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Children of Earth
"Day One"

"Do you have children?"

The nervous government employee Mr. Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) asks his mysterious informant. In some ways, that question divides the audience and cuts to a theme of "Day One"; if you don't have children, this might not be as creepy.

Clearly, the two know more about what's going on than we do, and the gruff reply is chilling - "turns out to have been a blessing." For the children of Earth have been targeted by a mysterious force, and though aliens must be involved - a race prosaically referred to by the British Government as "the 456" - it seems as though the real evil must be in the Bureaucracy.

The answers in Torchwood: Children of Earth could turn out to be the expected unexpected, but writer (and show creator) Russell T. Davies has crafted the most layered and reflective episode - and hopefully arc - the show has yet had. While the past two seasons have played with the fantastic when dealing with its protagonists, the coming invasion here forces Torchwood's staff to connect with the thing we kind of assumed they didn't have: family.

Of course, they've bonded into a type of family of their own. Gwen (Eve Myles) jauntily and openly walks into headquarters, loudly announcing her presence so as not to discover Jack (John Barrowman) and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) en flagrante delecto. If not exactly family, they'll do, especially as Ianto keeps musing over his and Jack's newfound and delicate status as a couple.

Unfortunately for them, they didn't see the beginning flashback to 1965, when a group of Scottish orphans was abducted by …something. And that something has come back, possessing all of the Earth's children and one middle-aged man - the one that got away forty-four years earlier.

While Gwen searches for him, Jack and Ianto realize they need to study a child, which leads them to places we couldn't have expected. Two of the families we saw interacting early in the episode turn out to have a connection to Torchwood. Ianto's sister has no idea what he does, but Jack's daughter knows all too well.

Couple that with what the British Government knows and isn't telling us, and it doesn't matter so much that this first episode offers maddeningly few answers. It also may or may not be introducing us to new regulars - with all the special ops shenanigans going on, it's impossible to tell who to trust yet, though my money would be on Lois Abiba (Cush Jumbo), whose first day in the Home Office sets her to researching into Torchwood's secrets.

The biggest secret, leaked online months ago, would be the existence of Jack's daughter Alice (Lucy Cohu). Though three seasons in, Davies makes this revelation seem perfectly natural, and there's more. It gives Barrowman a chance to play the more sensitive side of Jack, but in episodes past that's been a weak point. It also keeps most of his brashness from shining through. For new viewers, that's a loss; they don't get to see why everybody seems to love Captain Jack.

On the other hand, the episode builds with enough intensity that they'll stick around for at least "Day Two" - and luckily for us, that's coming just 23 hours after Day One. U.S. audiences get this on July 20, and BBC-America will show it in exactly the same manner as BBC-One - a five episode mini-series playing over five days in a row. The suspense would just be too much otherwise. As it is, it's hard to wait a day.

Derek McCaw

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