Doctor Who #742: Cyberwoman

"You need to figure out whose side you're on here. Because if you don't know... you're not going to make it out of this alive."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.5 2006.

IN THIS ONE... Ianto's keeping a sexy Cybergirl in the basement.

REVIEW: Horrendous. There's very little I like about Cyberwoman, and what I do enjoy, I resent for being in this piece of crap. Where to begin? How about with the eponymous threat? Ianto's been keeping a cybergirlfriend in the basement all this time, and because this is Chibnall's Torchwood, she's completely off-model. Though Lisa was partly converted by the Cybusmen at Canary Wharf, she's completely unlike any Cybusman ever. These guys convert you by putting your brain in a metal suit. Lisa's whole body is mid-conversion, and the pieces of armor she does have include revealing metal panties, a midriff, a bra and, get this, high heels! So when the cybernetics experts comes to visit and fondles her breasts, it's not just Ianto who squirms, it's the entire audience. The gratuitous sex isn't limited to the objectification of a Cyberman either. When Gwen and Owen hide inside a cabinet, it's all kissing and hard-ons, beginning what is possibly the most annoying subplot of the entire series. I like the eventual pay-off (we'll get to it later), but I find this attack on the Gwen-Rhys relationship difficult to swallow. Sure, at this point, it's just sexual harrassment, but it grows to a full-blown affair very quickly, just you watch. In the other room, Jack is resuscitating Ianto with what looks like French kissing. Whatever. Somewhere in town, Rhys leaves Gwen a message about recording "Wife Swap", ho ho you're so clever Chibnall.

If the sex is gratuitous, so is the level of violence, reaching the level of Grand Guignol, which I find tasteless and uninvolving. It's not the Cyber fights, or the cyberneticist's gory death even (the single eye makes him look like a Borg, and this is indeed very much a Borg script rather than a Cyberman one), but how the pizza girl is lobotomized and her body, complete with extra-bloody skull seam, is used by Lisa. This is meant to be disturbing, and it is, but by that point, you're just ready for it to END ALREADY. A large part of the problem is that the episode almost makes Ianto irredeemable. He does this stupid thing, for love, and we sympathize, but then never gets to make the right choice. It's taken out of his hands. Instead, he blubbers more than Rose Tyler through the whole damn thing, punctuated by self-serving whining, and it's OPPRESSIVE. His big heroic action is to start picking up trash in the epilogue, as if moving on is enough. And it might be, if only I knew who Ianto WAS. But I don't at this point. This is the first time he's gotten more than a handful of lines and I HATE HIM. (He somehow becomes my favorite character of Series 2, but we're far from that here.) His conflict with the team also makes Jack nearly irredeemable as well. Jack's been getting more and more angry at the group for screwing up, not following instructions, or pulling selfish dick moves, and here he very much blows up. But asking Ianto to execute his girlfriend under pain of being executed himself? That's way too far for a former companion of the Doctor's. Chibnall wants all this to be so HBO-intense, edgy, sexy and violent, that he loses sight of what we already know of these characters and of this world. (Heck, Tosh's magic lockpicking device is the same artifact she used to record books in the pilot, that's pretty shoddy too.)

So anything to recommend? Well, the banter between the group going out to the pub is what I like to see from an ensemble show. The score going electric when the Cybergirl is revealed shows not every department was thoughtless. The trick with the BBQ sauce and the pterodactyl is cool, but rather wasted on such a wreck of an episode. Imagine how much cooler this would have been against an equally physical foe later down the line. Torchwood's pet dinosaur's cachet is spent too early and on a threat we'd all rather forget about. Some might enjoy it as a straight "locked inside with a monster" suspense thriller, but I found the whole runaround rather cliché, even when I wasn't distracted by its other flaws.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes on the DVD include Owen mentioning his disinterest in cricket and Tosh trying to be nice to Ianto, a scene that works as an alternative to the episode's actual ending.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - The very worst of the New Whoniverse's entire canon, I should think. Gratuitous and juvenile, trite and melodramatic, flying in the face of established continuity, it almost sinks the entire program with it.

20 comments:

Toby'c said...

Oddly, this'd be my pick for worst of the series as well, even though I also fall into the "enjoy it as a straight "locked inside with a monster" suspense thriller" category. 7/10, much like with Fear Her.

Madeley said...

