Thursday, 18 February 2010

Torchwood: Ghost Machine

“I wouldn’t even piss on him if he was on fire.”

It’s early days for the series, the format is still being established- time for an alien artefact story then. It’s not the most expensive-looking of episodes but it’s surprisingly good, and a promising first script from Helen Raynor with only a little awkwardness in the dialogue letting it down.

We see this for the first time in the scene with John Normington; it just doesn’t feel natural for the character to be coming out with that information to Gwen, who he’s only just met. Why is he going into so much detail without prompting on the subject that Gwen coincidentally wants to know about? It’s a crude info-dump, exposition without enough excuse for being there in character terms, and we’ll be seeing a lot of this sort of thing.

Otherwise, though, this is an assured debut script. The plot is watertight and clever, the regulars all get something to do, and the fact that everyone in Cardiff seems to hate Bernie is funny. This seems to be the debut of uber-serious Jack, though; he gets well mardy with the team when they seem to give up on finding Bernie.

The scene where Owen experiences Lizzie’s rape and murder is suitably powerful, and an interesting thing to happen for the character’s development. Burn Gorman is truly excellent here. Of course, he goes vigilante, and the murderer Ed Morgan proves to be none other than Blake himself, Gareth Thomas. It’s a startlingly different role for the actor, a deeply unpleasant and deeply damaged sociopath.

There’s a problem with the murder scene though; once again the characters are blatantly telling each other things they already know for the benefit of the viewer. It’s very notable that both Lizzie and Ed address each other by their full names, a very unnatural thing to do. It’s a pity, because aside from this awkwardness with the dialogue it’s a brilliant piece of drama.

In what rather brilliantly turns out not to be a coincidence, Owen finds Bernie and there follows a rather amusing chase through peoples’ gardens. We then get the revelation that there’s another half to the device, and that once assembled it allows people to see their own future. Very timey-wimey. Bernie has seen his own death, as he is now, on the road outside, and the rules of television sci-fi instantly tell us that he’s doomed. There’s a bit of a problem with this though; why does he not simply resolve never to set foot in that street again, or at least never again where the clothes he saw himself wearing to his death?

The stakes are raised by Gwen’s vision, which inevitably comes true. It’s all rather bleak, really; there’s nothing Gwen can do to prevent fate working itself out. It seems free will is an illusion after all.

Aside from the awkwardness with the dialogue this is otherwise quite brilliant, but unfortunately I can only give it a 3/5. It’s a promising first script from Helen Raynor, though, and the team are all still getting some nice development.

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