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Torchwood: Children of Earth(TV) (2009)
Torchwood follows the adventures of a team of investigators, led by the enigmatic Captain Jack. Set in the UK in the present day, the team use scavenged alien technology in a very real world to solve crime; both alien and human. Separate from the government. Outside the police. Beyond the United Nations. Everyone who works for Torchwood is young, under 35. Some say that's because it's a new science. Others say it's because they die young...
For more about Torchwood: Children of Earth and the Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray release, see Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Gareth David-Lloyd, Mekhi Phifer, Lauren Ambrose
» See full cast & crew
Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray Review
More than a miniseries, this five-episode triumph is an absolute game-changer...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 4, 2009
He may have proven himself to be a daring immortal warrior, a sympathetic hero thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and a brilliant strategist who, for whatever reasons, has remained loyal to this tiny world we call Earth, but... how should I put this? Captain Jack can really be a bastard. In fact, I don't think I've ever encountered a television character who has developed into a more contemptible moral conundrum. Over the last two seasons of Torchwood, Jack has made some pretty questionable decisions, hitting series fans like myself with a string of shocking sucker punches and kicks to the bollocks. However, nothing... I mean nothing could prepare me for what I learned about the stalwart captain in Children of Earth, a riveting Torchwood miniseries that packs enough wallops into its five episodes to fill a dozen regular seasons. By the time all is said and done, key characters have been sent to meet their maker, safe havens have been left in shambles, an entire series teeters on the brink, and our dear, dear Captain Jack has discovered that, despite his best intentions, he's destined to repeatedly sell his soul to whichever devil makes the most enticing offer.
Of course, the fact that series creator Russell T. Davies institutes such dramatic changes will come as little surprise to Torchwood's faithful fans. Since its earliest episodes, the BBC series has earned a reputation for delivering morally ambiguous, character-centric plot twists as Davies has established his penchant for shaking up the status quo. Children of Earth is no different. What begins as an extended episode of sorts -- one in which every child on the planet suddenly begins to announce the coming of a deadly alien race known as the 456 -- soon reveals itself to be a phoenix story wherein the Torchwood Institute is destroyed and reborn as a fragile creature on the lam from the world's governments. Amidst the madness, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), support officer Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), and series everywoman Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) are not only tasked with surviving a staggering betrayal, they're forced to contend with an impossible 456 demand, a multi-pronged political conspiracy, and seemingly insurmountable odds.
But Children of Earth spends just as much time in the politicians' war room as it does with the series' heroic mainstays. Shady British prime minister Brian Green (Nicholas Farrell) is so desperate to cover up his country's previous dealings with the 456 that he's willing to sacrifice his principles at every turn. Home Office Secretary John Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) is thrust into the limelight to handle his government's splintering negotiations with an alien representative, only to realize how futile his efforts actually are. His personal assistant Bridget Spears (Susan Brown) works to support him, but soon learns she can't trust anyone. And assistant Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo) has to choose between her life and her personal convictions. It all comes to a head as the 456 make a request that challenges the moral fabric of every politician involved in the talks, testing the extent to which they're willing to go to save the planet. Greed, selfishness, cowardice, and self-preservation threaten to undermine everything mankind has accomplished over the millennia, leaving Jack, Ianto, Gwen and her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) to save the world from a vile race of aliens and their own leaders.
Even though Children of Earth progresses rather slowly, only breaking from the conversational nature of the story to dabble in brief action beats and snippets of dramatic dread, series regulars and newcomers alike will be hooked from start to finish. A steady parade of gut-wrenching plot points, deaths, and revelations hit hard and refuse to let go. Even now, two days after I finished the fifth episode, the events of the miniseries are still lingering in my brain. Stephen King fans will notice several parallels to one of his more recent works (being more specific would give away many of Children's best twists and turns), but the story itself is ripe with disturbing exchanges and weighty consequences, not only to the characters and the series proper, but to the thematic undercurrent of the miniseries' five episodes. Moreover, heartache and regret haunt Barrowman, David-Lloyd, and Myles' every scene as an unsettling sense of who Captain Jack is and once was permeates his every wince, tear, and hesitation. It's an unexpectedly involving emotional free-for-all, one that draws viewers in, pummels them for five straight hours, and leaves them begging for more.
