by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Moffat's Women (Via Tor)

Posted 30 January 2010 in by Catriona

This never has been a link blog, but sometime I come across things that I really want to share, and this is one of them.

Thanks to a link that Matt Smith tweeted today, I’ve come across a series on about Steven Moffat’s women.

My deep and abiding love for Doctor Who is no surprise to anyone reading this blog—or, if it is, hit the link to “Doctor Who” on the right there.

My deep and abiding love for Steven Moffat is no surprise, either.

So how could I not offer these links?

I suspect the series is incomplete: after all, Steven Moffat also created River Song.

But here are the first three parts:



Sally Sparrow.

(On a side note, I spent some time while reading these wondering if the writer had ever watched Press Gang. If you grew up on Lynda Day, you tend to expect strong women from Steven Moffat—and he hasn’t let me down yet.)

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.”

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

Posted 22 January 2010 in by Catriona

So, I’ve been called into this by Nick shouting “It’s starting!” while I was on the verandah with Michelle, so there’s some connubial irritation right now.

[Note: is “connubial” even the word I meant? I really need to rethink my “not live-blogging Torchwood sober” rule. And also my new “not commenting on my live-blogging of Torchwood sober” rule.]

Also, Heather has just updated both my Facebook page and my Twitter, so there is that.

Actually, the episode is starting, so I should talk about that now.

We start with the explosion from the week before last, then Lois in the cafe with Rhys and Gwen, and then Decker emphasising that they’re coming for Britain.


Aerial shot over London. Heather bemoans the lack of parking garages, Nick bemoans the lack of weevils.

But Ianto cuts the lock into a warehouse, which will be the new Torchwood.

The news networks are going nuts, because now is “tomorrow,” when the 456 said that they’d be coming.

In the garage, there’s a sofa and a drum full of fire. Jack is mostly worried about the fact that he’s wearing tracksuit bottoms, while Gwen is worried that they have no resources.

Jack indicates that he knew that Gwen was pregnant before Rhys knew, which pisses Rhys off, though Gwen says “He just happened to be there.”

PRIME MINISTER: In light of what is happening, we’ve temporarily closed all the schools.
HEATHER: And shot all the children.

The Prime Minister makes a public statement.

ME: What did I miss?
MICHELLE: Oh, the girl. In government. With the gorgeous lips?
ME: Yes?
MICHELLE: Oh, she just looked at someone. I was looking at her lips. I didn’t really see.

Ianto’s sister is running a daycare, since the schools are closed, and Jack’s daughter still can’t get through to his mobile phone.

In the Torchwood Warehouse, they don’t have enough equipment. But Gwen says that she trained with the police, and she knows all the tricks. So they just steal whatever they need, including cars, briefcases, and computers.

Alice, Jack’s daughter, runs across the road to borrow someone’s mobile phone. We have a brief but complicated discussion about whether her pants are too tight. (The consensus, if you’re interested, is that too tight around the bottom is fine.)

Her call is traced, because of the key term “Jack Harkness.” This is her, not the woman whose phone she borrowed. And so they know that her parents are “placeholder names,” people who never actually existed.

Ianto comes back into the Warehouse, with food and clothes for everyone including “army surplus” clothes for Jack, who strolls in saying, “I’m back” to overwhelming support.

Gosh, he’s pretty.

Clem, in a pub, has another meltdown and a flashback to the other children walking into the light. Police come into the pub and try to grab him—we know, thanks to our subtle Wikipedia searching last week, that police are under the control of the Home Secretary.

That’s lucky, because Gwen now approaches Lois, who works for the Home Secretary.

Lois is reluctant to help, because she says that this is treason. (Sorry, got distracted by a conversation about whether Gwen’s hair colour is natural or not.) But Gwen is convincing Lois to wear contact lenses that will, basically, allow Torchwood to see through Lois’s eyes.

Lois says that this will put her right in the front line and, she adds, she can’t get onto floor 13 (where they’re building the cage for the 456) even if she does get into Thames House.

Jack, looking on the computer, says that Frobisher (John Forbisher, Permanent Secretary to the something that passed too quickly for me to read) is the key, but he’s a nobody. Then Ianto distracts him (firstly) by asking about whether Jack felt the explosion and then (secondly) whether Jack will just watch Ianto age and die, and just move on.

