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1.05 Small Worlds

# There are some really good parts (Jasmine and her family and the cruelty of the resolution, Jack and Estelle, the thing with the rose leaves), but as an episode for me it simply doesn't come together; the parts work, but the whole doesn't, especially the backstory about the faeries. And I kind of have the impression that that JB is struggling a bit with that too, the technobabble really isn't very convincing here. (To me. YMMV) The biggest weakness of the episode IMO is that they make these creatures so all powerful -- if you can do nothing to fight them, what's the point of even trying?

# "Doesn't it get lonely at night?"

[It's barely noticeable when you watch the scene, even in slow motion, but looking at the caps side by side it's really interesting to see Jack shift from the slight caught-in-the-act awkwardness when he's unobserved into more self-assured Jack-esque pose before he says "You shouldn't be here", making Ianto look at him.]

And Ianto's look when Jack puts his hand on his shoulder - is that "What is your hand doing here, and Stop. Touching. Me.", or surprise at the fact that Jack would still want to touch him? There's no reaction beyond a rather pointed look over his shoulder and then briefly up at Jack, but either it doesn't signal outright discomfort to Jack, or he chooses to ignore it, because he doesn't pull his hand away immediately.

1.06 Countrycide

# Not one of my favourite episodes, either. Now, I'm that one person that actually likes Random Shoes, so it's probably a bit of a personal thing, but the episodes that depend so much on shock/action are the ones that work least well for me on repetition. And when I get a bit bored I tend to overthink and notice stuff that I'd have been perfectly willing to let slide in episodes that engage me more one an emotional level.

# "Don't tell me you don't want to know, too," Gwen to Jack, and that really shows the fundamental discrepancy between the two. Because Jack, between his childhood, a hundred years in Torchwood, two World Wars and probably all kinds of other ugliness, knows, or at least knows that whatever explanation she'll get won't explain or change anything about the fact that humans will do horrible things to one another for every kind of reason or none, and this is something you have to live with.

And granted, the cannibalism thing is gross, not the least because it's such a strong taboo, but if you look at the last few millennia or centuries, or century, it's hardly the worst or most incomprehensible atrocity that ever happened. (Also, they did this once every ten years and no one ever noticed the disappearance pattern?)

# I tried, but I'm just not getting the Gwen/Owen thing, although I realise that may be partially or wholly due to how my brain is wired. At the risk of TMI, for me sexual attraction is more of an afterthought, not a driving force (I know, I know, what am I even doing in Torchwood fandom...), so that part already doesn't work very well for me, but the other reason they give is on reflection even less satisfying. There was no alien involvement in this case, the canibals were taken away by the police, so I assume there'd be massive media coverage, a trial, etc. It probably wouldn't have been wise to tell Rhys how closely she was involved, but this is a case she could have actually talked over with him.

# Considering that Ianto indirectly caused the rather gruesome deaths of two people he really isn't slow guilt-tripping the rest of the team. Granted, it was a bit tactless, or at least oblivious for Gwen to bring up the question in the first place, considering the situation, but it's not as if anyone would have asked Ianto, if he'd simply stayed silent; he could have just let that slide. And he makes them all uncomfortable, and even Jack, who does stare Ianto down in the end, making him drop his eyes and look away, turns his head away at first.

# And I'd still like an explanation (writers, actors, whoever) how they went from this to stopwatch innuendo sex within three episodes.

# Ianto and Toshiko in the cellar may actually be my favourite scene from the whole episode. Although Ianto's freak-out ("Don't you ever wonder how long you can survive before you go mad, or get killed, or lose a loved one?") raises the question of why he's still in Torchwood, now that it isn't for Lisa any longer, except that leaving would mean losing every memory of her too, as well as the only people he has some sort of connection with.

# Not strictly in canon, because I suspect no one had thought of this at the time, but in hindsight I still think the torture thing was Torchwood related.

Something that occurred to me is that for a show that has such brilliant emotional moments about love, loss, the meaning of life and everything, the actual relationship building on TW is generally a bit sketchy. It's not just Jack and Ianto, it's also Jack and Gwen - pushing that for about three episodes, then putting it on the back-burner for the rest of the season only to rekindle it with a vengance in S2. The most consistent relationship is the one between Owen and Toshiko, and there the changes are not so much about them, but Owen's character and attitude.

As for Jack/Ianto, looking at it from a writer's perspective I think the problem is that they've manoeuvred themselves into a bit of a corner with Jack's immortality, much like Joss Whedon did with Angel and the gypsy curse, which was a good idea for the Buffy/Angel storyline, but led to all kinds of awkwardness and ultimately a rather lame resolution in Smile Time.

I'm pretty sure that when resurrected!Jack got his own series no one thought about what it'd mean writing a relationship for him. What I could imagine is that Jack and Gwen were supposed to have this slightly angsty Mulder and Scully thing, only with Gwen and her boyfriend and Jack shagging the teaboy. And then they decided not to kill either Ianto or Rhys and were left with a bit of a problem, because while Gwen can easily marry Rhys and still have the impossible/unrequited love thing with Jack, to turn Jack/Ianto into some sort of actual relationship beyond 'just sex' takes a bit more of work, without being able to fall back on patterns and conventions. Love, even (or especially) on tv, needs at least the illusion of permanence, unless you're specifically setting out to make a point about the impossibility of that, and with Jack that isn't really an option any longer. What we learn about Jack and Estelle in Small Worlds is a reminder of that, and perhaps a hint that Jack/Gwen isn't going to happen. They can't blend out that aspect anymore after all the angsting Jack does about his immortality in S1 and having established in DW that although he will die eventually, this will be billions of years in the future. Ianto who? Or, for the matter, Gwen who?.

The only option left is to take a brutally realistic carper diem approach and try to build a relationship around that knowledge, which is essentially Jack saying "I can't give you what you want (or will want, eventually); I can't even promise I'll remember your name." and Ianto, saying "I recognise that, but let's try it anyway, and can we talk about the 51st century omnisexual slut thing now ", which is not uninteresting, and I think could be done, especially on TW, but as far as tv relationships go it's rather bleak, and would take more thought and development than the show has been willing to give any of its relationships so far.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
Re:Small Worlds. Not my favorite episode either, but my, does Jack fill out that white T-shirt well. You did pull screencaps from my favorite scene though. I'm on my way to transcribing commentaries from the Season 1 DVD's. I'm only doing the parts that refer to Jack/Ianto or their character background. I'm gonna post it all up on my journal when I'm finished, if you're interested.
Anyway, onto Countryside - which is my favorite episode just because I love horror movies and even though this whole episode is a rip-off, I think it's really well done.
I agree that they tried with Gwen and Jack to give off a Mulder/Scully vibe but it just doesn't work. Gwen and Jack DO have chemistry; but not that kind - you can't force that kind of thing.
Please keep this up. I really enjoy reading your insights into the episodes.
May. 2nd, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
Definitely interested! :)

I'm not even so sure about the lack of chemistry, it works well enough for me until episode 3; I just think they changed the storyline after that, because Gwen sleeping with Jack could never have been as meaningless as Gwen sleeping with Owen, and would have entailed all kinds of relationship complications they weren't prepared to deal with, and in S2 they could never let it get serious enough to truly threaten Gwen and Rhys's relationship...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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