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Originally posted November 13 2006 at 16:11 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled.

Flickering Fairy Torches

Away with the faeries ;-)
Random stuff

This post talks about Torchwood episode, urm, five. If you haven’t seen it then be careful to avoid the spoilers below!


I think I’ve decided that I’m undecided about this episode. I think maybe it was a good episode that lacked the right hooks for me; or maybe I spent too much of it with my brain distracted trying to recall where they’d pulled each bit of the storyline from…I’ll list the points I thought of though, and maybe by the end it’ll be more obvious if I did like it or not

There are fairies at the bottom of the garden. Who would have thought? After last week’s “classic scifi” cyberthingy outing this week the science fiction series wanders into pure fantasy. As the episode itself says, this is not science—even speculative science; we’ve found ourselves in the realm of, well, fairy tales. This is an interesting approach. When leaning heavily on ideas of the supernatural there has been a tendency to wrap a technological or alien explanation around it both in Torchwood (Ghosts in the Machine) and in Doctor Who (The Unquiet Dead, Tooth and Claw for examples from the latest resurrection). That was pretty much avoided here. Indeed there seemed to be little, or at best confused, explanation. What explanation did come seemed to be plucked straight from the most convenient legend for that point, with little bringing together of the whole idea. The whole “through time” bit could be there just so we can learn about Jack, though to be fair it’s not exactly out of keeping with the legends being drawn on. In fact I think this leads to the episodes biggest failing. While it told the tale well everything about it was far from original. While there is nothing wrong with retelling the old tales the best examples of doing so bring something new to the mix, and that new thing isn’t just the contextual setting. I have to confess that I’m a little out my depth here—fairy myths have never been my strong point—but I was nagged at every turn trying to remember the half forgotten tale from which each idea had been taken (I can get as far as Yeats obviously but my memory really is shot for everything else; comments welcomed). In fact this tale retelling had me worrying towards the end. With the touchy feely Russel T Davies somewhere behind the scenes and the, in my opinion, overdone ending to last week’s episode I think my anxiety can be justified, for even I know there is only ever one way this tale can end. Thankfully, this week they got it more or less right (I’m not sure about the “clever”, and unoriginal, photo trick at the end, but hey, they didn’t completely mess it up).

So we have a poorly explained fairy myth (where are they from, exactly where are they taking the child, what and why are chosen ones…in general where is the detail of what is going on), telling a told before tale. As I said though, it does it well enough. Unlike some episodes of this series it doesn’t overplay its adult billing hand, and nobody randomly started to snog each other. The CGI remained just about subdued enough as well. There were some of Torchwood’s typical problems still of course. We had the obligatory appearance of Gwen’s boyfriend in a scene which seemed to be there only to remind us of his existence again (it brought nothing to the story; there was no questioning or explanation for why the faerie picked on Gwen particularly; why didn’t the boyfriend hang around to have a word with Jack about his wrecked house). The different writer for each episode seems to have led to some inconsistency over whether Jack sleeps. There was also the tendency to make sure we found victims dislikeable. They were small blips though, rather than huge looming mountains.

Ringed by the faeries we had an unoriginal but well enough handled love tale stretched by time, as we “learn” something more of Jack. He really was around back in the 1940s (shock, horror. Anyone who watched Dr Who knows that anyway). It seems he’s been around at least a little earlier than that as well though, as Jack becomes not only some undead, unsleeping Captain Scarlet hero but a forever soldier, or perhaps eternal champion, figure as well. We only really got the merest hints though (it was difficult to tell if this was to build the mystery or because the writer hadn’t been allowed to individually carry things too far). Plus the sort of loose ended, no explanation questions which haunted the episode—why was Jack left alive on that train for instance.

I think on balance this wasn’t a bad episode, just not quite my cup of tea. I wanted more depth to the mythos being built, and more science in what is essentially a science fiction show. I also want to know what happened to the cute Moses the cat. Personally I think it would have been good if Torchwood had adopted him. They need some one to eat, get stroked occasionally and leave them the odd nasty surprise—oh sorry, they’ve got Ianto. Seriously though, I think I’d actually like to see more of the fairies, if only to answer some of the questions. I have a feeling that if we did get reintroduced that I’d be left scratching my head more

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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