by Catriona Mills

Live-blogging Torchwood, Season Three: "Children of Earth" Day Four

Posted 29 January 2010 in by Catriona

I’m drinking gin tonight, in preparation for this episode. Actually, we’re all drinking gin in preparation for this episode. Except Heather.

Speaking of Heather, we had the following conversation earlier:

ME: I’m not sure about this new bra.
HEATHER: By the way, did I tell you I saw this documentary about the Hindenburg?

Did anyone read the comment thread from the live-blogging of the last episode of Torchwood? Because in line with her comments in that, Heather has also spent much of the night wandering around saying things like “Now, Nick, are you sure you’re all right with dinner? Because I am an American, and I’d be happy to tell you how to do it.”

It’s much more fun live-blogging with other people around, I can tell you.

A trailer for Torchwood comes on, and we’re all reminded that there’s likely to be more alien vomiting in this episode.

This episode contains violence. Still no nudity.

We recap the children chanting, Lois wearing the video contact lenses, Jack’s daughter running with her son, the Icy Pole of light and the arrival of the 456, and their request to decimate the children of Earth.


We flash back to Scotland in 1965, an army jeep driving down a road to an army checkpoint. Jack jumps out, in a spiffy coat—looks like an Air Force coat, actually.

The woman whom Jack meets at the checkpoint tells him that the disease the 456 told them about, a new strain of the Indonesian flu, could kill 25 million people, but the 456 are offering a cure.

In exchange for 12 children.

Jack says it sounds like a good deal. He asks the woman if they’ve picked him to hand over the children because he can’t die, but she says no: they want someone who doesn’t care.

And Jack tells the children that they’re going on an adventure, as we see the light flash again. This time, Jack tells them to walk into the light, but Clem resists. He asks Jack if it’s safe, and Jack tells him it is.

Clem walks slowly, and the light flashes brightly before he reaches it: Jack and the others shade their eyes, and Clem runs away across the fields.

Back in our time, Clem tells Jack that he (Jack) is in every nightmare Clem has ever had. Then he grabs a gun and shoots Jack.

Ianto grabs Jack, and Gwen talks Clem down, over Rhys’s objections. Clem, to be honest, is in a mess now, crying and hugging Gwen, because he thinks he’s killed a man.

Yet when Jack comes back to life, Clem freaks out, and runs to the back of the warehouse.

Gwen follows him, saying “At least you get to shoot first and ask questions later. How good is that?” Clem doesn’t seem thrilled by the idea, though: he’s banging his head on a ladder and saying, “This is too much.”

Back at the front of the warehouse, Ianto says he can’t believe Jack didn’t mention this before. Jack says the 456 didn’t talk through children then, so he didn’t immediately recognise the pattern. Ianto says that isn’t what he meant.

MICHELLE: But doesn’t he have an extensive back story? How would he cover it all?

Then the speculation slithers into the question of Jack’s sexual history, so we won’t live-blog that bit.

Alice, being taken into custody by the Woman in Black, tells her that she better hope she’s not angered Jack.

“This,” says the Woman in Black, “from the woman who spent her life running from him?”

“Why do you think I did that?” asks Alice. “A man who cannot die has nothing to fear.”

In Thames House, Frobisher tells the 456 that they need to know what they plan to do with the children, but the 456 say that someone is watching them. (Then they vomit.)

Clem freaks out, saying they know he’s watching, but Torchwood say no, and Frobisher does explain that the PM is watching through the camera set up in the room in Thames House.

He repeats that the PM needs to know what will happen with the children.

And the 456 say, “Come in.” They tell them to bring a camera, and come into the enclosure.

So they suit a man up—not Frobisher, of course—and send him in with a camera to see the 456. He can’t see anything through the fog, but everyone’s watching his footage, including the PM.

And then the 456 is right in front of him. The man pants with fear, but he holds steady.

Decker, reading the computer readouts of the man’s safety suit, says he’s getting three heartbeats, that there are three distinct forms of life in there.

And, sure enough, there are. In a harness, attached to the 456, is a child: bald, with shrivelled skin, but still recognisably a child after more than 40 years.

And he’s awake. He turns his head to the camera, and blinks, slowly.

Lois cries, obscuring Torchwood’s view of the video footage.

Frobisher demands to know what the 456 are doing to the child, and the 456 starts vomiting again, and repeating Frobisher’s insistence from their first meeting about information that is off the record—much to the irritation of the American general who in with the PM.

The 456 tell Frobisher that they do not harm the children, who live long beyond their years. And when Frobisher tells them that is unacceptable, the 456 cut him off, telling him that they have one day to gather the 10% of the Earth’s children previously demanded.

Or what? asks Frobisher.

