Torchwood 1.5: Small Worlds review

Review

Small Worlds

Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):

Wordbuilding  World-mapWorld-map
Gore               Weevil-chompWeevil-chomp
Dancing          Carys
Angst              Tear-stained-pizzaTear-stained-pizzaTear-stained-pizza
Aliens              Philoctetes

On Worldbuilding.

Gwen: That’s what police-work’s all about.
Captain Jack: This isn’t police work.
Gwen: Alright, then. Science.
Captain Jack: And it’s not science.

This week the Torchwood team encounter bad fairies at the bottom of a suburban garden. (This episode is actually a lot more scary than that sounds.)

The episode begins with three different scenes that describe the three different plot threads: an old lady taking pictures of “fairies” in a wood; Jack’s nightmare about being on a train, with fellow soldiers dying, petals spilling from their mouths (he awakes to find a single red petal in the Hub and to reports of freak weather); and a young girl who seems to be protected from harm by supernatural forces.

These threads are brought together over the course of the episode, beginning with Jack taking Gwen to meet Estelle who is giving a talk on fairies. This is really Jack’s episode as only he sees the connections. This is not an episode where the team is taking the viewer with them as they “solve” a “case” together. Jack generally knows more than the viewer at all times, knows more than the team.

The scene where Jack explains to Gwen and us exactly what he suspects the threat is provides him with a very Doctor-ish speech. He explains that these beings are not alien, but have always been on Earth, since the dawn of time, are part of us, and exist backwards and forwards through time. All very mystical and as a stand-alone episode interesting, but there doesn’t seem to be much Worldbuilding happening with the episode – so the Torchwood team concerns itself with alien technology and the “spirit world” too?

Jack also mentions that they are like “the Mara”. When watching I immediately thought “Hmmm the Kinda/Snakedance Mara?”. The writers are perhaps saying “Don’t worry, we can have mystical beings and not just aliens, after all Doctor Who did”. However, I suggest Torchwood needs to establish its own distinct story-world (something it hasn’t quite done over the previous four episodes) before branching out.

During last week’s episode, Gwen asked Jack if he had ever loved someone. When they find Estelle dead she has her answer. Gwen guesses that he was with her in the 1940s. Jack explains what the sepia-tinted flashback/nightmare was all about: he experienced something similar to what is going on now, but in Lahore in 1909. So as Jack cannot die – he has been on Earth, unaging, from 1909 (or earlier) through the 1940s to the 21st Century. Although this idea has been hinted at in previous episodes, its revelation in this story is an intriguing piece of Worldbuilding.

Episode Quality-rating: GrinGrinGrin

A sombre and substantial tale, though one that doesn’t really mesh with the previous four episodes.

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