Every time I come back to watch an episode of this show, I feel a bit like I’m catching up with old friends. I suppose that is a credit to how well these characters are written in general. As well as the fact that in between and even during their exploits, they are always seen eating pizza or snacks or Owen playing video games. It makes these people feel real, and not just that – it makes you want to hang out with them in their super secret base.
Onto the episode itself. The titular hand held ghost machine allows the user to occasionally see visions of people from the past and even feel their emotions. There are two halves to the machine, one which allows you to see visions of the past, and one which allows you to see visions of the future.
Although we get to see a romantic montage of Gwen and Rhys living together and having fun. But it is heavily undone when we see her clearly flirting with Jack previously in the episode. But it’s a shame that it takes a ghost montage of previous happy times for her to feel bad and regret her actions. What if the ghost machine had shown her unhappy memories of their arguments or fall outs? Would she just go and have sex with Jack or Owen immediately instead of feeling guilty? She really doesn’t come across as a devoted partner. And that’s a shame considering how unwarranted it seems.
Owen gets a lot to do in this story, probably more than anyone else. He uses the machine to see a murder that took place in 1963, and feels the pain of a young defenseless woman as her deranged partner stabs her under a bridge. Owen makes it his mission to find the still living murderer, now much older. When he confronts the murderer, Ed Morgan; he practically bullies the now elderly man. Tosh reveals that he is paranoid and has tried to commit suicide in the past; clearly troubled by his past life.
It’s a great mood balance when Owen leaves the house, riled up and bumps into a man they have been tracking for days. He is then able to put all of his anger and focus into catching the teenager successfully.
Unfortunately Owen takes it too far with Ed Morgan and comes close to killing him, which does lead to his accidental death. I suppose Owen’s emotional story in this episode comes full circle when he attempts to do CPR and save Ed in the end.
It’s a deeply emotional episode, this one. But it does avoid being too dark by having nice action set pieces and small visual gags. And I think that’s just about everything…
I do like the ghost machine idea, it is somehow original and completely unoriginal in one fell swoop, but I like it. I do also love Owen because he is still so cool, despite not being as tough as he tries to maintain. Unfortunately Tosh and Ianto are reduced to a few lines each. But if memory serves, the next episode very much gives Ianto a time to shine for a while. I will award the episode with seven Ghost Machines out of ten.
On a completely unrelated note, while editing one of the below images, I noticed how similar the design of the Ghost Machine is to the 1975 and 2011 designs of the Cybermats. It’s almost like a cross between the two.