Day One

Posted in Episode by - February 04, 2023
Day One

Aired 06 July 2009


Following two series that delved into the darker elements of the Doctor Who universe on Earth to varying effect, Torchwood moved to the flagship BBC One for a five-night event miniseries titled Children of Earth with Russell T Davies returning to pen the ‘Day One’ opener as Cardiff’s Torchwood Three attempts to carry on following the recent deaths of Tosh and Owen.

In a brief prologue set in the 1965 Scotland, ‘Day One’ introduces a fascinating mystery straight away as a group of children exit a bus at an undisclosed location and walk towards a light that grows brighter as they near. Some forty-four years later at precisely 08:40, Gwen notices two children standing completely unresponsive for one minute, a phenomenon occurring across the UK and, indeed, the world as told by reports continuing to roll in through the day. While Gwen looks for information at the Hub, Jack and Ianto enter a hospital to extract an alien element from a dead man, an action that draws the attention of one Dr Rupesh Patanjali who has heard rumours of Torchwood activity in the area and asks for help investigating the disappearances of five ethnic males over the past two months.

Amidst the backdrop of a deepening relationship between Ianto and Jack, Torchwood which so often focuses on activities outside of the government here boldly leans into governmental affairs by introducing Lois Habiba on her first day of work for Bridget Spears, assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher. UNIT Colonel Oduya informs Frobisher that UNIT has moved to yellow alert as it tries to determine if the children ‘stopping’ is due to an extraterrestrial influence, a move that becomes all the more pressing as the children freeze again at 10:30 and begin chanting ‘We are coming’ in unison. Even MI5 is involved here, and the head of the technology division tells Frobisher that aliens known as the 456 have established contact for the first time since 1965, a report that prompts Frobisher to suggest to the Prime Minister that certain historical events be scrubbed from the official records.

Through dynamic exposition and cinematics, ‘Day One’ creates an incredible sense of tension and urgency with no child across the globe unaffected and each inexplicably speaking English during these events. As Gwen follows a lead to meet one adult psychiatric patient who has been affected alongside the children, Jack an Ianto agree that they need to question a child, but it’s this latter element that proves to be the weakest part of the episode despite the genuine emotion at the core of each scene as Jack visits his daughter who wants nothing to do with her father who does not age and as Ianto tries to explain to his sister how Jack has changed him so profoundly. The scenes are brief and do well to flesh out these core characters for viewers who may not be overly familiar with previous Torchwood Three exploits, but they immeasurably slow down the otherwise persistently elevating sense of urgency without adding too much- at least to this point- to the overall plot. More effective, however, is Gwen’s visit to Timothy White who was once known as Clem McDonald, a tense visit that shockingly reveals Gwen’s early pregnancy and that triggers warnings that culminate in a shadowy force involving Patanjali that knows all about Jack’s seeming immortality brutally hunting down Torchwood’s members.

Looking past the apparent ease with which the most sensitive government secrets can be accessed by simple passwords freely given, the whirlwind ‘Day One’ is a truly brilliant introductory episode featuring phenomenal performances and direction that together amplify the scale and the intimate investiture of its storytelling to an extent rarely seen on Torchwood. Using the children as an unwitting voice that cannot be ignored while also highlighting the UK as the focal point are parts of an audaciously bold plan from the mysterious 456 no matter their endgame, and the destruction of the Hub with Torchwood now on the run as others look to reshape history creates a tense and wholly exciting foundation for this latest series in which all established rules have already been rewritten.

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