The distraction is Ianto finding out that Clem has been arrested. He sends Gwen off—“You’re a policewoman”—to get him out.

Meanwhile, Jack has what Heather has called a “lightbulb moment,” realising that he knows the three other people who were killed the day he was blown up.

In the Black Ops Secret Computer Room, the Woman in Black has found out that Alice Carter is Jack’s daughter. She calls Frobisher, who says to “bring her in.” Frobisher tells Bridget that they’re transferring to Thames House, and Lois, in desperation, says that Frobisher asked her to come to Thames House.

BRIDGET: What for? Why on Earth would he need you?
LOIS: It was a . . . private conversation.
BRIDGET: You’re not the first, you know. Don’t go thinking you’re the first.

We debate whether Bridget is in love with her boss (me) or just jaded about politics in general (Nick).

Gwen rings Andy, and has him, basically, lie to Camden Police to have Clem released. Clem cries when she arrives, and we all feel sorry for him.

Alice, meanwhile, is not stupid, and realises that someone has come for her. She grabs her son, and a gun, and legs it. (We have another brief discussion about how unflattering her pants are.) But she’s trapped by the Woman in Black, who talks Alice into putting down her gun by pondering whether Alice or her son are as immortal as Alice’s father.

But while Alice puts down her gun and the kitchen knife she stashed in her (unflattering) waistband, she realises the her son, Steven, is pointing at something in the sky. The Woman in Black turns to see what.

But all the children are pointing.

As is Clem.

NEWSREADER: Once again, all the children have stopped. Every child in the world.
MICHELLE: You don’t know that!
HEATHER: Yeah, there are probably some children in a cave somewhere.
MICHELLE: What about children without arms?

The news reader points out that everyone is pointing to London, and children in London are pointing to the centre.

MICHELLE: Where are children in the centre of London pointing?

They’re pointing, as it turns out, to a fiery spike of energy (which Michelle describes as “an Icy Pole of light, but not icy. You know, fiery”), which shoots from the sky and down into the cage in Thames House.

The children intone, “We are here.”

In Thames House, Frobisher tries to speak to the alien, but there’s just a lot of screaming, thrashing around, and what looks like vomiting.

(HEATHER: Space travel. Upsets my tummy.)

We might not quote Heather much in the rest of the episode, as she has a real talent for making the upsetting seem funny. Case in point: Frobisher asks what the 456 want, and Heather responds, “No more vomiting,” to which Michelle adds “And maybe something with electrolytes.”

What the 456 actually want is the chance to speak to the whole world. Frobisher points out that it doesn’t work like that, and in fact they’d only be speaking to elected representatives.

The 456 agree to that, which is a relief to Heather, because, as she says, what would they have done if the 456 didn’t agree?

The 456 do agree, and they further agree to keep the “previous encounter” with Earth (namely, with Great Britain) be kept secret, for the sake of future agreements with humanity.

Frobisher leaves the room, and slides down the far wall as though his legs are rubber.

The PM, meanwhile, is being reamed by an American general, who accuses them of establishing “the sovereign court of Great Britain” and hosting an “alien ambassador” on British soul. Apparently, the American President is quite furious about this.

The PM offers to step back, and let the civil service take charge.

I call for another glass of wine.

The American general says the civil service are still British, but the PM says they’re not elected, so there’s no accountability. Plus, he says, Frobisher is expendable.

Frobisher knows that that means, and rings his wife. His wife says she’ll be fine, and drops her phone—whereupon Jack sneaks in, picks it up, and leaves.

The media are calling it “the so-called pillar of fire,” and Michelle says that that’s what she meant, a “pillar of fire” not an “Icy pole.” I say it’s too late: “Icy pole” is on the blog.

Jack rings Frobisher on his wife’s phone, and Jack says this is 1965 all over again. He asks Frobisher if they’ve “come back” and Frobisher says “yes.”

Jack says that he can blow this sky high (his words: the cliche is not mine), but Frobisher says that they have Alice and Steven, so Jack will do what they say.

