This is an interesting combination of miniseries and third season. And I like it. I've becoming convinced after watching limited series like Cowboy Bebop that sometimes a limited series is just the way to tell a story. Its long enough, and complicated enough, that you just can't make a movie out of it, but it doesn't justify 7 26 episode seasons. Some series do work well enough to do that. I think Firefly was killed in its prime, just like Farscape, in large part not due to profitability but to executive stupidity. In fact, in the case of the latter, I pretty much KNOW it involved interoffice politics rather than anything the fans wanted.
But until fans directly fund such projects, they will always be subject to the whims of Hollywood executives so they better get used to it.
But I digress.
The basic premise of this show is, aliens are coming and they want a chunk of Earth's children. 10% exactly. The more shocking thing (revealed in episode 4) is that the aliens want the children because humans 'make good chemicals.' I've seen aliens mess with humanity for an awful lot of reasons, but at the absolute least you have to hand it to Russel T. Davis (creator of Torchwood) in coming up with an extremely creative way of making aliens want to interact with humans. We're the losing half of an intergalactic opium war.
The visuals were stunning. Whoever worked with the children managed to make them act very unchildlike and in large numbers. We're not talking about one or two Halley Joel Osmets here, but whole crowds of kids acting in an extremely creepy fashion.
The acting in general was supurb, as was the writing. The only major complaint I had was the absolute lack of freaking out on the part of the children in Episodes 1-3 (out of 5). Look, I understand how you want to highlight how much of a natural disruption it is to show the children playing one minute and then having them standing their droning alien messages the next, but I think a far more powerful visual would have been to show some children playing, but be sure to show little Timmy cowering in the closet because he's afraid that the aliens are going to get him.
A lot of reviews I've read have said Episode 4 is boring. No. Episode 4 is not boring unless you're stupid. Episode 4 is the most important episode out of the 5. Episode 4 is where we see WHAT WOULD REALLY HAPPEN if this took place. We see politicians acting like politicians. We see the absolute disgusting nature of humanity and it is portrayed in a perfectly believable fashion. Unlike the contrived visual with the children, this one is spot on. It doesn't have to highlight the bad guys to make them look bad, because they're just regular leaders making what they believe to be the only choice they have, while at the same time willfully ignoring the alternatives.
And it also shows what only science fiction can show, which is that, in other areas, our leaders often make decisions like this every single day, and yet no one lifts a finger to stop it. Abstract policy to most people just that, abstract policy, with no real feeling for the consequences until it happens to them.
Anyone who loves science fiction or anyone who wants to point out that abstract policies have real world consequences should see Torchwood Children of Earth.