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Torchwood: Ghost Machine
(1 episode, s01e03, 2006)


Visions and vengeance while the show treads water.

Gwen and Owen are running down the street in pursuit of an alien signal that Tosh is tracking, with Jack approaching via the roadways in the SUV. Tosh determines that their suspect is a man in a hoodie and Gwen is able to get close enough to snag the garment before the man escapes. Luckily, the device is in the pocket.

When she investigates it, the device causes the world around her to disappear. In a dream-like state, she sees a young boy carrying his possessions and wearing a tag stating that he is Tom Erasmus Flanagan. The boy says that he’s lost before the image fades, and Gwen tells her comrades that she’s just seen a ghost.

Back in the Hub, Tosh reviews the footage but sees no evidence of Gwen ever leaving the area. Jack orders a battery of database searches for Flanagan, but Owen is one step ahead with a phone book. Gwen and Owen visit the address and meet Eleri and her father. They have an alibi for the previous night, and while Gwen talks to Tom, Owen joins Eleri in the kitchen. Tom was evacuated from the East End in 1941 – he was eight years old – and sent to Cardiff. He was eventually taken in by a nice couple and never returned home.

As they leave the Flanagan home, Rhys calls Gwen and asks if she’ll be home tonight. Gwen is unsure and Rhys is upset. They return to the Hub and continue the investigation, determining (first) that the device is complicated nanotechnology and (second) that the thief is Sean “Bernie” Harris, a petty thief. They track him to Splott and find that Bernie has alienated everyone in the area. Jack tosses the device to Owen and taunts the team into working harder. As the team walks away, Owen is swept into another vision where he watches a woman named Lizzie Lewis in the 1960s. She’s assaulted by a boy named Eddie Morgan, dragged to the wall, raped, and murdered as Owen returns from the vision. He is shaken to his core.

The team returns to the Hub and digs into Lizzie’s history. Jack identifies the device as a quantum transducer, something that converts emotional energy into ghost-like visions similar to déjà vu. Owen wants to pursue Lizzie’s murder (which was never solved) but Jack tasks the team with tracking down Bernie instead. He sends Owen home to recover and takes Gwen to the shooting range.

After some practice with various arms and a somewhat rocky start, Gwen doesn’t do too badly. She checks her watch and decides to go home, wondering where Jack sleeps. He replies that he doesn’t. He also avoids the question of his loneliness. Gwen’s house is empty since Rhys has gone to a friend’s house to play poker, so she experiments with the ghost machine and some happy memories. Rhys comes home and the couple mends their bridges.

Meanwhile, Owen is stewing at home with the case files on Lizzie’s murder and a bottle of liquor. The next morning, he tracks Eddie to his current home on Prysse Avenue, uses a false identity as a gas company employee, and confronts Eddie about the murder. The old man angrily chases him out, and moments later Owen spots Bernie. After a humorous chase through the neighborhood – no one likes Bernie, so they point his pursuer in the right direction – Owen corners Bernie and takes him to a pub where Jack and Gwen catch up later.

Bernie stole the device from a storage unit and saw a vision of his own. His ghosts showed him a woman dumping a dead baby in the water, and he realized that he recognized the woman, but she gave him money to leave her alone. The team starts to leave before Bernie offers them the other half of the device, which Tosh assembles without much effort. They also take the money and the strange rocks that accompanied the device in the storage unit, but Gwen stops when Bernie tells her that the device showed him his death.

Gwen catches up with the team, eager to share the new revelation, but activates the device and sees a vision of the future: She’s holding a knife and covered in blood, Owen is dead, and she couldn’t stop it. Jack consoles her later in the Hub by telling her that it’s only a possible future.

Later that night, Tosh and Owen share a drink later and discuss Eddie Morgan. Eddie hasn’t left his house for years due to severe agoraphobia, and the team realizes that Bernie must have tried to blackmail Eddie. Meanwhile, Eddie calls Bernie, Gwen visits Bernie to console him about the vision of his death, and Owen reveals his earlier visit to Eddie’s house. The team converges on Bernie’s home.

Eddie overcomes his phobia and visits Bernie’s home, knife in hand. Gwen tries to calm Eddie down, but the man only spins up faster and blames women for making him turn bad. Jack and Owen wrestle Eddie down, and Owen threatens Eddie with the knife. Gwen talks him down and Owen hands her the knife, but Eddie rushes her and impales himself on the blade, committing suicide and fulfilling Gwen’s vision.

The team debriefs the situation at the Hub: Owen is glad that he didn’t kill Eddie. Gwen is shocked and feels guilty, and Jack gives Ianto the device for storage in the secure lockers. Jack takes Gwen topside to watch the sunrise as he helps her deal with her grief.


It was a pretty lackluster story with a paint-by-numbers pseudo-supernatural twist. Owen got some character development as a (sort of) white knight who tries to make people think that he doesn’t care, and Gwen continues to evolve in her new role as rookie, but not much else happens here. Any forward momentum they had after the last two episodes has pretty much stalled out with this tale.



Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: Cyberwoman


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.



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