Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Torchwood - "Cyberwoman" 9/10

I've risked a nine on this one as it was such a rollicking good ride. Had its flaws again, but only ones which came to me later. The fact that they didn't distract from my enjoyment gets "Cyberwoman" extra.

If last week's episode showcased Owen this one (as expected) was Ianto's. Seen as little more than a discreet and subservient butler for The Hub up until now, the plot here really had the character (and actor) let rip. Basically Ianto has secretly saved his half-cybernised girlfriend Lisa in the Torchwood Three basement - her condition meted out in the embattled events of parent programme's "Doomsday".

Once 'Lisa' breaks loose and fatally cocks up the 'upgrade' of a Japanese expert Ianto has brought in to treat her, the rest of the team get involved and put the Hub on lockdown. Only Ianto refuses to believe his 'Lisa'is already gone and puts his colleagues at risk to prove it. There's a great twist of a dilemma at the bloody climax which made brilliant telly. Full marks to Gareth David-Lloyd for meeting the challenge - the episode stood or fell on his central role here. I'm especially thinking of Ianto's confrontation with Jack, his disgust at discovering Lisa's first victim, and his tears of desperation as he realises he must destroy all that is left of his girlfriend.

Apparently Neil Kinnock sponsored Lloyd's acting career in his youth - I think the trust has been repaid on this evidence. The fact that I agree with Captain Jack that Ianto looks good in a suit helps too (the suit needed a thorough dry clean after this episode I'm sure!). All the other team members get moments of their own here, and Jack really gets to test his immortality - it's hinted that he'd maybe prefer to die - and there's another same-sex kiss to tally as he breathes life into an unconscious (or dead?) Ianto at one point. I'm sure there are particular 'fans' out there that would have been het up about that, missing the point of the scene entirely. In fact the 'parallel' snog between Owen and Gwen was far more gratuitous, both in the narrative and in reality. Jack seemed to have his spark back too, which pleased me. A word too for Caroline Chikezie who suffered steel undies as the titular monster and managed to divide playing the human remains of Lisa from the calculating and ruthless cyberwoman.

This could have been a boring 'bottle' episode featuring only the standing Hub set and very few guest parts but it was packed heavy with action and pathos. Though I'm not sure if it's a good thing, this is the closest in style (and legacy) to "Doctor Who" that "Torchwood" has been so far. In part "Cyberwoman"was a direct sequel to the closing episodes of DW series two, in part it was a postmodern "Frankenstein", complete with Hammer Horror butchery. There were echoes too of the tragic lone opponent still being lethal theme of "Dalek" in 2005.

James Strong's direction was vibrant and effective - again playing to a sense of confined claustrophobia evident in his "Doctor Who" 2-parter this summer. It was all very red, black and silver-blue.

If I was to criticise, Lisa's ulimate demise (brain now transposed again into the body of an unfortunate pizza-delivery girl) under united gunfire of Jack, Gwen, Owen and Tosh seemed, well, overkill. That was the only glitch that registered at the time, souring an otherwise excellent scene. Shortly after I also realised it would have been nigh-on impossible for the surgery to have taken place without third party aid. But it was Ianto's dilemma that got me right there - sent back in to kill Lisa on the threat (or bluff, it transpired) that Jack would kill them both if he failed and then faced with the further horror of Lisa's second victim - a fate that came about from a 'logical' perversion of an extant human longing.

For much of the episode it appeared we were going to have a second 'regular' despatched in the space of four episodes, but thankfully poor Ianto is still there. As he's unaware of that potentially life-giving kiss, hopefully his understandable grudge against Jack won't be forgotten. There's definite mileage for future events there.

Screencaps courtesy of The Institute:

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