Outside the Government: Cyberwoman

(49 comments)

It's. Not. Funny.

It’s November 5th, 2006, memorably enough. Fedde Le Grand are at number one with “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit,” while Beyonce, McFly, and U2 & Green Day also chart. In news since the last episode, severe flooding breaks out in Ethiopia, and Ted Haggard resigns as head of the National Association of Evangelicals due to his fondness for crystal meth and rent boys. Because who doesn’t.

While on television it’s Cyberwoman. Seemingly content with having set up its basic premises, Torchwood here unleashes a story that can only really be described as a gigantic piece of candy. This is the thrilling runaround with monsters, and offers no pretense that it might be anything else. This is, in and of itself, telling. Torchwood, in its first season, hews closer to the standard model of Doctor Who than was apparent at the time. All four of Russell T Davies’s seasons, as well as Moffat’s first one, follow a simple structure in their first three episodes of doing a story set in the present, a story in the past, and a story in the future. In fact, the structure goes one step further - the past/present/future trilogy is, in each of the first five seasons, followed up by a two-part monster runaround. This was, it turns out, part of Doctor Who’s formula.

What’s not usually remarked upon is that Torchwood, despite its lack of time travel, does the same thing. It moves from an episode focused on Gwen and her world to a fairly straightforward alien threat to a ghost story concerned with the past, and then does its big clanking monster story. And when you decide to treat Cyberwoman as self-consciously being Torchwood attempting to do its version of Rise of the Cybermen or Daleks in Manhattan, to pick the ones on either side of it, most of its excesses become altogether easier to understand. This is meant to be the big action set piece - Torchwood fighting a classic Doctor Who monster.

Clearly they thought better of it, at least to some extent - Torchwood never took on a monster pre-established in Doctor Who again. And yet it’s difficult to say that the exercise was entirely pointless. The truth is that the Cybermen actually work quite well here. Torchwood basically goes back to the principles of Dalek here: a lone and damaged monster locked in the basement of a secret facility housing alien artifacts. This, of course, has a different effect for the Cybermen, who had already appeared in four episodes of Doctor Who in 2006, than it did on the Daleks, unseen in any proper sense in seventeen years when Dalek aired. Dalek set the bar high for the Daleks, establishing that just one of them is a terrifying threat. But Cyberwoman comes after the bar has already been set low for the Cybermen, and indeed after they’ve already been established as the second choice rejects of the monster pool.

The result is that no matter how hard Cyberwoman tries to repeat the Dalek trick of “just one monster is terrifying,” it ends up doing a better job of making Torchwood look foolish than it does of making the Cybermen look terrifying. Given that the Cybermen spend four episodes as clanking cannon fodder, Lisa is just too small a threat to take as seriously as Cyberwoman needs us to. To have her be treated as the single most dangerous thing the Torchwood team have ever faced mostly makes them look like incompetent lightweights. Within the logic of Doctor Who, a single half-converted Cyberman just isn’t a serious threat, and Torchwood can’t import the iconography of Doctor Who without acquiring that logic as well.

Added to this is the fact that it’s just too soon to pull this kind of switch with Ianto. The idea is clearly to leave him in the background so that he gets this episode as a big character piece, but it doesn’t quite come off. All Cyberwoman really gives Gareth David-Lloyd to work with is “Ianto is really upset,” and though he sells that admirably, it’s not enough to build a character piece off of. The idea is clearly to reveal hidden depths and wondrous spaces within Ianto’s character, having Torchwood itself be haunted by a wondrous space within its own architecture, but we just haven’t seen enough of the Hub and of Ianto to give this revelation any punch. This doesn’t work as the first time Ianto steps into the spotlight. Had the concept been threaded through previous episodes, with Ianto’s struggle to save Lisa being something we get to invest in for an episode or two before she goes irredeemably evil, it might have worked, but there’s too much narrative velocity to give the concept the weight it’s straining for.