Or they’ll destroy the entire planet, say the 456.

In the PM’s office, the American general confronts the PM about England’s previous contact with the 456, and isn’t really interested in the PM’s insistence that he was only a child himself in 1965.

Ianto tries to talk to Jack about this, but Jack pushes him away—not physically, but quite brutally, recalling all those earlier conversations about whether they’re a couple or not.

Jack leaves the warehouse to call Frobisher. Frobisher tells Jack to give himself up so that Alice and Steven aren’t harmed, but really he’s just trying to trace the call. Jack hangs up before they can get a fix.

Frobisher, who looks exhausted, is called to a meeting with the PM, who tells them that they have decided to make the 456 an “offer.”

What about the military option? someone asks. But it’s not an option: they can’t even get a fix on the 456’s ship.

So they haggle, about where to find the children.

“It won’t just be Britain, will it?” asks a woman next to the PM.

Oh, not likely.

Frobisher mentions that they have 21 children—21 units, he corrects himself—who will not be missed: they’re failed asylum seekers.

Not enough, says the PM. Can Frobisher bump the numbers up to 60? He thinks he can, so the PM authorises him to go and tell the 456 that they can have 60 units.

Frobisher calls his wife on the way, to tell her that he loves her and the girls.

Frobisher tells the 456 that he has been authorised to offer them one child for every million people on Earth: 6,700 in total, and 62 from the U.K. alone.

“That is not acceptable,” say the 456. But Frobisher repeats the number, clearly, and tells them that’s the offer.

“325,000,” says the 456, as Frobisher leaves. “325,000.”

Then the children start chanting it, all at once. But only the children in the U.K. Children in other countries are saying a different number, which in each case amounts to 10% of the population in that country.

The terminology is spreading: the man telling the PM what these numbers mean says “That’s 10% of the children . . . I mean, the units in this country.” There’s this conscious distancing of themselves from the victims of the 456’s demands. (The man in question is Nicholas Briggs, voice of the Daleks.)

The PM tells his advisors that they are facing a “worse-case scenario” now, and there’s no time for hand-wringing. They need to know how to select the children, and how to sell it to the voters.

One man suggests a random selection, but the woman sitting next to the PM says no one will ever believe that it’s random, and, anyway, they don’t want to risk their children.

She says that if this lottery takes place, then her children aren’t in it. She says she’s simply saying what everyone is thinking, and, sure enough, they say their children warrant protection.

The PM says that there’s no debate: he makes an executive decision, and that’s that the children of everyone in that room is exempt.

“What about nieces and nephews?” the woman, Denise, asks.

The PM tells her not to push it, but she heads into a rant that I wish I could transcribe in total, but I can’t, partly because it’s too long a piece, and partly because I’m clenching my fists too hard to type.

Basically, Denise says that their responsibility is to the future of the country, so shouldn’t they be protecting the successful children, the high-achieving children? And, she adds, if they can’t identify the bottom 10% of children in the country, what are the school league tables for?

(At which point, everyone in my living room shouts “myschool.!” This is a topical time for that piece of dialogue.)

There you have it, the PM says to Frobisher. There’s your 10%.

No one disagrees.

Gwen says that they have enough evidence to convict everyone in that room. Jack and Ianto head off to convince Lois to let them into Thames House, and Ianto rings his sister on the way, to tell her that she mustn’t let anyone take her children away from her.

Rhys leaves with the computer, so there’s an off-site back-up for their evidence.

The People in Black pinpoint Ianto’s location from his phone call.

Frobisher suggests that they come up with a cover story, explaining that the children are being taken off for an inoculation, then, when they don’t reappear, blaming the 456 for double-crossing them.

The People in Black pinpoint Gwen’s location in the warehouse, just as Ianto rings to tell her that he and Jack are at Thames House.

The meeting in the PM’s room starts to break up, but Lois puts her hand up and says that she has something to say. The PM tries to shut her down, but she says she’s a voter. Then Bridget tries to shut her down, and Frobisher, but she won’t listen.

“Oh, great. A revolutionary,” they say, and when Lois says yes, she is, they ask, “You and whose army?”

“Torchwood,” she says.

Michelle cheers.

As Gwen says, “She’s doing it,” Lois tells them that Torchwood have been recording everything that they’ve been saying in this room, and that it will be made public unless they do everything that Torchwood say.

And Jack marches into Thames House, declaring himself “Torchwood.”

The Woman in Black bursts into the warehouse, and Gwen says, “We’ve been expecting you.” The Woman in Black threatens to have Gwen shot while resisting arrest, but Gwen, without flinching, tells her what they’ve been recording, and suggests she sees for herself.

