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Captain Jack: You need to figure out whose side you’re on here.
With the plot of this episode, the team find that Ianto Jones has hidden away a partially-converted cyberwoman in the basement of the Torchwood Hub, and they have to deal with her: when she attacks!
This basic plot allows light to be shone on the character of Ianto who hitherto has had about one line per episode.
This virtual exclusion from the previous episodes actually feeds into the setup of this episode. There are very effective and subtle scenes at the start. While the rest of the team lark about within the Hub with a basketball and pterodactyl (!), having fun together, a camera lingers on Ianto approaching the group, and he stops as he is screened off by the iron bars surrounding the centre of the hub. So, Ianto does not feel part of the team.
He eventually unlocks the door within the screen of bars, but the team leave, excluding him from their night out on the town. A Japanese man in a business suit arrives, now that Ianto is alone, and is shown to the Cyberwoman hidden in the basement.
Various cinema references came to mind as I watched the scenes that follow: Aliens. (Is the Japanese man some representative of a company that Ianto is selling this technology to? We are misdirected. Ianto is doing this for love we discover.) Metropolis. (As the Art Deco robot lady is brought to life.) Tetsuo: Ironman. (Because the Japanese guy ends up resembling something from that bizarre film. This was actually quite horrific.) Ianto finds the Japanese man dead at the Cyberwoman’s hands, but as he loves her, blames the Cyber technology.
Once the team arrive back at the base and Cyberwoman Lisa is on the rampage the episode reaches a pitch of hysteria and Angst which it manages to maintain from this point to the very finish. Jack asks Ianto what the heck is going on and Ianto vents his pent-up resentment at him: “I clean up your shit!” he exclaims then vocalises the isolation that he feels that we saw illustrated at the start of the episode.
Thus the two themes are woven round the base-under-siege plot: Ianto’s love for Lisa and Ianto being excluded from the team. (At the end of the episode Ianto is asked to make a choice: the team… or his love?) Wham-bam, the pace of the story rockets along and the hysteria is maintained.
This story as well as illuminating Ianto also allows light to be shone on the character of Jack: is he really a hero? I mentioned in my review of the previous episode Ghost Machine the “Wild West justice” that happens around Torchwood, and the “bad guy” winding up dead. Jack forcing Ianto to execute Lisa to prove his membership of the team provides some uncomfortable scenes. Her eventual execution by the four others together recalls blood-drenched spaghetti westerns.
For the story that has out of the four episodes so far had the strongest links to its progenitor show Doctor Who (acting as a follow up to Army of Ghosts/Doomsday) it has definitely been the furthest away from Doctor Who in its general tone: disturbing horrific images and by the end, extremely ambiguous “heroes”.
Torchwood could actually be a very interesting show if it goes partially down the route of a TV show like The Shield. Captain Jack could be another Vic Mackey, with the Torchwood team the Strike Team. Gwen could be Claudette. If you don’t know the show The Shield what I mean is Jack could become a morally dubious character, while Gwen could provide a moral centre and audience sympathies.
A very good melodramatic episode, and one that revels in being over the top – as demonstrated by the Cyberwoman versus pterodactyl scene.