This is a pity, as underneath the hood we have the Cybermen being done with an attention to body horror like we’ve never really seen before. The shot of Dr. Tanizaki’s botched conversion is horrifying, and renders the Cyber-conversion process physical and visceral in a way that The Age of Steel never manages to. This is the one time in the modern era we get the fleshiness of the Cybermen, and as grotesque body horror goes, it’s actually reasonably well done. Unfortunately, the story’s prime Cyberman, Lisa herself, is a bit of a flop. Her design is a bit too clean and orderly, presumably in order to make her vaguely palatable to look at given her screen time, when the concept calls for something far more upsetting. It also appears that designers decided they wanted her to be “sexy,” which jars completely with the actual concept, though does lead to the genuinely funny moment of Russell T Davies admitting that he has no real idea what they were talking about, but fretted a lot that the costume looked cold.

On the other hand, the relative lack of impact of the Cyberwoman may not be entirely accidental. Torchwood are supposed to be a cut below the Doctor in terms of their competence. Torchwood Three doubly so. The show has a complex iconography in this regard - on the one hand it’s clear that a lavish amount of money has been spent on Torchwood. On the other, there’s the distinct sense of Torchwood Three as a forgotten regional office - they clearly get sent things from the main office like the Torchwood-branded basketball hoop, but they’re also clearly working without much oversight or, more to the point, much in the way of people who care what they’re doing.

This is closely related to the show’s setting in Cardiff, which is not so much Britain’s second city as a city that lingers well past the point where the numbering leaves off. Cardiff is not, by any conventional measure, cool. And though Torchwood treats it as a source of cool, it does so with its tongue carefully nestled in its cheek. The selection of Cardiff is, in truth, in part because of its manifest failure to be an impressive, cool place. To locate the eccentric and wondrous spaces Torchwood is concerned with alongside a “cool” television city like London or Manchester is one thing, but to put them in Cardiff and see them through the eyes of a forgotten branch office is an entirely different thing. And so in that regard, it’s fitting that one half-converted Cyberman is so dangerous for Torchwood Three - that’s the level of competence they’re supposed to be on.

But Cyberwoman, and really Torchwood as a whole can’t quite figure out how to split the difference. Lisa is simultaneously the Big Doctor Who baddie come to menace the spinoff and a half-monster of an eminently defeatable species. Torchwood themselves are simultaneously the wondrous alien investigators and the dilapidated branch office. Everything about the show is simultaneously pulling it towards big ambition and modest scope. For the most part it actually manages to keep all of this on an even keel, but unfortunately when Doctor Who itself gets pulled into the equation the balancing act collapses. At the end of the day, Cyberwoman’s biggest problem is simply that it exposes the premise that Torchwood needs to keep quiet about for its own continued function, which is that Torchwood amounts to Doctor Who methodone - the show you watch when the main one isn’t around.

That’s not to say that Torchwood can’t function on its own, but to function on its own it has to move away from being Doctor Who-lite and into being its own show. Nevertheless, we have to admit that one of the most interesting things about Torchwood is its status as a spin-off of Doctor Who. In past stories - most notably in Day One - this worked well by having Doctor Who be something haunting the narrative - flitting at the outskirts and shaping it without actually entering the narrative. The show’s usual approach of treating Doctor Who as canon, but as a canon nobody but Jack entirely knows about or understands basically works. More to the point, it’s at times compelling, with Torchwood becoming the story of Doctor Who’s absence in a real sense. Not just “what would happen if the Doctor wasn’t there,” but a show about the absence of that unambiguous anchor in the mythic and a world where the lines between mundane and magical bleed together much more.

And the irony is thus that Doctor Who just doesn’t work within Torchwood. It obliterates it, eclipsing the things Torchwood can do and highlighting the things it can’t. Torchwood may depend on its relationship to Doctor Who, but that relationship is always going to be subservient. It’s there in the programming - Doctor Who is an anchor of BBC One’s annual schedule, and Torchwood is in BBC Three, or Two, or is a miniseries, or is actually a rerun of an American show. Torchwood is never allowed to outshine Doctor Who.

This helps explain what the correct structure of Torchwood is. We’ve seen its own grammar of wondrous spaces. And so, in a straightforward application of “as above, so below,” Torchwood uses its own concept to frame its relationship to Doctor Who - it is a wondrous space in the margins of Doctor Who. This, ironically, further explains the constraint on its overall quality. Because Torchwood simultaneously fears and loves wondrous spaces, Torchwood is put into the position of simultaneously fearing and loving itself. This creates a slightly stuttering quality within it.

