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Nov 16, 2006

Jack and Gwen Have Been Assigned

It may, or may not, surprise you to find out that I really enjoyed Small Worlds. In fact I have enjoyed every episode so far this series even the much maligned Cyberwoman. What I do like about the series is the fact that each episode has been very different from other episodes, and it looks like next weeks episode is going to be completely different again.

1x05smallworlds00030 What this episode is more like than anything else is a Sapphire and Steel episode, which is not that surprising given that the episode is written by Peter J (PJ) Hammond who has spent the last god knows how many years writing for series like Midsomer Murders (where I also believe that Kevin Clarke spends his time nowadays). He does seem very at home writing these kinds of stories and there were certainly elements present in this episode that he had used before in his Sapphire and Steel episodes such as the use of nursery rhymes and spooky children.

The ending of this episode is certainly the most this episode is like a Sapphire and Steel episode as if you remember in Adventure Two Steel had to sacrifice the life of one of the characters in order to solve the problem and save time or the world. In that episode it was the kindly Ghost Hunter Tully and in this episode it is the rather spooky, Jasmine.

Now this ending is certainly not going to appeal to Doctor Who fans who love the fact the Doctor will generally always save the day and not let anybody die in the process but like in the Sapphire and Steel episode in this case it was about the only way that Jack could see to end the problem. Its not likely to endear the character of Jack to Doctor Who fans or to his fellow Torchwood crew, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

At the end of the day the little girl didn’t go kicking and screaming with the fairies did she, she seems perfectly happy to go off with them and even said to Gwen that she would rather go with them that stay with her mother. You have to feel sorry for her mother though, who, in the space of a few moments lost both her partner and her daughter.

1x05smallworlds00910 This just goes to show that this is not a series like Doctor Who and there are not always happy endings. You could argue that the ending was happy for the little girl as if you see in the last scene when discovers her on the picture of the little girl with the fairies and she is smiling.

Doesn’t that make what happened a little easier to swallow? Probably not but Gwen is certainly discovering that she has entered a much darker, murkier world than she is used too, especially after seeing her house trashed. It does make you wonder what effect this will have on the team, as Jack does seem to confide in Gwen more than he does with any of the other members of the team.

In this episode we learn quite a lot about Captain Jack and how he does in fact live in the hub, how he doesn’t sleep, how he once had a lost love and how he was also seen in 1909. My girlfriend certainly enjoyed the first scenes of a topless Jack lying in bed anyway (as no doubt did some of the OG contigent!)

1x05smallworlds00290 The scenes in 1909 are certainly going to get a lot of people wondering when those scenes take place. It seems pretty obvious to me that these all happened before he met the Doctor and Rose in The Empty Child. How long he was in war-torn England is debatable but we all know why he appeared to be posted abroad after the war. Well I suppose you can call travelling around time and space in a police box being posting abroad. It also makes you wonder how long Jack has been on Earth since returning there from the Game Station.

I am wondering if he does know that the Doctor has regenerated, I mean I assume he was on Earth and part of Torchwood during the events in Doomdsay or the Battle of Canary Wharf as it is known in Torchwood circles. I am sure that it will get explained in later episodes but I would imagine that Jack has been back on Earth for a couple of years at least. I mean he seems to have been a member of Torchwood for a while at least due to the fact that he is the leader of the team.

For all we know he may have been on Earth during the events of series 1 before he actually appeared in the series for the first time. You could say the same about Tosh. When we first met her in Doctor Who was she already a member of Torchwood and was she undercover as a pathologist, since she has not displayed much interest in that sort of thing in the series so far. It certainly does make me wonder.

We also meet a very spooky little girl whose name co-incidentally is the same name as the girl who played a very similar character in Rememberence of the Daleks. I very much doubt there is anything more at work there than just a mere co-incidence, as was the mention of the Mara by Jack. I know that a lot of fans punched the air with joy when that name was heard but I doubt that it has anything to do with the Mara of Doctor Who, certainly PJ Hammond may have been aware of those episodes but Mara means different things in different cultures and I would say that Hammond was using a different meaning of the word Mara here.

I must admit I liked the direction, especially the scenes shot from the fairies point of view with that nice green tint. I hope that we see Alice Troughton helming a few episodes of Doctor Who sometime in the future. The scenes of the paedophile character, literally coughing up roses, was very disturbing and could have come straight out of a Sapphire and Steel episode.

1x05smallworlds00676 Captain Jack gets to have his Doctorish speech with Gwen as they leave Estelle’s house. He does seem to getting more and more Doctorish by the episode, or perhaps that is deliberate, making him like the Doctor, so that fans of Who don’t feel shortchanged by this spin-off. If that were the case then he has failed it would seem. In this episode neither Owen, Tosh or Ianto have a great deal to do. When will Tosh have something to do? Come on guys give her something to do!

The CGI work was good and was all the more effective for being barely used, the suggestion of the fairies flying around people by the direction, camera work and photography was conveyed effectively enough.

Was it me or did the music keep going Harry Potter on us? There were moments when I expected Michael Gambon to turn up as Albus Dumbeldore. This is not a criticism as I thought the music was very effective in this episode, as was the use of the poem by W.B Yeats and the use of nursery rhymes.

As far as I am concerned Torchwood is going from strength to strength and I really do hope that it carries on beyond its first 13 episodes.

Comments

"Now this ending is certainly not going to appeal to Doctor Who fans who love the fact the Doctor will generally always save the day and not let anybody die in the process but like in the Sapphire and Steel episode in this case it was about the only way that Jack could see to end the problem. Its not likely to endear the character of Jack to Doctor Who fans or to his fellow Torchwood crew, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. "

On the contrary, the Doctor doesn't always save the day. The Aztecs, Earthshock, Warriors of the Deep, Remembrance of the Daleks, even Genesis of the Daleks and The Caves of Androzani. Admittedly, he always escapes, but you can't say that any of them have a completely successful resolution. There are always sacrifices which he makes, sometimes consciously, sometimes unwittingly. Here, Jack had to make the sacrifice for the sake of the world. To me, that's a very Doctor thing to do.

Of course, it doesn't make any of the rest of the story comprehensible.

Well hey - my mum thought it was brilliant. That's good enough for me :P I haven't see it yet, got it on tape.

For the millions of people interested, she seemed to mirror what I thought with the other episodes...quite liked Everything & Ghost, and thought Day & Cyberwoman were a load of old cobblers. My words, not hers.

Of course, this good-crap-good-crap-good? pattern means maybe I shouldn't get enthused about Torchwood episode 6, but let's see how that goes, eh? ;)

In dramatic terms, the stepfather deserved his comeuppance because he clearly didn't care tuppence for Jasmine (witness the opening scene in which he was late picking her up from school because he was on the phone, let alone the violence meted out later), and the mother "deserved" her predicament because she had been blind to her daughter's needs and the impact of her choice of partner. (I don't mean "deserved" in the sense that she had it coming, but dramatically characters tend to pay for their mistakes or shortcomings.)

Uhm...let's be fair. When a little kid latches its teeth onto you, it bloody HURTS. So he overreacted by smacking her to get her to let go, I can see that happening easily.

You're quite correct about the Mara. The Mara in Kinda and Snakedance was based on the Buddhist demon Mara. The Mara Jack refers to is a race of wraiths from scandinavian folklore.

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