“Cyberwoman” was possibly the most satisfying of the first four episodes of “Torchwood”. I say possibly because there was nothing in it to match the two minutes screen time allotted John Normington in last week’s third episode, “Ghost Machine”. It wasn’t his dialogue, either, that captured the moment but the history of his character was all in John’s facial expressions. Gareth Thomas, too, made the most of his few scenes in the final twenty minutes of the same episode. His body language, especially the stooped gait, was spot on. This week’s fourth episode was similarly structured, in terms of the introduction of guest characters, in that we meet a Japanese Doctor early on, who has arrived to save the half-converted Cyberwoman’s soul, and a pizza delivery girl, who actually achieves, temporarily, what the Doctor couldn’t, towards the conclusion.
“Cyberwoman” was a roller coaster of an episode only marred by the intrusion of attempted light relief. Gwen’s boyfriend phoning in order to get her to record “Wife Swap” was more of the same pop culture references that currently clog up new “Doctor Who”. Totally unnecessary; as was the need to engage the characters in yet more tedious tonsil tennis. I wonder if those scenes were written by the episode’s writer Chris Chibnall? James Strong’s direction lived up to the standard he set himself in “The Impossible Planet” except, here, he was allowed the luxury of more gore. The consequences of failed conversion were more explicitly explored in the demise of the two guest characters mentioned previously. What we really had in this episode was a reworking of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, with Ianto in the role of the obsessive Doctor character, of that novel, the Cyberwoman his creation, and the Japanese Doctor and pizza girl, not forgetting girlfriend Lisa, sacrifices to out-of-control science. “Doctor Who” has reworked “Frankenstein” before, of course, most obviously in “The Brain of Morbius” and therein lies the clue to the twist in this tale.
Some loose ends weren’t readily tied up. “Cyberwoman” required a big leap of faith for the audience to easily accept that Ianto had never before aroused suspicions or that some other thing hadn’t drawn the Torchwood team’s attention to the possibility of something nasty in the basement. I’m pretty certain there isn’t an Ice Warrior in my loft though perhaps I better go and have another look! There is no way on Earth that Ianto should be allowed to stay on the team after this incident but “Torchwood” doesn’t seem bothered by any moral implications. In the first episode, “Everything Changes”, it was explained by Tosh that the body of a hospital porter, having been killed by a rogue Weevil, would be reported missing before being washed up on shore a few days later. I would like to have known how the bodies of the victims in “Cyberwoman” were to be disposed? You could hardly explain the Japanese Doctor’s Cyber eye away too easily or the pizza girl’s brain transplant! Surely she would be missed at work, at the very least. Unless they’re totally stupid, the takeaway services who supply Torchwood must already be becoming suspicious!
Finally, I did enjoy the brief fight between Lisa the Cyberwoman and Myfanwy the Pterodactyl. It occurred to me that this was the dinosaur’s revenge for extinction in “Earthshock”, essentially at the hands of the Cybermen, and this provided the episode with an interesting cyclical aura; but maybe that’s just my fancy!