I ask Nick if there’s a possum rummaging in our rubbish bin. There isn’t.

Jack threatens to grab Frobisher’s wife, but Frobisher says that Jack is a better man than he (Frobisher) is.

Back in the warehouse, Clem is drinking tea and eating heartily.

He points his tea mug at Ianto, and tells Gwen that Ianto’s queer: he can smell it. Slightly problematic, perhaps, but he could smell pregnancy.

In Thames House, Frobisher is counting down, and Lois excuses herself to put the contact lenses in after all. (Rhys and Gwen reveal that they took the lenses home “for a bit of fun”—Rhys says that it took him a while to get used to it—and Ianto says, “Yeah. Well. We’ve all done that.”)

In the elevator, Bridget points out that history will says that, whatever happens here, the PM was not at fault. Frobisher already knows this.

(Matt? Stop tweeting! It’s distracting!)

Through Lois’s lenses, they can see the tank.

(No one is feeding me Wagon Wheels this week. That’s disappointing. Technically, no one fed me Wagon Wheels last week, but there was the promise of Wagon-Wheel feeding, and that was sufficient.)

Lois angles herself around so that she can see Frobisher’s lips—as he offers greetings from various countries—because the software Torchwood are using for voice recognition isn’t so good in profile.

Apparently, Australia sent greetings.

For shame.

The 456 respond with more apparent vomiting, which, really, is kind of foul. Frobisher holds himself upright. He says “I’m sorry, but I can’t help being concerned. Is there a problem?” They mimic his words back at him, so he simply asks if they should continue.

His main point is that they ask the 456 not to use their children for communication. Everyone is hanging on the answer to this, but the 456 simply say “Yes.”

The American general, in the PM’s office, tells them to ask why they came to the U.K. The PM says that probably isn’t important, but the general says, “Ask them.”

HEATHER: And the U.S. steps in!

Frobisher asks the question, though he isn’t happy about it. But the 456, in line with their previous agreement, says that the U.K. has no significance: “You are middlemen.”

Sure, but have you seen The Middleman? Because that was awesome!

The 456 ask for a gift.

Of course, says Frobisher. What would they like?

Your children, says the 456.

HEATHER: Yeah, see, well, probably best to find that out first.

Clem, of course, freaks out at this. He says they’re coming back, just as they did before. And he loops: “He’s coming. He’s coming. He’s coming.”

He means Jack.

Frobisher, in shock, asks what they mean by “children.”

“Your descendants,” say the 456.

How many? asks Frobisher.

“10%,” say the 456.

ME: They’re going to decimate them!
HEATHER: Decimate!

Back in the warehouse, Gwen disputes Clem’s response, saying that Jack fights aliens.

“Isn’t that right?” she asks Jack.

“No,” says Jack.

And he says that in 1965, he gave them twelve children.

“Why?” Gwen asks.

And Jack says, “As a gift.”


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

Posted 15 January 2010 in by Catriona

Now I did warn you that I wouldn’t do this live-blogging sober. I was tipsy last week. I’m a little more tipsy this week: Michelle wasn’t drinking last week, and it’s always more depressing drinking on your own, isn’t it?

On that note, Michelle and Heather are joining us again this week. After all, I did swear that I wouldn’t live-blog this on my own.

We’re in ads at the moment, but I’m sure it will start at any moment. Honestly, it will.

This episode contains violence.

HEATHER: Violence!? Is that because Jack blew up in the last episode? Is that the violence you mean?

We get a recap of the last episode, at which point Michelle realises that she misunderstood the last episode: she read Ianto heading up on the elevator as Jack being blown up through the roof.

We come back to Gwen coming to in the aftermath of the explosion—I was distracted briefly by the offer of Wagon Wheels, which turned into a slightly odd offer, in which Michelle offered to hold the Wagon Wheel while I took bites out of it [Note: I think I made this sound weirder than it needed to sound] and when I pay attention again, Gwen is being attacked in an ambulance by two seeming paramedics, who said they were told there should be no survivors. She fights them off, and legs it.

Inato, meanwhile, is pulling himself out of the wreckage of the Hub, and legging it through the streets while being shot at.

