Monday signalled the beginning of a week of mass mayhem, Scotland versus England humour, and alien threats to the security of our planet. Yes, I'm talking about the American and Canadian premiere of season 3 of Torchwood, aka Torchwood: Children of the Earth. If you've been living under a rock for the past year, this is a five-part miniseries format change to accompany Torchwood's move to BBC One.
For those of you in Canada who missed the broadcast or who don't get Space, you're in luck! You can watch Torchwood online for up to seven days after it airs on television. Now, the CBC has also been good about making its television shows available online; they've shafted Doctor Who and Torchwood over and over, however, so I'm happy to see them finding a new home on Space. Space will also be showing the Easter Doctor Who special, Planet of the Dead, this Saturday.
I must confess that I'm not in love with Torchwood the way I'm in love with Doctor Who. I watched the first two seasons sporadically. The only character who really fascinates me is Captain Jack, with his TARDIS-conferred immortality. Beyond that, the storytelling was inconsistent--just like the storytelling on Doctor Who, but without the compelling character of the Doctor to pull you along anyway. And the set for Torchwood looks like a melange of steampunk and James Bond villain base of doom.
That being said, Children of the Earth "Day One" was pretty good. Not awesome, but satisfactory television. Russell T. Davies has worked in his usual humour--you know things are bad when the main characters begin making jokes, and things are worse when they stop making jokes because they're running for their lives. My favourite line was probably when Gwen has to run back inside the Torchwood complex after talking to a new potential member of Torchwood. He asks, "What's in there?" and she replies, "A science fiction superbase ... seriously."
People who are unfamiliar with Torchwood in general will miss a lot of the subtext, particularly when it comes to Jack and Ianto's relationship. There's a couple of new twists that address Jack's immortality, one from a characterization point of view that shows why it sucks, and one from a plot point of view that shows why it makes him vulnerable. However, there's still plenty of a self-contained story to keep viewers interested. When all of the children on Earth (hence the title) just completely stop for several minutes and begin speaking in a weird alien voice ... well, that may just be suspicious enough for Torchwood to investigate.
I get the idea that we aren't supposed to like the people at the Home Office. In addition to the fact that Mr. Frobisher orders government officials to kill Captain Jack (because, you know, that's going to work...), they're pretty useless. The Prime Minister is even more useless, refusing to get involved in a threat to international security and instead saying, "You never told me this" and telling Mr. Frobisher to deal with it.
I like how as an organization Torchwood has become a non-secret and fairly run down. Considering Davies killed off its three other main characters last season, it's a good symbol for what has happened to the show too--always a bit experimental, Torchwood has taken risks that didn't pay off (and some that did). I'm just glad it's not on Fox; they would have stuck it in a Friday night time-slot and then cancelled it for poor ratings....
In related news, io9 has plenty of photos of the new Doctor's look and the redesigned exterior of the TARDIS (no word on what the interior looks like yet). Also a tip about who will be coming back to guest star. Fun fun! Be careful when browsing the site though, since they have some Torchwood-related spoiler articles.