We open with a close-up on an anxious-looking Ianto straightening his tie and taking a steadying breath. This is the first time we can really see him up close, how pale and gaunt he is. He steps out of the lift and through the cogwheel door into the Hub, where Tosh, Owen, Gwen and Jack are playing a two-on-two game of basketball, with Myfanwy shrieking in the background. (Myfanwy, in case you’ve forgotten, is the pteranodon.) Everyone’s happy and laughing, and Gwen steals the ball from Jack and throws it up to Owen on the second level for him to drop through the hoop. It’s totally an illegal move, but whatever, they win! So the first round is on Jack, and they all cheerfully argue about it as they leave, passing Ianto without a glance, even Jack, who throws the basketball at him as they go. He catches it, and when they’re gone, he drops it and runs down into the Hub. He is definitely up to something secret, and he’s terrified about it.
So much of this episode depends on a prior knowledge of the second season of Doctor Who, but what if you haven’t seen Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel/Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday? Well, you could read Janey’s linked accounts of those episodes. Or you can know this: Torchwood London, or Torchwood One, once opened the way for Cybermen (big, terrifying metal men bent on “upgrading” other creatures into more of themselves because to do so meant to take away their human weaknesses) to walk right through from a parallel universe to this one. Torchwood One was destroyed in the attempt to stop what they started, and hundreds of people were killed or converted. It was called the Battle of Canary Wharf. Armed with that knowledge, please enjoy this episode of Torchwood.
There’s a clip of the others walking off across the plass and talking about rugby, and then back to Ianto, up in the conference room, more composed, ordering pizza for the team for later. Downstairs, the door alarms begin to go off, announcing that someone is coming in, and Ianto sprints down the catwalk, finishing the call. An older Japanese man, Dr. Tanizaki (Togo Igawa), is staring around the Hub in amazement when Ianto greets him. “Good to see you again, sir. Are they looking after you back at the hotel?” Tanizaki is too overcome to answer, but when Ianto greets him again in more solemn, nervous Japanese (“Konnichiwa, Tanizaki-san”), Tanizaki scrapes together a reply, before letting Ianto take his suitcase and lead him off into the Hub, down into the lower levels.
Ianto walks him down a dark, blue-lit hallway with the echoing sound of running water, towards an extremely locked door, and pulls a key from his inner pocket. When he pulls the bolt back, he looks at Tanizaki. “I did all I could. I really did.” Then he swings the door open and they step inside, and to the very effective sound of Mogwai’s “We’re No Here,” we see what Ianto has been hiding down in the sublevels the entire time he’s been working for Torchwood Three: a metallic bed contraption, a ventilator, a heart monitor, so many wires and tubes, and a woman, half-encased in metal. “My God,” says Dr. Tanizaki. “It’s not possible. One of them survived!” Ianto crosses the room and presses a gentle kiss to the woman’s lips, as Tanizaki watches in surprise. “This is Lisa,” Ianto says, and her eyes open with a pneumatic noise, before falling shut again.
Tanizakai is ecstatic. He never thought he would get to work with anything like this. “Anyone,” Ianto corrects. Tanizaki asks him to explain what happened. “She worked for Torchwood London. It was the end of the Canary Wharf battle. The Cybermen needed soldiers fast. They started upgrading whole bodies instead of transplanting brains, using Earth technology. Lisa was halfway through the process before the machinery shut down.” They were together, and Ianto also worked at Torchwood One; he pulled her out of the building, and found a way to bring her and all of her cyber-conversion unit supplies with him to Cardiff. We’re assuming he needed to be at Torchwood Three to use their equipment and unlimited power, and have somewhere to hide her where no one would find her. Tanizaki says that she’s about half cyber, half human, with her respiratory system completely cybernetic, which is why she’s on the ventilator. He asks how Ianto figured out how to use the cyber-conversion unit to make life support for her, but Lisa pipes up, “I told him.” She’s awake. She’s in a lot of pain, but she answers Tanizaki’s questions, and finally Tanizaki asks if there is somewhere he can work on her.
They take her up to the autopsy bay, where Tanizaki modifies her to be able to breathe on her own. Ianto is worried about whether she can do it; Tanizaki says that he needs to be ready for her not to survive. “Sometimes, in order to save what we love, we have to risk losing it.” He disconnects her ventilator, and for a moment it looks like she won’t make it. Ianto panics, but then something catches, and she’s breathing!