NICK: Man, he’s really lucky they can’t shoot straight.
HEATHER: Yeah, you’re not weaving enough, Ianto. Be lighter in your loafers. Lighter!

Frobisher gets a phone call from the woman in black: he tells his wife that their daughters are safe now, but the woman in black tells him that “targets two and three” escaped, and then Decker from MI-something shows up on his doorstep.

Deckers says the transmissions from the 456 are instructions for something that they want built. Frobisher asks why they would attack the children, and Decker says, “Because they can.”

Michelle thinks that’s unsatisfactory from a plot perspective.

Gwen ends up in the ambulance again, and shoots bit of the surviving assassin until he tells her that he doesn’t work for the NHS as he previously claimed, but for the government.

The police seal off the Hub, and Andy objects to the woman in black’s claim that Gwen is dangerous. Sadly, this attracts the woman’s attention to Andy, and she says, “You must know where she lives.”

Gwen bursts into the flat and tells Rhys they need to get out of there.

And the woman in black and her men head across the city, sirens blaring—much to Michelle’s disapproval—on their way to Gwen’s flat. Andy is uncomfortable but unwilling to go against the people with guns.

As they leave the flat, Ianto rings, but he knows the phone is bugged, so they can’t set up a place to meet.

And the woman in black and her men arrive, but Gwen shoots their tires out and she and Rhys escape.

Andy thinks this proves that Gwen isn’t a terrorist, but the woman says she’s just a clever terrorist.

And the next place they look is at Ianto’s sister’s house, where there’s a slightly disconcerted response in my living room to the fact that Ianto’s brother-in-law is naked when they burst into his bedroom.

Ianto, meanwhile, walks through the Cardiff streets and ducks into corridors [Note: or even alleyways] as vans pass.

The next morning, Frobisher tells his daughters to keep their phones on during the day, though they point out that the phones will be confiscated if they ring during class. He says he wants to speak to them, and they say, “Since when?” But they’re not too freaked out, because they say “Dad?” and then start intoning, “We want a pony. We want a pony. We want a pony.” “See?” he says. “Nothing to worry about.” But he looks terrified.

Clem wanders the street, and pulls out a newspaper. And Alice’s son asks whether Uncle Jack doesn’t work in the area of Cardiff that blew up, but Alice says that Cardiff is a big place.

Lois comes to work, and checks out the order to kill list, with Jack’s name on it.

Frobisher, meeting the Prime Minister, asks if the 456 have contacted any other countries. He says that’s what everyone is asking, but the Prime Minister says there’s no chatter on the wire. Frobisher thanks the Prime Minister for trusting him, but the PM says all he’s done is put Frobisher on the front line: “That’s what the front line is for,” he says. “The first to fall.”

The rescue team find Jack’s arm in the rubble of the Hub.

We have a brief but scintillating discussion about which of these characters are queer. Apparently, Alice is, but Lois is not—though some people in my living room wish she were. The discussion on Bridget is more divisive.

Lois tells Frobisher about the meeting with Jack, but Frobisher says that Jack is dead, killed in the explosion.

We know that’s questionable, since they’ve pulled Jack’s arm, shoulder, and “part of a head” out of the rubble, and loaded it into a private ambulance that attracts Heather’s scorn: “They’re Black Ops!” she says. “Do you think Black Ops would spray paint ‘Private Ambulance’ on their vans?”

Ianto gets a message to his sister, reading, “Where Dad broke my leg, at noon. Bring laptop.” Ianto’s sister is uncertain about this, but her husband says that she’s the only family Ianto has.

Rhys tries to get money from an ATM, but his account has been frozen. (And I missed the adorable scene where Rhys tried to take the bag off her, Gwen got offended, and Rhys said, ‘You want your trigger finger free, don’t you?’)

Gwen says they need to go to London.

In the secret Black Ops headquarters, the body bag containing the arm, shoulder, and part of a head now contains a skinless body. The woman in black rings Frobisher to tell him that Jack’s “Lazarus qualities” remain undiminished, as Frobisher heads off with Bridget and Lois to check out the structure being built at the 456’s orders.

Gwen and Rhys head into a truck full of potatoes, sneaking in under the canvas to hitchhike their way to London.

