Torchwood s1:3 review

Another in our series of pre-season 2 catch-up reviews. Danny takes on the third episode of Torchwood, featuring everyone's least favourite character, Owen

I think we’ve fallen into a holding pattern here. Creepy and intriguing plots with well-written dialogue messily tangled together with at least three cases of why-did-they-do-that oodling per episode. Welcome back to Torchwood, people.

Episode three, entitled Ghost Machine, focused primarily on one member of Torchwood Three: Owen. The doctor found himself obsessed with the long-forgotten murder and rape of a young woman after accidentally witnessing it through the “ghost machine” of the title. Gwen used it in the pre-credits sequence, coming face to face with the ghost of a young boy called Thomas, seemingly from the 40s. Upon further investigation, it turned out that the (alien) device simply converted the energy left by strong emotions into ghost-like recreations, as Gwen found upon meeting the present-day Thomas (a lovely cameo from John Normington). This being a TV show, however, Owen went renegade to find the rapist from his vision, complicating things even more.

To be totally honest, this episode was always going to be a hard sell to me for one reason: I can’t stand Owen. At all. We’ve only known him for a handful of episodes so far though, which makes sense for the writers to attempt making him seem like less of a git. What we get are Burn Gorman straining at his emotional range, his scenes of clichéd desperation’n’drink obsession quickly diluting the impact of the ep’s haunting concept. There’s a number of mis-steps: Owen’s encounter with the aforementioned rapist is hindered by the overly busy SFX bubbling beneath the dialogue (a quickening heartbeat – oh, come on!); a chase scene between Owen and a petty thief by the name of Burnie signals a ridiculously bad change of tone (FYI, somebody needs fired over that pub rock in the background); the puzzling dull climax; an awkward scene of gun fetishism between Jack and Gwen that gets in the way of the main plot; the ongoing necessity of giving Ianto nothing worthwhile to do. Oh, and the music, as you can tell, continues to frequently annoy.

To be fair, there were nice moments that made this wildly inconsistent episode worth watching; the show seemed to pick up when Sophia Myles and her big ol’ Bambi eyes got the attention of the camera. A scene where Gwen watched recreations of her and boyfriend Rhys’ relationship was touching, although it left me wondering about a couple of things: 1. Doesn’t it seem too early to be showing cracks in the couple’s relationsip and 2. Doesn’t their screentime leave the relationship looking, well, mostly physical? Also, the following exchange between Jack and thieving-bastard Burnine was gold:

Ad – content continues below

BURNINE: (after Torchwood confiscate alien machinery and money from his flat) Aren’t you going to arrest me?

JACK: No, we’re not the police.

BURNINE: But I robbed that!

JACK: I know.

BURNINE: And you’re gonna rob it off me?

JACK: (rolls eyes, cheekily) So call the cops.

Ad – content continues below

I’m telling you, less of this pairing Gwen-and-Jack-together-nonsense, more of the snarks. And give Naoko Mori (Toshiko) a plotline already! Alas, the next episode promises more of Owen acting like a selfish tool, so the wait continues… and with three episodes out of the way, Torchwood still doesn’t seem quite sure where the hell it’s going…