Meanwhile, the team is out at a bar, with Jack just finishing a story about an old case, when they all get alerts on their phones: there’s been a UFO sighting over Cardigan Bay. They have to get back to the Hub. Ten seconds to finish the round, and they’re moving.
Proximity alerts start to sound in the Hub, and Ianto looks at the CCTV of the plass to see that the team is returning. He has Tanizaki help Lisa back down to the sublevels while he cleans up the autopsy bay. In the Tourist Information Center, the team is arguing about who gets to drive the SUV. “What about a rota? Different people drive on different days,” Gwen suggests. Jack is amused. “We’re a secret organization hunting alien technology from an underground base, and you want a rota for who drives.” When they get into the Hub, Jack starts handing out jobs, and Ianto emerges, straightening his tie once again, like he hasn’t just been hiding something extremely dangerous in the basement, but he still looks ready to jump out of his skin. Jack calls his name, and he stops, caught. But Jack just wants him to make coffee. He nods and hurries up the stairs.
In the sublevels, Tanizaki helps Lisa back into the room she’s been hiding in. We can now see that there are tables, a chair and a lamp set up in the room, along with her life support. Ianto obviously spends a lot of time down here with her. When Tanizaki tries to help her back into her metal frame, she stops, stares at him with empty eyes, then reaches out and clamps her hand around his throat to lift him off of his feet. She puts him into the frame, and the machine clamps down around him. He tells her to let him go, but she won’t. “I can help you. The human race is weak. I can make you strong.” She turns the conversion unit on, and we get the very familiar (for DW fans) image of the cyber-conversion tools dropping down from the ceiling.
Up in the Hub Proper, all of the lights are dimming and flashing, and Ianto looks up from the coffee cart as Tosh announces that there’s an internal power drain. Jack tells her to run a system diagnostic, but Ianto interrupts, saying that the generators have been acting up all evening, and Ianto’s been down before to fix it. “Let me have another look.” Jack agrees, and Ianto runs, down to the sublevels where alarms are blaring, and he bursts into the Lisa’s room to find the conversion unit fully up and running, arcing electricity, and Dr. Tanizaki laying at Lisa’s feet. Ianto shuts down the power and stares at Dr. Tanizaki’s body. The doctor is covered in blood, with one eye gone and replaced with a metal socket. What happened? “His upgrade failed,” Lisa says in a monotone cyber-voice. “I wanted to repay him for helping me, by removing the weaknesses of his humanity.” Ianto panics. She tells him it’s all right, but obviously it isn’t; they’ll come looking for him in a minute and see the body. “I can deal with them,” she says. Ianto tells her not to go near them, then starts to justify all of this to himself. “You didn’t mean to do this. Something’s happened to your mind, just some kind of – some kind of side-effect to this whole process. It’s post-traumatic. You didn’t mean–” He breaks, and pushes her. “You’ve ruined everything now!” When he turns away from her, Lisa is ready to kill him, but he turns back, crying, and she softens – still vacant, but not deadly. He tells her to wait, and rest, and not to hurt anyone else, or he’ll – “Yes?” Lisa asks. “What will you do?” Ianto doesn’t have an answer for that. He just leans down and starts to drag the body away. He’s having trouble keeping himself together: he’s responsible for an innocent man’s death, and he knows it. “I’ll hide the body,” he tells Lisa. “Everything’s gonna be okay.” But he doesn’t sound entirely convinced. When he leaves, Lisa turns the conversion unit back on.
Upstairs, the team has found their UFO. Just some alien tourists; Jack has Tosh send them a message to get the hell out, and the power surges again. Jack contacts Ianto through the comms, asking if he’s found anything, but Ianto doesn’t answer. He’s dragging a body down a hallway, so he’s a little busy. “Ianto, I need to hear those beautiful Welsh vowels.” Still no answer. Tosh traces the energy usage to a storage room in the sublevels, and finds two human heat signatures. Their security has been breached. Gwen and Owen gear up and head down to the sublevels, just as Ianto stashes the body under a tarp with a heartfelt, “I’m sorry.” He is not keeping it together – he’s barely even trying at this point.
