‘There’s nothing we can do.’ The first half of this episode is Torchwood Gogglebox, as the team watch the negotiations with the 456 and the British Government’s response. At first, they bargain with the lives of the easily forgotten: failed asylum seekers, one child for every million people. When the aliens reject the offer, and stick to their demands for 325,000 kids, the discussion descends into squabbling over exemptions and throwing the underprivileged under the bus. That’s one way to level up, I suppose.
There’s something very fag end of New Labour about this. By the time these episodes aired the Gordon Brown was in power: Prime Minister Green looks more like a latter-day Tony Blair, grey-haired and weary, than the new Downing Street incumbent, but the inner Cabinet is still made up of Blairite apparatchiks, obsessed with league tables and spin. In the end, backs against the wall, principles are replaced by self preservation and playing the numbers.
Then, 35 minutes in, Torchwood spring into action. This is punch-the-air stuff, as Lois confronts the Cabinet with the reality of their choices, Jack and Ianto storm into MI5 headquarters while Gwen calmly faces down Agent Johnson. Jack declares war on the 456, and for a moment it looks like this is leading to a grand fight back. But that would very much not be in the spirit of Torchwood, and this little rebellion ends with Ianto in a shroud and Frobisher instructed to put his plans for the children into effect. The end of the episode is more powerful because nemesis has so swiftly followed hubris. When it is most needed, Torchwood has failed.
Next Time: Day Five