So episode three in Torchwood had me extremely excited about the possibilities of the series and the potential depth of future episodes. Episode four, “Cyberwomen”, kind of threw all of that under the bus. The basic premise of the episode is the Ianto Jones is keeping his girlfriend, a half-converted Cyberman in the basement of the Hub. Enter poor costuming choices and a bit of cheese and you get a cringe worthy episode.
I like idea of integrating bits of well known Doctor Who references into Torchwood and using the same villains/aliens is an easy way to do that. This episode has many nods to Doctor Who and the broader SF/F genre. These nods are ultimately taken too far and fall a bit flat.
I did like the emotional challenge Ianto is faced with – loving the person inside the Cyberman and realizing that the person he loves has become a mass murdering machine. He seems to genuinely love Lisa and doesn’t want to believe she is gone, despite what Jack and the others tell him. Four episodes into the series and this is our first real glimpse at Ianto below the surface. And what we see isn’t that inspiring – he’s reckless, lying, and can’t make the hard decision he needs to. Jack gives a whole lot of tough love to Ianto this episode and we see Jack in the hardass leadership role that rears its head occasionally. His line “If she’s alive, you execute her. You execute her or I’ll execute you both!” sums up his position on the whole situation.
I didn’t hate this episode but it definitely wasn’t what I would call good. It had a bad tv movie feel to it and there were a lot of poor choices in terms of pacing and presentation of the ‘cyberwoman’. I think different costuming choices and a less sexualized outfit would have gone a long way in making this far more watchable. This is the only time Torchwood used an established monster from the Doctor Who universe. It seems like they realized it didn’t work. Torchwood is something different and it works best when it treats itself that way – one off references to the Doctor and bit of tech from the Doctor Who universe work but attempting to reinvent classics is hard and perhaps best left alone.