Monday, November 23, 2009

No Child Left Behind

Because one apocalypse per day is just not enough in my family: we went to afternoon matinee of 2012, and then watched the last two episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth.

I was finding 2012 surprisingly not annoying, until the actual disaster stuff really kicked in. Then it went from implausible to ludicrous, and from CGI spectacle to "okay, we get it, everything's collapsing." I will add that I believe the story owes something to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Representative humanity is going to be saved in giant arks, but because one of them was damaged, a whole group of rich paying customers (whose billion-Euro tickets financed the operation) is about to left behind, leading to a dramatic speech about what makes us human, etc. However, I kept thinking about the space ark that sent the Golgafrinchans to the planet Earth, under the ruse that the planet was about to be destroyed -- but really because they were "a bunch of useless bloody loonies."

Also, it's always good to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jimi Mistry. I wanted more of their exciting geophysicist adventures, and less of the Divorced Dad Drama. Next time the world ends, let's make our point of view character, oh, say, a girl who works at the mall or something. A little Night of the Comet action. I'm tired of the world ending being all about divorced dads earning the respect of their kids, because that's more important than the billions of people who got killed. Although to be fair, John Cusack makes this marginally more tolerable than Tom Cruise did in War of the Worlds.

And speaking about deciding what makes us human, and what sacrifices are acceptable to save a greater number of people, we have us some Torchwood. It's pretty hard to talk about Children of Earth without it becoming spoiler city, so consider this a warning. Leave now, or be spoiled!!

Okay, the story is: alien horribleness, and everyone dies. Hence, my favorite Torchwood yet! Okay, everyone doesn't die: Jack doesn't die, because he's immortal, which still sucks. Gwen doesn't die, and the Internet is full of rage at her Mary Sue-ness, which makes me sheepish because I never noticed it. I like Gwen, or at least I like Eve Myles, who plays her.

I particularly like the whole storyline with her and her husband, Rhys. When she started in the top-secret alien investigation biz, Gwen got a little caught up in the cosmic glamour of it all, and even had an ill-fated affair with one of her coworkers. But she stuck with the old boyfriend in the end, married him, eventually clued him in to all the alien threats, and he's actually proven helpful, giving her useful ideas, and risking his neck to help save the world. Not bad for a guy who had Mundane Boyfriend She's Bound to Outgrow written all over him in the first few episodes.

Now (more spoilers!) that Gwen's pregnant, I'd like to see the show come back and handle this more realistically than Angel did when they tried to put a baby in the middle of a supernatural investigation team. (They quickly gave up, and used the time-honored device of throwing the kid into a portal, so he'd re-emerge as a teenage Vincent Kartheiser after a few months). I'd like to believe that a woman wouldn't have to give up a career fighting alien menaces to have a child, although babysitting will always be an issue...

I also enjoyed the fact that Jack did something so intriguingly reprehensible that some online commentators think he's been "destroyed as a character": he sacrifices his grandson to stop the evil aliens who are abducting children for horrible uses, and threatening to destroy the planet. This is more or less an inhuman thing to do, being in the province of cold logic and almost impossible objectivity. However, as in 2012, we've seen the powers that be argue over what are acceptable casualties when it's the fate of the human species on the line. While they all agree that sacrifices need to be made, nobody wants to make the sacrifice themselves. Other people's children dying is a very different thing from one's own children dying. And should people be willing to risk the lives of other people's children, when they wouldn't put their own in harm's way?

Of course, it's natural for people to put their own families first. But that's why the moral dilemma is so interesting to me. In a way, Jack is a better person for being willing to sacrifice his own, rather than somebody else's, which is what everyone else is trying to do. It also makes him kind of a monster. This also seems clearly, in the context of the show, a result of the character's immortality. He's lived long enough to see how brief human lives are, even the long ones, so his perspective on it is different. It also seems realistic that, after what's done is done, he would feel how alienated he's become, and choose to leave the group and, possibly, the show. Although, supposedly, there is a Season Four on the way, so we'll see how long forever is.


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Anarchivist said...

Sorry to delete your comment. I enjoyed the fact that, out of the sea of Japanese characters, I could make out the number 666. That was a nice, Anarchivist-appropriate touch. However, Google Translate assures me that there was a bunch of stuff about trying to sell adult comics ("comic adult specimen"), and alas, we can't have that.