Torchwood: Children of Earth

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Torchwood: Children of Earth
Children of Earth titles.jpg
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes5
Original networkBBC One
Original release6 July (2009-07-06) –
10 July 2009 (2009-07-10)
Season chronology
← Previous
Series 2
List of episodes

Children of Earth is the banner title of the third and penultimate series of the British television science fiction programme Torchwood, which broadcast for five episodes on BBC One from 6 to 10 July 2009. The series had new producer Peter Bennett and was directed by Euros Lyn, who had considerable experience on the revived Doctor Who, Torchwood's parent show. Torchwood is a series about an organization 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 40 years ago; as such, Torchwood is pitted against the British government when the government 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.

Torchwood was shown on 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.[1] Production on the mini-series (or serial) 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.[2] 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 Ianto Jones 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 to 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 are paralyzed in place several times, and speak in unison, in English, and in temporal order based on the hour, a message revealed in stages, one word at a time: "We are coming back tomorrow." Home Office Permanent Secretary John Frobisher is aware these events are tied to an alien race known as the 456, named after the radio frequency they used to communicate the first time they came to Earth in 1965. At that time, in secret, the 456 had given the British government a cure to a new strain of Indonesian flu which was otherwise destined to wipe out 25 million people—in exchange for twelve children. Captain Jack Harkness had been one of four British agents who were chosen to give the children to the 456, and since public knowledge of the exchange would now be disastrous for the British government, Frobisher orders, through a black-ops department run by an Agent Johnson, the assassination of those four agents. To this end, Agent Johnson plants a bomb in Jack's abdomen, which detonates inside the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff, destroying it. Aware of Jack's regenerative abilities, Johnson's troops also collect Jack's remains from the blast rubble, and lock them in a secure facility, monitoring the regeneration of his body. Torchwood employees Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, and by extension, her husband Rhys, due to the possibility that they might share Jack's knowledge, are also put on Agent Johnson's "kill" list; thus, as Ianto and Gwen try to flee the base after the bombing, they consequently need to avoid snipers and other assassins.

In the meantime, Frobisher also orders the construction of what will turn out to be an "isolation tank" inside Thames House, decreed by information transmitted to them by the 456 when the children first began to speak of their arrival.

The remaining Torchwood team make contact with Lois Habiba, a new personal assistant in Frobisher's office who has covertly accessed computer information on Torchwood and the assassinations. 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 identifies and rescues Clement MacDonald, one of the original twelve children sacrificed to the 456, but who successfully escaped then by running away. Clement went mad soon after escaping, and has been institutionalised for over 40 years since; nevertheless, he still remains susceptible to the same paralysis fugue that forces the children to mouth the messages of the new 456 signal. (In addition to going mad, MacDonald also gained a heightened ability to smell: he can use it to tell when people speak truth, and it also makes him smell the 456 for days before they arrive.)

On the third day, the ambassador for the 456 arrives in a column of fire over Thames House before appearing in the isolation tank. Frobisher and his staff, including Lois who still wears 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 and Jack, due to his immortality. 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 a programme of inoculations given at schools to prevent the 456 speaking through the children again. 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's bodies to produce a chemical that they use as a recreational drug. Green orders Frobisher to submit his own children as part of those that have been selected, in order to keep up the pretence of random selection to the rest of the country. Frobisher agrees, returns home and kills his two daughters to spare them this fate, then he kills his wife and himself. When some parents keep their children home from school, Green orders military measures to secure the remaining children. While Gwen and Rhys help to protect Ianto's niece 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 and Jack sever all contact with one another.

Green suggests that they cover up the tragedy and place the blame on the United States, thus saving his own skin, but Bridget Spears, Frobisher's direct assistant and Lois's superior, reveals that she is wearing the Torchwood contact lenses that Lois gave to her and has recorded this conversation and will release it, ending Green's political career and avenging Frobisher.

Six months later, Gwen and Rhys meet with Jack, who had been travelling the world trying to rid himself of his guilt over his grandson's death and the loss of Ianto. Jack wants to make a new life for himself and plans to return to space. Gwen gives Jack his vortex manipulator, found in the wreckage of Torchwood, and he teleports away. With Jack gone, Gwen pregnant and the rest of the team dead, Torchwood is effectively disbanded.


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
UK viewers
(millions) [3]
271"Day One"Euros LynRussell T Davies6 July 2009 (2009-07-06)3.16.47
282"Day Two"Euros LynJohn Fay7 July 2009 (2009-07-07)3.26.14
293"Day Three"Euros LynRussell T Davies & James Moran8 July 2009 (2009-07-08)3.36.40
304"Day Four"Euros LynJohn Fay9 July 2009 (2009-07-09)3.46.76
315"Day Five"Euros LynRussell T Davies10 July 2009 (2009-07-10)3.56.58


A pyrotechnics-laden barricade on Roald Dahl Plass, cordoned off before filming.


