As an elderly lady moves slowly through a moonlit forest on a mission, she whispers a step-by-step commentary into her small tape recorder. She moves carefully, so as not to frighten her prey. Eventually she arrives at the edge of a clearing and watches from the cover of trees as a group of fluorescent fairies dance through the air above a ring of stones. The woman is overjoyed and produces a camera. As she starts taking a series of flash photographs, the fairies come to a stop and hang motionless in mid-air. Satisfied with what she’s got, she turns and leaves the forest, unaware that behind her the fairies are transforming into ugly man-sized bat creatures…
It’s late at night in the Hub and Jack is asleep on a makeshift bed in an underground section of the base. He appears restless and starts to dream about an earlier time in his life when he was travelling aboard a freight train with the Punjabi military. In the dream, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by the corpses of his fellow soldiers, each of them with red petals in their mouths. Jack wakes up in a sweat. He gets dressed and returns to his workstation…where he finds a red petal on the desk. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Ianto carrying a file. Jack tells him he shouldn’t be here, but his young colleague points out that Jack shouldn’t be here either. The two men still seem a little uncomfortable around each other after their recent experiences and Ianto goes to a nearby monitor to check on some unusual weather patterns that have appeared in the area.
A few days later, a class full of young children leave the Coed y Garreg Primary School and start making their way home. Most of the children are collected by their parents, but one young girl, Jasmine Pierce, realises no one has turned up to meet her. As she waits patiently by the school gates, a middle-aged man is watching her closely from inside a parked car across the road. Some of the other girls pick on her as they pass by, then she is joined by her teacher Kate who’s worried that Jasmine seems to have been forgotten. Unfortunately she gets distracted by the other children, so Jasmine decides to walk home alone. Back at her home, her mother Lynn rebukes her partner Roy for forgetting the time. He’s late picking Jasmine up and Lynn suggests calling the school to let them know he’s been delayed, but he tells her not to be stupid.
As Jasmine walks home, the man in the car starts to follow her. Eventually he pulls up alongside her, claiming he’s been sent by her mother to collect her. Jasmine carries on walking, so the man, Mark Goodson, drives a bit further ahead then gets out of the car to stop her. When she tries to get passed him, he becomes angry, grabs her arm and tries to drag her towards his car. He’s unaware that they’re being watched by ‘something’ in the trees and as Jasmine struggles to escape, a strong wind blows up out of nowhere and Goodson is thrown violently against the side of the car. An eerie ghost-like voice warns him to stay away from the girl and he panics and jumps back in the car. Jasmine watches in amusement and then skips off innocently down the road.
Captain Jack has received an invitation from an old friend and persuades Gwen to accompany him to a lecture. She’s amazed to discover it’s on the subject of “Fairies: Fact or Fantasy?” Inside the lecture hall, a very small audience is listening attentively to the elderly lady who was taking photographs in the forest. The woman, Estelle Cole, acknowledges Jack and Gwen as they take their seats, then she continues with her presentation. She tells the audience that only those with the patience of a saint and the blind faith of a prophet are among the fortunate few who’ve been allowed to see these creatures. She shows a selection of the slides she took a couple of nights ago, which show the fairies dancing in the air above the ring of stones. Gwen struggles to stop herself from laughing as the woman explains that although fairies are shy, she knows in her heart that they’re friendly, loving creatures. Jack shakes his head silently. The lecture finishes and Estelle receives a polite round of applause.
Later when they’re alone, Estelle tells Jack how pleased she is to see him again. He has her go through the slides again and she tells him the pictures were taken in Roundstone Wood, which is not far from where they are. She tells Gwen that she and Jack have always disagreed about fairies because she only ever sees the good ones and he only sees the bad ones. Jack assures her they’re all bad, but she refuses to believe that. Gwen is surprised when Estelle makes a casual reference to Jack’s father, but Jack changes the subject and asks if she has any more photographs.
Goodson stumbles through the busy Cardiff streets, mopping at the bloody nose he received from the earlier attack. He can sense that he’s still being watched, and he becomes increasingly paranoid about everyday objects and people going about their normal business. Distracted by movement in the trees, he starts bumping into people and decides to take refuge inside an indoor market. But even there he doesn’t feel safe. Passers-by watch as he starts to behave ever more strangely, looking up at the roof as though expecting to see something staring down at him. He can hear the fluttering of wings and catches glimpses of evil-looking creatures out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly he starts to choke and begins coughing up red petals. His suffering becomes even more intense as the amount of petals he vomits up increases. Eventually he fights his way back out onto the street where he collapses to his knees. He sees a police officer nearby and rushes over to her, begging for help. He tries to get inside the police car and his behaviour becomes so violent she’s forced to handcuff him.
