Torchwood 1.05 – Small Worlds

Fairies: evil harbingers of death, or adorable sprites of happiness? (Hint: It’s the first one.)

We open the episode on a sweet-looking old lady, Estelle, wandering through the woods at night, speaking into a tape recorder about not wanting to frighten “them.” When she gets within sight of a small ring of standing stones, we figure out who “they” are: fairies! Cute little glowing winged things. She’s very excited, and snaps pictures of them for a moment before leaving. When she turns around, the fairies morph from their cute little sprite forms to these human-sized, grotesque monsters. Torchwood! Making us remember that fairies are actually evil since 2007.

In the dark, empty Hub, we find out that Jack wasn’t really telling the whole truth when he said he didn’t sleep. The camera moves down through his office, to hover over the little room underneath of it that’s usually hidden by a manhole cover. Jack’s manhole (hee) looks just about big enough for his bed, on top of which he lays, sleeping fitfully, dreaming about something in sepia, because everything before 1940 was actually colored in shades of amber. A bit of history for you there. Jack dreams about himself in a uniform, standing in a train car, surrounded by bodies, freaking out.

When he wakes up, he looks shaken, and he climbs out of his bunk and up into his office, to find a rose petal sitting on his desk. Disturbed, he’s surprised when something moves behind him, and he spins around to see Ianto standing by the workstations, looking through a file. “You shouldn’t be here,” Jack says. One can assume that it’s either too early in the morning or that Ianto was given what was probably a sizable suspension given his girlfriend trying to kill the whole world. Either way, Ianto only tells Jack weakly that he shouldn’t be there, either, then goes to sit at Owen’s workstation computer. Jack comes out and puts a hand on Ianto’s shoulder and asks what he’s found. Ianto answers, “Funny sort of weather patterns?” Jack is more disturbed.

At a school, at the end of the day, Jasmine, a pale, creepy little girl, waits for someone to pick her up, while a man watches from a nearby car. Her teacher is distracted from keeping an eye on her, and the man in the car takes the opportunity to drive closer to her. Jasmine decides to walk home, and the man in the car follows. He pulls up beside her and tells her that her mom asked him to get her because she’s running late, but Jasmine has been blessedly imbued with the idea of stranger danger, and she keeps walking. The man doesn’t take kindly to this, and he pulls ahead of her then gets out of the car to try and convince her. When she tries to get away from him, he grabs her arm. At that moment, a huge wind picks up, and he’s thrown back against the car. Did you know that fairies are huge Yeats fans? Because every time they show up someone start whispering “The Stolen Child” creepily close to a microphone. Come away, O human child! Terrified, the creep gets back into his car, and watches with wide eyes as Jasmine skips happily away.

Creepy child actress is decidedly creepy.

Meanwhile, Jack and Gwen are dropping in on Estelle’s presentation on fairies, because Jack got an invitation. Estelle is adorable and enthusiastic about her blurry photographs of lights in the forest (Gwen much less so), and when her presentation is over, we find out that she and Jack are actually good friends. Jack is insistent that fairies are actually evil, but Estelle won’t hear a word of it. Gwen says that someone’s good can be someone else’s evil, and Estelle says, “That’s what his father used to say.” Jack’s father? Hmm.

Our pedophilic creep is now all disheveled and sweaty, walking through a place that is so bright I forgot it was in Wales for a second. He’s scared by every little noise. In the middle of Cardiff Market, we hear a huge fluttering of insect-ish wings, and then The Creep is stumbling and choking, gagging on something, and when he manages to vomit some of it up really grossly, we see that it’s rose petals. He can’t stop, crashing into people and knocking things over, choking on rose petals, until he gets out of Cardiff Market and pounces on a police officer, slobbering and gibbering, asking her to help him. He shakes her around until she’s had more than enough of that and slams him against the hood of her cruiser to cuff him.

Jasmine’s home, having been picked up by her mom’s boyfriend, Roy, who is a prick. Her mom tries to reprimand her for walking home by herself, but Jasmine only says, “It’s all right, mum, no one can hurt me.” And she walks off.

Jack and Gwen go back with Estelle to her house to see more of the fairy photos. While Estelle is out of the room, Gwen finds a photo that looks eerily like Jack in a WW2 uniform. She shows it to Jack, but he says that no, it’s actually his dad. He and Estelle dated before the war. “They were inseparable.” He was posted abroad during the war and they lost touch. Gwen goes out to ask Estelle whether she, Jack and Jack’s father were ever all together at once, and Estelle says that they weren’t. Jack contacted her out of the blue a few years ago, but he doesn’t like to talk about his father. She says they’re very alike. “Same walk, same smile.” Jack comes out and tells her to call them the second she sees the fairies again, and to be careful. He obviously cares about her very much. Walking back to the Hub, Jack gives Gwen a short lesson on what “fairies” actually are. They aren’t aliens; they’re part of our world, but a part that we know nothing about. “Think dangerous. Think something that you can only half-see, like a glimpse, like something out of the corner of your eye, with a touch of myth, a touch of the spirit world, a touch of reality, all jumbled together, old moments and memories that are frozen in amongst it, like debris spinning around a ringed planet, tossing, turning, whirling – then backwards and forwards through time. If that’s them, we have to find them. Before all hell breaks loose.” What, Jack, dramatic? Perish the thought.

