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Torchwood: Children of Earth


Torchwood: Children of Earth

For other uses, see Children of the earth.

27 - 31 – Children of Earth
Torchwood serial
Title card
Writer Russell T Davies
(episodes 1, 3 & 5)
John Fay
(episodes 2 & 4)
James Moran
(episode 3)
Director Euros Lyn
Producer Peter Bennett
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Production code 3.1 to 3.5
Series Series 3
Length 5 episodes, 60 minutes each
Originally broadcast
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Exit Wounds" "The New World"

Children of Earth is the banner title of the third series of the British television science fiction series Torchwood, which broadcast for five episodes on BBC One in 2009. The series had new producer Peter Bennett and was directed by Euros Lyn, who had considerable experience on the revived Doctor Who. Torchwood is a series about an organisation known as Torchwood which defends the Earth against alien threats. The plot of Children of Earth deals with aliens demanding the Earth's children, and a related earlier conspiracy; as such, Torchwood is pitted against the British government when it attempts to conceal its past actions and concede to the present-day aliens' demands. The first, third, and fifth episodes of the serial were written by executive producer Russell T Davies, who also conceived its overall storyline. The third episode was co-written by James Moran whilst the second and fourth were penned by newcomer John Fay.

Because the BBC was not awarded the increase in the licence fee it requested, Torchwood (like Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures the same year) faced budget cuts. As part of Davies' agreement with the BBC, Torchwood was stripped across the network's premiere channel, BBC One, every weeknight for one week in July 2009. Despite the move to BBC One, the show was cut from a standard thirteen episode run to just five, something that lead actor John Barrowman felt was almost like a "punishment" from the BBC.[2] Production on the mini-series began in August 2008, and Barrowman along with actors Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd (his final appearance in the show), and Kai Owen (now given co-star billing) all returned. The serial significantly features new actors to the series over the course of its five episodes, most prominently Peter Capaldi. Davies had to substantially rewrite parts of the serial to accommodate the unavailability of actors Freema Agyeman and Noel Clarke, whose presence in the serial had been set up in the 2008 Doctor Who finale.

When the series defied expectations by achieving good ratings (peaking at 6.76 million), Davies stated that a surprised BBC Controller rang to congratulate him. Mid-summer evenings are typically considered a graveyard slot for television series.[3] The serial also received very positive reviews, particularly in comparison to the programme's previous two series, as well as a BAFTA Cymru Award, a Saturn Award and Celtic Media Festival Award, all for best serial. A number of fans were upset by the death of a main character in the fourth episode of the serial, with some campaigning and raising money for charity in an attempt to persuade the writers to bring back the character in future. The success of the series led a fourth series, Torchwood: Miracle Day, which was commissioned in conjunction with the US premium cable network Starz.


Over the course of two days, all the children in the world stop in their tracks, and speak, in unison and in English, "We are coming." Home Office Permanent Secretary John Frobisher is aware these events are tied to an alien race known as the 456, named after the wavelength they communicate on. The 456 appeared in 1965, secretly offering the British government a cure to a new strain of Indonesian flu destined to wipe out 25 million people, in exchange for 12 children. Captain Jack Harkness was one of four soldiers who were chosen to give the children to the 456. As public knowledge of the exchange would be disastrous for the British government, Frobisher orders, through troops under Agent Johnson's command, the assassination of those involved in the previous contact. Johnson plants a bomb in Jack's stomach, which goes off inside of the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff and destroys it. Aware of Jack's regenerative abilities, Johnson's troops collect Jack's remains and lock them in a secure facility, monitoring the reforming of his body. Gwen Cooper, her husband Rhys and Ianto Jones, due to their association with Jack, become fugitives from the law. Frobisher also orders construction of an isolation tank inside Thames House to receive the 456 when they arrive.

The remaining Torchwood team make contact with Lois Habiba, a new personal assistant in Frobisher's office who has seen his classified files. Lois helps the others to locate and rescue Jack; they, in turn, provide her with special Torchwood contact lenses that will allow them to see what she sees, hoping she will help them learn the cause of these events. Torchwood also has identified and rescued Clement McDonald, originally one of the twelve children to be taken away but left behind by the 456. Clement went mad due to the experience and has been institutionalized the last 40 some odd years, but still responds in the same way as the children to the new 456 signal.