Gwen and Owen make their way to the storage room where Lisa’s conversion unit is. Gwen asks what they keep there. “Normally? Nothing.” That’s foreboding. Their comm signal with Jack and Tosh cuts out from interference with the power surges, and as Tosh tries to figure out how to fix it, she shows Jack that the internal CCTV footage has been tampered with – some parts are missing from this evening. “See, now I’m starting to get a little peeved. These people come into my house, start using my things.” Tosh finds one clip: Ianto leading Tanizaki through the Hub. They have no idea what’s going on.
Meanwhile, with no comms, Owen and Gwen square up with their guns raised and burst through the door to the storage room. Their flashlights sweep the room, but Owen stares at the metal frame of the conversion unit, and he definitely recognizes it when Gwen asks him what it is. He’s afraid. “It’s wrong. It’s beyond wrong, it shouldn’t be here.” He shouts at Gwen to turn it off, and she does. He tells her that these things brought down Torchwood One; “this machinery turns humans into Cybermen.” The comms come back on, and Owen tells Jack what they found. There is a moment of silence where Jack and Tosh digest just how screwed they are. Jack tells them to come back upstairs immediately, and Owen is hit from behind by Lisa. Gwen calls for help, and Jack tells Tosh to get out and seal the Hub if she doesn’t hear from him in fifteen minutes. It’s much more important that the Cyberman never gets to the outside world than the four of them being locked in and killed by it. That’s how serious a threat the Cybermen are.
Gwen tries to reason with Lisa, which obviously doesn’t work. Lisa grabs her by the throat and clamps her into the frame, then turns the machine on. Jack arrives and raises his gun, and has enough time to be surprised that Lisa is at least partly human before he pulls the trigger, but Ianto shoves him out of the way just in time for Jack’s shot to go awry. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing!” Jack pushes him away. “You are fighting the wrong guy!” Gwen is screaming, the machine arcing and lowering the terrifying ceiling tools of drills and saws and shears, and they both run to help her, but the circuits are jammed on the control board, and Ianto shouts for Tosh to turn all of the power off in the base, which will put the base into lockdown and they’ll be trapped, but it’s better than Gwen becoming a Cyberman, so she does it. Every electronic door in the Hub locks down, even the armory. The conversion unit powers down, and Ianto, looking shellshocked, apologizes to Gwen, then stands guard at the door while Jack gets her out.
In the hall, moving carefully towards the Hub with Owen slung unconscious over Jack’s shoulder, they check every corner to make sure she isn’t there. When she does cross their path, she just stares at them, and Gwen asks what she is. Jack says, “Some form of Cyberman. They’re us, upgraded. Humans with emotions removed created on a parallel world and supposedly destroyed on this one.” He gives Ianto a significant glance at that. He doesn’t know what they’re going to do, which scares Gwen. When Lisa finally moves away again, Ianto says, “She’s gone,” in a broken, relieved voice, and Jack puts his gun against Ianto’s head. Gwen asks what he thinks he’s doing, and he says, “Resisting the urge to shoot.” And he walks them back to the Hub like that.
When they emerge, Jack tells Tosh to get weapons from the store room, and puts Ianto on his knees with his hands behind his head. He asks if Ianto knew that thing was down there; Ianto says that he put here there. “You hid a Cyberman within Torchwood? And you didn’t tell us? What else are you keeping from us?” Ianto says, “Like you care. I clear up your shit, no questions asked, and that’s the way you like it.” No one’s ever expressed an interest in Ianto’s personal life. He’s just the dogsbody who no one sees, which worked pretty well for keeping Lisa a secret, but probably wasn’t great for his mental health. He couldn’t tell them about her, because Torchwood exists to destroy alien threats, but all of this was Torchwood One’s fault, so, “I owe it to Lisa – we owe to her, to find a cure.” But there is no cure, Jack says. “You need to know what’s happening here, because this is where these things start. These creatures regain a foothold by exploiting human weakness. Then they take a base, rebuild their forces, and before you know it the cyber race is spreading out across the universe, erasing worlds, assimilating populations, all because of the tiny beginnings here.” They need to stop her together, but Ianto refuses to give up on her. “I love her. Can you understand that, Jack? Haven’t you ever loved anyone?” Jack tells him that he needs to pick a side, or he won’t make it out of this alive.