This is often a good thing; when Torchwood works - and it does work more often than it’s given credit for, that stutter of tension within it is why. But the trick for Torchwood is always to avoid falling into the stutter. It can’t get caught for long in the switch between loving and hating itself. And unfortunately, Cyberwoman traps it in that stutter, because in Cyberwoman it tries to come to a conclusion about the one thing it cannot possibly come to a firm conclusion about: the space it’s haunting. Because if it ever does that, it’s no longer haunting it. The problem is that a wondrous space exists around and within a mundane one. Doctor Who is the mundane space of Torchwood - the thing, for better or for worse, it is an escape from. To allow the mundane space into Torchwood itself is a doomed endeavor - it gives Torchwood no choice but to be mundane and uninteresting.

But, look, it was a mistake that had to be made. There was never any way Torchwood wasn’t going to try a Doctor Who monster. It didn’t work, they learned their lesson, they moved on. It took Doctor Who how many years to finally figure out that Dennis Spooner hit on the right way to handle history in The Time Meddler and to just go with that approach to history for good? How much longer after that for them to grasp the “historical figure plus alien” formula that seems, in hindsight, like the single most obvious Doctor Who story ever? And yet everybody wants to crucify Torchwood because its stab at a bad but inevitable idea failed? Torchwood learned its lesson after this. It never tried this again, and stuck to its native structure of being a rabbit hole leading off of Doctor Who.

It was an understandable mistake, the show moved on, and nobody got raped. Let’s move on; the next one’s good.

Comments

Daibhid C 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I never got over the jawdroppingly misconceived Lisa design. Not only was it a bad idea to make her "sexy", they didn't even succeed. Which yes, as criticisms go is a bit "the meal was dreadful and the portions were too small", but I think the key point is that they *couldn't* succeed, because there's simply nothing sexy about being a Cyberman.

(I mean, I'm sure there's a "half-naked woman covered in servo-motors" fetish out there, but for the default TV definition of "sexiness", no.)

In the beautiful (if horribly cruel) parody "Under Torch Wood", incidentally, Ianto's entire characterisation is "I've got a Cyberlady in the basement."

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I think Cardiff's status in the UK is a bit of a weird space in itself. In one sense, it's the third city of the UK: the capital city of a country. According to wikipedia as size goes it's the eleventh or fourteenth largest city in the UK (depending on how you count). During the New Labour years, there was a lot of attempts to build prestigious cultural landmarks in regional cities. The Cardiff Opera House, right over the Torchwood base, is probably the most recognisable of those.

I didn't get around to watching Torchwood for two weeks, so this is where I came in. I'd heard from reviews that mentioned Owen's roofies and the sex alien. So first impressions not good then. I hadn't seen Doomsday either, so I hadn't got the cybermen down as low-level threats. So it wasn't the inability of Torchwood to deal with one cyberman that made them look incompetent, as their failure to notice that one team member has smuggled a half-converted cyberman into the base. In addition, in a well-run organisation there should be a gesture at disciplinary procedures for Ianto other than making him shoot his girlfriend himself. Maybe there are in a future episode; but really it gives the impression that in Torchwood it doesn't matter if you've endangered the world so long as you're a genuine regular character.
The legacy of Blake's 7 casts a baleful shadow here. It's given UK genre an interest in groups that are conflicted to the point of dysfunction, but which never really suffer the long term consequences of that dysfunction.

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jonathan inge 3 years, 11 months ago

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jonathan inge 3 years, 11 months ago

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sorrywehurtyourfield 3 years, 11 months ago

I've long thought that the main problem with Torchwood was the Torchwood organisation itself, as the writers seem to have little interest in exploring the workings of an official secret organisation. I very dimly recall an interview with Chibnall from around this time when they tried to ask him how Torchwood functioned in relation to the British state and he seemed to dismiss this as dull paperwork stuff, which I think is a shame as the SF conspiracy thriller genre it riffs on has a great tradition of exploring the structures of power to compelling effect.