The Woman in Black looks as though no one has ever spoken to her like that.

And Jack marches into the 456’s ambassadorial suite, with Ianto standing on his right.

Jack tells the 456 that they will not be getting the children. He does it in a complicated fashion, and Ianto does it more directly, but they both say the same thing: no children.

The 456 say, “You yielded in the past.”

But Jack says that this time they have recordings. This time, the planet will rise up against the 456 in defense of its children.

The 456 points out that a child dies every three seconds, and the human response is to accept and adapt. But Jack says they’re adapting right now, and they’re making this a war.

“Then,” says the 456, “the fight begins.”

Jack pauses, before he says, “We’re waiting for your reply.”

“Action has been taken,” says the 456. Ooh, nice passive voice, alien dude.

Indeed, they’ve released a virus in Thames House, which is built to withstand chemical attacks. So it’s locked down, air tight, and the occupants are screaming, running down the stairwells.

The PM turns to Lois and asks, “Happy now?”

Jack and Ianto try to shoot through the glass, but the 456 begin a high-pitched screaming, which has Clem clutching at his head.

Jack says they need to get Ianto out of Thames House, but Ianto says it’s too late: he’s breathed the air. He collapses, and Jack catches him.

Clem, screaming, has blood pouring from his ears and his nose, as the 456 say, “The remnant will be disconnected.” He dies in Gwen’s arms, and she leans him back gently.

In Thames House, people are pouring down the stairs, as Decker throws himself into a biohazard suit. But the people find the doors locked against them, and they die piled up against the glass of the doors.

In the 456’s ambassadorial suite, Jack says, “It’s all my fault.”

Ianto says, “No” but Jack tells him to save his breath.

IANTO: I love you.
JACK: Don’t. Stay with me.
IANTO: It was good, yeah?
JACK: Yeah.
IANTO: Don’t forget me.
JACK: Never could.
IANTO: In a thousand years’ time, you won’t remember me.
JACK: I will. I promise, I will.

Ianto dies.

Well, I hope everyone else in my living room is crying, too.

The 456 say to Jack, “You will die. And tomorrow, your people will deliver the children.”

Jack shows no sign of hearing this: he leans over, kisses Ianto, and crumples to the floor.

We pan back from the bodies on the floor of the ambassadorial suite to the 456 watching from behind the glass.

In the PM’s office, the PM breaks the silence by asking what they do.

They have two choice, says a man: they go to war against the 456 or they go to war against their own people.

Their own people it is, they decide.

In Thames House, Gwen walks past rows of shrouded bodies to kneel between Jack and Ianto. She pulls the shroud from Jack’s face, but has to pause and take a deep breath before unshrouding Ianto.

Because Jack comes back to life.

But Ianto doesn’t.

Gwen puts her hand against Ianto’s heart, and weeps. Jack embraces her, and he weeps.

The camera pulls back to show the room full of bodies again, as Gwen says, “There’s nothing we can do.”

Share your thoughts [5]


Melissa wrote at Jan 30, 01:14 am

The emotional blow was blunted this time around by catching my mother up on the past episodes while it was running. That, and she was completely unable to recognise Jack from a profile view, and so kept asking, who the young man was? Heh.


Matthew Smith wrote at Jan 30, 02:57 am

Bit of a downer


Catriona wrote at Jan 30, 10:40 am

I found the emotional blow a bit blunted this time around, too, Melissa, but I think that was purely because I knew what was coming, and I could brace for it.

That said, I really was clenching my fists during Denise’s explanation of which children they should sacrifice to the 456. That didn’t lose any of its impact for me this time.

I’m going to be keeping an eye on Jack’s profile from now on, though.

What I didn’t have time to talk about during the programme was the extraordinary backlash against the show after this episode and, particularly, the accusations of homophobia against Russell T. Davies and some of the other writers (including, unpleasantly, James Moran, who didn’t even write this episode).

That stunned me at the time, because I can’t think of a less homophobic show than Torchwood. (Though I can think of some that are equally not homophobic. What an awkward sentence that was.)

Ianto didn’t die because he was sleeping with a man.

He died because Jack has more hubris than sense.


Wendy wrote at Jan 31, 02:18 am

That conversation round the table about who to send to the 456 was much more intense this time for me as well.

That said, I was more mentally prepared for the sad ending.

It is pretty gloomy though at the end of the episode all round.


Catriona wrote at Jan 31, 03:32 am

Even when you know what’s coming, it’s definitely not the easiest episode to sit through, I agree.

Comment Form

All comments are moderated and moderation includes a non-spoiler policy based on Australian television scheduling.

Textile help (Advice on using Textile to format your comments)
(if you do not want your details filled in when you return)



Monthly Archive