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Captain Jack: You saw the echo of a moment amplified by alien technology. So just tell me how that’ll play in court.
This third episode, Ghost Machine, repeats the pattern set up by the previous episode Day One: the team chase after an alien item and an implied mission is presented to them as an accidental byproduct of this investigation. Their mission here seems to be to stop both the Hoodie being harmed by Morgan, and Owen harming Morgan (although this mission is revealed slowly through the episode.)
Like the first two episodes, there is a “bad guy”, (in the previous episode this is the alien), and like the first two episodes, at the end here the “bad guy” is dead, though not necessarily at the hands of Torchwood.
This Wild West justice, with no judge or jury, is not really the focus of Torchwood’s actions. It is just something that happens when they try and investigate aliens. Jack points out during the episode that the crime in the ’60s that Owen now knows about cannot be presented in a court as the evidence relies on alien technology. Solving crimes is not the purpose of Torchwood it seems. Their purpose is to gather alien tech (so that mankind is ready for the future.) Jack repeats in this episode his phrase “The 21st Century’s when it all changes, and you gotta be ready” from the first episode.
The team as such do not set out to “solve crimes”, but they are presented with situations where certain members of the team feel compelled to do just that. It is a “sci-fi crime thriller”, but crime-solving is not the business of Torchwood. Which is: hunting down alien tech.
The series is no more or less entertaining because of this, but I do find it interesting how the conventions of the crime show are used when they are not really a crime unit. Will the show continue to follow these conventions when Worldbuilding with future episodes?
One slightly ridiculous scene stands out in this episode. The erotically charged firearm lesson on the shooting range between Gwen and Jack is over the top. When Gwen raises her arms in exultation after progressing excitedly from tentative aims to spectacular John Woo-style gunplay, you can’t help but laugh. They can’t really be wanting that scene to viewed as a parody of similar seductions, but that is how it comes across.
This scene of Gwen’s temptation is nicely counterpointed though with the “ghosts” (past strong emotions to be found in her flat by the machine) of her relationship with her boyfriend, and she is not abandoning his lasagnas quite yet it seems, if indeed she ever will.
Quite a good episode then, but it really makes things hard for itself by conjuring up unfavourable comparisons with the superlative The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (with its very first scene featuring a spooky second world war kid!) Sheesh.