Friday, July 03, 2009

My Review of Torchwood's 1x04: "Cyberwoman"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by James

We’ve waited and now in our fourth episode of Torchwood, we finally have some much needed information on the mysterious Ianto Jones and honestly it couldn’t have come any sooner.

I think most people would concur that Ianto does look great in a suit, seems to be work coffee magic that makes Captain Jack do cute little begging gestures and when he isn’t cleaning up Torchwood’s collective messes, like everyone else he also has some dark secrets. I was hoping for something that would give Ianto some substance and it’s even better that his past is connected with Season Two of Doctor Who on top of that.

This week’s episode opens with a basketball game between the team and the pterodactyl flying above the, which Owen wins by cheating. The gang then descend to get wasted in the afternoon (lucky for some) as Ianto is left holding the basketball, with a pretty pained look on his face. I don’t think it would’ve killed Captain Jack to ask if his handsome go to guy wanted to come along, would it?

Anyways, Ianto is relieved for the alone time as he uses it as a great opportunity to bring in a Japanese doctor named Tanizaki down to the cellar in Torchwood where we get to meet a half-human, half-cyberwoman named Lisa and if there wasn’t an award for making a more Seven of Nine/Illyria style figure hugging outfit, there should be for the get up you see on Lisa. Although I didn’t notice myself at first, it seems even this girl got a set of metallic high heels.

The important thing is less sniping about the Cyber design Lisa has and more of who she is and it’s quickly revealed that Lisa is Ianto’s girlfriend who was halfway into being converted when the Cybermen were desperate for soldiers during the debacle in Canary Wharf from “Army Of Ghosts”/“Doomsday” and for the last couple of months, Ianto has managed to keep Lisa hidden beneath Torchwood without anyone’s notice or say-so and even figured out how to reprogram a Cyber conversion unit into a life support machine as he foolishly hopes to find a cure for his girlfriend and make her human again.

This also explains how he managed to tolerate Tanizaki touching up his girlfriend as if she was being sold for sex and you could definitely see the utter discomfort in Ianto’s face when Tanisato kept touching in more intimate areas to see how Lisa was reacting to certain thing.

In a case of judging a book by its cover, did anyone else Tanizaki a tad creepy? He certainly appeared a lot less interested in Ianto’s plight and Lisa’s well being and more concerned about how he might benefit from the experience of meeting an incomplete Cyberman. Still though, at least Ianto’s money was going somewhere when Tanizaki managed to get Lisa to breathe without wires and tubes and even gets her to able to walk too.

Of course any story that involves progress for a Cyberman (even a half upgraded one), means absolute disaster for everyone and while Ianto is too busy trying to deal with a returning Torchwood team, Dr Tanizaki is repaid for his efforts by Lisa when she decides to give him a personal upgrade and royally botches it up in the progress.

In one of the few times in this episode, Ianto is clearly horrified by his girlfriend’s actions and even threatens to end her (just about), which has Lisa calling his bluff. You sympathise with Ianto because he’s a fool in love but you also know that his blind sight towards Lisa’s actions are going to cost people. Okay, so no main character dies in this episode but this hour does further prove how dangerous the Cybermen are.

While Ianto may have been good at keeping his secret from Captain Jack and the rest of the Torchwood team for so long, he isn’t exactly a dab hand at diverting attention when Toshiko notes the power in Torchwood is being drained and no-one looks remotely convinced when Ianto tries to blow them off.

Not even Captain Jack, who has the biggest soft spot for Ianto buys his excuse and quickly deduces that Torchwood is under attack as Owen and Gwen arm up and head downstairs to check up on Ianto and the mysterious second person down there.

In another moment in which we get to see Owen freak out, he spots the Cyber conversion unit, manages to fill Gwen in on the basics about the Cybermen (when he’s not ranting about the discovery of Cybermen activity underneath Torchwood being beyond wrong). This is interesting enough but Lisa knocking out Owen and strapping Gwen to the conversion unit is somewhat more interesting, especially when it’s so touch and go on the latter nearly being upgraded.

