Okay, this is my first review, so feel free to comment on how to improve it. Oh, and there's a conclusion (and TL;DR version) at the bottom if you find this to be a wall of text.
A few weeks ago, BBC ran a five part miniseries of the British show Torchwood over a week. This show; which was named Torchwood: Children Of Earth, did receive some good hype from channels within the BBC network and after its showing was accepted on The Escapist as "fairly good, but the ending was terrible". From a personal point of view, I have to agree with this, and I'll go into more detail later on.
For those of you in countries other than the UK or anyone else who hasn't heard of Torchwood; it is a spin-off of the famous TV series Doctor Who. Based on a secret organisation formed by Queen Victoria, Torchwood's mission is to research paranormal activity, mainly aliens and extra terrestrials. The show itself concentrates on the Cardiff division, where a rift between dimensions (as seen on a previous Doctor Who series) has caused high amounts of alien activity in the capital city of Wales.
Now, although other spin-offs of one of the most popular BBC shows have been attempted, where Torchwood differs is the audience. Whilst most if not all other Doctor Who-based shows have been aimed at children, Torchwood decided to break this mould by aiming at a much older target viewer, a harder audience to satisfy with a serious Sci-fi drama series.
However, whilst it was successful at targeting its audience (with a decent amount of violence, action and romance to interest any teenager); it did have a share of downfalls which were criticised heavily as a result. Whilst the show was exciting and action-based, the plot itself seemed linear and was based around just two characters: firstly, Gwen Cooper, a former police woman who is the newest member of the team and has just joined at the start of Series One: Episode One; and secondly former Doctor Who character Captain Jack Harkness, the head of Torchwood Cardiff; a man who can live for millions of years. Even then, it focused mainly on Captain Jack. When Season Two was shown, whilst it appeared that Russell T. Davies learned from the criticism, the show still seemed to be concentrated on Mr. Harkness. And so we come to this; the latest we have heard from the team and, on first appearance, it does have potential.
The basic plot is that all the children in the world are stopping at the same time, and for this time frame repeating the words 'We are coming.' As a result of this, the UK Government are concerned about a former alien encounter with a creature known as the 456 (because of the frequency the species sent messages and communications on), who wanted twelve children to take to their home planet. Whilst that incident was small enough to cover up at the time, this new meeting is an international phenomenon, so there is a good chance of word about this getting out to the world. Especially as it turns out that the aliens now want 10% of all the children on Earth. To avoid this publicity, Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher has decided to remove this alien species and everything related from the record, including the Torchwood Corporation and, more specifically, Captain Jack Harkness. From there what evolves is a very deep story and whilst I won't give away any spoilers, it has any amount of plot twists and interlaced ideas.
One of the things I like about this plot is the ideas it is based upon. Lots of stuff in this story has significance to real life and something that people need to realise. The very plot of aliens wanting 10% of all the children on earth or they will kill the entire human race presents the idea of a question of morals.
We also have the selfishness of the Prime Minister; Brian Green, a man who will do anything to make himself look good to the public, no matter the consequences for the people who have to pick up the pieces. (Parallels with recent British leaders may be suggested here!) In this case, the person suffering from Brian Green's actions is John Frobisher; who, although he initially appears to be evil, does eventually achieve a type of redemption.
As for the sub-plots, I found them to be one of the best things about the series. Whilst in the previous two seasons the plot appeared thin and linear, this storyline was filled with sub-plots as if they were trying to make up for previous gaps. The most impressive I found was the relationship between Torchwood colleagues Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones. At the beginning, the relationship makes little difference to the plot; Ianto is excited when people talk to them as if they are a couple; Jack doesn't care. But by the end - Episode Four to be exact- you realise how deep their relationship goes, and how much the two actually love each other. It also gives an idea of how serious the show is as well. This is probably the first time a homosexual relationship has been presented in any series related to Doctor Who- let alone been taken seriously- with plenty of drama by the end.
However, there were a couple of things that I don't see any real significance in at all. For example, we have a small storyline featuring Gwen Cooper and her husband Rhys Williams, when it turns out that the Torchwood agent has become pregnant. To be honest, I don't really see the reason for this, it adds nothing to the actual story.
Also, there's one scene in Day Five, which consists of Gwen Cooper making a black and white video talking about how she has lost all faith in humanity. Whilst it is one of the most dramatic scenes in the whole show, I just don't see the point in having it. Okay, it builds tension and gets the message across, but did it really need to be emphasised again?
And then there was the ending to this series. Whilst not wanting to give anything away, I will say, it was terrible. Although it wasn't something the viewer expected, it felt tacked on, added nothing to the plot and will result in annoying loopholes if another series ever gets made. I can't see why they added it nor did almost anyone else whom I have talked to about it or who has commented on the thread linked above. Also, as soon as the scene started to evolve, what was going to happen became predictable. Only thing I kind of liked about it was the acting, but it wasn't any more spectacular than the rest of the show.
To be honest, I found most of the acting brilliant, and the characters played out really well. Special mention should go out to Gareth David-Lloyd (playing Ianto Jones) and John Barrowman (playing Captain Jack Harkness) for exceptional performances, especially in episodes four and five. Here they really start to bring the emotions of their characters into the work, and it does show what they can actually do. But there was one exceptional actor, and that was Paul Copley. He played the crucial character of Clem MacDonald, and it describes him on the Torchwood website as a "Confused old man living in a psychiatric hospital in East Sussex who starts repeating what the children all over Earth are saying when the 456 make contact." Paul Copley manages to fulfil this character flawlessly, with some astonishing work in creating this very difficult personality.
There was only one piece of acting that annoyed me, and that was a very minor one, but it still needs pointing out: The children. For the most of it, they were okay and fitted the characters of- well, children- pretty well, but there was the odd scene that was just bad. During the scenes when the children stood fixed, you could easily pick out the fidgety children, because they were the ones that just wouldn't stand still. And it isn't anything major, but it was annoying and had a bad effect.
Thankfully though, the mood was rescued by the music of the show. The compositions were very good at setting an atmosphere for the scenes, with a heavy use of strings and special effects to build tension and give the effect of something from another world. However effective though they were at setting a mood, they weren't memorable. If you could remember the theme tune, that was it. Nothing stood out and grabbed you, there was very little to remember about specific melodies, it was just minor things going on in the background.
Finally, there's the CGI, which was what you would expect from a BBC budget show nowadays. Exciting, dramatic effects that; for the main part, look realistic with the odd one-or-two cock-ups and over-dramatic explosions such as the one that blows up Torchwood Head Quarters. Whilst being impressive and bringing an exciting mood to the scene, not really that different from other shows. What impressed me the most though, were the aliens. They appeared to be done on such a low budget, yet were still terrifying. They were nothing more than giant models in a room filled with opaque gas. And it was because there was so little shown that they were so creepy.
Conclusion/ TL;DR Version
Overall, it was a very impressive show. Whilst it contained the odd part which was unnecessary or just plain bad; and whilst the ending was stupid, pointless and apparently stuck on as a last-minute way to fill in the time; in its entirety, it was a genuine pleasure to watch. Acting was good and the plot kept you always wanting to see what happened next, despite some rather depressing interludes.
From what I can tell, it's $26 on the internet and maybe a little more expensive in stores; buy it now whilst it's out.