Estelle takes Jack and Gwen back to her home and introduces them to her cat Moses. She hands Jack a collection of her photographs, admitting that most of them are just pictures of the area. Gwen looks around the room and is surprised to see an old black and white photograph of Jack wearing a World War Two uniform. She shows it to Jack but he claims it’s a picture of his father. He explains that his dad and Estelle were an item a long time ago - in fact, they were inseperable, but then he was posted abroad during the war and she volunteered to work on the land. Gwen finds Estelle in the garden and asks about Jack’s father. The woman explains that she lost touch with him after the war and that Jack contacted her out of the blue some years ago. Jack is so like his father, with the same walk and the same smile. She hopes Jack’s father is still alive, but whenever she asks Jack about him he doesn’t want to talk about it. Jack joins them and asks Estelle to call them immediately the next time she sees the creatures. He hugs her and gives her a kiss, and Gwen can see how close the two of them are.
As they leave, Jack tells Gwen that Estelle belongs in the countryside and shouldn’t be living in the town. Gwen asks about their relationship, but all he will say is that they meet up occasionally. They talk about the woman’s fairies, but he says that’s not their name. They’re something from the dawn of time. They’re worse than alien because they’re actually part of our world, yet we know nothing about them. Jack says people see them they way they want to see them - imagining them as happy, with tiny little wings and bathed in moonlight. In reality, they’re dangerous with a touch of myth, a touch of the spirit world and a touch of reality all jumbled together. He tells her they have to find them before all hell breaks loose.
Roy arrives home with Jasmine, having met the girl on the way back. Her mother tells her off for not waiting for him and for walking home alone, but she assures her mother she’s alright and that no one can hurt her. Jasmine goes out to play on her own in the back garden and Roy is worried that she has no friends and never wants to play anywhere else. When was the last time anyone saw her watching TV, or reading a book, or playing with the dog? When was the last time anyone heard her laugh? In fact, Jasmine has passed through the broken fence at the bottom of the garden and skipped off into the nearby woods. There, she hears a fluttering of wings around her and an eerie voice urges her to come away…
In the Hub boardroom, the Torchwood gang are reviewing the famous photographs of the ‘Cottingley Fairies’ which were taken by Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright in July 1917. Toshiko provides some of the background information on them, but Gwen wrote an essay on them when she was at school and she knows that when the two girls were old women they admitted they were fakes. They move on to discuss Estelle Cole’s photographs from Roundstone Wood and Owen says he knows the area and that it has an odd history. It’s always stayed wild and in the ancient days it was considered to be bad luck to walk in the area, even back in the Roman days. Toshiko can find no reports of any sightings but Jack believes the creatures come in “under the radar”. The only way to detect them is to monitor unnatural atmospheric patterns as they‘re known to play tricks with the weather.
The police take Goodson back to the station and he begs to be put somewhere safe. He’s brought before the custody sergeant and tells the officers something is trying to kill him by putting flowers in his mouth. He’s convinced this is retribution for his actions and he admits that he fantasises about little girls and has been in trouble before. He demands that they lock him up…
Jack, Gwen and Owen visit Roundstone Wood but are unaware that their movements are being watched by something in the trees. Gwen tries to bring up the subject of Jack’s father again. She tells him that Estelle said she’d never seen the two of them together at the same time, but he explains that there’s no reason why she should as the couple lost contact with each other during the war. They arrive at the ring of stones but when Gwen points out that anyone could have made the circle, Jack is frustrated by her scepticism. She reminds him that police work and science are all about looking for explanations. Nevertheless, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something moving around in the wood, watching them all the time.
Goodson is trying to get some sleep in the police cell when he hears a fluttering of wings and sees shadows on the wall. Suddenly an evil-looking creature, the size of a man with huge bat-like wings, appears from nowhere and attacks him. The police officers in the main station hear a noise and go to investigate…
Jasmine’s mother hears a strange chuckling noise coming from upstairs and as she goes to check she hears her daughter talking to someone. Just before she opens the bedroom door, the faintest of shadows flits through the curtains. Jasmine is completely alone and Lynn concludes that she must have been talking to herself.
