“CYBERWOMAN” – Series 1, Episode 4, Story 4 – Written by Chris Chibnall; Directed by James Strong – Ianto has been a bad boy. He’s keeping his girlfriend locked up in the basement of the Hub. She’s halfway to becoming a Cyberman. And now she’s active. Which means she’s gonna kill or be killed. No matter how much Ianto cries.
Watching CYBERWOMAN is like watching a kid who’s finally figured out how to walk stumble forward. He’s about to fall but he’s leaning forward and his legs keep moving forward and he might walk a bit askew but he never falls until he reaches the safety of the couch.
Did that make any sense?
CYBERWOMAN is a rather gripping episode that sees the team betrayed by one of their own. It’s the first TORCHWOOD episode that follows the Russell T Davies storytelling rule that states if you just keep everything moving really fast and then do something ridiculously emotional at the end, no one will notice your Swiss cheese plot holes.
The best part of CYBERWOMAN is that the Cybermen get their fair share of respect for once. Davies had such a Dalek fetish that every single time the Daleks popped up on screen, everyone in the show literally had to crap their pants, but here that freak out is given to the Cybermen. They take it too far, of course, as the team looks at this one semi-Cyberman like she’s the single most dangerous being in all of existence but I suppose the idea of a Cyberman base inside the Hub is is worth a little freak out. We don’t even get a full-blown Cyberman but a half-woman, half-Cyberman conversion. Lucky, the Cybermen apparently start their conversion process by covering all of the human naughty bits because Lisa looks more like a back-up dancer for Kylie Minogue than an actual Cyberman. It’s telling that when Cyberwoman Lisa tries to turn someone into a Cyberman, the dude comes out of the process looking like someone jammed Mr. Potato Head parts on a guy’s face and then stuck said face into the microwave.
Lisa is Ianto’s girlfriend. She worked at Torchwood 1, which is the Torchwood we saw back in ARMY OF GHOSTS/DOOMSDAY. She was half-converted when the Doctor sent the Cybermen into the Void and so didn’t get sucked away with the rest of them. (I guess. You will not look at the plot hole. You will keep moving past.)
What I really like about the episode is that it’s the first time we really see the show start peeling back the layers of these characters. We’ve gotten hints about their backstories and what they’re actually like outside of the job, but here we get the focus put on the team’s well-dressed support staff, Ianto Jones. Turns out he’s got a girlfriend, she’s a half-Cyberman, and Ianto’s stuck her in the basement and attached her to a conversion unit without telling anyone. When the team finds out they’re less than happy.
So they fire him, right? Well, no. They order him to shoot her. That’s called drama, kids.
Ianto comes apart at the seams at seeing his girlfriend killing everyone and Gareth David-Lloyd does a pretty good job of making his collapse believable. He cries a lot and yells mean things at Jack (“You’re the real monster!” he tells him.), but the best part is actually the allusions to the stuff we don’t see – Ianto keeping her in the basement and hiding it from the team. I love that. Until now characters have largely felt two dimensional but now we get the feeling that things are going on that we’re not seeing and that makes you pay attention to everything else a bit closer.
The most interesting personal development this time out sees Owen and Gwen snogging in the morgue as they hide out from CyberLisa. I don’t really buy it – even though Owen was giving Gwen a hard time earlier in the year, I don’t feel like enough has been done for this moment to seem like much beyond, “Hey, we need something to punch up this part of the episode so let’s have these two make out.”
Lisa ends up killing a pizza delivery girl and putting her brain inside of it. Ianto is given the chance by Jack to kill CyberLisa but can’t do it, so the rest of the team shows up to stand dramatically in a line and kill her.
Thanks guys. I’m gonna go back to picking up your trash now.
CYBERWOMAN has a bunch of nice bits and it’s a nice step forward for the show, but it’s just a step.