Russell T. Davies might like to tease death in “Doctor Who” only to pull the rug out from under us and keep everyone alive, at least in the physical sense.
But not in his spinoff series “Torchwood,” which is set to debut its third season on BBC America. Unlike past seasons, where we got to experience the story of Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd) over the course of a few months. This time, we’re getting just five episodes spread out through an entire week.
When that was first announced, many “Torchwood” fans — including me — cried foul. The gradual move from BBC Three to BBC Two and now to BBC One in Britain seemed to imply that “Torchwood” was being made more family friendly, instead of containing the deeper, darker stories we could never, ever find in “Doctor Who.” And five episodes instead of a dozen? BBC had to be against “Torchwood” right?
There is no other way Russell T. Davies and his amazing team of writers could’ve told this story. It had to be done in more or less a super telemovie, and its total execution is not just mesmerizing, it blows you away.
Earth — London in particular — gets visited by a mysterious alien that has apparently visited us in the past, known only as The 456. Where they get their name, you’ll have to watch the miniseries to find out. But these little pesky aliens can’t breathe our air, and come to Earth with a special demand that involves the children of the Earth. Well now you know where that name comes from at least.
Davies said he wanted to create an epic story that would turn everything on its head, and he did just that. With writers John Fay and James Moran joining Davies, we get a complex story and even more detailed characterizations that reveal some of the human elements of our main characters, and the people who are suddenly thrust into how to make the ultimate decision.
If you thought the whole idea of an Osterhagen Key scared you in the Season 4 finale of “Doctor Who,” just imagine what Davies has in store this time around.
For those that questioned how well “Torchwood” would do if it was kicked up a notch, this is your answer: Better than ever.
“Epic” doesn’t even describe these episodes. Webster must go back to his parchment and create a new word beyond that. Maybe we could simply call it “Torchwood.”
I always wanted to know what Capt. Jack was doing during his one or two runs through modern Earth history, and we will finally learn.
But we won’t like the results. Not at all.
Sometimes, “Doctor Who” villains can be a bit two-dimensional, or easy to write off. But there really are no villains here, except maybe for The 456. Every other player on the wrong side of the Torchwood fence have motivations that you not only understand, but can almost empathize with.
Really, if we were put into the position of having to make the same decision: Death of the human race, or giving into the demands of a hostile alien race we know little about, what would we do?
I found myself thinking about it over and over again.
That, however, was one of many decisions that played throughout the miniseries. While these others may not be as big as the one involving The 456, they were definitely huge decisions for those involved — and I will tell you right now, some of the ways those decisions are handled will have you in tears and hugging your family.
What Didn’t Work
There is a senseless death in “Torchwood,” and I didn’t like it. Yes, I know. After last season, senseless death might be the norm. But to be honest, I liked how the characters of Tosh and Owen were handled. It’s still wonderful.
But this time around, this death might evoke a reaction similar to Tasha Yar’s death in the first season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” back in 1988 … that is, if fans had actually cared about Tasha Yar.
While I understand how it could become the final breaking point of a main character to make him do what he or she had to do (it’s tough not revealing spoilers!), it just seemed like this was such a wasted death, and not with the type of heroism we would expect.
But in real life, even heroes can’t always die heroes. And if they had brought this person back in the end, it would’ve been a cheat that probably would’ve resulted in more ire than when “Stargate: Atlantis” brought Carson Beckett back.
So while it goes in my negative column … it’s one I can empathize with.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” stars John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd. It also guest stars some great work from Peter Capaldi, Paul Copley, Nicholas Farrell and Susan Brown.
Parts one, three and five were written by Russell T. Davies, parts two and four by John Fay and Davies getting help with Part 3 by James Moran. All five parts were directed by Euros Lyn.
“Torchwood: Children of Earth” begins Monday, July 20 at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America, with a recap of the first two seasons starting at 8 p.m. the same night. Subsequent episodes will air each night this week through Friday, all beginning at 9 p.m. preceded by an encore of the previous night’s episode at 8 p.m.