Instead they seem to want to write "Captain Jack and friends", where a bunch of people get into sci-fi adventures just because that's what they do, i.e. more like Doctor Who and The Saran Jane Adventures, and this becomes particularly evident in Series 3 and 4 when the characters seem to spend more time as fugitives from the government rather than working for it. There is nothing at all wrong with this, but I can shake the feeling they simply attached the Captain Jack spin-off to the Torchwood concept more because the name was cool than because they particularly wanted to push the idea from Doctor Who series 2 any further forward.

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David Thiel 3 years, 11 months ago

Even more than the sex alien episode, this is the one that cements Torchwood's (entirely deserved, IMO) reputation as a juvenile attempt at Doctor Who with sex. By this point, the parent show has already addressed sex at least a couple of times (Moffat's episodes), and has done so in a mature and thoughtful manner.

Here, laid bare, is Torchwood's notion of Doctor Who with sex: a Cyber-fetish doll in platform heels. Not only is it a terrible design, it's one that disregards what we've already seen of the Cybus-era Cybermen's conversion process, which seems to be straightforward brain extraction rather than progressive replacement of body parts. And the only reason for the change is to include a "sexy" Cyberwoman.

If there is one saving grace to this episode, it's the pterodactyl vs. Cyberwoman smackdown.

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gatchamandave 3 years, 11 months ago

Ah, Cyberwoman. The story that engendered one of the most delightful threads on OutpostGallifrey - or was it Gallifrey Base by then ? Can't recall.

Anyway, a few of us gathered on the thread, entitled The Torchwood Ship of the Damned, to discuss each week's episode from the point of view that the show was fun to view as some camp, comedy programme about a bunch of complete incompetents who had been shoved out to Cardiff, the better to keep tthem away from any real threats to the British Imperialist incarnation based at Canary Wharf. Since the latter had collapsed this bunch were all that was left.

Much pleasure was derived as each week our chums would find themselves mired in daft situations they responded to in increasingly insane ways. It was one way to read the show, and wasn't harming anyone. Cyberwoman in particular produced comedy gold from contributors.

Alas, one day the threads length attracted a rather aggressive and very pro-Torchwood fan who began firing out antagonistic posts insisting that the show was an entirely successful dark adult production. Anyone who disagreed was a "H8er". Some tried pointing out that whilst we disagreed, no-one wanted a fight, that we recognised his reading was a valid one, but could he not agree that we had as much a right to approach it from a different angle and would he please stop being so antagonistic and maybe go find other threads where he would find many others happy to scrum down with him.

At which point he complained to the moderators that he was being bullied, and got the thread locked. Which struck me as rather a sad thing to do. Torchwood ceased to be fun for me after that.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 11 months ago

Watched this again last night, and it jarred with me again. I feel that Phil's post for this is indicative of the "theory" of how this story should be viewed, whereas the reality is sadly different. Yes I know this isn't a review blog, but sometimes some elements just are so glaringly wrong that you wonder were the writer/head writer/producer/director all looking the other way this week while "Cyberwoman" sneaked guiltily past and onto the screen? I think it's mainly the incongruity of the story that jars. Phil's already touched on the fact that there's been no indication over the last 3 weeks that Ianto has been hiding this big emotional secret in the cellar, but the bit I just can't get my head round is how does Lisa manage to transplant her own brain into another body? Surely she has to use her own brain to do this? So what happens at the point when she snips the spinal column? They should just walk in and find the two of them standing there, Lisa with her hand in her cranium holding a pair of scissors, her brain no longer connected to the rest of her body. No matter how hard I try to enjoy the programme, I just can't get past that bit.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

The result is that no matter how hard Cyberwoman tries to repeat the Dalek trick of “just one monster is terrifying,” it ends up doing a better job of making Torchwood look foolish than it does of making the Cybermen look terrifying. Given that the Cybermen spend four episodes as clanking cannon fodder, Lisa is just too small a threat to take as seriously as Cyberwoman needs us to. To have her be treated as the single most dangerous thing the Torchwood team have ever faced mostly makes them look like incompetent lightweights. Within the logic of Doctor Who, a single half-converted Cyberman just isn’t a serious threat, and Torchwood can’t import the iconography of Doctor Who without acquiring that logic as well.