Like the best episodes of Torchwood, Children of Earth asks its audience questions that can't possibly be answered with any amount of certainty; questions seeped in incalculable moral variables and ethical dilemmas. Then, rather than offering any sort of pre-packaged solutions, it drives its points home by making each character suffer in the face of their own salvation; left to live with the consequences of their choices and actions. By the time the credits roll for the fifth and last time, you'll be left to ponder their decisions; mulling over hypothetical scenarios in which you're faced with their choices. Would you take a different path than Jack? Would you be able to live with yourself after making any of the choices spread before him? Would you be willing to assign value to life? Even if it meant saving it? Children of Earth isn't a relaxing jaunt through the slick halls of science fiction, it's a bleak but rewarding trek worth your time and investment. I have a feeling I'll still be thinking about its troubling endgame for weeks to come.
Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
Children of Earth features a 1080i/VC-1 transfer that, at first glance, shares a lot in common with Torchwood: The Complete Second Season's stunning Blu-ray presentation. However, upon further inspection, the miniseries is plagued by debilitating artificial sharpening, rampant ringing, frequent aliasing, and enough shimmer to blind a Weevil, all of which continually threatens to derail the proceedings. Worse still, skintones are often dull or flushed, colors are muddier, and noise reduction has been applied to several scenes. I'm not sure why there's such a discrepancy between the quality of The Complete Second Season and Children of Earth (particularly since the series and miniseries have been cut from the same aesthetic cloth), but the differences are apparent and abundant. Luckily, the presentation isn't a complete bust. Fine detail is thoroughly striking at times, crisp textures abound, and hair and skin look great. Granted, soft shots lurk around every corner, but they're the result of the miniseries' original source, not some mysterious technical issue. As it stands, artifacting, source noise, crush, and banding have been kept to a minimum, black levels are satisfying, and overall dimensionality (while a bit inconsistent) remains impressive throughout.
Ultimately, Children of Earth may not have received the same polish and care as The Complete Second Season, but it still bests its standard DVD counterpart and delivers a decent interlaced presentation.
Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Their video transfers may be worlds apart, but Children of Earth's DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio offering) is comparable to The Complete Second Season's HR mix (the only difference being a slight boost in audio bitrate, from 2.0 to 3.0 Mbps). Once again, the experience is heavy and intense, yet shallow and abrupt. While it all sounds great at first (especially when the miniseries' kiddies begin chanting in unison), it eventually struggles to inject any substantial subtlety into the soundscape. The rear speakers aren't called upon as readily as I had hoped they would be, LFE output is somewhat simplistic, and the majority of scenes offer surprisingly front-heavy effects. Moreover, ambience is solid but generally underwhelming, and interior acoustics are convincing but slightly two-dimensional. Thankfully, dialogue remains clean, intelligible, and well prioritized throughout the miniseries, and musical cues, pillars of fire, alien declarations, droning children, and key action sequences leave a lasting impression. All things considered, Children of Earth sounds pretty good... just don't expect to be blown away.
Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Children of Earth doesn't feature a lot of supplemental material -- just a 32-minute behind-the-scenes "Declassified" documentary (presented in standard definition) -- but what it does offer is engaging and fairly extensive. While fans would be wise to finish the series first (since spoilers abound), it's definitely worth watching.
Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Like Torchwood's second season, Children of Earth hits hard and fast, relentlessly pursuing its story's inevitable conclusions in spite of the safety of its characters or the future of the series. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition isn't as strong. Its video transfer is burdened with a variety of technical issues, its DTS-HD HR audio track has some problems of its own, and its supplemental package is limited. Still, there's enough on tap to warrant a purchase. Fans will be chomping at the bit as every minute ticks by, and newcomers will find themselves inexplicably drawn into Torchwood's universe. Not a bad way to spend five hours.
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Torchwood: Children of Earth Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Torchwood: CoE Gets Confirmed for July Bump - June 1, 2009
BBC Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video has announced that the Blu-ray release of 'Torchwood: Children of Earth' has been bumped up to a July 28th release date, day-and-date with the DVD release. Technical specs remain the same with a 1080p ...
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