Tuesday, 26 June 2018

From Out Of The Rain - Torchwood 2.10

In which a suburban art deco cinema is about to be reopened as a local history museum, which will screen vintage footage of Cardiff life. A young man named Jonathan is preparing the film to be shown. His parents are behind the cinema restoration project. He discovers extraneous footage on the film which he had not seen before - of a group of itinerant circus performers. Jonathan finds he cannot turn off the film projector, which repeats the shots of the performers. When he rushes off to deliver film to the cinema in time for its grand opening, two figures step out of the projection screen - the Master of Ceremonies and a young woman who performs a "living mermaid" act. Her name is Pearl, and her companion is known only as the Ghostmaker.

Gwen, Owen and Ianto attend the opening, and are surprised to see Jack on screen, performing in a similar travelling show. The promised views of Cardiff street life are replaced by the footage of the circus acts. Back at the Hub, Jack confesses that he did once take part in a travelling circus show, as "the man who could not die". He had been investigating another troupe known as the Night Travellers, who appeared as if from nowhere - "from out of the rain", and just as mysteriously vanished at the end of the evening. In their wake they would leave a number of missing persons.
The Ghostmaker and Pearl wander the streets and attack a number of people. Their victims have their life-force extracted, leaving them in a vegetative state without tears or saliva. The "souls" are deposited in a small silver flask, held by the Ghostmaker. Torchwood are called in to investigate these strange assaults. Jack makes the connection to the Night Travellers. Mention of the name prompts a nurse to tell them of the time she was looking after an old woman in a nursing home who spoke of them. They go to see her and she explains that she visited the Night Travellers' show as a child, and that night her family vanished as the troupe disappeared.. No-one has ever believed her.

The team returns to the cinema, but the Ghostmaker and Pearl have already been there - attacking Jonathan's parents. They also discover that more figures are missing from the footage - a couple of acrobatic clowns and a strong man. They have stepped out of the film, and the Ghostmaker intends that they should begin touring again as they did many years ago. Jonathan tells them of how he had seen Pearl at his flat, submerged in his bath tub.
jack realises that as the figures were kept alive in film, they could be imprisoned in the same way. He borrows an old Super 8 movie camera from Jonathan and they return to the cinema where the Night Travellers have assembled. Jack begins filming them, trapping them once again on celluloid. The Ghostmaker escapes outside and throws away the silver flask, its top open. Ianto manages to catch it, but all but one of the "souls" has been lost. Jack then opens the camera and exposes the film - destroying the Night Travellers. The soul is returned to its host -  a small boy who had been attacked with the rest of his family. Back at the Hub, Jack worries that there may be more footage of the troupe still out there.
A short time later, a father and son are exploring a car boot sale and come upon an old can of film. The man drops it and it opens, and across the city Jack hears a momentary snatch of fairground music...

From Out Of The Rain was written by P J Hammond, and was first broadcast on 12th March, 2008. Hammond had written the episode Small Worlds for the first series, which had been regarded as one of the best of that season. As we mentioned when we looked at that story, he was best remembered for his work on Sapphire & Steel, and this episode certainly has a flavour of that series. One of the best remembered stories from Sapphire & Steel had been the one where people's faces were removed from old photographs. In this story, we have characters who live on within celluloid images but are able to step out of the screen and take on corporeal form. When it comes to circuses, clowns have a reputation for seeming somewhat creepy, and indeed there are a couple of clown characters here, but Hammond chooses to focus on the MC, or Ring Master, of the troupe - the devilish Ghostmaker - and Pearl. Her act is to stay under water for long periods of time, and she demonstrates a sinister affinity with water - as see when she and the Ghostmaker make a temporary home in an abandoned lido. Their attacks are always conducted in the middle of torrential downpours, as thought hey can influence the weather.

The episode is much more of an ensemble piece this week, with no one character really getting the lion's share of the action. Jack does have some history with the Night Travellers, and it is Ianto who drags his colleagues along to the opening of the cinema, as he recalls it from his youth.
Quite who or what the Night Travellers are is never fully explained. There is no suggestion that they are alien in nature. Rather they seem to be supernatural characters, like ghosts. Why they steal souls, and what they intend doing with them, is left hanging as well.
The Ghostmaker is played to perfection by Julian Bleach, who would shortly be bringing Davros back to Doctor Who. He had created the award winning stage show Shockheaded Peter back in 1998, based on the 1845 German children's book Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffmann. It featured a host of grotesque characters - not least Bleach's ghostly top-hatted character.
Pearl is Camilla Power. She had been a regular in the drama series The Grand, some episodes of which had been written by Russell T Davies, and had then taken on a recurring role on Waterloo Road. Jonathan is played by Craig Gallivan - a series regular in Ruth Jones' Stella, though he also writes and directs.

Overall, probably the strongest story of the second series, and one of the best overall. There weren't enough stories with supernatural trappings. I would have loved to see Hammond get an invite to write a Doctor Who story.
Things you might like to know:
  • Hammond is pretty much retired these days, being into his 80's. His last listed credits were a number of episodes of the popular ITV crime drama Midsomer Murders - generally ones which had some spooky influences (one story - Things That Go Bump In The Night - revolves around an apparent haunting).
  • He did almost become a Doctor Who writer, back in the mid-1980's. He submitted a story called "Paradise Five", which Script Editor Eric Saward really liked - only for it to be rejected by John Nathan Turner. It was later turned into a Big Finish audio.
  • Despite getting married in the previous episode, Eve Myles is still billed as Gwen Cooper in the closing credits. Later, in Miracle Day, she confirms that she retained her maiden name.
  • Also in the end credits is a listing for Gerard Carey as Greg. He had appeared in Meat earlier in the season, but does not feature in the episode here - suggesting a possible deleted sequence.
  • Jonathan's flat is Sarah Jane Smith's attic, redressed.

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