Day Four

Posted in Episode by - March 05, 2023
Day Four

Aired 09 July 2009


As Children of Earth reaches ‘Day Four’ written by John Fay, the 456 have made their demands known. Torchwood finally learns of the events of 1965, and the fate of the world seemingly pivots around John Frobisher and humanity’s decision to either acquiesce or fight back.

Rather than quickly glossing over the brilliant cliffhanger ending from ‘Day Three,’ Fay dedicates ample time to fleshing it out by highlighting Jack’s actions in 1965. Then, Jack- as a man selected because he would not care- was charged with giving the 456 a dozen children to stop them unleashing a deadly virus, one that could surpass the mortality rate of the Spanish flu they brought in 1918. Interspersing flashbacks with reactions seen in the present day proves to be an incredibly effective means of delivering this vital information and again builds immensely dark and complex layers into this character who has seen and lived through so much, and John Barrowman gives a truly moving and haunting performance as Jack is forced to confront his previous actions as well as the sheer horror and fear he has instilled in Clem and the sheer disappointment that Ianto feels after learning of these secrets.

With the 456 aware that somebody is watching them, Frobisher lets it be known that he is in contact with the Prime Minister and requests that the aliens state just what they intend to do with the children. Peter Capaldi, as always, is again brilliant as this man who quite literally has the weight of the world upon his shoulders but who must balance a fine line between authoritative and submissive as he tries to deal with these beings of unknowable power. To the show’s credit, it has still managed to avoid showing the totality of the 456 creature within the tank in order to maintain a genuine air of mystery and unease, and the decision of the 456 to welcome a cameraman into the tank in order to reveal the mutated form of a child taken in 1965 whose eyes widen in surprise after seeing humans again after so long is truly chilling and further intensifies the mystery and stakes far more than simply showing an alien creature ever could. That the aliens want to use the children to provide chemicals with the effects of recreational drugs is all the more brutal, and the 456 having recorded their earlier conversation with Frobisher that reveals Britain’s much earlier interactions with and submission to them means that their demands are anything but idle as they refuse to accept any variation on the ten percent mandate.

For a series pitched around aliens and with the 456 proving to be more than formidable, however, ‘Day Four’ succeeds most when the desperation of humanity is thrust into the fore. While it may perhaps be a bit convenient for those in charge to simply accept the power of the 456 as different countries try to determine what to do about the demand for ten percent of their children, the intense swirling of emotions as those around the cabinet table discuss options to decide which units will be sacrificed and how to spin it to the public in terms of social usefulness are scarily plausible and put certain school ranking criteria into an entirely different light. Again, this is a case of less is more with the 456 as the self-preserving nature of politicians becomes the more immediate threat to a public being kept in the dark, and the side deals made to ensure direct relations are not taken proves that fairness to all and willingness to personally sacrifice are anything but important determining factors in this process. ‘Day Four’ takes a solid ten minutes for these uneasy deliberations to unfold with wonderfully fraught performances as characters tread into morally dubious territory, and this slow burn provides Torchwood with the all of the ammunition it needs thanks to Lois’s contact lenses that have recorded all of these conversations.

It’s here that Torchwood takes the lead once more, and Jack and Ianto directly confront the aliens and proclaims that this time they will not be getting what they want. Even as the brutal truths regarding Earth’s own child mortality rates are emotionlessly read out to Jack as a means of comparing the 456’s alternative, he steadfastly refuses to accept the conditions while proclaiming himself as the voice for humanity and thus announcing war, and his straightforward and no-nonsense approach comes with the most unexpected and dramatic consequences as Clem drops dead and as they release a poison into the building that ultimately proves fatal to Ianto and so many others. It’s difficult to understate just how immense these moments are with Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd giving their all and tapping into the depths of their characters’ relationship that has developed so genuinely over the run of this show, and Torchwood’s continued willingness to kill off its main characters again proves just how dangerous this world is. Jack is the only person who is truly safe since he cannot be killed, and he provides the perfect filter through which to see the transient nature of humanity and formed relationships as well as the immense emotions that fill and define that time together, the final scene with Jack and Gwen sitting in a room full of corpses ending this shocking and engrossing episode on a sombre note that genuinely questions whether humanity can ultimately prevail.

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