I am a bit reminded of the first season of Transformers Animated. One of the recurring ideas is that our heroes aren't the highly-trained highly-competent warrior robots of previous series, but rather are a bunch of working-class Autobots led by a version of Optimus Prime who washed out of officer training. Most of the enemies they fight are humans who have gained access to advanced technology, or the various mutations and minor horrors resulting from humanity's messing around with alien tech they don't understand. Whenever an actual Decepticon shows up, the Autobots are massively out-classed, and only pull through by virtue of teamwork and good luck. (At least, that's what I'm told. I watched the first four episodes and then had something more pressing to do and forgot about it.)

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

I need to take issue with part of your second paragraph. Candy is delicious and brings a great amount of joy to children. I do not think Cyberwoman has brought joy to other children. This is marmite of the highest order.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

Extra Notes:

The idea behind the episode came from series creator Russell T Davies, who realised there was a story "begging to be told" after the Doctor Who episodes "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday"; in the episodes, Cybermen from a parallel universe invade Earth to assimilate the human population. They were ultimately defeated when the Doctor (David Tennant) banishes them to the void, a space between universes, to be imprisoned. "Cyberwoman" was among the first episodes pitched for the first series.

When Chris Chibnall was appointed head writer for Torchwood, Davies asked him to write an episode about a cyber girl in the basement of the Hub.

Out of the entire first series, "Cyberwoman" is the biggest nod to Doctor Who, there was little to no mention of the series, despite being a spin-off, which was made deliberate to send out "confusing signals" to the audience about what the series is. Chibnall wanted to include a base description of what a Cyberman is for any viewer who had not seen Doctor Who.

The episode was the first to centre on Ianto, who in the first three episodes was more or less a background character, and what John Barrowman described as like Torchwood's version of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman.

Chibnall originally intended for the episode to become the sixth or seventh in the series, but was brought forward to the fourth because some of the other scripts were not yet completed. It also became one of Chibnall's harder episodes to write.

Before settling on the current title, Chibnall went through numerous working titles, including "The Trouble with Lisa"[4] and "The Long Night of Ianto". "Cyberwoman" was ultimately chosen because the title "says it all."

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

It's interesting that this was intended to be ep6 or ep7, considering the good point of some people here: there's absolutely no hint or build up or a tease of suspicion that Ianto's up to something. So to hold it off even longer for the series would've been odd.

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Jesse 3 years, 11 months ago

in a well-run organisation there should be a gesture at disciplinary procedures for Ianto other than making him shoot his girlfriend himself

As someone said back in the day: "Torchwood does seem like a great place to work, since there's absolutely nothing you can do that will get you fired."

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HarlequiNQB 3 years, 11 months ago

This was where I almost stopped watching, almost.

When Torchwood aired in the States I was not into the reincarnated Who. it was difficult to catch on US TV at the time, and the one time I did catch a bit it was so horrible I didn't want to see any more (Turns out it was the last 10 minutes of Love and Monsters - oops). As a result I wasn't following fandom, and had no idea at all that Torchwood was a spinoff. All I knew was it was set in Cardiff, and they had a badass Range Rover (For these two things I will forgive many other missteps).

So this episode came as... well, a shock. I had no idea about canary Warf at the end of DW series 2, no idea this was connected to it in any way, and then "WTF? It's a cyberman! Woman! Thing!" So that piqued my interest some, and then it was awful.

I can't recall one single thing in this episode that worked in any way. The Torchwood Team, who were clearly incompetent anyway, became even more stupid than usual, the production design was appalling, the idea that there'd been a cyberman(woman,thing) in the basement the whole time with no indication either to the team or the audience seemed ludicrous (let along how the hell you get her in there - "This? Oh, I'm just moving an old mannequin into the basement to help with my haberdashery habit so I can get on Project Catwalk next series. Yes, it needs power, it's a powered cyber-form, what of it?"

Just, terrible. So of course that put me off watching Doctor Who even more, because the episode related to it was by far the worst thus far. Tsk.

Thankfully I did keep watching, as while the general quality of the show was poor, when it was good it was very good.

And hey, I did watch Doctor Who in the end, and it was nowhere near as bad as the end of Love and Monsters or the whole of Cyberwoman ever again (Though Journey to the Center of the TARDIS comes close IMO).