Ianto’s brother-in-law head out to the car watching his house with a group of young men and boys, claiming that they obviously have “a couple of paedos” on the estate, and they begin rocking the car as Ianto’s sister escapes to meet her brother.

Jack, in Black Ops headquarters, comes to and starts screaming. And screaming. And screaming.

Gwen, riding on top of the potatoes, feels ill. Rhys asks if she’s travel sick, but she asks when he’s ever known her to be travel sick.

GWEN: You know those announcements that you rehearse in your head?
RHYS: Yes?
GWEN: Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

Rhys gets her point fairly quickly, but then he freaks about the car chases and the gun fights.

RHYS: How could I let you do that in your condition?
GWEN: You carried my bag.

I love, love, love Rhys in this storyline.

Ianto meets up with his sister, who is horrified by his bloody, dishevelled condition, and asks what kind of civil servant he is.

IANTO: An under-appreciated one.

Then they see that all the children have frozen again. But now they’re chanting, “We are coming. Tomorrow. We are coming. Tomorrow.”

And Clem, standing in a pub, is chanting too.

Ianto realises that this is why they tried to blow up the Hub, as Clem, coming to in the pub, asks the barmaid, “Oh, can you smell that?” He runs out into the street, shouting, “They are coming tomorrow. I can smell them!”

Ianto nicks his sister’s laptop and car, and leaves.

Frobisher is largely concerned with his daughters, and, second to that, the Prime Minister.

We take a brief break while I look up the Home Secretary on Wikipedia so we can all be sure exactly what he does in the running of the U.K.

Gwen, ringing the Home Secretary’s office, is lucky enough to get through to Lois. She wants to meet with Frobisher, and she and Rhys wait in a cafe for him. Rhys asks if they can trust Frobisher, and Gwen says that he’s their man in government: if they can’t trust him, they really are in trouble.

And, of course, they can’t trust him. But they can trust Lois! Hopefully, because she turns up at the cafe, telling Gwen that Frobisher gave the order to kill Jack Harkness, along with four others, killed the same day.

LOIS: I didn’t sign the Official Secrets Act to cover up murder. But I didn’t take the job to commit treason on my second day.

Rhys talks Lois out of enough money to buy them dinner—they’ve come all the way from Cardiff on an empty stomach, after all. (Gwen says she’ll have a steak pie, chips, and a cup of tea, and winks at Rhys. I can’t express how adorable that is.) Gwen asks about Ianto and Jack, and learns that Ianto is missing, and Jack is apparently dead.

Jack is not dead, but he might wish he is, because they’re filling his jail cell with what we want to call cement, but Michelle says, “Didn’t you watch Bones the other day? It’s not cement, it’s wet concrete.”

Ianto watches them do this.

In the meantime, Lois gives Rhys and Gwen a way to intercept the undertaker who has been sent to collect the doctor’s body, the doctor who betrayed Jack. His body is being held in the same complex as Jack.

Frobisher heads back up to the top of Thames House (home of MI5) in the company of the PM, where a cage is being built for the 456.

Rhys and Gwen, in dark clothing, head into the compound, still claiming to be there to pick up the doctor’s body. Rhys is terrified, insisting that they aren’t going to get away with this, but Gwen is confident.

Gwen, heading through the building, is being chatted up by a soldier, who wishes that more undertakers looked like her. Rhys thinks he’s blown their cover, but in fact the soldier is just distressed to find out that they’re married.

Apparently, the soldier is called “Corporal Camarra,” which confuses me because I thought they said “Cobra Commander.”

Gwen, meanwhile, takes him down and takes the cameras out with the magic pen that she used when talking to Clem. But it’s not much help, because there are Black Ops troops at either side of the corridor, and Gwen has just found that Jack is encased in concrete.

[Note: I originally spelt that “Black Ops troupes,” which I would love to leave for the comedy value alone. But it’s just too silly.]

But at the point, Ianto, in a bulldozer, pulls Jack’s entire cell out of the wall as a single concrete block, and Gwen and Rhys leap out after it and onto the bulldozer.

