Retro Recap: Torchwood: Children of Earth, Day Five

We’ve been on a wild, dark ride as we’ve followed the straggling, remaining members of Team Torchwood try, in vain, to prevent the demands of the 456. Today, we’re wrapping up Children of Earth, and the ride is going to be bumpier than ever.

After the previouslies, the episode opens with a grainy hand-held video of Gwen speaking to the camera:

There’s one thing I always meant to ask Jack, back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his. The man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world, except sometimes he doesn’t. All those times in history, when there was no sign of him, I wanted to know why not. But I don’t need to ask anymore. I know the answer now. Sometimes the Doctor must look at this planet, and turn away in shame.

It’s the end of the world, and monsters are giving away the children.

Prime Minister Brian Green appears on TV to announce that all the schools will be open, and that children need to attend as so they can be vaccinated against the alien virus. He of course means the children need to go to school as so the government can pick up the three hundred fifty thousand poor, disabled, or otherwise unwanted “units” and send them off to be sentient heroin spoons for the 456. Yes, they want the children for the “hit.” The chemicals the children excrete make the 456 feel good.

Rhiannon, Ianto’s kick-ass sister, is having none of this bullshit, and sends her son to collect all the neighbor children. Mrs. Frobisher is also keeping her girls home, but she’s going to wish she didn’t very soon.

Frobisher meets with Jack and Gwen, who threatens to reveal the recordings anyway. Jack tells her to give it up, they’ve already lost. Gwen calls Rhys and tells him Clem and Ianto (IANTO!) are dead, and that there’s nothing left to do. Frobisher agrees to free Alice and Steven, and agrees to let Gwen tell Rhiannon about Ianto’s death, giving her a ride on a government helicopter.

Jack is imprisoned in the cell next to Lois, who calls out to him. He ignores her.

Johnson shows Alice the video of the interior of the 456’s case, and give her a very quick rundown of what’s happening.

Frobisher goes to see Prime Minister Green, who informs him that both of Frobisher’s girls will be “innoculated.” Frobisher doesn’t catch on at first that his daughters are being sacrificed, and when he does, he becomes very, very angry. Green isn’t moved, if Frobisher refuses, Green will have them taken from him. Green then half-heartedly apologizes and then brushes Frobisher off. Frobisher asks for a special requisition. We don’t yet know what it is. (We can probably guess.) Bridget, ever loyal, gets it for him and doesn’t ask too many questions.

PC Andy is in Cardiff to meet Gwen, as they’re driving to Rhiannon and Johnny’s, the discussion turns to Gwen’s pregnancy. She is at best ambivalent, telling Rhys she’ll decide whether or not she wants to bring it into a world as plainly fucked up as this one.

Bridget goes to visit Lois, and tells her how she met Mr. Frobisher. She explains that he always kept his head down and worked hard, and “he was a good man.” As she talks, the scene switches to the Frobisher home.  Mr. Frobisher arms himself, and quietly goes up the stairs to his daughter Lily’s room. He closes the door, and we hear three shots in a row, then a relentless pause, then a fourth.

At Rhiannon’s, Gwen, Andy, and Rhys have arrived. They’re planning to take Ianto’s niece and nephew far away. When Gwen realizes there are nineteen children in Rhiannon and Johnny’s care, her face falls.

It’s noon. Phase one of the plan is mobilized, and students are taken from schools by armed soldiers.

Back in Cardiff, Gwen has told Rhiannon about Ianto’s death. Gwen tries to convince a devastated Rhiannon that she knew Ianto well, from his love of coffee to his stories about his sister and his dad. It’s become clear, over the course of this five-episode arc, that Ianto wasn’t exactly who he appeared to be. His childhood was clearly dark, and the stories he told about his dad to his co-workers weren’t real. Rhiannon’s suspicions have served her well so far, so she remains wary of Gwen, and doubtful of her ability to help.

Alice is watching Steven play basketball when Johnson approaches her and tells her the plan has started. She assures Alice that Steven will be safe. We let out our breath. Good. We’ve only gotten invested in a few of these children. We only know a few of their names. We’ve already lost the Frobisher girls, Lily and Holly, surely Steven and Rhiannon and Johnny’s kids, Micha and David, will be safe. We’re okay. Losing Clem was hard, losing the Frobishers was horrific, losing Ianto made us inconsolable. Surely, here, in the last twenty minutes or so, we can keep these three children, the ones whose names we know, safe. Right?