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Kit 3 years, 11 months ago

It took Doctor Who how many years to finally figure out that Dennis Spooner hit on the right way to handle history in The Time Meddler and to just go with that approach to history for good? How much longer after that for them to grasp the “historical figure plus alien” formula that seems, in hindsight, like the single most obvious Doctor Who story ever?

:( Probably my least favourite thing about the new series is the way EVERY "historical" follows a dull and unenlightening formula of "oldy-time people are dumb because they think there are supernatural things, when really there are aliums from outer space." Unicorn & The Wasp could have been a great, satisfying mystery (and would have been a much better riff on Christie) without the giant alien wasp, and the invisible chickenbear horribly derails Vincent to no ultimately worthwhile effect (blah blah they're both suffering, oh he saw things other ppl didn't, as this metaphor casually devalues, zzz). (The Doctor's mirror gadget is ace, though.)

I love Black Orchid tbh.


Fedde Le Grand are at number one with “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit,”

Fedde le Grand is a bloke, not a band, btw.

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coldwater1010 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm going to have to disagree. There are a lot of problems with this episode, but I actually think the idea behind it is a pretty fantastic one. There's so much character potential and not just for Ianto, the young working class Welsh-boy, who ran off to London to make something of himself, only to have it crash down around his ears in spectacular fashion, but for Jack too because this is the second employee to go off the rails in as many episodes. You'd think that would lead to some self-examination/ reflection beyond whether he felt alive or not, but apparently not. I also think it was a great opportunity to connect the spin-off with the mothership in a way that felt pretty organic by connecting TW3 to the TW1 we see in Army of Ghosts through the Canary Wharf tragedy and two people who both survived, in a fashion, and were damaged, whether physically or psychologically, by it and it actually amazes me how they managed to botch it up because it should be the one episode actually write itself because all the pieces are there. Hell I've read fanfiction that does a better job of exploring this idea than the show manages. I mean Jack links the show to the Doctor and Doctor Who, but Ianto and Lisa's story links to Torchwood and all its fallacies and failings and the consequences of working for an organisation that sees itself as beyond any other authority,except its own, something you'd think would be right up Torchwood's (the show not the organisation) alley, but apparently not. With Army of Ghost etc. we don't really get to see the human cost from a personal view except in how it affects Rose and the Doctor, but Cyberwoman provides that opportunity to glimpse into the horror and tragedy of it. Hell it even potentially gives an explanation why Torchwood fails at life because addressing the issue that Torchwood went from an organisation of over 800 people to an organisation of just six people at what likely used to be a relatively insignificant outpost.

Unfortunately the sexy bikini trivializes Lisa's plight and diminishes the horror of her situation, particularly when you contrast her treatment with how they treat Tanizaki's failed cyberization. I like the ambiguity of whether she was always a cyberwoman or became one because of the Doctor's interference, but they can't seem to make up their mind how to handle that especially at the end when she apparently goes from functioning like a cyberperson to apparently one who really does just want to be human for her man. The team's inability to deal with Lisa becomes increasingly silly and is clearly only there to stretch out the episode particularly since Jack has his gun on him the whole time. Or deal with Ianto. Even if Jack had no stomach to kill him you'd think they'd have locked him up or handcuffed him or something at some point and I'm not even going to touch the ridiculous brain-transplant or Jack randomly kissing Ianto when you'd think he'd be more concerned with dealing with the threat in his base. So much wasted potential, which for me, pretty much sums up my experience with Torchwood.

The one thing I don't have much trouble buying like everyone else, though, is Ianto sneaking and keeping Lisa in the base without detection. Why not? With a team of just five people Jack never notices that his second in command, the person supposedly closest to him, has become an obsessive, murderer right under his nose so why would he notice what the teaboy gets up to and the first three episodes show us how often Ianto is left home alone with the whole team goes out investigating or down the pub and the base is certainly big enough to hide things in. Of all the nonsense that happens on this show that's one aspect that actually works for me.

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Champiness 3 years, 11 months ago

While this is a really stickler sort of comment, and certainly not a worthy first one from me for a blog like this, Fedde Le Grand is one guy.
...Just saying.