Later, the custody sergeant shows Jack and Gwen into Goodson’s cell and tell them about the man‘s strange behaviour earlier in the evening. He can’t understand what happened as the man was alone all the time, but he’d been talking about being chased by shadows and when they heard him shouting they looked in and found him dead. Toshiko joins them, having questioned the other prisoners in the next cell, but they saw nothing. She’ll check the CCTV next. From a cursory examination, Toshiko concludes that he died from oxygen deficiency, but there are none of the normal signs that would indicate any pressure was applied. It appears that he suffocated alone in a locked cell. Gwen examines the body and spots something in the man’s mouth. She pulls out a number of red petals which seems to frighten Jack. He admits that he’s see this happen before…
At her home, Estelle is calling on the energies of a searching stone to help her find the fairies when she senses something outside in the garden. She hears a fluttering sound, accompanied by an eerie chuckling - and sees a pair of eyes looking straight at her from the bushes. Suddenly the conservatory window smashes…
Back at the Hub, the group are watching the CCTV footage of Goodson’s death. They’ve established that he was a business consultant from the town, and was also a convicted paedophile who used to hang around schools. Jack believes the method of suffocating people with petals in the mouth is the creatures’ idea of ‘fun’. That’s the way they like to do things - they torment before they kill as a punishment or warning to others. They live to protect the Chosen Ones, certain children with a connection to the spirit world. The creatures can’t be trapped as they have control of the elements and can drag air right out of people‘s bodies. Jack thinks they might be part Mara, from which the word nightmare originated. The Mara are malignant wraiths who suffocate people in their sleep. Just then the phone rings - it’s Estelle. She tells him he was right about the creatures all the time…and they’ve come for her! Jack tells her to stay where she is as he’s coming to help.
As Estelle hangs up the phone she hears her cat crying outside. She nervously opens the conservatory door and calls for Moses, but there’s no response so she steps into the garden… There’s an unearthly gust of wind and the door slams shut behind her, locking her outside. Suddenly rain begins to pour down and within seconds Estelle is completely drenched. En route in the car, Toshiko tells the others that her scanner has detected unusual rain patterns coming from Estelle’s road, even though it’s a perfectly fine night everywhere else. Estelle collapses to the ground and as she hears an eerie chuckling, she starts to choke… Jack’s group arrive outside and they race towards the house. There’s no answer at the door, so they run round to the back garden - where they find Estelle’s dead body on the ground. Jack hugs the elderly woman and starts to cry. Gwen has realised it wasn’t Jack’s dad who was in love with her all those years ago - it was Jack himself. Jack tells her they made a vow to be with each other until they died. He bends down and kisses Estelle for the last time. Later, Jack tells Gwen that he first met Estelle in London at the Astoria Ballroom. She was 17 and was beautiful. He loved her at first sight, but nothing lasted back then and promises were always being broken. She asks about the petals and he reveals that he first saw them long before the War…
Lahore, 1909. A steam train crossed the Punjab landscape in Pakistan. Among the passengers were a troop of fifteen soldiers led by Captain Jack. Everyone was happy when the train went through the tunnel, then they heard a fluttering noise. At first they thought some birds had flown in through an open window - then suddenly everything went silent. When the train emerged from the tunnel, Jack was the only one left alive. All the men he was responsible for had been suffocated in an instant and their corpses’ mouths were stuffed with the red petals…
Gwen wonders why they were killed and Jack explains that a week earlier some of the men had got drunk and had driven a truck through a village. They ran over a child and killed her. That child was one of the Chosen Ones! Later that night, Gwen and Rhys return to their flat and find the entire place has been ransacked. Tables and chairs have been turned over, and objects have been smashed and are strewn across the room. Rhys believes they’ve been burgled, but Gwen notices the floor is littered with red petals.
The next morning Jasmine leaves for school and Lynn reminds her to come straight home as they’re having guests coming over for a party to celebrate the fifth anniversary of her relationship with Roy. Jasmine tells her she’d rather play in the garden and Lynn finally agrees with Roy that she’s spending too much time there. He has an idea that will put a stop to it. He prepares to drive Jasmine to school and asks her what she’s going to do if they ever start building at the bottom of the garden. She ignores him and he says he’s not surprised that her dad left her when she was a baby - he must have known what she was going to be like. As they get in the car, Jasmine waves to something in the trees and when she tells Roy it was directed at her friends, he points out that she doesn’t have any friends!
Gwen shows Jack the damage to her flat. She is angry - in all her years in the police force she never felt threatened in her own home. But this shows that the creatures can invade her life whenever they feel like it and she is scared! She remembers Jack saying that the creatures protect the Chosen Ones and she asks where they are. Jack reveals that the so-called fairies were actually children once, from different moments in time and going back Millennia. They’re part of the Lost Lands, those areas that once belonged to them, and they’ve come back to collect the next Chosen One…
In the school playground, most of the children are playing games, but Jasmine is on her own. She’s approached by two bullies who push her to the ground. The teacher Kate comes over and asks her if she was pushed and Jasmine says she was, but claims she didn’t see who it was. Moments later, the two bullies approach the girl again and accuse her of telling on them. She denies this, but they decide she needs to be taught a lesson and they throw her to the ground and start kicking her. But their movements are being watched from something in the trees…and suddenly a terrific wind blows up from nowhere.