There’s no time for Rhiannon to distrust Gwen. The military trucks have arrived on the street, and the soldiers are under threat of their own children being taken if they don’t comply. Gwen pleads with her. They have to save the kids. It would have been easier with two, but now there are nineteen, and there are no choices. They can’t save the other 350,000. They have to save these nineteen.

Johnson waxes about unwanted children gone from street corners, and her duty to protect the state. Alice looks at her, disgusted, and questions how good Johnson is at her duty, considering. Alice tells Johnson (in spite of my screaming at the screen for her to do otherwise) that the only person who can save all those children is Jack Harkness. And she’s almost right.

Jack is dramatically released from jail by a team of Johnson’s well-armed soldiers.

Rhiannon, Johnny, Rhys, Gwen, and Andy are bundling up all the children and encouraging their silence by telling them to play spies. They head out the back door. Johnny spots the military vehicles and grabs his fellow dads, some changesocks, and some whupass, and decide to slow the soldiers down. P.C. Andy hesitates for just half a second before joining in with the neighborhood fellas, because P.C. Andy is awesome.

Rhys, Rhiannon, and Gwen take the children into an abandoned barn, telling them to be quiet as mice.

Jack is reunited with Steven and Alice briefly, before being hustled off to think of a solution. Decker, the scientist who lived through Thames house, is brought in as well. Jack types things, because this show isn’t perfect.

Meanwhile, busload after busload of children are being unloaded at a large facility.

In the barn, Rhys records Gwen saying the speech we opened this recap with. After, they hug and make-up and she promises not to have an abortion, because this show isn’t perfect.

The Brits have gathered 80% of the requested “units,” and I’m not even going to do the math, because I already want to crawl under the covers and never come out. A U.N.I.T. officer asks the 456 if 80% is enough. It is not.

Bridget is trudging on, but she has a secret.

Jack’s computer and a file folder tell him the frequency the 456 were using to control the children. There’s no transmitter, but there is. Decker knows. Jack needs to fry a child to break the connection. Alice knows there’s only one child close to Jack right now, and she begs him not to. She begs even though she knows. He doesn’t look, because he’s not the kind of brave Ianto was.  She runs as fast as she can, but she’s not fast enough.

The soldiers find the barn, and the children run as fast as they can, but they’re not fast enough.

There’s barely any dialogue as the British military scoops up the strays Gwen, Rhys, and Rhiannon can’t save, and Johnson’s soldiers grab Steven from his mother’s arms. It takes a lot of them to hold her back. She’s her father’s daughter. Steven is scared, and he calls out to Uncle Jack, but Uncle Jack doesn’t look, because he doesn’t have a choice. He’s lived a long time, he’s done many things, and nobody else will do what he’s about to do. So he doesn’t look.

Gwen runs with a tiny girl in her arms, as every one else is taken. She can’t save those other children, but she will save this one.

Alice can’t save the one child she’d sacrifice every other child in the world to save.

All the children sing a song for the 456, and Steven sings a song for all the other children. Then the song is over. Jack looks.

Jack saved almost all the children, and Alice will never be the same.

The Prime Minister wants to blame the Americans for everything, but Bridget has a secret. Lois gave her the contact lenses, and Bridget owed Mr. Frobisher a favor.

Six months later, very pregnant Gwen and Rhys meet Jack on a hill, so he can tell them goodbye. Of all the terrible choices made in terrible circumstances, he’s the one who’ll have to live with it the longest. He’s the only one who can do these terrible things, because he’s the only one who can live long enough to pay for it.

And that’s our coverage of Children of Earth. Tune in soon for something completely different, as we take on Torchwood: Miracle Day, which is everything you’ve heard it is and more.

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[E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

5 thoughts on “Retro Recap: Torchwood: Children of Earth, Day Five”

  1. This episode made me so, so sad. But also, VERY angry.

    Seriously, Jack figures out an (awful, far from perfect, but effective) 456-deterrent in about 15 minutes. If the government had been just slightly less interested in covering up the past and slightly more interested in actually addressing the current threat, enough to let the team work on the problem (under guard! in a secured facility! with no media access! whatever! just let them work rather than attempting to kill them!) for those four additional days, you know – you KNOW – they would have been able to come up with a way to use that frequency without putting a child in danger.

    Obviously Jack’s choice is still his own, but it’s a particularly simple and therefore particularly horrible might-have-been.

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