Torchwood episode 3: Ghost Machine (29/10/2006)
‘I know what you did.’ This is more like it, mature where Day One was just aiming to be “adult”, and with a righteously angry edge to about the way men abuse women and get away with it. It’s also the first episode to expand the characters beyond Gwen – and surprisingly, Owen is the focus, which is good because Burn Gorman is excellent. The reveal is that behind the cynicism and laddishness, he has the strongest sense of justice in the team. His instinct when confronted with an image of rape and murder is to hunt down and confront the perpetrator while the rest of Torchwood is more interested in the stolen ‘ghost machine’.
As a result, Gwen is less central than the previous episodes, though still the viewpoint character (we follow her hunting down “Burny” and then, regrettably, her “sexy” firearms training session with Jack about which the less said the better). She continues to be a bit dim – stupidly activating a bit of alien tech twice without due consideration for the consequences, which makes it look like she’s learned nothing from Day One. Her relationship with Rhys continues to help keep one foot of this in the real world.
The other thing that helps keep this grounded is Colin Teague’s direction, which has a tangibly different style to Brian Kelly’s work on the opening episodes. Cardiff doesn’t look sexy, gentrified and up-and-coming. It looks grim, and dirty, and real, and exactly the kind of space Torchwood should be operating in. This extends through every aspect of the production, including the casting, with a sweet cameo by John Normington and a brilliantly tawdry performance by Gareth Thomas with filthy bitten fingernails, stained cardigan and unwashed hair. I’m not completely sold on the last act turn into predestination sci-fi, which looks a bit like it was introduced to add some impetus going into the final scenes, but Helen Raynor’s script I think advances on RTD’s because it shows Torchwood working as its own series, not Doctor Who Nights. I hope the show continues in this groove.
Next Time: Cyberwoman