my favoirte Whoverse story (Is Whoverse a word? It is now).

    The problem is, if Torchwood tried to do the epic battle for the fate of the earth every week, it would start to taste tinny and cloying REALLY quickly. This is already a problem with DW (which hopefully Moffat will help correct).

    Whatever TW S4 there is needs to be smaller stories, not unlike S1-2 (except, you know, better), saving huge events like CoE for very special occassions. Not just season finales, but only very occassionally, when there's a kick-ass story that demands it.

    You're right about Jack aging, but it's not anything that fans haven't forgiven in the past. Compare Buffy Season 1 Angel to Angel Season 5 Angel (or Data, or coutless other examples). Lots of immortal characters age, and I just kind of go with it. (Even in old Dr. Who stories when a past Doctor shows up, but the actor is 10 years older than when they last appeared.)

    Anyway, I for one hope for TW S4. There is no way in hell it will be as good as CoE, but it can be better than S1-2, as long as RTD keeps the scope of the story in check (which admittedly, he's really really bad at doing) and if its new (permanent?) home on BBC1 helps keep the budget up for better stories and more effective storytelling.

  2. Good points. (And if Whoverse isn't a word, it should be. I think I've heard Whoniverse before?) I definitely agree with the need to stay away from oh-look-it's-the-end-of-the-world-oh-wait-no-it's-not every week. It's definitely gotten old with Doctor Who. I mean, how many times can you kill all the Daleks?