Season 1 Episode 5

Small Worlds

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Nov 12, 2006 on BBC Two
out of 10
User Rating
402 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Jack catches up with a very old friend of his, who is investigating fairy sightings in the local wood. After having visited her, Torchwood are informed of a man's mysterious death in a prison cell. Then, Tosh uncovers a series of localised, extreme weather patterns. Nobody at the organisation is sure of these events, or how they may be connected. Except Jack, who has witnessed the creatures causing this, almost a century ago.moreless

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  • Not my favourite storyline, in fact quite bad!

    First off this episode was quite terrible I thought.

    It had a good idea, but the bad writing can be clearly seen.

    There is only a slight continuity with the previous episode though you would think that they would have a serious problem with Ianto after what he did.

    I didn't think Jack would just let the little girl go like that. It's just so unlike him and his flashbacks just made his character more confusing.

    We knew he was in the Blitz in 1941, yet he looked exactly the same in 1909 and you would think the military would have noticed the same person over 30 years later looking EXACTLY the same. Why was he even in that train and why was he there in 1909? Why did the fairies actually kill all the soliders and not him? For that matter why did the fairies kill the soldiers?

    This was just a filler episode. The only thing not letting it down completely was the trailer for next week. (Get to see Ianto out of that suit!!!!!)

    Rankings to date:-

    1) Cyberwoman

    2) Day One

    3) Everything Changes

    4) The Ghost Machine

    5) Small Worlds








  • In the land between dream and awake Where love takes your heart to the skies Where imagined things are all too real And angel seen flying by Where vision seeks out distant stars To see what things might be true Remoreless

    Somewhere a fairy believes in you.

    (Original poetry by Caleb Cain)

    Jack has a friend who believes in Fairies, but it's nothing to clap about.

    Estelle has found them at last, and she is elated that such wonderful creatures could be real, so why is Jack so scared?

    It seems Jack is more experienced than average when it comes to fairies. (No pun intended) He knows them to be deadly, and it strikes him with fear to realize they are at work again.

    A little girl is at stake, under the spell of the fairies, and in danger of being taken by them, so the team must act, but how do you fight against something older and more powerful than anything you've ever known... The team is skilled with aliens, but the fairies haven't come from another planet. They've been here, creating havoc, since long before mankind ever thought to do so, and they are much better at it than we are.

    By the end, Jack shows that sometimes being in charge of Torchwood means making the hard decisions, even if it means doing something heartbreaking (Some would say unconscionable.) to keep the world safe.moreless
  • Very interesting episode.

    Ianto's being scarily controlled around Jack, it's unnerving. It's obvious now why no-one suspected Ianto of lying, he's terrifying. I would have attacked Jack and yet Ianto is acting like nothing happened. He's bottling everything up which means that sooner or later he'll explode and it will be very messy. I am surprised the writers didn't do something far more blatant, Ianto must hate Jack right now.

    Ianto didn't believe Jack's ever loved someone as much as he loved Lisa – he was wrong. Jack does understand - to love someone for a century.

    I have to say I like this idea – these creatures protect children. Problem is that there's nothing benevolent about them and they don't just scare bad people off, they kill them. They're like ghosts, have no sense of proportion – they only see in black and white, no shades of gray. They kill Jasmine's stepfather for insulting her and they kill soldiers for killing a 'chosen one'.

    Is Jack one of them? He's immortal too and they spared him when they attacked the train in 1909. It seems quite a coincidence that he was there then, was in love with Estelle who could see them, and now they didn't hurt him. Coincidence or connection?moreless
  • After the overwrought silliness of 'Cyberwoman', 'Small Worlds' sees a marked improvement in Torchwood thanks largely due to a script from Sapphire and Steel creator P. J. Hammond.

    In contrast with previous episodes, 'Small Worlds' sees the series step back from the supposed science fiction approach of the series and roots itself more in fantasy; in common with Sapphire and Steel, the episode sees ill-defined, almost magical entities with a curious relationship with time (and a smattering of technobabble to explain their nature) menacing the heroes. Interestingly, as in Sapphire and Steel's 'Adventure Two', 'Small Worlds' also has a similarly dark ending, with the male lead sacrificing an innocent human life for the sake of the whole world in both.