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 Lobus Caecilius 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 explained that Agyeman was cast in Law & Order: UK before Children of Earth had been officially commissioned. Because Law & Order offered her thirteen episodes a year, she went with that over Torchwood which had been reduced to five.[9] 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.[10] Agyeman didn't rule out returning to the show at a later date, however,[11] and Davies also expressed interest in her returning to the role.[10] Jack and Gwen explain Martha's absence by saying that she is on her honeymoon, and the Doctor Who serial "The End of Time" reveals that she married Mickey rather than her previous fiancé Thomas Milligan (Tom Ellis).

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.[12] Lucy Cohu plays Captain Jack Harkness's daughter Alice.[13] The voice of the 456 was provided by actor and voiceover artist Simon Poland.[14]


A preview of Children of Earth was screened at the National Film Theatre on 12 June 2009.[15]


Children of Earth was first broadcast on BBC One over five nights from 6 to 10 July 2009.[16] 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.[17][18]

Internationally, it was broadcast in Australia from 7 July 2009[19] on UKTV Australia, and was shown from 20 July 2009[20] 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).[21]


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.[22]

DVD release[edit]

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.[23]



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 7: 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[edit]

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 that 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]


  1. ^ Sanders, James (30 June 2009). "Barrowman felt "punished" by Torchwood axe". Pink Paper. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  2. ^ Millar, Paul (28 July 2007). "Davies: 'Torchwood surprised BBC One'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  3. ^ "Multichannel top 10 programmes (select BBC1, and week Jul 06 – Jul 12, 2009)". UK: Barb. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  4. ^ "Torchwood Magazine". Torchwood Magazine. November 2008.
  5. ^ "Filming under way for new series of Torchwood" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Torchwood Magazine". Torchwood Magazine. January 2009.
  7. ^ "Stop All the Clocks". Torchwood Magazine (17): 32–37. September–October 2009.
  8. ^ "NYCC 09: Torchwood Season 3 Details Revealed". IGN. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
  9. ^ Behbakht, Andy (11 May 2021). "Doctor Who: Why Martha & Donna Were Only Companions For One Season Each". ScreenRant. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  10. ^ a b Sepinwall, Alan (26 June 2009). "Russell T. Davies talks 'Doctor Who' & 'Torchwood'". New Jersey Star Legder. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  11. ^ Wilkes, Neil (7 February 2009). "Freema talks 'Doctor Who' return". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
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  13. ^ Jackson, Alan (10 January 2009). "I didn't get where I am today without... Lucy Cohu, 38, actress". The Times. London. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
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  18. ^ Torchwood will light up BBC1 prime time, Western Mail, 14 August 2008
  19. ^ "UKTV >> TORCHWOOD CHILDREN OF EARTH". Retrieved 27 June 2009.
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  21. ^ ""Torchwood: Children of Earth" to air this summer over consecutive nights?". 10 January 2009. Retrieved 16 January 2009.
  22. ^ "Silver Screen Website". Silver Screen Records. Retrieved 25 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ [1] Archived 4 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
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  27. ^ Rawson-Jones, Ben (11 July 2009). "Torchwood's Final And Finest Hour". Digital Spy. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  28. ^ Haque, Ahsan (17 July 2009). "Torchwood: "Children of Earth" Review". IGN. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  29. ^ Hale, Mike (17 July 2009). "Gay Heroes and a Reptilian Monster, from the BBC". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  30. ^ Lloyd, Robert (20 July 2009). "Review: Torchwood Season 3 on BBC America". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  31. ^ Shelley, Jim (13 July 2009). "Why Torchwood is the modern version of Blakes 7". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
  32. ^ "Saving Ianto Jones". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012.
  33. ^ James Moran. "the pen is mightier than the spork".
  34. ^ "Torchwood"'s Russell T Davies Makes No Apologies — For Anything
  35. ^ Caron, Nathalie (10 September 2010). "Torchwood Writer reveals the reasons why Ianto Jones had to die". SyFy. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  36. ^ "Buffy" Vs. "Torchwood": Which Did a Better Job Killing Its Gay Character?
  37. ^ Death By "Torchwood": Captain Jack, Ianto Jones, And The Rise Of The Queer Superhero
  38. ^ "Bafta Cymru success for Welsh TV at awards ceremony". BBC News. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  39. ^ Wightman, Catriona (23 June 2010). "In Full: Saturn TV Awards 2010 - Winners". Digital Spy. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  40. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  41. ^ "21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards - English Language Nominees". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2010.
  42. ^ Wightman, Catriona (1 August 2011). "In Full: TCA Awards 2010 - Winners". Digital Spy. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  43. ^ "'Torchwood's' Myles named Best Actress". Digital Spy. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  44. ^ "'Doctor Who' Dominates 2010 Portal Awards". Airlock Alpha. 1 August 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  45. ^ "Bafta Cymru Nominations" (PDF).
  46. ^ "Doctor to battle Captain Jack at TV Choice awards". BBC News. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010.

External links[edit]