‘I was on top of you, I could feel your hard on.’ Chris Chibnall’s first pass at writing a partly-converted Cyberman abandons the body horror of the concept in favour of a CyberBikini with focus drawn to the breasts, lower belly and pubic area – and to make sure we can’t miss it, James Strong includes shots of Dr Tanizaki eagerly caressing them while eulogising Lisa’s ‘bare flesh’. It would be an uphill struggle for the episode to overcome the tastelessness of this, and sure enough it doesn’t. Instead, it unfolds into a standard “lockdown” episode with a hungry Pteranodon and a last minute brain transplant that’s so half-bothered the makers genuinely seem to think accents are hard wired into the body rather than the brain as the English Lisa suddenly turns Welsh.
Looking for the positives – the concept of a half-converted Cyberman isn’t awful, and our glimpse of the abortive Tanizaki “upgrade” hints at how this might have been an effective little horror thriller (but as co-producer, Chibnall surely can’t plead the production ruining a sound script). It gives Gareth David-Lloyd time in the spotlight, having previously been little more than a bit part, and he successfully sells the emotion of a script that’s better than most at showing how the Cybermen exploit this “weakness”. The lighting of the Hub in lockdown is really good…
But this is easily the worst episode to date, without even the ongoing plot of Gwen’s integration into Torchwood and the corresponding impact on her life with Rhys to connect it to the real world. With the macho dialogue and adolescent focus on sex it plays like one of the less effective New Adventures. I struggle to see what made it one of Jane Tranter’s favourite Series One episodes – which is one of the many reasons why I’m not a high-powered TV exec.
Next Time: Small Worlds