    This approach works rather well in Torchwood, although with Captain Jack and the team up against an unstoppable foe in the form of the faeries, it is probably for the best that we don't get this sort of thing every week, or they wouldn't last five minutes. Hammond's script thrusts the regulars into what is literally a fairy tale, and they find themselves completely out of their depth; although Jack again fulfills the role usually occupied by the Doctor in Torchwood's parent series, armed with handy foreknowledge of the faeries and providing whacking great infodumps when the plot requires, the difference here is that whereas it is hard to imagine the Doctor sacrificing a child to save the world, Jack is forced to do just that. He's obviously wracked with guilt, and the understandable anger expressed by Gwen and Owen in particular will no doubt serve to further jam the gears of this utterly dysfunctional group. What is really notable about 'Small Worlds' is that the team is utterly unable to cope from start to finish; Jack knows what's going on, but despite chasing around after the faeries and eventually identifying their "Chosen One", he's unable to stop a single death here, from Estelle, to luckless stepfather Roy.

    Ah yes, the deaths. When I reviewed Sapphire and Steel, I noted that Hammond is big on atmosphere, but doesn't always have the most watertight plots and often seems to be making things up as he goes along. This is, to an extent, the case here, with things happening seemingly for no other reason than to prompt responses in the regulars; thus, there is no obvious explanation for why the faeries kill Estelle except to give John Barrowman the chance to do some emoting, nor is there any reason for them to trash Gwen's flat but not, for example, the Hub or the homes of any of the other Torchwood members, except to give Eve Myles the chance to do some shouting. And also, perhaps, to engage the audience; 'Small Worlds' is atmospheric and interesting, but it is curiously uninvolving for much of its length. When the faeries' victims include a p?dophile and a man who has just backhanded a small girl, it is difficult to really feel a great deal of sympathy, despite actors Roger Barclay and William Travis both putting in enthusiastic performances. It's an interesting characteristic of Hammond's writing that he often includes morally dubious or at least deeply flawed supporting characters (Sapphire and Steel 'Adventure Three' for example), which here juxtaposes with the fantasy aspect of the story but tends to invite the audience to sit in judgment rather than empathizing. There's also no real explanation for why the faeries don't actually kill the girls who are bullying Jasmine, although it isn't too much of a leap to assume that they generally draw the line at killing children.

    That said, this is also what the regulars are for, but with Ianto, Tosh and Owen largely sidelined and Gwen playing the role of companion so that Jack can explain the plot, it is only Jack who gets any real benefit from 'Small Worlds'. Torchwood has shown us his charm and a also a ruthless streak, but 'Small Worlds' shows us his human side, and Barrowman is very good at conveying Jack's warmth and affection for Estelle, and showing his barely-controlled grief at her death. He's not quite so good however when Jack is recounting the deaths of the fifteen men in his past at the hands of the faeries, since he tends to use a monotone which is presumably meant to sound haunted but just sounds like someone talking in a monotone. Incidentally, the opening sequence of Jack having nightmares about faeries whilst tossing restlessly does rather raise the question of what script-editors actually do, since Jack announced matter-of-factly that he doesn't sleep in 'Day One'. Brian Minchin might not have noticed that, but I did and so I suspect did other viewers. More on the subject of script-editing when I review 'Countrycide'.

    The guest cast is generally very good, including Adrienne O'Sullivan as Lynn, who seems genuinely distraught when her husband is choked to death in front of her eyes, Eve Pearce as the likeable Estelle, and Lara Phillipart in the timed honored role of creepy little girl. Roger Barclay makes Goodson seem utterly pathetic as he stumbles through the market vomiting rose petals, even though the natural tendency considering that he's just tried to abduct a young girl is think that it serves him bloody well right. Director James Strong does a fine job of the episode, with some very creepy sequences, especially the moment when the faerie hiding in Estelle's shrubbery opening its eyes, which actually made me jump. The faeries, when they finally appear, also work rather well, looking utterly malevolent and quite repulsive.

    On the whole, 'Small Worlds' isn't quite as a good as 'Ghost Machine' was, but it is a step back in the right direction. Unfortunately, the next episode doesn't just step back in the wrong direction, it actually starts running.moreless
  • The best episode so far.

