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Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.05, “Small Worlds”

All right, another confession: this episode kind of freaked me out when it first aired. It might have something to do with the obsession I had for folklore and mythology as a kid. This episode deals with faeries, and the faeries of myth are not Tinkerbell and are downright scary. Embarrassing confessions aside, we find out a bit more about Jack’s past and there is a bit of foreshadowing about the types of choices the man is willing to make for the greater good.

An elderly woman is walking through a dark, foggy wood, looking for something. She finds it in a clearing within a circle of stones: faeries. They look like over-sized lightning bugs. Enraptured by the “little darlings,” she takes a few pictures and leaves, but as she does, the faeries morph from pretty little lights into human-like monsters with wings.

Awww. They’re like Tinkerbell.

Jack is in his office at Torchwood trying to sleep. He told Gwen in “Ghost Machine” that he doesn’t sleep. While I took that to mean he just simply stays awake all night, it may mean that he simply can’t. Jack has a flashback dream (we can tell it’s a flashback because it’s all in sepia tones). He’s on a train when he suddenly finds himself surrounded by dead bodies with red flower petals stuffed in their mouths. Jack wakes up and finds a single red petal on his desk.

As Jack seems to ponder what this could mean, Ianto appears, also burning the midnight oil. Neither of them should be there that late and things between them are awkward in that, “You ordered me to kill my girlfriend-turned-Cyberman and then helped kill her when I couldn’t” type way. Aside from a pat on the shoulder, it’s all business as Ianto informs Jack that there are funny weather patterns in the city.

Somewhere in Cardiff, school’s being let out and a blond girl is waiting to be picked up by her mother’s boyfriend, who’s running late. She’s being watched by a man in a parked car. Jasmine gets tired of waiting and decides to walk home through a park with the creepy man following her. The man pulls up alongside her using the line that her mother sent him to fetch her. Jasmine keeps walking, only to have the man get out and try to force her in the car. Suddenly, he finds himself thrown up against the car by an invisible force that’s been watching the scene. The winds pick up and an eerie voice calls out, “Come away, o human child.” The man is freaked and Jasmine stands there, smirking, as if this is a regular occurrence, before skipping happily on her way.

Meanwhile, Gwen and Jack head to an event held by an old friend of Jack’s. As they enter a building, they too are being watched by the same being that saved Jasmine. Turns out, it’s a lecture on faeries held by the woman from the forest, Estelle, showing her blurry pictures and informing her very small audience that faeries are shy, loving creatures. Jack disagrees and it turns out it’s an old disagreement between the pair. Jack asserts that all faeries are bad and Gwen points out that one person’s good could be someone else’s evil. Estelle comments that it’s what Jack’s father used to say.

The would-be pedophile is walking down a busy road, nose bloodied and spooked by the constant sound of wings. He starts to choke and is soon throwing up red petals. He grabs hold of policewoman in a panic, who arrests him when he won’t calm down.

Jasmine (who her mom calls Jaz) is being admonished for walking home on her own. She reassures her mom, telling her that no one can hurt her.

Jack and Gwen are at Estelle’s home, looking at more of her pictures, when Gwen notices a picture of a man, identical to Jack on the fireplace. Jack informs her it’s not him, but his dad. He and Estelle were apparently quite an item back in the day. They were separated during the war and fell out of touch. Gwen finds Estelle in her garden and asks if she knew Jack’s father after the war or if the three of them had ever gotten together, but Estelle only met Jack (who’s got all his “father’s” mannerisms) a few years ago when he contacted her. She hopes he’s still alive, but Jack never talks about his father, who would be in his early nineties now. Jack joins them, telling Estelle call him at any time if she sees the creatures again and hugs her with a very affectionate expression on his face.Jack and Estelle

Leaving the house, Gwen and Jack discuss what Estelle calls the faeries. Jack doesn’t have a name for them; what do you call creatures that have been around since the dawn of time? They’re worse than aliens because they are a part of the world. They’re the things you only see out of the corner of your eye. Humans don’t understand them so they think of them as benevolent, when they’re dangerous and able to move backwards and forwards through time; myth and reality all rolled into one. They have to find them before all hell breaks loose.

As Jaz sneaks into the forest through a hole in the fence, her mother’s boyfriend wonders why she has no friends and doesn’t read or watch TV or laugh or talk to them. It may be because Jaz’s companions are ancient creatures who live in the forest.

The team is at the Hub studying the pictures of the Cottingley Fairies. Gwen, who is an expert since she wrote a paper, points out that one of the girls, in her old age, admitted the photos were fake. When told the new photos were taken in Round Stone Wood, Owen informs them that it was considered bad luck in ancient times to walk through it. Since these creatures are connected with crazy weather, Jack has Tosh set up a program to watch for odd weather patterns since human devices can’t detect them.

The man is brought into the police station babbling incoherently and asking to be put in a cell. He tells the officer he likes little girls to guarantee he’ll be locked up. The guy gets his wish.