On the third day, the ambassador for the 456 arrive in a column of fire over Thames House before appearing in the isolation tank. Frobisher and his staff, including Lois who has worn the Torchwood contact lenses, hold confidential meetings with the 456 to understand why they have returned. The 456 demand that 10% of the world's population of children be handed over to them, or else they will destroy the human race. They reveal one of the children from 1965, now a shrivelled husk despite having not aged. Children around the world begin to chant (still in English) a number equal to 10% of their country's child population. The governments of the world, although disgusted, secretly agree in conference that they have no choice but to comply with the 456.

Torchwood, with Lois's help, announce themselves and insist they intervene in the situation, threatening to reveal the 456's demands and the government's agreement, recorded through the contact lens, to the world. Jack and Ianto storm Thames House, confront the 456 and give them an ultimatum- that they leave the Earth or else they will face a war. In response, the 456 release a lethal virus. Thames House automatically locks down, sealing and killing everyone inside except Mr. Dekker, who successfully puts on a hazard suit in time. At the same time, they send an auditory signal to Clement, killing him. As Ianto collapses and dies in Jack's arms, the 456 gives a final demand for the children before Jack also succumbs to the virus. When Jack revives, he and Gwen mourn over Ianto's lifeless body.

With Torchwood's failure, and Lois in prison for charges of espionage, the governments of the world agree they must deliver the children as promised. Prime Minister Brian Green, along with his Cabinet and one member from both the US military and UNIT, decide to cover up the United Kingdom's actions as inoculation shots given at schools. After refusing a random lottery to select the children out of fear that their own children might be selected, they choose to use the schools at the bottom of the league tables to give to the 456. In discussions the 456 reveal they use the children as their bodies produce a chemical that acts as a recreational drug to them. Green orders Frobisher to submit his children as part of those that have been selected, in order to keep up the pretence to the rest of the country. Frobisher agrees, returns home and kills his two daughters to save them from this fate, his wife and then himself. As some parents have kept children at home from school, Green orders military measures to secure the remaining children. While Gwen and Rhys help to protect Ianto's sister Rhiannon's daughter and several other local children from capture, Jack, Johnson and Dekker consider a means of stopping the 456. They realise that the audio signal used to kill Clement could be used against the 456. However, it requires that one child act as the focal point for the transmission, likely killing him or her. Jack is left with no choice but to use his daughter Alice's son, Steven, who is the only child immediately available to them. Jack, Johnson and Dekker successfully send the signal, amplified through all the other children, and the 456 suffer in pain before withdrawing from the earth. Steven dies and Alice severs all contact with Jack.

The world recovers from the events. Green suggests that they simply cover it up and place the blame on the United States, but Bridget Spears, Frobisher's direct assistant and Lois's superior, reveals that she is wearing the contact lenses that Lois used and has recorded this conversation and will release it, putting an end to Green's political career. Six months after the events, Gwen and Rhys meet with Jack, who had been travelling the world on his own, trying to rid himself of his guilt over his grandson's death and the loss of Ianto, who was also his lover. Jack states he needs to make a new life for himself and plans to travel into the stars. Gwen brings Jack his vortex manipulator, found in the wreckage of Torchwood, as a departing gift as he teleports away. With Jack having left the Earth, Gwen pregnant and the rest of the team dead, Torchwood Three is effectively terminated.


  • The serial marks the final television appearance of Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto Jones.
  • When the team watch the persistent Dr. Rupesh Patanjali topside in Roald Dahl Plass and discuss hiring him, Gwen likens the scene to when she was recruited in a similar manner in "Everything Changes". Jack states they need a doctor, owing to Owen Harper's death in "Exit Wounds".
  • The Home Office's computer file which Lois reads about the Torchwood Institute refers to its charter by Queen Victoria in 1879, an event depicted in "Tooth and Claw"; and states that Torchwood One in London was destroyed in the Battle of Canary Wharf, as shown in "Army of Ghosts" / "Doomsday" (and briefly in "Cyberwoman").
  • Lois uses the same sort of lenses previously used by Martha Jones in "Reset".
  • Jack tells Ianto that the Doctor explained that Jack is a fixed point in time and space, a conversation which occurred in "Utopia".



Filming for the series started in Cardiff in August 2008, with a week's filming taking place in London.[4] Additional filming took place in the Maindee area of Newport for the pub scene,[5] and on the set of BBC's Casualty in Bristol, which doubled as the fictional St. Helen's Hospital in Cardiff.[6] The set for Floor 13 was the largest ever built at Upper Boat Studios.[6] However, many of the scenes set in the corridors of the same building (supposedly Thames House in London) were shot in the corridors of the Guildhall, Swansea.