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Anton B 3 years, 11 months ago

Have to agree Kit. Futhermore since when did 'The single most obvious Doctor Who story ever' become a good thing?

As to 'Cyberwoman' It's the only episode of Torchwood I missed on first broadcast and subsequent reviews, including this one, have not persuaded me to rectify that omission.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 11 months ago

My Comment got Ate. Here we go again....

I think Journey is absolutely Fantastic. I think a closer episode of Who to this might be Planet of the Dead: It has lots of good ideas, thrown together, but none of them really every seem to fire.

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landru 3 years, 11 months ago

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Ewa Woowa 3 years, 11 months ago

Sometimes a cigar *IS* just a cigar.
This episode is rubbish...

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landru 3 years, 11 months ago

I want to say that I never understand why or how people liked this show and then got into Doctor Who!!! This episode in particular was just so amazingly horrid I nearly stopped. Some of the future episodes are better, but by this point the series seemed to be rolling down a steep hill. Cyberwoman made Primeval look like a piece of genius.

To be honest, the show just never felt right. It was almost like the BBC gave RTD his "sex sci-fi" show to separate them from Doctor Who.

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Doctor Memory 3 years, 11 months ago

"can only really be described as a gigantic piece of candy"

"Only?" It could also quite well be described as a gigantic piece of something rather less sweet-smelling. Like apparently just about every other commenter here, this was the episode that made me give up on Torchwood for quite some time: I only gave in and backfilled the rest of S1 quite a bit later, and to this day the phrase "written by Chris Chibnall" gives me the screaming willies.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

This bloke wasn't called "Snowspinner", was he?

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jonathan inge 3 years, 11 months ago

I agree, Spacewarp.

At times, Phil plays either devil's advocate or underdog in his redemptive interpretations. Sometimes, he's not playing; he really means it. Other times, he wants to stir debate or add a dissenting opinion.

As much I as bash on the show, I generally forgive most problems of "Torchwood" series 1. Often, for many many reasons, the first season or two of most TV shows are rough. Despite the flaws, there is a very clear line of character development and plotting.

Here's another redemptive reading:

In a post-9/11 and post-7/7 world, we must further face the reality that our heroes (political leaders, law enforcement, authority figures, etc.) are just mere humans who are terribly flawed, damaged, and suffering.

We often idealize our heroes as pure and self-sacrificing. They are not supposed to be distracted by mundane desires. Or at least forgo these desires for a higher purpose. However, just like real life political/military/etc leaders, each member of Team Torchwood is distracted by sex and power.

The mantra of "Torchwood" is that "everything changes in the 21st century." The team is at war with change. More often than not, there are no clear morally-acceptable solutions to the problems the team uncovers. The status quo must be maintained.

At times, we called out our leaders for not measuring up to our fantasy of them being messianic miracle-workers. But they have to internalize/rationalize decisions that affect communities, nations, and even the world. And we ought to never see their stress.

Unlike the real world, we witness Team Torchwood on the brink of mental breakdown as they choose how to save "us." Unlike the real world, we know their actions are based on good intentions, even if we don't agree with their reasoning.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

...nope, "Journey" is rubbish. All the characters act like imbeciles, and the three brothers are completely worthless. It's a waste of a TARDIS episode. Shameful.

Why Moffat keeps hiring Stephen Thompson is beyond me...

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

I am in agreement with you, good sirrah.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm guesing that Phil, as a structuralist, is reappropriating the word "candy" for the purposes of his blog, wherein "candy" is supposed to mean "dogshit".

Such is my informed guess. Am I correct?

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

I am NOT a structuralist.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Journey looks like becoming the Love and Monsters of the Moffat era. Personally, I think it's brilliant.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Oops. My apologies. Wrong word. :-S

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 3 years, 11 months ago

I would say that Chibnall has improved over time. His series 7 episodes last year were fun and Broadchurch is brilliant .

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David Thiel 3 years, 11 months ago

A general commentary on Torchwood that I would've made earlier if I hadn't been travelling: the biggest disappointment for me wasn't that it was more miss than hit, it was that it failed to follow through on the promise of Torchwood made in the parent series.

