Well, I have been complaining recently that Cybermen are more effective when they’re converted from real humans bit-by-bit, and that they’d moved too far away from the body horror aspect of the originals. I also said that I wanted Torchwood to take more time to explore complicated moral issues that are too dark for Doctor Who, so this episode should be right up my street. There’s only one problem: it was bollocks.
I mean, fucking hell. I remember being so, so angry about this on first broadcast. It makes an absolute joke out of the Cybermen, in the most Torchwood way possible. Apparently, the Cyber conversion process works by building a metal bra and knickers first, and leaving plenty of bare stomach and leg exposed to fill in later. What the hell is wrong with people who look at a classic concept like Cybermen and think “it’s good, but let’s do a sexy version”. It’s like a porn parody.
If you manage to ignore the travesty that they’re making of Davis and Pedlar’s work, there are some thrills to be had from the generic infiltrated-base action, but they’re few and far between. What’s supposed to hold the episode together is the emotional trauma that Ianto’s going through, but given that this is only the fourth episode, that falls completely flat. He gains a personality somewhere along the line, but so far he’s been in it for a total of about five minutes across three episodes. He’s literally just the tea boy at this stage, so why should I sympathise with him when he’s betrayed his team and endangered the entire universe?
And apart from anything else, how the fuck has Ianto managed to keep this to himself the whole time anyway? We were told last time that Jack lives and sleeps in the Hub, which leaves very little opportunity for the requisite sneaking about. When he deletes CCTV footage, it comes up with a big message saying “FOOTAGE DELETED”, and Tosh is able to retrieve the file within seconds once she notices. So how has nobody noticed any of this before?
We’re never clear what exactly is going on with Lisa either. Are her Cyberman tendencies taking over her human brain against her will, or is she full-on Cyberman all along and just pretends to be human-like to manipulate Ianto? Some clarification might have helped the moral dilemma at the heart of the story to have more impact – how are we supposed to pass judgement on whether Jack or Ianto are in the right when we have insufficient data?
It’s all hanging together by a thread, which is something I perhaps wouldn’t notice so much if I was being entertained. I admit to being amused at the sight of the Cyberwoman punching a pterodactyl in the face, but that’s about it. I don’t really see how Ianto can snap back in to the comedy butler role after this – the episode doesn’t give us any reason to believe there’s a way back from this debacle, for him or for this godforsaken series.
Owen Watch: A needless moan about women drivers, direct from the 1970s, and somewhat more seriously, sexually assaulting Gwen when the pair of them were hiding in a mortuary drawer. Unnecessary and uncomfortable.