Torchwood: Small Worlds

This week on Torchwood, the sensible grown-up version of the silly childish programme: fairies. But also: paedophiles, just to mix it up. Proper bottom-of-the-garden fairies and a proper hanging-around-a-primary-school paedophile. But don’t worry, the fairies kill the paedophile by stuffing his mouth full of rose petals, and everyone else lives happily ever after.

Until the fairies kill an old woman that Captain Jack’s trying to bone, then a little girl orders her step-dad killed because he mended a fence, so Captain Jack decides to sacrifices the little girl to the fairies, much to the chagrin of the poor woman who’s just lost her husband and her daughter within the space of two minutes. It’s a moral dilemma that would later be explored with great success in Children of Earth – the question of whether to sacrifice innocent life in order to save everyone else – but it all happens far too quickly here to examine each option in any meaningful way. We don’t get a chance to feel the threat, so Jack’s actions seem rash and heartless.

But do you know what? I didn’t hate this episode. The sections exploring Jack’s past work well because we’re finally seeing glimpses of his life that we didn’t already know about – just how many wars has he fought and possibly died in? The story of him and Estelle was actually quite touching, if you can forgive John Barrowman’s flaws as a serious actor, which I just about can. I still think Jack works far better as a wise-cracking sidekick than as a leading man, but here at least he was written well for the first time this series.

I was a bit dismissive of the fairies at first, but it all sort of clicked for me when Jack mentioned The Mara – it reminded me that I accepted a supernatural creature that can control reality when Doctor Who did it, so I gave them the benefit of doubt from then on. Afterwards, I read that Jack was talking about the Mara from Scandinavian mythology, not the one from Snakedance, so feck it anyway.

So yeah, the best episode so far – nothing special, and it would probably be one of the weaker Who episodes in your average series, but I didn’t hate it and it didn’t irritate me, and that’s as good as you can hope for at this stage. Plus, Owen was barely in it, so he didn’t get chance to do any of his trademark misogyny. Still no idea who Tosh is, or if she has any individual character traits whatsoever, btw.

RATING: 6

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