Torchwood Three in no way resembles the well-funded, antiseptic, paramilitary, alien treasure trove seen in Army of Ghosts. Sure, there are both story and budgetary reasons for the changes, but it's still a bait-and-switch. The year that Doctor Who spends setting up its already-announced spin-off amounts to nothing more than a name.

Worse is that the long-awaited return of the popular Captain Jack is similarly thwarted. He may look the same, but gone is the charming, devilish rogue. This "Jack" is a dour grump sulking in a dank hole. It's as if he's a spectacularly unsuccessful Auton duplicate. (Though that might explain how it is he spends a couple of thousand years buried alive, dying and resurrecting countless times, then emerging as if nothing happened, with even his coat intact. God, this show failed in so many ways.)

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Doctor Memory 3 years, 11 months ago

I will go so far as to allow that "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was... not completely intolerable. Beyond that? Well, there are multiple virtues that can endear one to management as a writer for television, so I assume that Mr. Chibnall is one of those who can regularly turn in a script that arrives on time and within the allotted budget, and that he does this with clockwork-like regularity.

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William Silvia 3 years, 11 months ago

The Cybus-man conversion process IS straightforward brain extraction and does not include a progressive replacement of body parts. You're mixing alternate universe Cybermen up with Mondasians, which we won't see until Series 5 or later.

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David Thiel 3 years, 11 months ago

Not mixing it up at all...that's exactly what I'm saying. Lisa is supposed to have been converted during the Battle of Canary Wharf, which makes her a Cybus-style Cyberman. She should be, at most, a brain and perhaps a few fleshy bits, not what's seen here, which seems more like the partial conversions of Attack of the Cybermen.

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William Silvia 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh okay, I can understand what you're saying now. The way you originally wrote it was just backward enough to seem to be saying the opposite if you didn't approach it the right way.

That said, I can't imagine even a Mondas Cyberman leaving just enough flesh for her to post on the cover of CyberFetish Magazine.

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gatchamandave 3 years, 11 months ago

No, Matthew, he was a baity cove called Captain J. Knowing my luck, that would have been some nice chap on here who's personality I've totally misinterpreted. But at the time, it was as if the hard man from the local pub had wandered into the Bide-A-Wee tea room looking for a rumble.

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gatchamandave 3 years, 11 months ago

Though "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" does have that ghastly sequence where The Doctor cold blooded send the missiles after the bad guy. Pretty wrong-headed, methinks.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Broadchurch was brilliant. The Power of Three was a particular kind of abysmal: it was brilliant as long as it kept you wondering where it was all going, and then it turned out that where it was going was merely banal. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was somewhere in between.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

@David: There's no "seems like". They outright say that the Cybus cybermen switched to armored-meat style conversions during the Canary Wharf invasion due to limited resources.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

Fun fact: "sirrah" was a term of abuse, used by a person of higher station to poke fun at a person of lower station by making a big deal of calling them by a fancy-sounding title.

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David Thiel 3 years, 11 months ago

Ah, I forgot that they came up with an in-story reason for the change in the conversion process. And if I were being charitable, I suppose that I could assume that they went this route--leaving Lisa mostly flesh--to make Ianto's motivation more plausible. That said, I still think that they mostly did it for the "sexy" Cyberwoman.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

I just like the sound of it. :-P

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 11 months ago

Heh... well, um, I hope he learned to be a bit more tolerant after.

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Alan 3 years, 11 months ago

The biggest problem for me is that, in three successive episodes, you had (1) casual rapist Owen, (2) lesbian sex aliens, and (3) a sexualized Cyberwoman stalking around in her cyber-bikini. I really started to think at this point that RTD had no concept for "Doctor Who for grown-ups" except aggressive sexuality.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

Children should learn not to accept candy offered by Cybermen. The only kind they make is Spring Surprise.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

I am NOT a structuralist.

Matthew was reappropriating the term "structuralist" for the purposes of his post.

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Kory Stephens 3 years, 9 months ago

That's an insult to Alfred. He left Bats on a occasion or two but he never stayed like a domestic violence victim. That episode really made it hard for me to keep watching. the UNIT/Gitmo scene in Exit Wounds was the last straw and I screamed "**** this show!"

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