Amazingly enough for a 10pm Sunday night series, I can’t help but not be a bit disappointed in the Cyber conversion being no more graphic than what we’ve seen on Doctor Who. I wasn’t expecting something as visceral as a scene from Saw or Hostel but given the strong horror overtones in this episode, the writer really didn’t deliver with us actually seeing the conversion process, even if I did think Gwen may be have in mortal danger.

Of course Gwen’s near death brought Ianto’s secret out in the open, although pushing Captain Jack out of the way from shooting Lisa also managed to do that as well. It also set up one hell of an animosity between Captain Jack and Ianto. I don’t think anyone has ever seen Jack so incandescent with rage (“Bad Wolf” excluded) and John Barrowman manages to pull it off convincingly every much as he does flirty and brooding.

I also have to give some major props to Gareth David Lloyd who certainly proves his worth here as Ianto tears into Captain Jack’s lack of concern or interest in Ianto’s personal life and his total disregard for Lisa’s life. Although I don’t condone any of Ianto’s actions or deception for a second, I certainly understand where he’s coming from and can also see that there’s an element of truth behind his anger too.

Honestly if you were working for a place with a reputation as ruthless and underhanded as Torchwood’s whose main goal is to dispose or detain alien technology and aliens themselves, would you feel comfortable confiding in your employers about your dangerous lover you want to restore? I know I wouldn’t and also as I previously mentioned, you can’t totally blame Ianto for laying into Jack to a certain degree. We’ve all too well known that even this Torchwood bunch aren’t exactly heroes.

That being said, Jack is also in the right and Ianto more than anyone knows the ins and outs of how the Cybermen work and the devastation that they are capable of. Jack is also right for telling Ianto that his girlfriend is dead – Lisa is and logically, Ianto should’ve finished the job, buried Lisa and grieved for her but love isn’t logic and Ianto continues to prove that with his total refusal to follow instructions, even when Lisa rejects him and refuses to stop trying to kill his workers.

Knocking out Owen and scaring the shit of Toshiko and Gwen isn’t enough for killing machine Lisa as she electrocutes Captain Jack, not once but twice and by surviving her attempts of deleting him, Owen begin to ask sensible questions that Gwen tries to divert herself. Owen also wins points for being the only Torchwood member to cause Lisa physical pain when he stabs her. Naturally it doesn’t work but give the man a point for trying something productive because reasoning and taunting aren’t that big of deterring Lisa from her “kill, kill” mission

Mostly known for playing bitchy roles in As If and the atrocious Footballers Wives, Caroline Chekezie is a fine casting choice for Lisa. She’s not quite as dynamic up against Gareth David Lloyd and not half as sexy in the half Cyberwoman suit the production team were hoping for but she is convincing as someone ready to give into her impulses and hold onto her old life as well.

The last fifteen minutes of the episode when not being treated to a screaming match from Captain Jack and Ianto, also saw some impressive CPR between the warring men, Toshiko being useful and trying to get herself to safety while containing Lisa. We also got to see a confined Owen and Gwen share a pretty passionate if rather forced snog with one another. Then again, Gwen wasn’t exactly fighting Owen off her either and he seemed to enjoy it.

The sniping between the two of them afterwards is hilarious but I’m not totally sure if I like the idea of these two hooking up especially given that we’re only four episodes into the series, Owen still has tosser tendencies, Gwen actually has a boyfriend who is liked by most viewers including myself and because them sniping when dating might not be as funny. Still though if this means that Gwen and Captain Jack don’t hook up, then I’ll be a happy viewer.

However some more impressive than saucy CPR and frenemies kissing would be finally putting the pterodactyl into use and having it attack Lisa after Jack doused her in BBQ sauce and took himself, Gwen, Owen and an angry Ianto out of the building. Sadly we don’t get to see too much of the big fight between Lisa and the pterodactyl or knowledge of whether or not the latter survived but to the pterodactyl’s credit, Lisa severely got some pecking as a result, though I can’t imagine that she made an appetising snack for the pterodactyl.