As Jack asks to run a check on all the unexplained deaths in the area, Toshiko reports a localised weather front has suddenly appeared in the vicinity of Coed y Garreg Primary School. The readings are going crazy and Jack orders them all into the car. In the playground, Jasmine smiles as the wind increases to near-hurricane proportions and the other children start screaming in terror. Kate rushes to bring everyone indoors, but the two bullies are trapped and the wind is too strong for her to reach them. As trees start to fall around her, she fights her way towards the two girls and tries to reassure them. Jasmine continues to smile…
The Torchwood car screeches to a halt outside the school in time to find a group of scared children being escorted home by their worried parents. Gwen goes straight to the playground where she sees the teachers tidying up the damage from the storm. She hears a fluttering in the trees above her and senses something stalking her. She races into the school where Jack and the others are speaking to Kate. The teacher tells them everything happened so suddenly, but then ended just as quickly. No one was hurt although two children in particular were terrified. Only Jasmine was untouched, with the sun shining down on her like a protective aura. Gwen realises Jasmine is the Chosen One!
The fifth anniversary party at Lynn and Roy’s home is underway and their guests are enjoying an outdoors party in the garden. In the kitchen, Lynn tries to talk to Jasmine about her frightening experience, but the girl says it was fun. She asks her daughter about the friends that Roy saw her waving to and she explains that he couldn’t see them because they were in the trees. She adds that they don’t just live there and they can actually be anywhere - they could even be with them in the room right now. They said they will always look after Jasmine, even through time.
Lynn and Jasmine join Roy and the others in the garden, where he’s bragging about his plans for the garden. The young girl realises with horror that Roy has blocked off the entire end of the garden with a solid fence so she can no longer get to the woods beyond. Roy approaches her and orders her back to the house and when she resists, he grabs her. She kicks him and bites his arm and he becomes violent, slapping her forcefully across the face. Suddenly there’s a clap of thunder and the sky starts to darken. As he rejoins the party, the wind starts to blow. Roy gathers everyone together and starts to make a speech to their guests, announcing that he and Lynn are planning to have children of their own. Just then, their friends start screaming as a group of the creatures emerge from hiding. Roy and Lynn look on in horror as a group of evil-looking goblins fly out of the trees and jump down into the garden, terrorising their guests and smashing the furniture.
The Torchwood gang arrive just in time to see the guests fleeing from the house. The watch as one of the fairy creatures dances around Roy before pushing him to the ground and forcing its arm into his mouth, right up to the elbow. Jasmine smiles. Another creature smashes through the fence at the bottom and attacks Jack, trying to suffocate him. Gwen pushes Jack to the ground, releasing him from the creature’s grip. As Roy dies, the creatures’ work is done and they fly off again back into the forest. Jasmine goes through the hole in the fence and follows them. Lynn slowly approaches her boyfriend on the ground and when she realises he’s dead, she becomes inconsolable.
Jack and Gwen follow Jasmine into the woods. The young girl tells them she can see that the forest around her is magical and she wants to stay there. Jack tries to convince her the forest is just an illusion and her friends are playing a game with her, but when Gwen tries to persuade Jasmine to return to her mother, the fairy creatures appear again in the trees around them. Jack grabs the girl and tells the creatures to leave her alone and find another Chosen One, but an eerie voice tells him it’s too late - Jasmine belongs with them and will live forever. Jasmine warns that lots more people will die if they try to stop her from joining them. Jack becomes increasingly concerned when he learns that the creatures can create great storms, wild seas and even turn the world to ice and kill every living thing if they want to. Jack asks for assurance that the child won’t be harmed and Gwen realises he’s thinking of letting her go with them. To her surprise, he releases Jasmine and tells the creatures to take her. Gwen races forward, but Jack stops her. He reminds her they have no way of stopping the creatures and for the sake of the rest of the world, this is their only chance.
Lynn has gone into shock and Owen and Toshiko have to hold her back from following the others. She struggles free and races into the wood just in time to see the creatures turn into fluorescent fairies and swoop down from the trees. Jasmine turns to Jack and thanks him before skipping off into the distance with her friends and vanishing into thin air. Lynn becomes hysterical and begins physically attacking Jack, who puts up only the minimal of resistance. He too is heartbroken and knows he is responsible for the loss of her daughter. Toshiko, Owen and even Gwen look at Jack with contempt.
As the group leaves the house, Jack tries to convince the others he had no choice but to let Jasmine go, but they all completely ignore him and climb into the car without saying a word. Much later, back at the Hub, Gwen is collecting together all the evidence from this case, including the pictures they obtained from Estelle. She sees the large photograph of the ‘Cottingley Fairies’ from 1917 on the screen and something grabs her attention. She zooms in on the image and looks closely at one of the tiny fairies. It is Jasmine.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
(The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats)