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Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.03, “Ghost Machine”

The third episode of the series dumps us right into the middle of action as Gwen seems to be settling into the team. We also get some Gwen/Jack bonding time and a peek at a more emotional side of Owen.

Tom Flannigan
Little boy lost.

The episode opens with Gwen and Owen chasing an unknown suspect, who they think is an alien, through the streets of Cardiff with Tosh directing their moves from headquarters and Jack on the way. Tosh is able to get a visual on the suspect, a young male, wearing a hoodie. Gwen gains on him as Owen and Jack get delayed, but the suspect slips away from Gwen in the train station at the last second, leaving her holding his jacket. Turns out the man wasn’t an alien, but something he was carrying was alien in origin; some kind of device. When Gwen pushes one of its buttons (which is always smart when you’re dealing with unknown alien technology) she finds herself alone. She sees a young boy approaching her, carrying a suitcase and wearing old fashioned clothing. He appears not to be able to hear or see her. He is lost and scared. Gwen is able to see his name on a tag before the little boy walks away and she’s thrust back into reality. Jack and Owen catch up with her and when Jack asks if she’s OK, she looks at him with a haunted expression and says, “I’ve just seen a ghost.”

Looking at CCTV footage later, it shows Gwen simply frozen in place with everything looking normal. Gwen exclaims it felt more real than the present moment; moreover, she could feel the little boy’s emotions. Owen suggests she might have been delusional, which Gwen vehemently denies. Jack calls it an apparition moment. They need to get down to the business of finding the guy who had it in the first place. They also look for the boy, whose name tag read “Tom Erasmus Flanigan.” Tosh starts the search only to be interrupted by Owen, who has found the man and his address in the phonebook.

Gwen and the device
Not sure if this thing is for good or evil. Or neither.

Gwen and Owen knock on Tom’s door. Turns out he is now an old man. Under the guise of routine questioning about an incident at the railway station, Gwen finds out he was originally from London and evacuated to Wales during the war. He was put on a train all alone at eight years old. Due to a mix up, he was left wandering alone in the train station, lost and alone. That moment is what Gwen saw. Leaving the residence, Gwen tries to figure out how she saw Tom as a young boy when she gets a call from Rhys asking about inane domestic things. They argue about her not knowing if she is coming home.

Back at headquarters, they find the man they had chased, a petty thief named Sean Harris (Bernie). The device is still a mystery and they go looking for Bernie in his neighborhood, all leading to dead ends. Jack shows up, disappointed with Tosh, Gwen and Owen over the lack of results. As they cross underneath a bridge on their way back to the railway station to recreate the original event, Gwen points out that could be dangerous, and Jack counters that he thought they wanted some excitement. Suddenly, the device starts lighting up while in Owen’s hands and he presses the button. He finds himself under the bridge, except now it’s dark and raining. Owen sees a young woman; she’s crying and obviously running from someone. We then hear a creepy voice call out, “Lizzie.” The man she’s been running from, Ed Morgan, has found her. The guy’s a predator and Owen can only stand and watch as Ned first reassures Lizzie, then hits her and pulls a knife on her. “I told my mom I’d be home by 9,” she says as he drags her away. Owen is dragged back to the present, shaking and muttering, “She was so scared. I couldn’t help her.”Owen with the device.

The team is discussing the phenomenon, how Gwen’s vision led to a man in his sixties alive and well and Owen saw a girl presumably murdered, but both felt all the emotions of the moment that weren’t theirs. Tosh is able to pull up information on the girl, Lizzie Lewis. She was found raped and murdered under the bridge. Jack finally figures out what the device is; it’s a quantum transducer. It converts energy from one form into another, in this case, the energy from human emotion is converted into ghosts. It explains déjà vu or the feeling of someone walking over your grave. There is always a ghost. Owen wants to get back to the task of finding Lizzie’s killer and Jack points out there is nothing he can do. He saw an echo of a moment in a past amplified by alien technology. That stuff is not admissible in court. Jack sends Owen home and tells Gwen to follow him.

Jack and Gwen
Getting cozy with the weapons.

He takes her to a room where various guns are spread out on the table and targets lined up.  He figures it’s time she learns how to use a gun though he hopes she never has to. Gwen is awkward with the gun, pointing it at Jack and towards the ceiling. He sidles up next to her, getting in her personal space; guiding her movements. The look on Gwen’s face pretty much says, “Is he trying to start something and do I like it?” Apparently learning how to shoot a gun is a bit like foreplay. Gwen does get the hang of shooting guns in one short lesson and finds her inner Lara Croft, ending the lesson shooting off two guns at once. Realizing it’s late and she needs to get home, Gwen asks Jack when he gets to go home. Home is headquarters apparently and he doesn’t sleep. When Gwen asks if it gets lonely, he doesn’t answer. They’ve strayed into personal territory and Gwen realizes she’s crossed a line and makes a hasty exit.

Back at her flat, Rhys is out. Gwen reaches into her handbag and pulls out the ghost machine; slowly becoming more like the team and taking tech home when she’s not supposed to. Gwen activates the ghost device and watches as happy memories with Rhys play out in front of her, proving the machine doesn’t just amplify the sad or the terrifying, it also shows joy and happiness. As she comes back to the present, Rhys appears at the door. He doesn’t care that she works late, he just hopes she wants to come home at the end of the day and Gwen does. She really does.

Meanwhile, Owen is at home, with the voices of Ed Morgan and Lizzie ringing through his head and articles and files on the murder in front of him. Looking at the suspect list, he finds an Edwin Gordon. who was released without charge. Using the phone book, Owen tracks down Morgan. Posing as a utility worker, he is able to get in Morgan’s home under the guise of a gas leak. Sitting in his living room while Morgan complains about his next door neighbor, Owen asks him about his other neighbors, one in particular; Lizzie Lewis. Owen describes her in detail, revealing he knows what happened under the bridge and Morgan gets increasingly agitated until he explodes, kicking Owen out.

As Owen walks back to his car, he spots Bernie Harris. After chasing him through the neighborhood, Owen is able to corner him and drag him to a pub where the team shows up. Bernie tells them he and a friend broke into a storage unit and found the device in an old tin with weird money and rocks. Thinking he could sell what was found in it, Bernie realized the device makes you see real things like a girl putting her dead baby in the river. Turns out the girl is now an old woman and when Bernie realized he knew her, he went to her. She offered him money to keep quiet, which is how Bernie started a nice blackmail business. He also saw the same incident as Owen under the bridge. As the team leaves, not impressed, Bernie asks, “So you don’t want the other half?”

In Bernie’s room, the team takes both pieces, now back together and prepares to leave. Bernie admits he only used the whole device once. He saw his death; he was lying on the street outside bleeding and still young. As Gwen runs to catch up with Jack to tell him of the new development, the device, now whole, goes off and Gwen pushes the button (all while Jack yells “No!” in very dramatic fashion). Gwen finds herself in the dark, staring at another version of herself. She’s crying and upset and has blood on her hands. She’s also holding a knife. She is rambling, saying, “Help me. I was too late. I couldn’t stop it. He’s dead. Owen had the knife.”

In Jack’s office, Gwen recounts what she saw and the fact that Owen was involved though she didn’t see him. Jack points out she saw one of many possible futures. It may not happen. Gwen wishes they had never found the device. Gwen is now at a loss of what to do.

Tosh and Owen are having drinks when Tosh tells him that she’s found Morgan. Owen admits he also found him by using the phone book and explains that had paid the man a visit. Tosh says that she’s found out that Morgan has a host of problems, including mental illness and suicide attempts. Tosh points out that Jack would be furious if he found out about Owen visiting Morgan, and Owen insinuates that Jack won’t find out, but slightly threatening tone. Owen speculates that Morgan thought he had wanted money. Morgan had said, “I told you before.” But told whom?

Morgan has called up Bernie, who is too afraid to leave his room. Jack is in his office reviewing the case and Gwen shows up at Bernie’s house. All the various stories are beginning to converge. Gwen tries to reassure Bernie that what he saw may not come to pass and Bernie reiterates that he would have been better off not knowing. Gwen gets a call from Jack. Owen had come clean to Jack had figured out that Bernie had paid Morgan a visit earlier and blackmailed him. Jack tells Gwen to stay at Bernie’s while he and Owen head over to her, leaving Tosh to monitor CCTV in case Bernie makes a run for it. Tosh spots Morgan (according to his file, he’s prone to paranoid delusions) heading towards Bernie’s house and alerts Jack. As Jack calls Gwen, Bernie runs outside after seeing something. Remembering what Bernie told her earlier, she follows after him. She finds them on the street, Morgan with a knife in his hand, asking if Bernie if he had finally come for him, too. Bernie swears that he’ll never tell anyone, but Morgan begins to advance, not knowing Jack and Owen were behind him. They grab Morgan and get the knife away from him.

Gwen with the device.
In the end, Bernie is alive, but Gwen still killed a man.

Everyone’s OK, but now that Owen has the knife, he threatens Morgan. Gwen remembers back to her vision about Owen having a knife. At the last second, after threatening to do to Morgan what he did to Lizzie, Owen pulls the knife away. Thinking everyone is safe, Gwen is relieved and holding the knife as Morgan rushes towards her saying, “I knew you’d come for me,” and ends up impaling himself on the knife and dies. Gwen is now living her vision, except it was Morgan who died, not Bernie.

Sitting at headquarters, Tosh reassures Gwen, saying that Morgan wanted to die. Jack muses that it’s not good for humans to know the future; they just want to change it. The device is put way and Jack takes Gwen topside for the sunrise, musing that the city is about to become alive with energy. “With ghosts,” Gwen says. Yes and you just learn to live with them.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

5 replies on “Retro Recap: Torchwood, Episode 1.03, “Ghost Machine””

This is actually not one of my favorite episodes. Owen seems weird and out of character, and I just rolled my eyes at the Jack/Gwen gun stuff. (To be fair, I roll my eyes at 90% of what Jack does.) My favorite moment is in the pub, though, when Bernie asks if they don’t want the other half. Sometimes, Torchwood is not as bright as they think they are.

I started watching Torchwood recently (’cause in Doctor Who Jack Harkness was too freaking scrumptious) and this is precisely where I’m at! Well, I started watching it this morning and had to stop  (when she finishes talking with the old man at the beginning) so I’m happily saving this post and its spoilers for later.

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