If the tension couldn’t get worse than before, then it’s nice to be proved wrong as not only does Ianto punch Jack in the lips, but he also goes as far as to call him a monster, threatens the other staff if they harm Lisa and warns that Jack that one day he’ll be in a predicament where he’ll need Ianto’s aid and Ianto won’t help me. You don’t just make those kinds of threats in anger unless you really mean and I have a feeling Ianto does really mean it. If I were Jack, I’d make sure not to get in over my head anytime soon.

Meanwhile Lisa changes gears on her insane crusade and snatches an unsuspecting pizza girl and transplants her brain into pizza girl’s body in the hopes of keeping Ianto. To prove he’s not an immoral so and so, Ianto seems very much against Lisa’s latest action and it even looked like he was going to shoot Lisa and/or himself until Jack and company went all gun happy and killed the new Lisa. You can definitely sympathise more with Ianto as all chances of keeping the woman he loves are obliterated as are his friendships to a degree but even Gareth David-Lloyd’s impressive performance doesn’t deter the fact that all of Ianto’s setbacks are of his own doings.

The ending of this episode is certainly a strange one. After all the fighting and sheer animosity and death threats, Ianto carries on with his duties in Torchwood and clears up some rubbish as Jack and Gwen look on. You have to wonder given the lies Ianto told and the danger he put people in, why Jack would still want to employ him? You also have to wonder given the lack of compassion and understanding Ianto got from people that could be perceived as his friends, why on earth would he want to stay there? The mind certainly boggles with those particular questions unless Ianto is out to get vengeance on Captain Jack and I could certainly see that happening.

I also loved the final scene with Jack and Gwen as he told that being electrocuted by Lisa not only made him feel alive but it also made him wonder if he could die after all. It feels like the writers are setting something up there and hopefully the pay off will be worthy.

Also in “Cyberwoman”

The opening to this episode reminded me of an episode of Firefly. Actually I’m pretty sure this was a direct steal from Firefly too.

Captain Jack: “That was an illegal move.”
Toshiko: “Totally illegal.”
Owen: “Keep telling yourselves that, losers.”

Tanizaki (re Lisa): “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Ianto: “Anyone.”

The original title of this episode was “The Trouble With Lisa”. Personally this should’ve been kept over the generic “Cyberwoman”.

Lisa (to Tanizaki): “Pain, I remember my body burning in pain.”

We learn here that Lisa’s surname is Hallen, she’s 26 and she and Ianto shared a tent in a beach in Brittany. I’m also wondering if Owen and Toshiko have worked in any of the other Torchwoods like Ianto has? She was 55% augmented, 45% awaiting completion.

Ianto: “If you harm anyone else.”
Lisa: “Yes, what will you do?”

Captain Jack: “This is not a good time to be kidding around.”
Owen: “I’m deadly serious.”

The reason Jack and company came back early was due to a boring liquid alien race called Nark drawing attention to themselves and scaring the locals.

Ianto (re Lisa): “Why would I tell you about her?”
Owen: “A little loyalty perhaps.”

Ianto: “You’re still human.”
Lisa: “I am disgusting.”

How the hell was Lisa able to rip out the pizza girls brains and attach hers to the victim’s body? Surely that would require more than one person to do that.

Captain Jack (to Lisa): “Is that all you got? I’m not so easily deleted.”

Gwen: “I’m not lying on top of you.”
Owen: “I’m not saying it’s a brilliant idea but it’s the only one we’ve got.”

That device Toshiko used to scan her book in “Everything Changes” also opens locks. I did appreciate the Suzie mention as well.

Owen: “It’s not like I fancy you or anything.”
Gwen: “I was on top of you. I could feel your hard on.”

Four episodes in and Toshiko is the only who hasn’t had a same sex snog. I’m sure that will come soon enough.

Captain Jack: “You execute her or I’ll execute you both.”
Ianto: “I won’t do it.”

Ianto: “You’re not Lisa.”
Lisa: “You always said you didn’t love me for what I looked like.”

Standout music: “Chocolate” by Snow Patrol.

Mixing a fair amount of horror and high voltage drama and naff episode titles aside, “Cyberwoman” is a so-so look at the consequences of a Cyber conversion only half done. Although this isn’t a first, it still makes for an okay episode.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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