    This is one of the best Torchwood episodes so far. It has a bit from Doctor Who and the X-Files' monster of the week.

    Fairies are normally expected to be good. This episode shows fairies as bad creatures. They can kill every living things, control the weather and appear wherever and whenever they like. They also have a chosen one, Jasmine. A freaky kid, who isn't tied to her existence on earth and her only friends are the fairies, who have saved her from a man who tried to abduct her. The greatest about this episode is that we get to know a part of Jack's past. His immortality is shown when all the soldiers who were traveling by train with him (in 1908) are killed by the fairies and he's the only survivor. His relationship with Estelle was very strong.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Owen claimed that Harry Houdini believed in the Cottingley Fairies. Actually, Houdini was a well-known skeptic, and denounced them as fakes at every opportunity.

    • The food that Jasmine is setting out to hand around at the party is Fairy Cakes.

    • Gwen: And when the girls were old ladies they admitted they were fakes.
      If Gwen had indeed done an essay on the Cottingley glass-plate photos when she was at school, she failed to do her research. Whilst it is true that in their elderly years the cousins admitted that four of the photo's were forgeries, Frances Griffiths maintained until her death that they did see fairies and that the fifth photograph, which showed fairies in a sunbath, was genuine.

    • The hymn Lord of the Dance can be heard when the faeries are creating the storm in the playground to protect Jasmine.

    • The large print of a fairy hung on Estelle's wall is entitled "Midsummer Eve", painted circa 1908 by Edward Robert Hughes (1849-1914).

    • Some of the external locations (Estelle's House, the lane Jasmine walks down, the hall Estelle does her talk in) are located in Penarth.

    • One of the famous Cottingley Fairies photographs were edited on this episode to include the image of Jasmine as one of the fairies.

    • The songs "Better Do Better" by HARD-Fi is playing when Jasmine helps Lynn prepare food for the party, "Born to Be a Dancer" by Kaiser Chiefs, as Jasmine and Lynn take food out to the party, and "Ooh La" by The Kooks when Roy returns to the party and makes a toast to Lynn.

    • When Mark is being tormented by the fairies and starts vomiting rose petals, he is moving through Cardiff Market onto St Mary's Street in Cardiff city centre (where he has the run-in with the policewoman).

    • The 3D glasses on Jack's lamp in his office are probably the ones that belonged to The Doctor, which he used in the Doctor Who episodes "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday".

    • The name of the school was "Coed Y Garreg" which translates as "The Stone of the Tree".

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Gwen: Where did you and Estelle meet?
      Jack: In London. At the Astoria ballroom. A few weeks before Christmas. She was seventeen years old and she was beautiful. I loved her at first sight. But nothing lasted back then. Promises were always being broken. Estelle... to have to die like that...

    • Gwen: It wasn't your dad that was in love with her all those years ago, was it? It was you.
      Captain Jack: We'd once made a vow; that we'd be with each other until we died. I need a drink.

    • Captain Jack: Suppose we make her stay with us.
      Jasmine: Then lots more people will die.
      Gwen: They tell you that?
      Jasmine: They promised.
      Fairies: Come away, oh human child.
      Jasmine: Next time, they'll kill everybody at my school, like they killed Roy. And that man. And your friend.
      Gwen: How do you know these things?
      Jasmine: If they want to, they can make great storms, wild seas, they can turn the world to ice, kill every living thing. Let me go!
      Captain Jack: The child won't be harmed?
      Gwen: Jack, you can't...
      Captain Jack: Answer me! She won't be harmed?
      Fairy: We told you. She lives forever.
      Jasmine: Dead world. Is that what you want?
      Captain Jack: What good is that to you? There will be no more Chosen Ones.
      Jasmine and Fairies: They'll find us, back in time.
      (A long pause as Jack weighs things up)
      Captain Jack: Take her.