An episode so unbelievably poor that I didn't watch another full episode of Torchwood until Children of Earth, and underlines how absurd it is that Chibnall was ever asked to write anything on Who again, never mind being one of the few writers GUARANTEED to get a slot or two in every series.

Paul C said...

As you know I have very low standards when it comes to pop culture but even I was flabbergasted by this episode. Astoundingly poor stuff. I remember watching it and laughing in disbelief. I'd love to know what RTD had to say about it behind the scenes.

The episode's one redeeming feature is that the Pizza girl's fate reminds me of Steve Martin's revolutionary brain surgery technique in The Man With Two Brains.

Siskoid said...

I do know the episode has its fans, I'm sure they'll chime in at some point.

Madeley said...

Absolutely, every episode is someone's classic, every character is someone's favourite.

Jeff R. said...

I have to say that my refusal to call this the worst says more about my opinions of Countrycide than it does about the episode itself.

Siskoid said...

Countrycide has grown on me over the years, but I did detest it first time around. We'll see how it plays two days from now.

Anonymous said...

Chibnall was in our local Dr who group in Liverpool back in the late 80s and all his bad writings show here he hasn't changed.
Incidentally last week someone accused the BBC [or thereabouts] of promoting a politically correct agenda, particularly anti-male...isn't calling this ep Cyberwoman doing exactly that?

Siskoid said...

What did the group do? Fanzines and fanfic, that kind of thing?

As for the anti-male agenda mentioned by a reader last week, I don't think calling the show Cyberwoman is proof at all, not when the episode itself goes on to sexually objectify said woman, start Gwen off on an unscrupulous and objectionable path, and make Lisa a clingy robot girl who both can't be trusted and hurts other women so she can be with her man.

Martin Léger said...

Speaking of Countrycide, it was super weird to watch for me because it followed the EXACT concept that Supernatural did earlier that year. I'm not calling a rip-off but it does seems odd that these two episodes came out in the same year.

Siskoid said...

Both episodes are no doubt derivative of whatever cannibal hicksploitation movies that inspired them.

Martin Léger said...

The hicksploitation isn't what bugged me. It's the narrative similarities.

Both are shows about a team hunting monsters/aliens. We are trained to think that they are hunting something otherworldly. While investigating suspected monster/alien kidnappings. The team gets split up. They keep wondering what monster/alien would do this. Then in the climax we find out that it wasn't a monster/alien all along! It was people!

Siskoid said...

That IS suspiciously close.

Craig Oxbrow said...

I can't say anything nice about this episode.

The wine, however, was very nice.

LiamKav said...

"Incidentally last week someone accused the BBC [or thereabouts] of promoting a politically correct agenda, particularly anti-male...
People accuse the BBC of stuff like that all the time. Usually white, male, msygonistic dinosuars who are terrified there's any focus on any group other than themselves.

Besides, the whole point of this episode relies on the titular character being female. Calling the episode "Cyberman" would confuse that. Cybermen aren't really gender driven beings, except when they are dressed in their bras and pants.

"Both are shows about a team hunting monsters/aliens. We are trained to think that they are hunting something otherworldly. While investigating suspected monster/alien kidnappings. The team gets split up. They keep wondering what monster/alien would do this. Then in the climax we find out that it wasn't a monster/alien all along! It was people!"

Scooby Doo first aired in 1969.

Toby'c said...

Except Scooby Doo doesn't train us to assume they're hunting something otherworldly. If anything it's the other way round (see Scooby Doo on Zombie Island).

Siskoid said...

Hahaha, Marty, I think you started something there!

Jeremy Patrick said...

Sorry, I've gotta be THAT guy who didn't really mind the thing that everybody hates so much . . .

http://jhaeman.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/torchwood-cyberwoman-s1-e4.html

I hope we can still be friends!

Siskoid said...

Yeah, you were one of the people I was referring to ;).

LiamKav said...

"Except Scooby Doo doesn't train us to assume they're hunting something otherworldly. If anything it's the other way round (see Scooby Doo on Zombie Island)."

True, although that's a later-stage meta twist. The original show(s) were less cute. And while I do enjoy Zombie Island, it did lead to a string of "this time, the monsters are real!" movies, both animated and live-action. Scooby Doo only works when the monsters AREN'T real, damnit!

Anyway, Torchwood. That's a show.

 

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