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Torchwood: Children of Earth- 1/16/11

Watching through these episodes of Torchwood Season 3 alone and with my family helped me realize how significant this show (specifically this season) is—politically, philosophically, relationally, and more.  They touch on the issues of significance, meaning, fear, motivation, negotiation, purpose, family, sacrifice, honor and more.

And now that I have hyped up the show far beyond than what I can deliver, go watch it.  On Netflix or elsewhere.

But since I know you won’t, forgive my feeble attempts to make sense of my senseless thoughts.

The show Torchwood is devoted to the Torchwood team, who defend the Earth from extraterrestrial attack (that is, when The Doctor isn’t around.)   Thus, it is filled with action and adventure and romance (and sometimes sex—often sex, too much, really).  While Doctor Who is about the human in the realm of the alien, Torchwood is about the humans in the influence of the alien.  People band together, become empowered, are tested beyond their abilities, and find themselves in community.  However, in Season Three, we have lost two crucial members of the team, and the other three are still dealing with the pain of searing loss.

The threat is an alien force called the “456”.  The truth is, we don’t know their name, and when things are nameless, they are more potent in fear.  And like the show title says (By the way, there are SPOILERS here, so sorry if you don’t want them) the Children of Earth are being used by the 456.  First they cause children to stop what they’re doing, all over the world.  Creepy.  Then they cause every child on earth to scream in unison.  Creepy beyond all other creepiness.  Then they begin to speak as one.  And whenever they stop, they wake up with no memory of the occasion.  Way creepy.

The thing is, this show deals with the Children of Earth.  (If you couldn’t get that already.)  While many shows have adults or teens or children facing monsters and aliens (most shows in this scifi adventure genre), they often do it by choice.  They choose to fight.  In this season of Torchwood, the children are the victims.  They used.  They are brought into the fray by no force of will.

You see, the 456 hit us where it hurts.  They attack earth using our children.

Not killing them or stealing them (well, there was that one time… and yet) but simply by controlling them.  We try to create worlds where children are safe and protected: locked homes, gated communities, surveillance in schools and protection at our borders.  But the aliens simply send out a signal and BAM! they stop.

But its something different.  In Doctor Who, some aliens control humans (yes, including children) using their blood type.  And its more unsettling, as they cause the humans to travel to the top of rooftops, as if they are all to commit suicide.  But no.  Things turn out okay.  But in this case, the children were a part of the crowds, not the sole victims.  When children are singled out and victimized, it is something worse.  Much worse.

Fortunately, Torchwood doesn’t pretend the children are innocent or perfect.  They portray real, authentic children.  And that makes it worse.  If the children were little angels, our cynicism could rise up and say, “Oh, just kill off the little buggers already.”  But no.  they portral realistic human children, with their faults and qualities.  And they are defenseless and beyond saving.

We get protective around children.  I know I do.  When an adult suffers harm, we are saddened; but when a child suffers harm, we mourn and grieve and are angered, righteous anger.  When Gavroche dies in Les Mis, that’s when I tear up.  It’s such an unjust world that we live in.

And so in Torchwood we look into the courts of justice, behind closed doors, into the inner sanctum of British government.  We see how they deal with the alien threat.  You see, the aliens are demanding, on threat of destroying the world, 10% of the world’s population of children.  Yeah.  Not ten children or a hundred.  Thousands upon thousands upon millions.

Does that make it worse? Or easier to bear?

The politicians must now decide.  And face the questions:

– Can we sacrifice the 10% of our children to save everyone else?

– Do we have the right to make that decision?

– How do we decide who gets taken?

– How can we make this appear beneficial to the public?

Questions of serious implications.  Political.  Psychological.  Philosophical.  Religious even.  What would you do?

The deliberations are painful.  Painful.  Utterly and dreadfully painful.  But what would you do?  What could you do?

The show gets a little preachy near this point, and they comment on how numbers of children die every day.  Disease. War. Accidents. Abuse.  And we accept it.

And though it’s a little contrived, it’s true.  We do accept death for the survival of our survival.  Death of soldiers and firemen, workers and politicians.  We allow it to happen, accept that it’s a reality for maintaining our world.

But children…

They don’t choose to fight in our world’s battles or participate in our violence.  They are beyond that.  They are the victims.

Which is why I love any and every person who works to protect our children.  Help our children.  Save our children.  Teachers. Soldiers. Doctors.  Because they are making the ultimate sacrifice.  They don’t sacrifice the child for self-preservation, as the politicians ultimately do in Torchwood.  They sacrifice the self for the child.  They give of themselves and give and give to provide a way for the children of earth.

Now, I apologize for the past 5 or so paragraphs.  They are a little preachy.  And I don’t want to deliver a sermon.  I just want to raise the questions.

– What would you do in their shoes?

– Is sacrifice of the minority acceptable for the survival of the majority?

– Can we even judge those who must make those decisions?

– What else could be done?

– Why are children so important?


It’s okay to answer “I Don’t Know” sometimes.  But we must still face the questions and see what rises in our minds and settles in our spirits.  So.  What do you think?



Posted under: Opening Eyes

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