When Lisa appears, Ianto tries to reason with her, which we know from experience never goes well. Lisa-bot is already redecorating the Hub in her head to use as the CyberBase. Jack points out that Lisa is partially human, and when she looks at her reflection, she’s disgusted. “I must start again. Upgrade properly.” Ianto tells her they he brought her there to heal her, so they could be together. “Together, yes,” Lisa says. “Transplant my brain into your body. We’ll be one complete person. Isn’t that was love is?” Ianto says it isn’t. Ianto, so disappointed, says that it isn’t, so Lisa says, “Then we are not compatible,” and lifts him up to pitch him across the room into the pool of water at the base of the water tower.
Lisa is officially on the rampage, and they all scatter, apart from Gwen, who is frozen as Lisa approaches. Gwen distracts her, and Jack pulls Gwen away. They all converge in the lofted conference room. Jack sets up the plan, but he doesn’t look super confident: he gives Tosh an alien lockpick (the exact same prop from Everything Changes, but who’s counting) and tells her to use it to go up to the Tourist Information Center and patch together enough energy to get one circuit working. He tells Owen and Gwen to find anything that resembles a weapon and says that he’ll buy them some more time. He does that in his Jack Harkness way by distracting her with talk. Lisa hits him with the familiar Cyberman energy grip thing, and he collapses. Everyone is horrified, because he is definitely dead. But, being Jack, he pops right back up again. “How did he survive that?” Owen asks. When she hits him a second time, he goes down much longer, and Gwen and Owen run for the autopsy bay, while Tosh uses the lockpick on the cogwheel door. Lisa is so close to grabbing her as she finally heaves it open and closed, but she makes it and runs up the stairs. In the autopsy bay, Owen and Gwen are trapped, so Owen pulls open one of the cold storage doors and tells her to get in. Gwen says she won’t lay on top of him. “I’m not saying it’s a brilliant idea, but it’s the only one we’ve got.” They climb in as Lisa comes closer.
Out in the Hub proper, Jack gasps awake, and when he sees Ianto still unconscious and half-submerged in the Hub pool, he pulls him out and tries to get him to wake up. Still trapped in the tiny cold storage cabinet, Gwen asks Owen what they should do, and Owen reaches out and kisses her. Jack, either because his kisses have precedence as being magical or because of resuscitation, kisses Ianto. Ianto gasps awake, and Gwen’s phone starts to ring. Owen scrabbles madly at Gwen’s pockets to find it and turn it off, as Rhys leaves a happy, drunken message about Gwen recording Wife Swap for him while he’s out. Gwen and Owen crawl out before Lisa can grab them, and Owen takes a chisel from a tray and stabs her in the stomach. She collapses against a wall. When Ianto hears Lisa scream, he runs for the autopsy bay, as Gwen asks what the hell Owen was doing, kissing her. “Last kiss for the good dead man. Embarrassing, given we haven’t been killed. What, it’s not like a fancy you or anything.” Gwen begs to differ; she was on top of him, she could feel just how much he fancies her. Ianto runs in and kneels next to Lisa, horrified. They say it was kill or be killed, but at that moment Lisa’s eyes snap open once again, and they all run.
Jack appears, holding a blowtorch and a bottle of something, and tells them to get behind him. “You should be dead,” Owen says, but Jack’s the stubborn type. Upstairs, Tosh finds the right circuit and starts working on it. Jack lights the blowtorch and tells Lisa to stay back. “This’ll at least give you heartburn.” Lisa can wait until the power runs out. Ianto begs Jack to give her a chance to surrender. “Let her stay in the cells! We have to reverse the process!” Jack says that they’re past that, and tells Owen and Gwen to hold Ianto back and get him onto the invisible lift. He starts throwing whatever is in the bottle all over Lisa. When Gwen asks what it is, he says, “Kind of barbeque sauce. It helps it identify its food.” Helps what identify its food? Jack jumps up onto the invisible lit and tells Ianto that he’s sorry, before he uses his wriststrap to start the lift, and Myfanwy swoops down to start attacking Lisa. Tosh gets the power working, and the lift rises, while Ianto screams for them to let him go and help Lisa. “Have some fucking mercy!”
