Louise Doughty’s psychological thrillers take a dim view of men. Remember that smouldering weirdo in Apple Tree Yard who fantasises he’s a spy? His was at least an exotic pathology. In Platform 7 (ITVX) men go in for more standard brutalities – coercive control, child abuse. The twist is that its female protagonist, who is a victim of one such man, haunts the story as a spectral presence.
When we meet Lisa (Jasmine Jobson) she’s wandering a station late at night in her pyjamas. It emerges, after she witnesses the suicide of an elderly man (Phil Davis), that no one replies when she speaks. She is a ghost, trapped at the scene of her own death, also seemingly from suicide. But an anniversary visit from her grieving parents and her long-faced boyfriend, Matt (Toby Regbo), somehow frees her to bypass the ticket barrier, and re-enter the world of her past life.
Over four episodes the circumstances of her death are revisited both by a wandering Lisa and by a dogged young transport policeman (Yaamin Chowdhury). That a ghost can comment on scenes but not participate in them is an impediment that the first two episodes of Paula Milne’s adaptation don’t wholly overcome. It’s a liberating relief when the strong third episode flashes back to the past to trace what really happened in Lisa’s relationship with her seemingly perfect doctor boyfriend.
Jobson, who was so commanding in Top Boy, does what she can as an unanswered onlooker, but it must have felt like acting with one arm tied behind her back. The only person who talks to her is Davis, whose subplot feels bolted on. She has much more to sink her teeth into once the plot permits interaction. The same goes for Regbo as her dissembling tormentor.
While there is a gratifying comeuppance enfolding much supernatural japery, the script is at its most powerful when it ditches the paranormal and portrays the way coercive controllers slink their tendrils around even confident young women like Lisa. It’s less curious about what might engender such behaviour. Parental neglect is briefly mentioned, but as an explanation it has no more substance than a ghost.
All episodes of Platform 7 are on ITVX now