    • Jasmine: Do you know you're walking in the forest? Well, you are. It looks like a very old forest and it's magical. I want to stay in it.
      Captain Jack: You can see this forest?
      Jasmine: Yes.
      Captain Jack: But it's not here. It's just an illusion, Jasmine. It is. Your friends are just playing a game with you. The real forest can never come back.
      Jasmine: Oh, it can. When they take me to it.
      Gwen: They told you this? (Jasmine nods) But what about your mother, don't you want to stay with her?
      (Jasmine shakes her head; the Fairies come out from the trees)
      Captain Jack: Come on. The child isn't sure.
      Jasmine: I am sure! (Captain Jack grabs her) No!
      Captain Jack: (to the Fairies) Leave her alone. Find another Chosen One.
      Fairies: Too late. She belongs with us.
      Captain Jack: The child belongs here!
      Fairies: No! She lives forever.

    • Lynn: Where did you meet these friends? Must've met them somewhere.
      Jasmine: They said they'll always look after me. Even through time.

    • Lynn: So who are they?
      Jasmine: Just friends.
      Lynn: You should have invited them to the party.
      Jasmine: They don't like parties.
      Lynn: I'm not surprised if they live in trees.
      Jasmine: Oh, they don't always live in trees. They can be anywhere and everywhere. They can even be in this room.

    • (The fairies have got into Gwen's apartment and trashed the place)
      Gwen: In the whole of my working life, I have never had to bring the bad times home with me. I have never had to feel threatened in my own home. But not any more because this means these creatures can invade my life whenever they feel like it and I am scared, Jack. What chance did Estelle have? What chance do any of us have? (Pauses) You said these creatures protect their own.
      Captain Jack: Yeah.
      Gwen: You mentioned the Chosen Ones. What are they? How many are there? (Pauses) Tell me, Jack!
      Captain Jack: All these so-called fairies were children once. From different moments in time going back millennia. Part of the Lost Lands.
      Gwen: Lost Lands? What?
      Captain Jack: The Lands that belonged to them.
      Gwen: What exactly do they want? Why are they here?
      Captain Jack: They want what's theirs. The next Chosen One.

    • Gwen: Those petals in Goodson's mouth. Where had you seen that before? Was that during the war?
      Captain Jack: No. Long before then. On a troop train. (Voice-over; flashback to Lahore, 1909) Fifteen men with me in charge. Everyone happy. Too happy. Too noisy. Then we hit a tunnel. We thought some birds had flown in through an open window. Then came the silence. And when we came out of the tunnel, all fifteen men were dead. (Back to present day) They'd been suffocated. My squad. Men I was responsible for.
      Gwen: But why were the men killed?
      Captain Jack: About a week earlier, some of them had got drunk, drove a truck through a village, ran over a child, killed her. That child was a Chosen One.

    • Gwen: Why the petals in his mouth?
      Captain Jack: Just a bit of fun on their part.
      Gwen: You call that fun?
      Captain Jack: That's the way these creatures like to do things. They plays games, they torment, then they kill.
      Gwen: Why?
      Captain Jack: As a punishment or a warning to others. They protect their own. The Chosen Ones. Somehow children and the spirit world, they go together.
      Toshiko: So how do we stop them?
      Captain Jack: First we have to find out who they want. And we can't trap them. They have control of the elements. Fire, water, the air that we breathe. They can drag that air right out of our bodies. Sometimes I think they're part Mara.
      Toshiko: Mara?
      Captain Jack: Kind of malignant wraiths. It's where the word "nightmare" comes from. They suffocate people in their sleep.

    • Captain Jack: I spell out the dangers, you keep looking for explanations.
      Gwen: That's what police work's all about.
      Captain Jack: This isn't police work.
      Gwen: Alright, then. Science.
      Captain Jack: And it's not science.
      Gwen: I know, you told me. It's that "corner-of-the-eye" stuff.

    • Roy: (About Jasmine) Other kids have friends. Where's her friends? There must be something wrong with her.
      Lynn: There's nothing wrong with her!
      Roy: Well, when's the last time you saw her watching TV? Or reading a book? Or playing with a doll? Or sitting down to have a chat with us? When's the last time you heard her laugh?

    • Captain Jack: She calls them fairies. I don't.
      Gwen: What do you call them?
      Captain Jack: They've never really had a proper name.
      Gwen: How come?
      Captain Jack: Something from the dawn of time. How could you possibly put a name to that?
      Gwen: Are we talking alien?
      Captain Jack: Worse.
      Gwen: How come?
      Captain Jack: Because they're part of us, part of our world, yet we know nothing about them. So we pretend to know what they look like. We see them as happy. We imagine they have tiny little wings and are bathed in moonlight.
      Gwen: But they're not?
      Captain Jack: No. Think dangerous. Think something 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 and turning, whirling, backwards and forwards through time. That's them, we have to find them, before all hell breaks loose.