Rhys and Gwen manage to block pursuit by setting fire to a petrol tanker, while Ianto drives his bulldozer to a quarry. Ianto tells Gwen to get the car started, while he raises the concrete block high, high, high over the quarry floor, and then drops it.

HEATHER: Please, lord, let gravity work.

And it does work.

HEATHER: I think he’d be broken a little bit.
ME: Doesn’t matter.
HEATHER: I know. But, you know, ow.

Nevertheless, Jack is alive—and naked, but he’s never cared about that. And, in fact, when Gwen hands him a jacket, he slings it over his shoulder and walks off to the car, otherwise naked.

Heather has some concerns about the effect on the car’s upholstery, while Michelle wonders if deaf kids sign the 456’s message.

At the top of Thames House, the tank is filled with gases that I have no chance of reproducing, given the speed with which Decker lists them.

So the tank is ready, the whole room is laid out according to 456 instructions—“Something of an ambassadorial suite,” says Decker. “Or a throne room. Or a slaughterhouse.”

Bridger wonders why the 456 seem to be coming for Britain, and Decker says, “Exactly. Why is that, Mr Frobisher?”

Frobisher doesn’t answer: he and Bridget leave the room, and we close with Decker heading up to the tank, and breathing out heavily, fogging the glass with his breath.

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

Posted 8 January 2010 in by Catriona

Oh, I don’t think I’m ready for this. Then again, I don’t think I’d ever be ready for this.

I said to Nick, “I’ll do it, but I’m not doing it alone and I’m not doing it sober.”

So I’m quite tipsy, and also Michelle and Heather have come over to see us through the black, black nihilism that is Torchwood season three.

And here we are.

Oooh, this episode contains violence, but no sex or nudity.

HEATHER: I don’t know if I can watch it. It’s for mature audiences. I’m an Australian now.

We open in 1965, with a busload of children being driven across a green and verdant landscape—a green and pleasant land, even—and then all herded out of the bus to stand in the road.

A bright light appears, and the children all walk towards it bar one, who hesitates.


Cardiff, present day. We see Gwen accessing an ATM, where she hears a woman nagging her son for standing there and not listening to her. She smiles and looks back.

A busy man in a suit is chattering to his wife, unaware that his children are staring straight ahead.

An attractive dark-haired woman finds her son standing catatonic in the doorway. Rhys swears at children stopping in the middle of the road. Another dark-haired woman nags her children.

Then the original dark-haired woman is back, as her son, Steven, comes back to life and continues his forward movement.

Gwen reaches the Torchwood Hub, which is completely silent and dark. Of course, there are fewer staff members now than there used to be.

And Jack and Ianto are in a hospital, listening to a young doctor tell them that “poor Mr Williams” won’t be making it after all—he’s just died.

They tell the doctor that they’re his neighbours, and the doctor says, “If only there were more like you in the world.”

Ooh, meta.

Being such good neighbours, Jack says, could they see the body?

Of course they can, says the doctor—and, after a brief discussion about whether they actually are a couple or not, Ianto hands Jack a laser saw, so they can chop the man open and remove the alien parasite living inside him.

The doctor witnesses this, and isn’t entirely thrilled by the whole process. He chases Jack and Ianto into the carpark, insisting that they’re Torchwood.

JACK: Never heard of them.
NICK: It only says it on your car, Jack.

The doctor mentions some mysterious deaths, but Ianto says that the NHS has too much red tape, and they pass on the opportunity to explore it further.

We cut to an attractive young woman in a power suit heading into an official-looking building, past the man we saw ignoring his two young daughters earlier. As he heads into his office to consult with a general—he says there’s a problem with the children—the young woman apologises for being late.

We hear the story of the children half from Gwen, who tells us about the traffic accidents involving children, and half from the general speaking to the public servant, who fleshes out the information that first Gwen and then Ianto are giving us: the problem involves the children and is occurring worldwide.

The general is from UNIT, so we know this probably involves something a bit alien.

At the Hub, Jack is complaining that Martha Jones is on holiday—and, oh, I could talk about that, but I won’t. Spoilers!—just as Ianto says that the doctor is back.

Not the Doctor, the doctor.