That’s an uncanny family resemblance, Harkness.

Jasmine’s mom and her boyfriend are worried about her. She doesn’t have friends, she doesn’t watch TV, she doesn’t read, she doesn’t smile or laugh. She just plays at the bottom of the garden. They obviously don’t know that Jasmine is down there playing with the fairies.

At the Hub, the team is in the conference room, with a picture of the Cottingley Fairies up on the monitor. Gwen did a paper on them at school; she knows that they’re fakes, because the girls in the photos later admitted that they were, but the rest of the team doesn’t think so. Estelle’s photos were taken in Round Stone Wood, which Owen knows, because it has an odd history: “It’s always stayed wild. In the ancient times it was considered bad luck to walk in there. Even the Romans steered clear of it.” Jack tells Tosh to set up a program to notice anomalous weather patterns, because none of their other systems can pick them up.

At the police station, The Creep begs the cops to put him somewhere safe. He admits to being a convicted pedophile, and screams at them to lock him up to get him away from whatever is attacking him.

In the woods, Gwen is still asking Jack about his father and Estelle; she knows that there’s fairly obviously something going on there, but he won’t talk about it. Gwen’s still unconvinced about the existence of the fairies, but she does see something out of the corner of her eye as they start to collect data on the standing stones Estelle photographed.

Happily locked away, The Creep is woken up by a wind and the fluttering of wings, and screams as something descends on him.

Jasmine’s mom passes by the stairs and hears talking and laughing from Jasmine’s bedroom, so she goes to check it out. When the door opens, Jasmine quickly lies back in bed, and her mom asks who she was talking to, but Jasmine says that it was no one. “It was lovely to hear you laugh,” her mom says, and Jasmine just looks blankly back at her. She always his this expression, like she knows something much more important than whatever the other person is saying.

Or like she’s catatonic.

The police get in touch with Torchwood about The Creep dying mysteriously in the cells. Jack, Tosh and Gwen go to check it out. The man choked to death. Gwen discovers rose petals in his throat. Tosh says that she’s never seen anything like that before; Jack says, “I have.”

At her home, Estelle is doing a sort of ritual with incense and crystals to be able to find the fairies again. She hears the buzzing flutter of wings, and is afraid, but gets up to look out into her back garden. She sees a big pair of evil-looking eyes, and her window is shattered.

At the Hub, Jack explains that The Creep was killed in retribution for trying to hurt a child. The fairies protect their own; The Creep tried to kidnap a Chosen One. “Children and the spirit world, they go together.” He doesn’t explain what a Chosen One is, but he does tell them how totally useless their usual methods of attack would be against creatures who can control the elements. Estelle calls to tell Jack: “You were right, Jack. There are bad ones. They’ve come to me.”  Jack tells her to stay away from them. The team rushes out, and Estelle notices that her cat isn’t in the house. He’s yowling outside, in the back yard. She tries to call him in from the door, but he won’t come, so, looking terrified, she goes out to try and find him. The door locks behind her, and it starts to rain very hard. She collapses. When the team finally gets there, she’s already dead; she drowned. This is why I hate cats so much. Who trains a cat to go outside? Jack is visibly upset, and kneels down to hold her body. Tosh and Owen give him privacy, but Gwen kneels down with him. “It wasn’t your dad who was in love with her all those years ago, was it?” she whispers. “It was you.” Jack, crying, tells her that they once made a vow to be with each other until they died. He stands up and says he needs a drink, then walks away.

At the Hub, with his drink, Jack tells Gwen how he and Estelle met. “In London, at the Astoria ballroom. She was seventeen years old and she was beautiful. I loved her at first sight.” They were separated when he was stationed abroad, as Estelle told Gwen earlier. Gwen asks when Jack had seen petals like the ones in The Creep’s mouth before. Jack explains, with the help of more sepia-tinted “historical footage,” that in 1909 he was on a troop train with fifteen men under his care, laughing and playing cards, someone with a harmonica, in a compartment, when they went through a tunnel. When they came out on the other side, all fifteen men were dead, with rose petals shoved down their throats. A few of them had driven drunk through a village the day before and killed a little girl, who happened to be one of the Chosen Ones. They were all killed in retribution.

So much sepia. So much terrible Barrowface.

When Gwen goes home, she and Rhys walk into their flat and are greeted with everything thrown around and torn apart, covered in leaves and rose petals. It’s a wreck. Gwen sees a little circle of stones identical to the ones the fairies congregated around in Round Stone Wood.