John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David Lloyd, Kai Owen and Tom Price all reprise their respective Torchwood roles for the serial. David-Lloyd had first concluded that Ianto was being killed off when his agent told him he was only needed for four out of five episodes.[7]

Peter Capaldi and Nick Briggs had both previously been involved in Doctor Who productions prior to Children of Earth. Capaldi, who portrays Home Office Permanent Secretary John Frobisher, previously played Lucius Caecilius Iucundus in the Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii", and would return to Doctor Who in 2013 to play the Twelfth Doctor. Briggs, the voice actor who provides voices for several creatures in the revived series of Doctor Who, including the Daleks, appears as Rick Yates, a member of Brian Green's Cabinet. He had also previously played many roles in the Big Finish range of officially licensed Audio dramas. Having been set up to do so by the conclusion of their storylines in "Journey's End", Doctor Who Alumni Freema Agyeman and Noel Clarke were due to reprise their roles as Martha Jones and Mickey Smith respectively, but were unable to participate due to "scheduling issues".[8] Davies explains that Agyeman was cast in Law & Order: UK before Children of Earth had been officially commissioned. Because Law & Order offered her 13 episodes a year, she went with that over Torchwood which had been reduced to 5. In response, Davies introduced the character of Lois Habiba, played by Cush Jumbo, to be a "kind of a Martha figure", one with added innocence who is out of her depth.[9] Agyeman doesn't rule out returning to the show at a later date, however,[10] and Davies has also expressed interest in her returning to the role.[9] Jack and Gwen explain Martha's absence by saying that she is on her honeymoon, and the Doctor Who episode The End of Time reveals that she married Mickey rather than her previous fiancé Thomas Milligan.

Children of Earth featured a largely new supporting cast for the duration of the five-episode serial. Further new characters included Clem McDonald (Paul Copley), senior Home Office official Bridget Spears (Susan Brown), Prime Minister Brian Green (Nicholas Farrell), and ruthless operative Agent Johnson (Liz May Brice). Katy Wix and Rhodri Lewis play Rhiannon and Johnny Davies, Ianto's sister and brother-in-law respectively.[11] Lucy Cohu plays Captain Jack Harkness's daughter Alice.[12]


A preview of Children of Earth was screened at the National Film Theatre on 12 June 2009.[13]


Children of Earth was first broadcast on BBC One over five nights from 6 to 10 July 2009.[1] It was the programme's first transmission on BBC One, after its first series debuted on BBC Three in 2006 and its second series moved to BBC Two in 2008.[14][15]

Internationally, it was broadcast in Australia from 7 July 2009[16] on UKTV Australia, and was shown from 20 July 2009[17] on Space in Canada and BBC America in the U.S. (the air date was set to coincide with the launch of BBC America's HD simulcast).[18]


Silva Screen released the soundtrack via MP3 on 10 July, and CD on 27 July. The CD features 40 tracks, 38 tracks divided between the five 'days' of the programme, the other two being the opening and closing theme.[19]

DVD release

The Region 2 DVD release was released on 13 July 2009, followed by the Region 1 release on both DVD and Blu-ray on 28 July 2009. The Best Buy limited edition included the CD for the audio drama Lost Souls. Music for the fifth episode differed from the original broadcast version. The Region 4 DVD release became available on 1 October 2009.[20]


Children of Earth[1][5] Run time Writer[21] Director[22] Original airdate[1] Viewers (including HD) in millions[23]
"Day One" 1 hour Russell T Davies Euros Lyn 6 July 2009 6.472 (6.601)
"Day Two" 1 hour John Fay 7 July 2009 6.136 (6.248)
"Day Three" 1 hour Russell T Davies and James Moran 8 July 2009 6.397 (6.557)
"Day Four" 1 hour John Fay 9 July 2009 6.756 (6.883)
"Day Five" 1 hour Russell T Davies 10 July 2009 6.581 (6.732)



Reviews of the third-season serial have been predominantly positive. Metacritic, an American review aggregator website, gives Children of Earth a normalised rating of 80 out of 100 (based on a sample of 12 reviews), indicating "generally favourable reviews", with the highest score being a 91 from Time and the lowest a 60 from The New York Times.[24]

Daniel Martin ran a day-by-day review of the show on The Guardian's website which culminated in a positive assessment of the mini-series as a whole: " ... what an incredible week. From its hideous Sex Alien vs Cyberwoman beginnings, Torchwood has become a true treasure." He speculated on the programme's thematic implication that "as people realise their potential in this world, they die", and remarked: "If the same thing does happen to the series it would be awful. But God, it would be poetic."[25]

