...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, July 10, 2009



The War Games part four. At this point it doesn't seem as funny or as relevant to be playing "spot the plot coincidences" any more.

Instead, remember this:
There are some corners of this universe that have bred the most terrible things, things that stand against everything we believe in. They must be fought.

Not the 456. Although, we must fight them; obviously we must. But they're just a bunch of inhuman gangsters with a protection racket. No, I mean the quisling politicians who might accede to them.

How short is the step from league tables to gas chambers?

The centrepiece of "Day Four", arguably of the whole Children of Earth series, features the Prime Minister of Britain and the "COBRA" emergency committee discussing how they are going to surrender over three-hundred thousand children to suffer a horrible living death enslaved to the alien 456.

Just think what it says about the standing of our politicians that this is credible.

No one at that Cabinet table says the thing that ought to be said: this demand, this threat from these 456 is a declaration of war. So we give them a war. We tell the World about these abhorrent creatures and their ghastly demands. We execute their ambassador and we take the fight to them any way that we can, and if we can't and we die then we die fighting.

I know, I realise it's only a television drama, a bit of sci-fi fluff to most people, and I realise that it's set up to allow Lois to suddenly come into her own and make that speech as "a voter" an "everyman" and for Torchwood to put action to the words and be the ones to stand and fight and die.

But this is something true. This is how it happens that we can find our country at war with Iraq or colluding in torture, when decisions are taken like this by these… people… whose arrogant belief is that they know what is good for us.

Mr Yates (bless Nick Briggs but in this company he's really out of his acting league) even goes to suggest that, with overpopulation and immigration being hot-button topics, they can spin this as a good thing.

"Lord knows, 'spin' is all we've got."

That could be the epitaph of the New Labour project, assuming it's not just buried at a crossroads in an unmarked grave with a stake through its heart.

The Prime Minister, Mr Green (Nicholas Farrell), keeps up the pretence of pained, heroic self-sacrifice, bearing the burden even as it pains him to make the "tough decisions" to let someone else pay the price. I wonder who that reminds me of? Perhaps he's even pretending to himself, with his line of "no one in this room is a willing collaborator". Oh, yes you are Brian, yes you are.

It's Deborah Finlay, though, outstanding in the small and for obvious reasons repellent role as Denise, who perfectly captures the two-faced self-interest disguised as self-righteousness of those archest of New Labourites, the Harriets, the Margarets and the Hazels, the ones who can always justify the most odious of policies with a straight face, and yet still feel that they deserve to be treated that little bit better.

I'm sure it's a question that hasn't troubled the consciences of the Labour Party yet, but what do you do when there aren't enough asylum seekers to blame?

You pick the children from the bottom ten percent of the school's league tables, apparently. Yes, that's right, you stick it to the kids that you've already failed.

Even Mr Frobisher – and can someone just give Peter Capaldi the Bafta now, please? – even he has the good taste to look nauseated by what they've just agreed to.

And it's futile, too, when the British Government has no way on Earth of persuading to go along with this vile scheme the other one-hundred-and-ninety-one members of the United Nations, all of whom are already furious at us for covering up our earlier dealings with the 456.

Almost, that's all I want to say, it's too much to say more.

But I can't not mention how "Day Four" ends.

So, the COBRA scenes took up the middle third of the episode: before them was the expected revelations of what happened in 1965 – given what we'd already seen, no real surprises there, although the link between the 456 and a flu pandemic (prescient shades of Swine Flu, given how long ago this was filmed) was foreshadowing for the 456's weapons later – and after came Torchwood's counter-attack, and it's failure, and the price.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Jack, who can't die, understands the price of war less well than Ianto who can die. And does.

It was a good plan, and the execution is brilliantly choreographed, as Torchwood make the Government and the military dance to their tune. Agent Johnson and her people are supposed to be good at their jobs, but did they not start to think that something might be up when Ianto began to address them directly, knowing that they were tracing the call. Because I'm not a top military assassin but I guessed that Torchwood wanted Johnson to know where "Hub 2" was.

The flowing, sweeping almost languid shots had a sense of inevitability about them as they sept us to the climax.

The music too, descending choral voices in a minor key, was beautiful and tragic, and reminiscent of similar music in John Woo's Mission Impossible II, which also features a countdown to viral apocalypse.

It was a good plan. But the 456 are blackmailers, and they are careful and they are prepared. And, unlike the usual movie villain, the 456 didn't threaten and bluster. They just declared war and used their weapon. Death, just like that.

But the 456 fear us.

They won't tell us their real name, have refused to reveal where they are from, remain hidden in their poisonous mist and lie and dissemble to keep the people of Earth from knowing them. And they are right to fear us. Once revealed for what they are, a gang of cosmic paedophiles, human fury would be unbounded and retribution without limits.

They've seen "The War Games" too. They know, they know that we are the worst monsters of them all.

Next Time… Time's up. It's the End of the World. Day Five.


No comments: