Ghost Machine (Torchwood)
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|03 – "Ghost Machine"|
|Directed by||Colin Teague|
|Written by||Helen Raynor|
|Script editor||Brian Minchin|
Chris Chibnall (co-producer)
Russell T Davies|
|Originally broadcast||29 October 2006|
"Ghost Machine" is the third episode of the first series of the British science fiction television series Torchwood, which was broadcast on the digital television channel BBC Three on 29 October 2006.
Set in Cardiff, the episode involves a group of alien hunters called Torchwood discovering an alien machine that shows visions of strong emotional events from the past and future.
Jack, Owen and Gwen pursue a man through the Cardiff streets, while Toshiko tracks his alien energy signature through the CCTV network. Gwen separates from the group, chasing down the suspect into a train station, and is able to grab the man's jacket but he gets out of it and runs away. Gwen discovers an alien device in the jacket pocket, and when she activates it, she finds herself seeing a brief vision of the past, of a lost boy wandering the train station. Gwen remembers a name tag worn by the boy, and the team is able to track the name down to an old man in Cardiff who admits that during the World War II evacuation, he was sent to Cardiff. The group determines from further analysis that the nanotechnology of the "ghost device" allows people to see moments of the past spurred by strong human emotions, and try to learn how their suspect came upon such technology.
They determine the suspect is Sean "Bernie" Harris, a petty thief from Splott, and travel there to find him. Unsuccessful, they return to the train station to try the device again when Owen activates it while under a bridge, where he witnesses the rape and murder of a young woman in the 1960s by a man named Ed Morgan. Returning to the Hub, the team investigates the crime to confirm what Owen saw, and find that although Ed was interrogated, he was never accused of the crime. Owen insists on trying to bring Ed to justice despite the fact that the case has been long since closed and starts to track Ed on his own. Owen confronts the elderly Ed but gets no information out of him; however, upon leaving his house, he spots Bernie and gives chase, catching up with him. Owen takes Bernie to a pub to learn more about the device while the rest of Torchwood is en route. Bernie explains he found the device in a tin of random objects from an old lady, and that he too saw the murder of Lizzie, and wonders if the team wants the "other half". Torchwood follows Bernie back to Bernie's home to retrieve the other half as well as the other objects in the tin, all alien objects that fell out from the Rift. Bernie explains that he only used the other half once, as it showed him bleeding to death outside his home at his current age. As they leave, Gwen accidentally triggers the second half, and has a vision of herself holding a bloody knife, calling out in vain to Owen. Jack tries calms Gwen down, claiming it just may be a possible future.
The team realises that Ed is paranoid and depressed, and that he is being blackmailed by Bernie; Jack becomes concerned that Owen may have triggered Ed to take action. Learning that Ed has left his home and is heading towards Bernie's, Jack, Gwen, and Owen arrive just in time to disarm Ed from stabbing Bernie with a knife. Owen takes the knife. Determined not to let Morgan get away with his crime, he decides to avenge Lizzie's death. He is stopped by Gwen, who takes his knife. Ed runs and impales himself on his own knife. Gwen sees that this is the future she saw, and Jack and Owen attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but fail to revive him. He dies, and Gwen expresses regret even though they all know she merely held the knife; Ed killed himself. Jack puts the device in the secure archives.
- The circled "P" emblem of the Preachers from the Doctor Who episode "Rise of the Cybermen" can be seen as faded graffiti on rusty bins outside Bernie's flat.
- As Owen flips through his various fake ID cards, one can be seen for UNIT.
- An 1886 letter on the Torchwood Institute website suggests that Owen is not the first member of the Institute to feel personally involved with a case.
- The explanation Jack gives for the ghosts matches the one Sarah Jane Smith would later give in "Eye of the Gorgon", an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
- Gwen uses the ghost machine to trigger memories of previous happy times with Rhys. One memory depicts them preparing to leave for Gwen's mother's sixtieth birthday party. Gwen's mother, Mary Cooper, is later introduced in the series two episode "Something Borrowed".
- Gareth Thomas is best known for his role as Roj Blake in the science fiction series Blake's 7 and also appeared in the Doctor Who audio play Storm Warning. John Normington previously appeared in the Doctor Who serials The Caves of Androzani and The Happiness Patrol.
- The song "Sing" by Travis features briefly when the team questions Bernie at the pub.
- The song "Can't Stand Me Now" by The Libertines features briefly in the scene when Owen and Toshiko are in the bar talking about Ed Morgan.
- The song "Feeling a Moment" by Feeder features briefly after "Can't Stand Me Now" in the scene with Owen and Toshiko in the bar.
- Owen Harper discusses Strictly Come Dancing, the fourth series of which ran concurrently with the first series of Torchwood, with Tom Flanagan's daughter.
- The concept of "residual haunting", where ghosts are merely recordings in the surrounding environment that are somehow played back, is also known as the "Stone Tape theory", named after the 1972 BBC television play The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale, which popularised the idea.
- Bernie mentions Antiques Roadshow and Cash in the Attic at the pub.
- "TORCHWOOD EXTERNAL HUB INTERFACE - Investigation - Bernie". 3 December 2007.
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