Torchwood: Children of Earth – TV that makes you think

The pinnacle of science fiction often unfolds as allegory. Consider Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica — they wielded the sci-fi premise as a catalyst, sparking a deeper reflection on humanity. Torchwood: Children of Earth aligns with this ethos.

This five-part series simmers like a pot on a low flame, gradually building towards an anticipated climax. Across the initial three episodes, familiar characters gain depth, new ones are introduced, and the narrative framework solidifies.

Then comes episode four, a jolt for the viewer’s contemplative faculties. The true essence emerges not through alien encounters or explosive effects but within the mundane setting of a meeting – a dozen individuals seated around a table.

Torchwood transcends its modest origins here. It eschews flashy CGI, relying instead on exceptional writing and acting. It’s the culmination of meticulous groundwork laid in the preceding episodes, and it’s a payoff of remarkable magnitude.

The chilling aspect unfolds as elected representatives calmly discuss delivering 10% of the world’s children to an alien threat. The deliberation — who gets chosen, how they are gathered, how to safeguard one’s own — horrifies precisely because it feels logical and plausible, a portrayal of how politicians might rationalize such decisions.

We encounter the monster, and it’s a reflection of ourselves.

The allegory persists. In the final episode, armed soldiers corral children, while parents fiercely resist a tyranny that designates their offspring as “acceptable losses.” One poignant moment encapsulates it all: an elderly lady revealing to soldiers the hiding place of children, reminiscent of an era when democracy dissolved into tyranny within a blink.

Another profound revelation surfaces. A civil servant, merely executing orders for ever-shifting political superiors, learns he’s part of the sacrificial charade. But he defies passivity, striving to shield his family from the relentless havoc wrought upon him because he’s considered dispensable. It’s a hauntingly powerful moment, intensified by the series’ eventual resolution — a silent revelation that renders his sacrifices unnecessary.

Russell T. Davies and the ensemble behind this production have orchestrated television that lives up to its eventful reputation. It’s weighty, sorrowful, terrifying, and brilliantly crafted. The narrative takes its time to evolve, sculpting characters and weaving intricate plotlines. Jon Barrowman’s portrayal of Jack deserves acclaim, yet it’s Peter Capaldi’s rendition of the beleaguered political figure, Frobisher, that truly merits recognition. This is the Torchwood that resonates. This is what Doctor Who should aspire to — not always, but certainly at times. It’s television that compels thinking.