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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Torchwood’ blogging: “Cyberwoman” (aka “The Trouble With Lisa”)

(before commenting, please read the intro to my Doctor Who blogging; the same caveats apply to Torchwood / previous: Episode 3: “Ghost Machine”)

See, this is what happens when you treat the tea boy like, well, he’s the tea boy.

On the other hand, when your girlfriend gets mutated into a sexy-metal-bikini-wearing alien cyborg, sometimes you just have to let her go.

Ianto complains that no one notices him — “When did you last ask me anything about my life?” — and yet he also tells the pizza place, “My boss says I don’t eat enough vegetables.” So Jack, at least, is paying some attention to Ianto. In a later episode, though, there are hints that Jack and Ianto get much closer, and I think this is the beginning of that. Not that there aren’t some obstacles to get over: “You like to think you’re a hero,” Ianto tells Jack, “but you’re the biggest monster of all.” It’s hard to be pals with someone you see as monstrous.

Thing is, I don’t think Jack thinks he is a hero at all — I think Jack believes himself to be something of a monster, too. There’s a lot of lonely all over this episode — Ianto’s desperation to save his girlfriend, Rhys off on his own for a night out without Gwen — but Jack’s is still the most plaintive. Ianto isn’t quite right when he suggests that Jack doesn’t know what love is — as next week’s episode will show — but it’s pretty clear in this episode that Jack’s big problem is that he’s become numb to emotion: “Just for a second there I felt so alive,” says Jack about being in the grips of the Cyberwoman. Ironic that he feels dead because he can’t die. He doesn’t generally experience the same thing that, say, Gwen and Owen were feeling in the freezer drawer, when a passionate kiss seems like the right reaction to the threat of imminent death. You can almost imagine that Jack is a bit jealous of Ianto’s intense emotion, putting aside, of course, the danger he put all of Torchwood in by hiding Lisa in the basement.

Which brings up a ton of questions! Lisa worked for Torchwood in London, obviously, or she wouldn’t have been present at Torchwood Tower at Canary Wharf to get “upgraded” by the Cybermen there. But did Ianto work for Torchwood, too? I’m guessing he must have, if he was there to rescue Lisa. But what did he do? What special skills beyond making the tea and cleaning up everyone’s messes does he have, if any? I mean, it’s not that that latter isn’t a necessary job, considering Torchwood’s business — but that skill set suggests a more nefarious background than we might suspect from the tea boy. Ianto’s suddenly a whole lot more intriguing, and not just because he was keeping his own personal Frankenstein robogirl in the dungeon.

And how did Ianto get Lisa to Cardiff? Where was she in the interim between Canary Wharf and Cardiff? (Jack says in the Doctor Who episode “The Sound of Drums” that he rebuilt Torchwood in Cardiff after Canary Wharf in honor of the Doctor’s ideals. Which suggests at least a little time passed between the disaster in London and the opening of the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff. Where was Lisa during that time? In Ianto’s flat?)

What else in going on the subsubsubbasements of the Hub that Jack — and we — don’t know about? I love this aspect of the show, the urban fantasy, the we-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-in-those-city-nooks-and-crannies. Torchwood is like Beauty and the Beast, that 80s TV show, in some ways…

Random thoughts on “Cyberwoman”:

• That basketball scene at the beginning is right outta Firefly

• “Can you make it two pepperoni feasts tonight? And a tub of cold slaw?” Cold slaw with pizza? Eww, disgusting! What is wrong with these people?

• At the bar, Jack is telling an anecdote about someone who said: “Do you know how difficult it is to find a man in this city? He had a nice flat, all his own hair, so frankly, a couple of…” What? Tusks? Does Jack say, “Tusks”? What the hell?

• At that bar, Jack is drinking only water. We’ve seen him drink scotch back at Torchwood, though. Is he afraid of cutting loose out in the wild? He needs the safety of the Torchwood base?

• The name “Ianto” means, apparently, “God is gracious.” Hmmm, not so much toward this Ianto, I’m thinking…

• I love the idea that there are aliens who are “so boring” that they’re not worth talking to. We don’t usually get to meet them — I suppose they wouldn’t make for particularly interesting drama…

(next: Episode 5: “Small Worlds”)

[Torchwood screencap from The Institute]

MPAA: not rated

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