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Torchwood 1.5: Small Worlds

November 16th, 2006 (01:33 am)
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This episode didn't arouse the same passions as 'Cyberwoman' last week. I thought it was competent and markedly the creation of a writer of an earlier generation than his colleagues. Most of the team had little development and apart from Jack and Gwen were ciphers. The episode was plot-led but explanations were kept to a minimum, as was writer Peter J. Hammond's way in the days of Sapphire and Steel. We are never told, for example, what the 'Lost Lands' are; I assume we are meant to think of Lyonesse or of Ys.

The sacrifice of Jasmine to the time-indifferent faeries was dramatically satisfying and again in the Sapphire and Steel tradition. The reference to the Mara - if it was meant to be a cross-reference to Christopher Bailey's 'Kinda' and 'Snakedance' for Peter Davison's Doctor Who - seemed inappropriate and not in keeping with Bailey's creations.

Next week looks like a change of style again; I still don't feel that I know this programme or what it seeks to be. Radio Times are ignoring it for now, but I hope that this doesn't mean it's been dismissed already as a failed experiment.

Comments

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)

Meh. I'm fearing a lot of people might have written it off as a failed experiment by now. WHERE IS THE CHARACTERISATION????

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
salmon

It's still doing well enough in terms of ratings, however. I think that the first episode and 'Ghost Machine' have been my favourites so far.

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 09:31 am (UTC)
Pertwee bike

Aha, Sapphire and Steel! No wonder I liked this ep better than any of the previous ones. I enjoyed the glimpse of Jack's past (previously I've been completely indifferent to him) and his relationship with Estelle.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
KingCharlesI

The reactions to this series have been diverse. This episode had more soul than 'Cyberwoman', which though I enjoyed never quite lived up to its potential.

Yes, Estelle, who calmly and without expression of inner anguish rationalises Jack as the son of her long-disappeared lover. (Jack's omnisexuality seems to be downplayed more than the publicity had led me to believe, though was he two-timing her with Algy?) A good idea - and I presume that in 1909 Lahore Jack was on one of his freelance time agent exercises, and left alone by the faeries because he wasn't really of the unit he was leading.

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 17th, 2006 10:18 am (UTC)

Posted by: Na'Lon (na_lon)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)
Stargate

I am intrigued enough by Torchwood to look forward to every episode, but like you, I am not sure what they are getting at with the show. I am not sure what I want from it either, to be honest.

That said, I did enjoy Small Worlds, and the way in which it played with the idea of the consequences of Jack's immortality - and the very Sapphire and Steelishness of the episode worked well for me.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
DavidIcon

Jack very much parallels the Doctor, now; his immortality makes him a 'lonely god without a home' too, and he performs to his colleagues, and to Estelle in this episode, rather as the Doctor does to Rose. Gwen gets special treatment but she still doesn't see the real Jack.

Posted by: Elaine of Astolat (ladyofastolat)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)

I'd assumed that the Radio Times was ignoring it merely because of the nature of its transmission schedule. While they have space to highlight four terrestrial TV shows a day, they tend to single out only one programme a day from the mass of digital/satellite channels. This means they can't push Torchwood every Sunday, in the way they would probably do if it was first airing on a terrestrial channel. They could promote it on the Wednesday instead, but that would feel a bit silly, since it's a repeat of a show shown earlier in the week.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC)

"They could promote it on the Wednesday instead, but that would feel a bit silly, since it's a repeat of a show shown earlier in the week."

Spooks goes out on BBC3 first, but RT consistently promote it the following week, when it is on BBC1.

KT

Posted by: Elaine of Astolat (ladyofastolat)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC)

This was probably my favourite episode so far- the writer managed to catch the contradiction in the nature of fairies- pretty fluttery things which want to steal your children. In that sense I'm reminded of the Discworld books "Wee Free Men" and "Lords and Ladies"

The incomplete explanations also intrigued me and added to the enjoyment, as I don't like all the information to come at once. For this reason I also like the fact that we don't know how Captain Jack got back to the 20th century after his resurrection.

My belief is that he has only been unable to be killed since this happened- which raises the question as to what has happened to the others such as Lynda with a Y.

I wouldn't say that I'm enjoying the series as much as I enjoy Doctor Who, but it is still good, and I do still look forward to it.

But what has happened to Moses the cat? That's what I'd like to know....

Posted by: bunn (bunn)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:44 pm (UTC)

I thought the implication was that Moses the cat was somehow in league with the fairies and lured his owner out of the house, but philmophlegm thought not...

Does anyone have a reason why the fairies killed Estelle? That was what baffled me!

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)

Posted by: bunn (bunn)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:56 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: November 20th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 21st, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 21st, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 21st, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)

I wondered about the reference to the Mara too as it didn't seem to fit. I know that a Mara is a creature in folklore, but it seemed strange to include a reference to it when the Mara also appeared in Dr Who and didn't seem anything like the faeries in this episode. I wonder if they just didn't remember Kinda and Snakedance when they wrote this?

Personally I cheered when they sacrificed the little kid, she was very annoying and besides she wanted to go and be a faerie - in her position I think I'd have felt the same.

Posted by: helflaed (helflaed)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)

I didn't find the Mara reference odd at all- I just assumed that Jack was implying that a lot of the creatures which we believe to be myth are a reality- maybe the Mara will turn up in a later episode?

The kid was annoying but I did feel terribly sorry for her mother.

Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 06:20 pm (UTC)

I agree it did seem a bit harsh to bump off her partner and turn her kid into a faerie all within a couple of minutes. I suspect she got carted off to the local mental hospital when she tried to explain what went on...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: November 17th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 17th, 2006 10:34 am (UTC)

Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: November 17th, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 17th, 2006 12:55 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
arthurelaineletr

Considering that one of the executive producers, RTD, and the showrunning co-producer, Chris Chibnall, are fans, I think that even if Hammond was the originator of the line about the Mara, and assuming that he was thinking about the northern European version, Chibnall and Davies might have shaped it slightly so that it could be read as an allusion to the Mara of 'Kinda' and 'Snakedance'. Considering that the Mara of 1982 and 1983 represent impulses from the 'dark places of the inside' which (at least in Christopher Bailey's original concept, IIRC) can take different forms according to the person, people or culture affected, it's feasible to regard the faeries as angered children who have been entirely taken over by their unhappiness, and become the creatures we see in 'Small Worlds'.

Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)

That seems like a good explanation, it's a pity that the Torchwood crew isn't more vain, if they'd all stopped to check their hair in small compact mirrors at a crucial point they could have solved the problem by accidentally showing the faeries their reflection (if indeed they could be trapped in the same way as the Mara) ;-)

By the way I meant to say earlier I thought the CGI evil fairies were particulalrly poorly done - they looked dreadfully fake!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 16th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)