‘What else could I do?’ Unlike Doctor Who, Torchwood always carries the possibility that the team might lose. This establishes the kind of threat – something from folklore coming to haunt the real worlds – that might sit in the parent series. But whereas it’s unthinkable that the Doctor would bargain with a child’s life for the sake of the Earth, this isn’t even the last time Jack will.
PJ Hammond’s interests – creepy nursery rhymes, disturbing photographs, haunting forces that reach through time – are all evident. Some of his most macabre touches are extremely effective: a squad of soldiers choking to death on rose petals; a woman drowned by a highly localised rainstorm; Little Red Riding Hood leaving the forest path but turning the tables on the Big Bad Wolf. I like that this is largely horror in daylight, as the uncanny intrudes into the mundane.
The downside is that Torchwood is entirely ineffectual. Jack’s backstory is lightly touched on: his longevity, principally, and the idea that he’s been doing this for a long time and knows when he’s outclassed. Barrowman is fine, but the material doesn’t really ask much of him. But Owen, Tosh and Ianto might as well not be in it; Gwen gets an ‘I’m scurred, Jack’ when the fairies invade her home, but this is an underdeveloped strand. Then again, it’s the first threat that’s not broadly caused by the team, so perhaps it’s fitting that they don’t really do anything to clear it up.
It’s hard to care about the regulars when the writer seems not to; it’s difficult to sympathise with the Pierce family as Jasmine is evidently as cruel as her stepfather and her mother barely seems to notice. Only Estelle seems sympathetic, and she’s hardly in it. The overall impression is of Hammond using the series as a vehicle for his script, rather than writing for the show. That the result is one of the better episodes doesn’t necessarily bode well.
Next Time: Countrycide