Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ghost Machine - Torchwood 1.3

In which the Torchwood team have detected the use of an alien artefact in the middle of Cardiff city centre. As Tosh guides them from the Hub, the source is identified as coming from a young man. He manages to give Gwen the slip at the railway station, though he leaves his jacket behind. In the pocket, she finds the alien device. She accidentally operates it, and finds herself seeing the station as it was during the last war. A young evacuee emerges, lost. Not only can Gwen see him, but she can feel his fear and loneliness. He has a label on his clothes - Tom Erasmus Flanagan. Whilst she can see the boy, he cannot see her. Suddenly Gwen is back in the present day as Jack and Owen arrive.
Back at the Hub, CCTV is checked and Gwen sees that she did not go anywhere during the encounter with the "ghost". Owen looks up the name of the boy in the phone-book, and finds an address for someone of that name. Gwen and Owen pay him a visit and find him to be an old man. He recalls having arrived in the city as a child - evacuated from London, and he did indeed get separated from his friends at the station. Gwen realises that she had formed a psychic link with the past through the alien device.

The young man who had the device is identified as Sean Harris - known as Bernie. They go to look for him and find out that he is a petty criminal and a loner who is estranged from his mother. Jack decides to replicate what happened to Gwen and so the team head for the station. As they pass under a railway bridge over the river, Owen activates the device. He witnesses a young man and woman, in early 1960's fashions. She is called Lizzie Lewis, and he Eddie Morgan, and he has followed her from a nearby dancehall. When she rejects his advances, he pulls a knife on her... Owen returns to the present, shocked by what he has seen and felt. Back at the Hub, Owen starts to investigate Lizzie's murder, and tracks down Eddie Morgan's address. Jack helps Gwen with her target practice before sending her home to Rhys. She has taken the device with her, and uses it to relive happy memories of her time with her boyfriend. Owen goes to see Eddie and tells him of what he saw under the bridge. Eddie becomes angry and throws him out, but Owen then sees Bernie hanging around outside. He manages to catch him and the others join them in a pub.

It turns out Bernie knows nothing of the device's origins. He found it, and another like it, along with some strange coins and rocks in a lock-up garage. He tells them it activated and he saw a woman, whom he recognised as an old lady now, disposing of a dead baby in the river, and when he confronted her about this she gave him money not to say anything. Bernie reveals that the other part of the device does not show the past. It shows the future, and he has seen himself lying bleeding in the street. Bernie had seen what Owen saw, and had been trying to blackmail Eddie Morgan. As Gwen holds the device, she sees herself covered in blood and holding a knife. She thinks that she has killed Owen.
Eddie has been suffering from mental health problems for a number of years, and has not left his house for a long time, but he decides to go after Bernie armed with a knife. The team manage to stop him from killing the young man, and Owen takes the knife from him. He wants to hurt the old man, after what he had seen him do, but his colleagues talk him out of it. Eddie is glad that he did not kill Bernie and as he goes to hug Gwen he accidentally pierces his heart with the knife she is holding.
Back at the Hub, Jack has Ianto lock the device away.

Ghost Machine was written by Helen Raynor, and was first broadcast on 29th October, 2006. Raynor had been script editing Doctor Who prior to this.
It is a great leap forward after what has been a very shaky start to the series. As with the first two episodes, Gwen has a significant role to play, but this is the first time that the focus also shifts towards Owen Harper.
There's nothing original about having a machine that shows you the future, or the past, but this device has the added function of empathically allowing its user to experience the emotions as well. They feel as well as see.
Principal guest star is Gareth Thomas as Eddie Morgan, best known as Blake in Blake's 7. This was his only appearance in the Doctor Who franchise. He's called upon to play a seedy old man, mentally unbalanced, with a pathological hatred of women - a far cry from the more heroic roles of his youth.
The older version of the evacuee - Tom - is played by John Normington, who will always be remembered by Doctor Who fans for his brilliant portrayal of Morgus in The Caves of Androzani. This was one of his final performances.
The other guest role of note is Ben McKay as Bernie.

Overall, a much stronger episode than what has gone before, with a great guest cast.
Things you might like to know:

  • Jack teaches Gwen how to shoot a gun, after she previously said she had no firearms training. This will be necessary for forthcoming episodes where she's called upon to fire guns. The Hub has its own shooting range - in a rail tunnel.
  • Outside Bernie's flat there is some graffiti on a bin - a letter 'P' in a circle. This is left over from the filming of the Rise of the Cybermen story, as it is the symbol for the Preachers. 
  • When visiting Eddie, Owen uses the fake ID of a gas workman. Amongst his other fake IDs is one for UNIT.
  • He reveals himself to be a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, knowing it was won by a newsreader.
  • Eddie has been prescribed SSRI. At the time of writing, this is being linked with a number of homicides in the UK and USA.
  • One big continuity error - Tosh states that Eddie is claustrophobic, yet later he is said to be agoraphobic.

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