The next day, Roy is a jerk to Jasmine as they get in the car to drive to her school. “No wonder your dad left when you were a baby. He must have seen what was coming.” Jasmine waves at her “friends” in the trees, and Roy scoffs. “You don’t have any friends.” At school, two girls are also jerks to Jasmine, pushing her down as they go by her on the playground.

At Gwen’s flat, she’s cleaning up, angrily telling Jack that she’s never had to be scared in her own home before this. “What chance did Estelle have, what chance do any of us have?” She tells Jack to explain what the Chosen Ones are. “All of these so-called fairies were children once, from different moments in time, going back millennia. They want what’s theirs. The next Chosen One.”

At the school, Jasmine’s two bullies accuse her of telling on them and push her to the ground. The fairies don’t take kindly to that, and they start a huge gust of wind, making all of the other children run screaming and trapping the bullies, while Jasmine watches, smiling eerily. Their teacher tries to protect them. At the Hub, Tosh tracks the irregular weather pattern, and they all hurry to the school. When they get there, they find Jasmine’s teacher, who tells them about what happened, and that Jasmine was just standing there in the sunlight, like she was protected. Jack comes to the conclusion that she must be the Chosen One, and they hurry over to Jasmine’s house.

Jasmine smiles as her classmates flee in terror. I would personally just let the fairies take her.

Jasmine’s mom and Roy are having a party to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Jasmine’s mom asks about who Jasmine was waving at this morning, and Jasmine is as creepy and cryptic as ever, talking about her friends. “They say they’ll always look after me, even through time.” Outside, Jasmine runs to the back of the yard to see that the fence she’s been using to visit the woods has been boarded up. Roy follows her, and when he tries to drag her away, she kicks and bites him, and he backhands her. Overhead, there’s the huge sound of an oncoming storm. He stops with his hand still raised, distracted by it, then leaves her there and goes back to the party. He starts to give a speech about the anniversary, and then the party is suddenly attacked by the big, scary-looking fairies. Jasmine looks on with a little smile as Torchwood shows up and starts herding people out of the back yard, but it’s too late for Roy, who has been pinned, and a fairy shoves its hand down his throat. When it gets off of him, his mouth is full of petals, and he’s dead. Jasmine ducks out through a hole the fairies put in the fence, and Jack and Gwen follow her as Jasmine’s mother cries really convincingly over Roy’s dead body.

When they catch up to Jasmine, she says that she wants to stay with the fairies. Gwen asks, “But what about your mother, don’t you want to stay with her?” Jasmine shakes her head, and the fairies appear in the trees. Jack grabs Jasmine and pulls her back, saying that they can’t take her because she isn’t sure, but Jasmine insists that she is. Jack tells them to find another Chosen One, but they say it’s too late. “She belongs with us. She lives forever.” Jack asks what would happen if he forced Jasmine to stay with her mother, and Jasmine says that “lots more people will die. They promised. Next they’ll kill everyone at my school, like they killed Roy, and that man, and your friend. If they want to they can make great storms, wild seas, turn the world to ice, kill every living thing. Let me go!”

Jack only hesitates a second before he asks painfully, “The child won’t be harmed?” Gwen tries to stop him, but they fairies say again that she’ll live forever. Jasmine asks him if that’s what he wants, a dead world, and Jack asks what good that is to the fairies, if no more Chosen Ones can be born. “They’ll find us back in time.” Finally, Jack has to give up and let her go. “Take her.” Gwen tries to go after her, but Jack holds her back. “You ask me what chance we have against them? For the sake of the world, this is our only chance.” Jasmine looks back to thank him, then skips off and disappears, just as her mother runs up. She tries to follow, but Jasmine’s already gone, and she turns around and attacks Jack helplessly and ineffectively, screaming. Jack holds onto her with tears in his eyes, apologizing. Get used to that, Harkness! /foreshadowing

Nothing about this part has been funny, so, here, have this terrible screenshot of Jasmine before she skips off into the sunset.

As they leave the house, no one will talk to Jack, or look at him. They all just walk around him when he stops, and ignore him when he asks what else he could have done. But they still let him drive, so they can’t be that mad at him.

At the Hub, Gwen is gathering up the papers spread over the conference room table when the monitor turns itself on, and she looks behind her to see one of the Cottingley Fairies photos displayed. She notices something off about one of them, and she closes up on its face. It’s Jasmine, as a fairy, smiling. And in that creepy breathy fairy voice, somebody recites, Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild, with a fairy, hand in hand – for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Ye Olde Photoshoppe.

Next time on Torchwood: camping! Ianto not wearing a suit for once! Tosh is a total badass! One of the best episodes of this season, so stay tuned.

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  • Fabrisse

    This is one of my favorite episodes of Torchwood.

    “Mother says I never should, play with the fairies in the wood.” So many of the original fairy stories were warnings against being kidnapped by the fey, and somehow people forgot that.