Gwen heads out to talk to the doctor—nominating herself “recruitment officer” and complaining that they used the same trick on her, once upon a time—while Ianto says to Jack that even Gwen is calling them a couple.

Jack asks why that’s significant, and walks off saying he hates the word “couple.”

IANTO: Me, too.

Oh, bless you, Ianto. Pretty lad like you? You don’t need to put up with Jack’s moods.

Gwen chats to the doctor about the strange details of Torchwood work and the vast paycheck—she used to buy clothes and stash them under the bed so that Rhys wouldn’t see them.

The doctor talks about the alien awareness that is gripping Earth, and how it has led to an increase in suicides. He talks about one particular woman, who had been a Christian all her life, and left a suicide note saying that it was as though science had won. She said she had seen her place in the universe, and it was tiny.

I’ll say it again: most nihilistic show on television.

But as Gwen is explaining the wonder of alien contact, she sees that the children have frozen. Again.

HEATHER: Nothing creepier than children not moving.

The children start screaming in unison, a single, high-pitched scream that goes on and on without pause for breath.

HEATHER: Okay, that’s creepier.

They stop screaming, just for a moment.

Then they start speaking in unison, saying, at first, “We . . . we . . . we” over and over again, then “We are . . . we are . . .” and finally “We are coming. We are coming.”

Over and over. All the children.

And one man. One man who seems to be in his mid-50s.

The public servant demands that someone bring him a child, but the children snap out of it, and continue playing as though they have no idea that they’ve paused in their actions.

All bar the man, who says to his carers that “They’ve found me.”

In the public servant’s office, all is chaos. His private secretary, Bridget, asks Lois, the new girl, to set up an automated e-mail for the press, and hands over her e-mail password.

A man called Decker comes to see Frobisher—the public servant—and says, “456. I warned you.”

Meanwhile, Lois answers the phone to Jack, who explains that he’s Torchwood and, when she doesn’t know what that is, asks how she can work for the Home Office and not know Torchwood.

Thankfully, she has Bridget’s password, so she can get into what Heather calls “the secret government Wikipedia page” on Torchwood, and read all about it.

Frobisher, meanwhile, is taken by Decker to Thames House—where, as Nicks says, the MIs live—where he is played a secret recording from the 456 channel. But, Decker says, the 456 channel is still open, and nothing’s come through that, only through the children.

Frobisher says that the Prime Minister will have to be told, but Decker doesn’t seem to think it’s important: he says that the 456 precede the Prime Minister anyway.

Back at the Hub, Gwen points out that all the children all over the world are speaking English, which seems odd. Jack says that if you scanned the Earth from outside, English would look like the dominant language, but Ianto says that would be Chinese—Mandarin, actually, he says.

So that’s a problem in and of itself.

But Gwen is distracted by the footage of Timothy, the man who spoke in unison with the children. She heads off to speak to him, over in England. On route, she talks to Rhys, who is looking at a house for sale they planned to view. And Rhys points out that if the second event was planned around recess, when most children would be out in the playground, that implies that whoever is responsible is looking directly at the U.K. It’s worldwide, he says, but aimed at the U.K.

Jack, talking to Ianto, says they need a child. Ianto asks where they’ll find a child, but Jack walks off, saying he’ll see Ianto later.

In the Prime Minister’s office, Frobisher listens to the PM talk about how it was much easier when the only threat was reds under the bed. Frobisher says that they’ll need to issue a blank sheet, but the PM says that he won’t be involved with this at all: the blank sheet needs to rest with Frobisher.

Jack turns up at the house of the attractive dark-haired woman we saw earlier, where her son Steven greets him as “Uncle Jack.”

And Ianto heads to see his sister, the other dark-haired woman we saw earlier, asking to take his niece out to Mcdonald’s or to the films this afternoon. The sister says no: her daughter’s not leaving her sight, not while the alien weirdness is going on.

Jack sits and drinks tea with Alice, asking how Steven is going and her ex-husband. She mentions that Jack doesn’t visit much, and he says that was her decision: “I just can’t stand it, Dad,” she says.

Jack makes the same suggestion that Ianto did, that he could spend time with his grandson, but Alice knows her father, and calls him a bastard: “You’re not experimenting on that child, Dad,” she says. That’s why she wants him to stay away: because he’s dangerous.

