“Torchwood: Children of the Earth” comes west

When Torchwood‘s five-part mini-series Children of Earth aired on Britain’s BBC One earlier this month, it trended on Twitter faster than Michael Jackson and Harry Potter — not shabby for a show that wore a "hokey Who-lite" label like a Hawthornian badge of shame for its first two seasons.

Tonight, Children of Earth begins on BBC America, and it will become apparent in the first ten minutes that while Captain Jack Harkness may have been in command at the time, this ain’t your grandmama’s Torchwood.

Children of Earth opens at a blistering pace that doesn’t slow down until the last three minutes of the five-day event. The only mention of deceased teammates Tosh and Owen is a battered photograph taped to Gwen’s workstation, and the only indication of a time lapse between seasons is that Jack and Ianto have finally begun calling themselves a couple.

Of course, there’s not much time to dwell of either of those things because on Day One at 8:40 a.m. every child on earth silently freezes in place. They follow it up before noon, repeating an eerie mantra unison: "We are coming."

The "we" in question? Aliens, of course. Their mission? You’ll have to wait until Day Three to find out that bone-chilling answer.

The Whoverse has never been at a loss for strong, attractive, brilliant women — even though they are sometimes relegated to supporting roles or lost at various points in time and space. Children of the Earth, however, ratchets up the girl power at least a dozen notches.

Joining Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) on the female front is Home Office personal assistant Lois Habiba (Cush Jumbo), whose heroism on Day Four caused me to leap into the air and swear a little. There’s also the mysterious and sinister Johnson (Liz May Brice), who is, at the very least, one of the sexiest assassins the BBC has ever given us.

Fans have been divided on Gwen from the moment she delivered her first pizza, but this time around, "Super Cooper" earns the moniker. Her compassion and leftover police woman instincts are still firmly in tact, but she’s finally fully using her brain — and her kung-fu skills. Gwen Cooper’s general bad-assery should keep your adrenaline humming along at a fight or flight (or makeout) level for five solid days.

Oh, it’s a controversial series to be sure, one that American TV producers, frankly, wouldn’t have had the courage to make. There’s a heart-wrenching death, a pretty graphic resurrection, and genuinely horrifying conversations and decisions that happen behind closed doors in Thames House.

I would call it Whitehall intrigue meets extraterrestrials, but perhaps an easier-to-understand description for Americans would be this: What if Joss Wheedon — hopped-up on Red Bull — dropped the vampires, added aliens and wrote an entire mini-series while watching 24? That’s Children of Earth.

Anyone planning to tune into BBC America tonight for Torchwood? And to all of our UK readers: how did you like Children of Earth when it aired on BBC One?

If you’re discussing specific storylines in your comments, please add a SPOILER WARNING in your subject line — and don’t put spoilers in your comment headings!

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