Day Five

Posted in Episode by - March 10, 2023
Day Five

Aired 10 July 2009


Torchwood is defenceless and anarchy reigns as the human race struggles with the 456’s demand for ten percent of each country’s children. With Children of Earth drawing to a close in ‘Day Five’ by Russell T Davies, a council estate and the bonds of family become the foundations of the battle for humanity’s future.

‘Day Five’ instantly sets a scene of despair with Gwen speaking into a camera and suggesting that she understands why the Doctor may turn his back on humanity on certain occasions. Cutting to Nicholas Farrell’s Prime Minister enacting his plan to take the needed children under the guise of offering inoculations which quickly turns into a forceful military mobilization when certain ‘units’ do not show up to school, this is a brutal reminder of the depths humanity can reach when desperation is the only guiding factor. His unilateral decision to sacrifice Frobisher’s children to the inoculation programme as a means of public reassurance is all the more personally frightening and callous, and this scene between Farrell and Peter Capaldi is unquestionably one of the most profound of this series given the incredibly layered nuances pervading the decisions and realizations of each. With these discussions leading to Frobisher taking the ultimate action of ending the lives of his family and of himself so that none of them will have to endure the fallout, known or unknown, the repercussions and very personal element of this alien presence is truly palpable and resonant in a fashion that science fiction does not always explore or detail, aided by the incredibly moving direction of Euros Lyn and the stirring testimony about Frobisher as a good man from his secretary.

Amidst the horrific backdrop of the military aggressively taking individual children during violent neighbourhood and home searches while Gwen and Rhys heroically try to keep as many safe as possible, Jack’s plan to fight back against the 456 is somewhat suspect and seems to rely on an unearned leap of faith that the frequency that proved fatal to Clem earlier will also prove to be the 456’s downfall. While Jack is extremely confident and regularly takes risks while making assumptions, his plan here necessitates the sacrifice of a child to spearhead delivery of that frequency, and the introduction and inclusion of his daughter and grandson in this series become painfully clear when he has only one child at hand to use. John Barrowman’s face speaks volumes as he knows what he must do and the irreparable harm it will cause to his already-fraught relationship with his daughter, but Lucy Cohu’s tremendously emotional outpouring when she realizes what Jack is demanding and as she stands helplessly by while her child is tortured- albeit ostensibly for the common good- is yet another visceral reminder of just how personal and utterly relatable this particular threat is. It’s no surprise that Jack should choose exile following his actions here that have come at such a personal cost, and that along with Gwen’s pregnancy make for an intriguing future trajectory for this franchise that has found renewed life on BBC One.

Torchwood has never been afraid to take gambles and risks with its tone and storylines, but the supremely talented cast and direction have successfully brought this gripping and emotional five-part serial to life on the biggest possible stage to prove how viable the Torchwood brand remains and that it can certainly rival its parent  Doctor Who with its scope and ambition. Children of Earth has been a monumental success on nearly every level, and ‘Day Five’ ends it in heartbreaking fashion without giving in to any pressure to end on an optimistic or upbeat note other than with the needed turn against the Prime Minister who orchestrated some of Britain’s darkest hours.

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