Up on the plass, they all stumble off of the invisible lift’s paving stone, and Tosh runs up to them, so happy that it worked. “What happened?” Jack waves her question away, and Ianto straightens up and turns around, incredibly angry, and punches Jack right in the face. “You could have saved her! You’re worse than anything locked up down there. One day, I’ll have a chance to save you, and I’ll watch you suffer and die.” Jack shouts back at him, but Gwen and Owen keep them separated. Tosh says that when she was at reception, she managed to work it so that the power could come back on and they could get back into the Hub. Ianto runs off across the plass, and they chase after him. Meanwhile, the pizza that Ianto ordered earlier has arrived, and someone buzzes the delivery girl in.
Ianto runs into the Tourst Information Center and grabs a gun. When the others hit the door, he turns it on them, halfway through the hidden Hub entrance. “I have nothing left to lose,” he tells them. “I’m going back in to save her. Anybody tries to stop me, I’ll shoot them.” Jack gets the gun out of his hand and pins him, then pulls his own gun and puts it against his head. “You make a threat like that, you better be prepared to follow through. See? You disobey me now, I really will shoot you.” Ianto is so miserable and angry. Jack tells him that if he wants to go back in there, he has to go in and execute Lisa. Ianto refuses. Jack, enraged, says, “You brought this down on us. You hid her. You hid yourself from us. Now it’s time for you to stand as part of a team.” Gwen reaches out for Jack’s shoulder; Jack is slightly unhinged right now, but he keeps going. “The girl you loved has gone. Your loyalty is to us now. You execute her or I’ll execute you both.”
“I won’t do it. You can’t make me,” Ianto says. “You like to think you’re a hero, but you’re the biggest monster of all.”
Jack tells him that he has ten minutes, and then they’re coming in after him. Ianto picks up the gun again and goes, with one last helpless look at all of them. When he’s gone, Tosh asks Jack how he can ask Ianto to do that, but Jack interrupts her angrily. “I don’t need your opinion.”
When Ianto gets into the Hub, he stares around at the absolute wreck of it. The computers say that there is a new power drain from the storage room, so he runs down to it, and when he bursts through the door, he finds Lisa sprawled on the floor, lifeless. He drops sobbing to his knees and cradles her blood-slick head, but after a moment, from the other side of the room, he hears, “Ianto?” He stands and lifts the gun, and the pizza delivery girl is there, with a wide gash all the way around her skull, poorly sutured. She says, “Ianto, it’s me. It’s Lisa. I’m human again. I took this body and transplanted the brain.” Ianto says that she isn’t Lisa, but she tells him about something that happened in their past, a nice memory about cheese toasties and camping. Ianto has a gun trained on her, but he’s completely overcome. He hugs her, but then steps back and cocks it, looking half determined and half like he would rather die. “Ianto, it’s me. You wouldn’t shoot me. I did this for you.” He’s sorry, he’s sorry. He honestly tries, but he can’t pull the trigger, and he breaks down. When he turns away, she says, “We can be upgraded. Together.” And then she’s shot in the stomach.
Jack, Gwen, Owen and Tosh stand together in the doorway in a firing line, and shoot her until she collapses. Ianto – horrified, angry, devastated – stares at them, before collapsing to his knees in the blood between the two bodies and weeping.
What is probably days later, Ianto walks into the hub through the cogwheel door. He’s dressed as smartly as always, in a suit, but he moves very slowly and stares around like he can’t quite place where he is. He looks shellshocked. Up in the glass-walled conference room, Jack and Gwen look down at him. When he looks up to them, Jack nods, once. Ianto takes a long little moment, then nods back. He begins to clean up the trash in the Hub. Normal duties.
“You would never have shot him, not really,” Gwen says. Jack asks if she really thinks so. She wonders if he would have shot her, if she’d gone to stand by Ianto. “But you didn’t.” Gwen asks if Ianto will stay. Jack doesn’t know. “All that deception,” Gwen says, “because he couldn’t bear to live without her.” She asks if Jack has ever loved anyone that much, and Jack doesn’t answer. She says, “When she had a hold of you I thought – just for a moment, I thought maybe you could die after all.”
“Wanna know a secret?” Jack asks. “So did I. And just for a second there I felt so alive.”
The camera pans away from them, down across the Hub to Ianto, who is slowly picking his way through the mess, still moving like he isn’t really there.
Next time, on Torchwood: it certainly doesn’t get any lighter! Rose petals, W.B. Yeats, and the Photoshop of the early twentieth century.