It was interesting watching the Torchwood episode “Cyberwoman” in close proximity to the Doctor Who episode “Closing Time.” Both feature a character who is subjected to the process of “upgrading” to a cyberperson, and in both their cases the process is stopped before it is completed.
That may be where the similarities end.
While Ianto’s girlfriend Lisa was perhaps halfway converted, Craig seemed to have been even further along in the process. Yet the latter managed to free himself, while the former ultimately became overwhelmed by the cyber-conversion process.
It might be easy to chalk the differences up to the fact that one is Doctor Who, which ought to have happy endings, and the other is the darker Torchwood. But in fact, there is probably more that is worth saying.
On the one hand, it could easily be argued that the biological bond between parent and offspring is stronger than that between boyfriend and girlfriend, and that could be a factor.
On the other hand, it is worth reflecting that the outcome of a process involving change cannot be predicted on the basis of the strength of emotional, biological, or other attachment.
The process of becoming cyborg, whether on Torchwood or in Star Wars or anywhere else, often serves as a symbol of the transformation of the human person into someone cold and unfeeling. It happens, to some extent, even without technology putting our face behind a metallic mask. But whether it is a cyberman or Darth Vader, the possibility of emotion never disappears entirely.
A person will change – that is inevitable. The challenge these stories of cyborgs offer us is to believe that, no matter how consumed a person might seem to be by things that are taking them down a dark path, the possibility of return should never be excluded.
The sad message of the Torchwood episode “Cyberwoman” is that sometimes we don’t know how to bring them back.