Episode three of “Torchwood”, “Ghost Machine” by Helen Raynor, was an improvement on the first couple of stories shown last week. It wasn’t perfect but held the attention more readily. The plot was reasonably involved, concerning an alien device which can initially enable its handler to relive past events but latterly to foresee the future. But just how complete a picture does it give of the shape of things to come? Will Jimmy White look-a-like Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) really avenge a past crime or will a certain leading lady, by the name of Eve Myles, be the one to accidentally twist the knife in?!
The direction seemed to move at a faster pace than previously (which isn’t necessarily a good thing), especially in the way the teaser was edited. Best of all, “Ghost Machine” featured a superb cameo from John (“The Caves of Androzani” and “The Happiness Patrol”) Normington and a star turn from a cigarette smoking, haggard looking, Gareth (“Blake’s 7”) Thomas as a guilt-ridden ex-teddy boy! The scene in which Owen exposes the terror of Gareth’s ways was terrific, a lot more fun than the chase through the back gardens of suburban Cardiff that was the focus of the following “Confidential”-like documentary “Torchwood Declassified”.
In “Ghost Machine”, John Normington played against expectations, a mild-mannered ageing evacuee, the complete opposite of the Trau Morgus character from his first “Doctor Who” - the embodiment of an ambitious, ruthless, corrupt politician best remembered for turning to camera and exclaiming, “The spineless cretins”. I also recall him in a play, made shortly after “Caves”, in which he co-starred with Patrick Troughton, about a jazz musician, played by the ex-Doctor, who loses his memory and goes missing only to end up at a pub called, appropriately enough, The Northern Star. It was on BBC2 but, unfortunately, brief research on both IMDb and Google has failed to reveal its title.
Gareth Thomas, on the other hand, as well as his most famous role, I remember in BBC dramas “The Citadel” and “Morgan’s Boy” as well as an ITV Sunday afternoon children’s serial, also co-starring Patrick Troughton (in his final role), entitled “Knights of God”. I still have a copy of the latter on a couple of Betamax tapes, which also featured Don Henderson, John Woodvine, Michael Sheard and Julian Fellowes, amongst others, and was directed by Michael (“Battlefield”) Kerrigan and Andrew (“Time and the Rani” and “Remembrance of the Daleks”) Morgan. Though it’s a long time since I watched it, I do remember it contained some plot inconsistencies but was nevertheless a fun, if undemanding, watch.
Returning to the present, it was good to see both Gareth Thomas and John Normington again, and on such fine form, and a bonus that it was in an SF drama. I didn’t notice any direct references to parent show “Doctor Who”, this week, but next week’s episode couldn’t be more connected if it tried, the eagerly awaited “Cyberwoman”. I’m ever-optimistic!