Superb! Most definitely down to Peter J Hammond (best known as the creator and writer of the classic Sapphire & Steel and some great direction (by Alice Troughton), Small Worlds just worked like no other episode of Torchwood had so far. The episode felt full to the brim with potential and characterisation – and that haunting touch that made Sapphire & Steel such a joy to watch. Captain Jack came into his own in this episode – and I felt that John Barrowman finally had the opportunity to shine.
The episode had all the right build-up, a web of threats building against a little girl – from paedophile, to angry step-father, to school bullies. Mysterious deaths ensued, while we discover an old flame of Captain Jack and find that, like the Doctor, this Time Agent seems to have been drawn back to Earth again and again. We see Jack on Earth in 1909, once again in the armed forces – perhaps he has a soft spot for uniforms and being in the company of gruff, sweaty men. Like Conner MacLeod (Highlander), it would seem that Jack has to face leaving behind those he loves, though initially he would have done this because of his exploits as a Time Agent, and only now faces the issues of apparent immortality leaving him to outlive all those he cares for.
And we have now seen that Torchwood can’t necessarily solve everything. They control a lot of alien technologies and have much knowledge to draw upon, but it’s not enough… Sometimes the aliens win. Or in this case the creatures that have co-existed with us since the dawn of mankind. I hope they might pursue this thread further – and engage in some careful quality control in future when selecting writers and directors. I’d be happy if they just forgot Torchwood and funded a new series of Sapphire & Steel instead.