Ben Rawson-Jones of Digital Spy gave a very favourable pre-review to the first three episodes of the serial. He particularly praised Davies' script for its "economical" and "seamless" re-establishment of the show's returning trio for new viewers whilst not alienating fans. The inter-weaving of the stories for "credible and appealing" supporting characters Rupesh, Clement and Lois was praised; as were the performances from Paul Copley and Liz May Brice. He did however feel that the second episode paled after the explosiveness of the first episode, on which they "failed to capitalise".[26] Summing up the series, Rawson-Jones described Children of Earth as "a powerful human drama, reliant not on special effects but incredible acting, direction and writing" that was a "massive success."[27]

IGN writer Ahsan Haque gave the miniseries a rating of 9.5 out of 10, also awarding it their Editor's Choice Award. John Barrowman's performance was highly praised, saying that he handled "these gut-wrenching moments with poise, yet manages to give us just enough to know how much his choices are tearing him up inside. He might not be able to die physically, but emotionally, what Jack has to suffer and live with is a fate far worse than death." Also, Haque felt that the additions of Rhiannon and Johnny "supply a lot of the grounded humanizing moments that really help the story stay grounded to the human condition, and not turn into a mindless sci-fi action-fest." However, Haque pointed out the "slightly campy feel" as well as technobabble as faults. The review ended with: "Best. Torchwood. Ever. Really, we mean it!"[28]

Mike Hale of The New York Times was more mixed in his review, noting that the mini-series pays tribute to the 1960 British sci-fi film Village Of The Damned, and sums up by saying "Children of Earth is still good fun, if not good, exactly."[29] Hale also mentioned the problem with maintaining a 5-hour mini-series over 5 nights, a sentiment echoed by Los Angeles Times reviewer Robert Lloyd who felt that the format led to an inevitable lag in the middle.[30]

Not all reviews were positive. Jim Shelley of The Daily Mirror gave the mini-series an unfavourable review, commenting that "Torchwood is the modern-day Blake's Seven: ludicrous plot, hammy acting, an adolescent penchant for 'Issues'. This week's plot was plagiarised from 50s sci-fi classic, The Midwich Cuckoos. Contrary to its scheduling, Torchwood always seems to me like Dr Who lite." He went on to say that he felt a large part of the problem was with lead actor John Barrowman: "Unlike David Tennant's Doctor, Barrowman's endless appearances on friendly drivel like Tonight's the Night, The Kids Are All Right and Any Dream Will Do, is so over-exposed, 'Captain Jack' is about as intriguing or alien as a Weetabix and twice as irritating. Unlike Tennant, as an actor he is just not good enough."[31]

Fan reaction

The death of Ianto Jones in Children of Earth triggered protests from fans of the show, including the "Save Ianto Jones" campaign, which collected more than £10,000 for the Children In Need charity.[32] Other fans resorted to abuse and threats, causing writer James Moran to fire off an angry missive in a blog post.[33] Showrunner Russell T Davies made no apologies for the decision to kill off the character, saying, "I'm just delighted that the fans are so wrapped up in the character to have that reaction."[34] Writer John Fay, in executing Davies' vision, noted that Ianto's death was a means for the viewer to see the price of Jack's immortality and seeing those he cares for die around him.[35] Ianto's death led several fans to accuse the show's creators of subscribing to homophobic narrative conventions.[36] AfterElton, one of the websites critical of the decision, later published an opposing view which analysed the death in view of the character's earlier refusal to admit to his relationship, and claimed that, instead of being an expression of homophobia, the death was a sign that the LGBT community was leaving behind its image of victimhood.[37]


In 2010, Children of Earth won the BAFTA Cymru award for best drama series,[38] a Saturn Award for Best Television Presentation during the 36th Saturn Awards[39] and a 2010 Celtic Media Festival Award for best drama series.[40] It was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for "Outstanding TV Movie or Mini-Series" during the 21st GLAAD Media Awards[41] and for a Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials.[42] Lead actress Eve Myles won the 'Best Actress" award in the SFX Reader's awards poll,[43] and was crowned best actress in the 11th annual Airlock Alpha Portal Awards.[44] Myles was also nominated for a 2010 BAFTA Cymru Best Actress award,[45] whilst John Barrowman made the shortlist of the 2010 TV Choice Awards, where he was up against Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith.[46]


External links

  • Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide

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