Cyberwoman

Posted in Episode by - June 04, 2018
Cyberwoman

Aired 05 November 2006

It’s only natural that a spin-off series should want to explicitly ground itself within the world and events of its parent franchise even given the wholly distinct tones and stylings of Torchwood and Doctor Who. Using the fall of Torchwood One in London during the events of ‘Army of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday’ as its precursor, ‘Cyberwoman’ allows Ianto Jones and his past in London to finally step into the spotlight in what should be a harrowing tale of the power of love.

Unfortunately, despite some powerful ideas on display, this is hardly the finest introduction to Ianto who has so far very much been a secondary background figure. Though no fault of Gareth David-Lloyd who truly does deliver a profoundly emotional performance, the story of his attempts to save and revert his half-converted girlfriend, Lisa, ultimately lacks any sort of impact precisely because no positive progress is ever seen while her lingering humanity is continually diminished. There is a nice moment where Ianto explicitly states that nobody at Torchwood ever gives him a second thought or knows anything about him and his anguish, but even his suggestion that he couldn’t go to his colleagues because Torchwood was created to destroy alien beings doesn’t quite seem natural. He clearly has no trust in his teammates at this time given the lengths to which he has gone to keep Lisa a secret, but his devotion to Lisa blinds him from the fact that she is a true danger who cannot be reasoned with even after she attempts to murder everyone and, in fact, succeeds with the doctor he had furtively brought in to examine her and help. Ianto eventually bellows out that Jack is the biggest monster of them all in a world filled with monsters, but while nobody on the team could really be defined as a clear-cut hero, there’s yet to be evidence on screen to support this claim especially when made following Lisa’s fatal attacks and attempts.

Of course, the very notion of a Cyberwoman in this particular costume is something of an anathema given the fact that the Cyber race is predicated upon uniformity as individuality and humanity is stripped away from the victim. After some rather forced dialogue that shows that Lisa is committed to the Cyber cause and rebuilding their army even as Ianto refuses to believe it, the production fails to deliver any meaningful tension or sense of danger from the prospect of a partially-powered cybernetic being hunting the Torchwood team members who have no real defense within a confined area, instead making the team seem rather ineffectual at best while also breaking to have an uncomfortable moment between a hiding Gwen and Owen. Regrettably, Ianto is still torn even when the Hub’s pterodactyl mercilessly attacks Lisa, and he haplessly runs back into the Hub at the first opportunity after everyone just manages to escape, finding that Lisa’s attempts at reclaiming humanity have involved inserting her own brain into the remarkably brave pizza delivery girl’s body because Ianto had always told Lisa that looks don’t matter. This goes against every grain of humanity any decent person should ever have, but it also goes against the increasingly focused Cyber mind that had been developing throughout the episode, making the normally heartwarming story of love conquering all incredibly distasteful. Of course, the rest of the Torchwood team end up excessively shooting this new version of Lisa anyway, showing any lack of empathy or morality and perhaps proving Ianto’s fears about the organization right in the first place.

Truly, the concepts behind ‘Cyberwoman’ are incredibly strong, and the emotions stemming from a loved one who is so close and yet so far away as well as the tension of a confined fight for survival against a superior force practically write themselves. Sadly, Torchwood has yet to develop any real chemistry among its leads and the tone, pacing, and characterisation are so jarring that even a stronger script would have struggled to succeed. This is another early setback for the this burgeoning franchise, proving Gareth David-Lloyd’s abilities at convincingly portraying emotion even if his character’s motivations and thoughts are suspect but otherwise failing on almost every level.

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