Ianto’s sister, meanwhile, is asking about Jack. A friend of hers saw him out with Jack, and says Jack was film-star handsome. He remains a little aloof, until he’s prompted to say, “He is very handsome.”

He tells his sister that it’s not men: it’s just Jack. And he doesn’t quite know what it is, so he doesn’t talk about it. His sister says she won’t talk about it, just as her husband comes in and greets Ianto (albeit affectionately) as “gayboy.”

To Ianto’s comparative relief, the Torchwoodmobile is stolen at that point.

Gwen, meanwhile, is in England—she has already told Rhys “farewell forever” and told him that she’s had her shots—talking to Timothy White, which she knows (through a culturally specific reference that escapes me) is a fake name. Timothy was found sleeping rough on the streets at age eleven, and still had a Scottish accent then. The staff know nothing of his history.

Gwen, in an interview room with him, says she thinks it’s aliens speaking through Timothy. Timothy says there’s no such thing as aliens, but Gwen says those days are past: she’s seen aliens, she says. Timothy grabs her hand and sniffs it deeply, finally declaring in surprise that she’s telling the truth.

When Gwen turns off the security camera in the room with her “gizmo,” Timothy—still refusing to tell her his real name—tells her the story we saw part of at the beginning of the episode, with much stuttering and hesitation. He says that the children on the bus were all from children’s homes, and they disappeared into a white light: all but him.

Gwen says she can help him, but she needs to know his real name: he says, hesitatingly, that it’s Clem, Clement Macdonald.

But as Gwen pushes him for more information about his background, Clem sniffs deeply and says, “You’re pregnant.”

“No,” says Gwen. “No, I don’t think so.”

And the nurse breaks into the room at that point, saying that the security cameras went down, but that Gwen has spent enough time with Clem anyway.

Gwen asks Ianto to check up the name Clement Madonald, and someone in the Home Office intercepts the search.

Frobisher tells Bridget he has some work for her: he gives her a blank sheet of paper.

NICK: God. You’d need to be careful with your stationary re-supplying, wouldn’t you?

Sure enough, the blank page is an order to kill, with Lois realises when she sees Bridget’s distress and promptly checks Bridget’s e-mails.

And Captain Jack, checking out a report from the young doctor from earlier, is shot from behind. A woman in dark fatigues comes in, as the doctor complains that he was supposed to infiltrate Torchwood. She asks him if he killed the patient he used to lure Jack in, and, when he admits he did, tells him to get off his high horse.

The doctor asks is they think it’s true about Jack and, as Jack comes to life, the woman shoots him again. So, that’s a yes, then.

Then she cuts Jack open with his own laser scalpel.

At the home, Clem, somehow aware that the Home Office is sending its police after him, legs it across the grounds.

The woman in fatigues shoots the doctor in the back as he tries to flee, and the mysterious men (and women) in black walk unhurriedly down the corridor as Jack comes back to life.

Jack and Gwen both head back to the Hub, where Gwen’s first action is to check that she is pregnant with the medical scanner.

Jack comes into the Hub after her, and tells Ianto they need clean-up on one body at the hospital. Ianto asks if they killed Jack, too, and, when Jack says yes, gives him a hug.

Jack follows Gwen into the medical centre, where he sees that Gwen is pregnant—which Ianto takes as a good opportunity to point out that he lost the car.

Gwen asks what she’ll do about her job, but Jack says they’ll cope: he puts his hand over hers on the medical scanner.

Which promptly reveals that he has a bomb embedded in his abdomen.

He tells Gwen and Ianto to run. Gwen won’t, until Jack reminds her that she’s pregnant.

The children start chanting again.

Ianto says that there’ll be nothing left of Jack, but Jack says he can survive anything: he puts Ianto on the elevator after one last kiss, and Ianto rises up to the roof.

The children continue to chant “We are coming” as Frobisher shrieks at his daughters to stop.

The Hub explodes.

So that’s Jack’s brother, Suzie, Tosh—every secret hidden in the Hub, gone. Including Jack?

And the children chant, “We are coming. We are coming. We are coming. Back.”




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