Thursday, 16 November 2006

Torchwood - "Small Worlds" 9/10


There's been much anticipation of this "Torchwood" episode - possibly equal to that for the series as a whole. The reason is the author - P (Peter) J Hammond, creator of "Sapphire & Steel" for ITV in the late 70s - for whom this was a return to the genre. As many of the paranormal themes were repeated here I'm sure the devotees weren't too disappointed. I couldn't fault the themes and plot in general but a few niggles again deny "Small Worlds" a perfect 10 (one would be the boring title itself). Mainly this was the pedestrian/cliche direction by Alice Troughton (no relation to DW#2) but some things were also left unexplained. Whether the latter is down to Hammond or the script-editor I know not.
Though it was definitely another non-ensemble piece, I'm forgiving it for letting Captain Jack take centre-stage, making him a tad more sympathetic and revealing further exploits in his past. Gwen's prominence was undeserved, especially the fairies' arbitrary trashing of her flat - why? Equally why were the two schoolgirl bullies NOT killed by the nasty fairies, as they appeared to be the most prominent and everyday threat to their 'chosen one', Jasmine. All they got, literally, was the wind put up them. Contrast with Jack's wartime sweetheart being cruelly drowned by rain in her own garden, despite being sympathetic to what she felt were benign beings. Does not compute.

All of the above aside, it was a cracking episode. I loved the idea not only that the murderous baddies here were that childhood favourite - fairies - but that they were revealed to be spirited-away children themselves. And for me it was a bonus that these were not alien invaders but ancient forces at work across linear time. Also appreciated touches like their calling card often being a mouthful of rose petals stuffed into their victims mouth - especially memorable during their first attack on a lurking paedophile as he chokes and vomits through Cardiff's indoor market. Quite how Jack had a convenient nightmare of his prior 'fairy' experience in 1906 Lahore and then finding a single rose petal left on his desk is a bit more mysterious.

Good dual design on the CGI fairies, keeping some similarity between the dainty white ones and the 'winged Gollum' attack versions. And creepy use of the fluttering wings sound - subtle but effective.

Best for me was the climax. In two ways it was reminiscent of the resolution to last week's very different episode. Both had a member of the team making a painful decision, and in both cases a loved one was 'given up'. Unlike last week though this equally correct decision looked anything but as the sacrifice was the little schoolgirl Jasmine. Ultimately both Lisa and Jasmine were already on the dark side when we first meet them, even if neither are fully there. More intriguing is that Jasmine and her band of element-wielding 'hoodies' are still out there fully charged. Will this be followed up? Will Jack's decision to follow Jasmine's wishes be repaid?

A little worried about the deja-vu feeling of Hammer Horror yokels I got from the trailer for next week's episode - a pity as it's my favourite title so far - "Countrycide".

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