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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)

Or they recognised that he was unable to die?

I do wonder how the whole bisexual thing played out for him in less liberal decades.

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

Or they recognised that he was unable to die?

That's if Jack's immortality predated his resurrection by Rose at the end of 'The Parting of the Ways'; and if Jack has been in his present timeframe for much longer than we might have imagined. The evidence for and against will no doubt mount up over the coming weeks.

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

"That's if Jack's immortality predated his resurrection by Rose"

If he is a time agent (rogue or otherwise), his personal timeline does not need to correspond to the normal course of time. I.e. he may have visited 1909 after the events of 'The Parting of the Ways' (provided he has found some form of transport of course...).

Anyway, the way he recounts the episode suggests he wasn't in the truck which killed the child. Maybe that is the most straighforward explanation why he wasn't touched?
KT

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

I'd missed the line saying that he wasn't in the truck which killed the child - it's the most straightforward explanation, and evades the question of whether this is before or after 'The Parting of the Ways'. I think it's before, and he was on some scam in his rogue time agent capacity.

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

It isn't said, but I think it is implied by the way he talks about the whole thing in the third person.

KT

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)

I've noticed that they tend to do this if the digital showing was in the previous week - as with Lost, on E4/Channel 4. But if the previous digital showing was in the same week - i.e. in the period covered by the same issue of the magazine - they tend not to. I could very well be wrong, but that's the impression I'd got.

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)

I hadn't thought that about Moses- I'd assumed that he was being used as an innocent lure, but I can see whay other people thought differently now that you mention it.

As for Estelle being killed- I'm guessing that the fairies had found out in some way that she was a threat by her involvement with Torchwood and didn't want anyone to get in their way- although they did seem to have allowed her a more merciful death.

One of the fairies did spot Gwen when she and Jack went round to Estelle's house, so then they probably decided to dispose of her because although she was not a threat to Jasmine, she might give useful information to Torchwood, who would be a threat to them.

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

EDIT

I *should* have guessed that Moses was in on it- you'd think that I'd know better, living with three little fluffy monsters- erm cats myself.

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

I'd viewed the cat as an innocent and thought at first that it was the cat who was going to die; but it's plausible that Moses, as a cat, had a connection to the spirit world that took priority over any relationship to Estelle. There is presumably good hunting in the faerie realm...

...perhaps next time we are in the Torchwood cells we should look out for the one containing the cat?

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

Heavens, that puts quite a dark light on Jack then - if just him going round to her house was enough to get her bumped off, and if he knew that he would be putting her at risk!

I do like this series, it has all sorts of odd chinks where you can see weird plot twists off in the distance without them being too definite.

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

I'm not sure if Jack quite realised that he would be putting her at so much risk- heseemed genuinely shocked and concerned for her welfare. In fact I think he thought that he was protecting her.

I get the impression that even though I don't think that he was in love with her, that he did feel a very great affection for her.

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

Jack had shown concern for her welfare, but doesn't seem to have realised what great danger she was in. He had wanted her moved out to the country, but whether because the city was no place for her at her age or because the faeries were active in this specific location wasn't clear.

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

I think that's one of the things I like about the series, too - I hadn't put my finger on it. Torchwood works much better for me than any of New Who; but my appreciation of much recent television does seem to be somewhat perpendicular to everyone else's... Although usually I am attracted by strong characterization, in this series I am enjoying the relative lack of it potentially opening up wider horizons than were available in Dr Who. New Who seemed to focus on the intimate characterization of the protagonists, which didn't hold much interest for a viewer who didn't warm to anyone but Mickey, whereas in Torchwood I find myself intrigued by Jack's back-story and by the "everything" that is supposed to change in the 21st century.

I'll stop rambling now and carry on catching up with nearly a week of LJ...

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

I don't think that was rambling, I think that you were expressing something that at some points Torchwood has been meant to be doing - I tend to think that it just doesn't know how to do it well or stylishly enough.

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

Then again, how many series in the past have managed to get it spot on in the first season?
I think Torchwood is doing reasonably well.
KT

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

Interestingly next week's Radio Times makes Torchwood one of its digital choices this Sunday - but partly to ask whether the series will make up its mind whether it's The X Files or Hollyoaks: After Hours. It's trying to be itself, surely.

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)
parrot

The factor that might make Torchwood an adult series, in a way that its old-fan Doctor Who critics seem to have missed but which presumably is of more meaning to the production team, is that it is comparatively unforgiving. A stepfather is killed by faeries, a daughter disappears for ever after having her humanity gradually stripped away, and a mother is left screaming. Ianto Jones goes from having the illusion of no inner life, to having none. Ed Morgan's youthful predeliction for violence leads him to turn someone else into his killer. And so on....

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

It is quite refreshing to have a series that isn't always 'happily ever after', but even so I'm still not quite sure it makes up for them having a cyberwoman. That was just plain wrong as far as I'm concerned...

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

What was wrong with the Cyberwoman?

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

Well she was female for a start...

I suppose I just don't like what RTD has done with the Cybermen at all. I really dislike the fact he's tried to humanise them. Personally I preferred them back in the 80's and 90's, they were more alien and menacing back then.

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

I don't know if RTD has necessarily made the Cybermen more human than they were in the 1980s. There is certainly more emphasis on the body horror aspect than in any 1980s story except 'Attack of the Cybermen', but whereas in the 1980s the Cybermen were generally threatening as embodiments of unstoppable physical force, now they are threatening because of what they plan to do to the people they conquer. Latterday Doctor Who self-consciously celebrates the human in a way that 1980s Who, spellbound by technology, didn't.

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)
DavidIcon

I thought the CGI faeries acceptable in a storybook fashion, and if I was one I wouldn't want to have looked at my reflection...