As Jack, Gwen and the team search the woods, Gwen wonders why Estelle has never seen Jack with his father. Jack dismisses the observation as they continue walking, followed by the creatures they’re looking for. Coming to the circle of stones, Gwen continues to be skeptical of Jack’s stories, saying it’s what police work is all about. Jack points out this isn’t police work or even science. Gwen mocks him, but she hears the sound of laughter and wings in the background.

Thinking he is safe in his cell, the man awakens at the sound of wings only to find one of the “faeries” above his bed.

Jaz’s mother hears laughter and the sound of Jaz’s voice coming from her room, but when she opens the door, the girl is in her bed, seemingly laughing and talking to herself.

Jack and Gwen arrive at the police station to find the man, Mark Goodson, dead with signs he choked to death though there were no marks on his body. Gwen finds a red petal in his mouth, the faeries’ calling card, which Jack is all too familiar with.

Estelle is in her home, trying to contact the creatures via crystals when she hears the tell-tale sound of wings. She looks out her window, perhaps expecting pretty lights, when a pair of bright blue eyes peers out from the bushes and breaks her window.

Not Tinkerbell
These faeries are not the Tinkerbell type.

Jack is debriefing the team about Goodson, a convicted pedophile. The faeries like to play games and torment before they kill, hence the petals. It’s a warning to stay away from their Chosen Ones, special children, which is fitting for a man who victimizes children. The creatures can control the elements so they can’t be trapped. As Jack speculates they are part mara, the creatures that we get the word nightmare from, the phone rings and it’s Estelle, informing Jack he was right about there being bad fairies. Jack and the team head right over, but it’s too late. Estelle is drawn outside looking for her cat when a sudden storm that appears just above her house and she is essentially drowned by her beloved faeries. Finding her body, Jack finally admits to Gwen that it was him, not his father, who was in love with Estelle all those years ago.

Having a much-needed drink back in his office, Jack is telling Gwen about how he and Estelle met and where he’s seen the petals before. He tells her he was on a troop train in 1909 with fifteen men he commanded when they hit a tunnel and the fairies extracted revenge for the killing of one of their chosen ones (a twist on the folktales about changelings).

The faeries are prowling around Jaz’s house as Gwen and Rhys return home to find their flat trashed, the the red petals strewn everywhere as an obvious warning, and debris arranged in a circle like the stones in the wood. The next day is Jaz’s birthday and they’re going to have a party, though Jaz would rather play in the garden. The mother’s boyfriend mocks her, but she simply smiles and waves at her “friends” who Roy can’t see.

Gwen is freaking out to Jack about her home being invaded by malevolent creatures with no way to stop them. The faeries protect their own, the chosen ones, since all faeries were once children themselves, taken from different moments in time throughout history. They want their next chosen one, and it’s obvious that Jasmine is that child.

Jaz is being bullied by some girls at school and her friends decide to teach the girls a lesson, whipping up a sudden wind storm. It’s picked up by the program Tosh put in place and now the team has an idea where the next chosen one lives. They arrive at the school and Gwen gets a glimpse of the creatures near the playground. One of the teachers tells them about Jaz and how she simply stood in the middle of the storm as if the sun was just shining on her.

Back at her house, the party is in full swing as Jaz’s mother asks her about who she was waving at this morning. Jaz simply says it’s her friends who swore they would look after her, even through time. Outside, Jaz sees the solid wood fence Roy had built to keep her out of the garden. This pisses off Jaz and Roy hits her, angering the faeries who proceed to wreak havoc, appearing in their true forms and attacking as Torchwood arrives at the house. The faeries kill Roy as Jaz looks on dispassionately before climbing through a hole in the fence, following after them.

They said Jasmine would live forever.

Jaz tells Jack and Gwen she wants to go with the faeiries. Jack tries to prevent her leaving and tells the creatures to find another chosen one. Jaz tell him the faeries will destroy the world if they cannot have her and she wants to be with them. Jack makes the faeries swear no harm will come to Jaz and they reassure him that she already lives forever. Despite Gwen’s protests, he lets the faeries take Jasmine, saying they have no other choice. They have to sacrifice one child for the greater good. Before disappearing, she turns and thanks Jack and then is gone, leaving behind her grieving mother who rages at Jack. As they leave, the team won’t even look at him.

Back at the Hub as Gwen is closing up the files, the screen comes on displaying one of the Cottingley pictures. As Gwen zooms in on one of the faeries, she sees it’s Jasmine. The faeries were right; she lives forever.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

5 replies on “Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.05, “Small Worlds””

I always did like this episode though I know some people found it silly. I do think it’s great in establishing that Jack has lived a really, really long time.

And Freckle, I know what you mean. It actually didn’t click until I re-watched the episode.

I’m totally with you on the scare because of folk and myths. I even doubted reading this article because I’m home alone and I prefer my big bad Bad instead of behind a facade.

And it only clicked in your last paragraph. An offer for the greater good (trying to put it down as spoilerfree as possible)!

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