    • Gwen: Did you know Jack's father after the War?
      Estelle: No, we lost touch. Why?
      Gwen: Did all three of you ever meet? You, Jack and his father?
      Estelle: No. Never. Jack contacted me a few years ago. I was so surprised. So like his dad. Same walk, same smile. I hope he's still alive. He'd been in his early nineties now.
      Gwen: You could always ask Jack about him.
      Estelle: I have, but he doesn't seem to want to talk about his father.

    • Gwen: (seeing a picture on Estelle's mantelpiece of a young man who looks a lot like him) This is you.
      Captain Jack: Sorry. No, that's my dad. He and Estelle were quite an item once upon a time. They were inseparable.
      Gwen: Then why did they part?
      Captain Jack: It was wartime. He was posted abroad. She volunteered to work on the land. Just happened that way.

    • Estelle: Jack and I have always disagreed about fairies. I only see the good ones; he only ever sees the bad.
      Captain Jack: They're all bad.
      Estelle: No, I refuse to believe that!
      Gwen: Well, I suppose one person's good could be somebody else's evil.

    • Ianto: I blame it on the magic mushrooms.
      Captain Jack: What you do in private is none of our business.

    • Captain Jack: You shouldn't be here.
      Ianto: Neither should you.

  • NOTES (3)

    • International air dates
      Australia: July 16, 2007
      Israel: June 10, 2007
      Mexico: August 6, 2007
      Sweden: July 15, 2007
      United States: October 6, 2007
      Canada: November 2, 2007
      New Zealand: August 6, 2008
      Germany: April 8, 2009

    • The premiere of this episode had 1.26 million viewers.

    • On the BBC website, Gwen reveals that the photographs were of Jack, to Tosh and Owen, via a virtual webchat, and also some theories surrounding his background, plus information on why Suzie actually died.


    • When Jack comes up to his office after his waking nightmare and finds the single rose petal on his desk in a cabinet behind him you can see three 50's era television screens, these are from Magpie's Electricals as featured in the Doctor Who episode "The Idiot's Lantern". After Mr. Magpie was vapourised by the Wire his son took over the running of the store and sold three of the sets to Torchwood.

    • Roy: Well, when's the last time you saw her watching TV? Or reading a book? Or playing with a doll? Or sitting down to have a chat with us? When's the last time you heard her laugh?
      These questions are similar to what the Fifth Doctor asks the Cyberleader in "Earthshock Part Four" of the original Doctor Who series: "When was the last time you had the pleasure of smelling a flower? Watching s sunset? Eating a well-prepared meal?"

    • At the end of the episode when Gwen is leaving the boardroom, a fairy voice says:
      "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."

      This is an excerpt from The Stolen Child, a poem by W.B Yeats.

    • Captain Jack mentions the "Mara", which could either be a reference to the European wraiths, which originated the word "nightmare", or could be a reference to an abstract alien entity, which existed in dreams and thrived on conflict, These creatures featured in two Doctor Who stories starring Peter Davison, "Kinda" and "Snakedance".
      Actually Christopher Bailey, author of Snakedance and Kinda, was a practising Buddhist and named Doctor Who's Mara after the Buddhist demon Mara who is the personification of Temptation. So it is more likely that Jack was referring to the Germanic/Scandinavian wraith.

    • When Estelle is giving her lecture on fairies, she shows a picture of the Cottingley Fairies. In July 1917, a fifteen-year-old girl called Elsie Wright took a photo of her cousin Frances Griffiths dancing with fairies in their garden at Cottingley, near Bradford. The photo was shown to a member of the Theosophical Society who in turn showed it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes). Doyle was convinced the photographs were real and even wrote an article entitled "The Coming Of The Fairies". In 1983, the now elderly girls admitted the photographs were faked by using some drawings done by Elsie. This story was made into a film in 1997 called "Fairytale: A True Story", starring Peter O'Toole as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.