Revisiting Torchwood: Tosh and Ianto

Feature Andrew Blair 29 Nov 2012 - 07:31

Andrew's weekly Torchwood reappraisal considers the show's most sympathetic characters: Tosh and Ianto...

Re-watching Torchwood, something that had been niggling away at the back of my mind suddenly became very clear halfway through Cyberwoman. While a conflicted Ianto fought with Jack and a horny Owen got locked in a cupboard with Gwen, it hit me: 

It's halfway through the fourth episode, and Tosh still hasn't got a character. 

Ianto didn't have one until this episode either, but now he's all crying and shit, yeah? That seemed like a deliberate ploy, an attempt to mislead you into thinking Ianto was going to remain an enjoyable enigma. It wasn't just a case of forgetting to write any lines for him that weren't entirely to do with computers. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that was the case for Tosh. 

We've seen her at home speed-reading Dickens, and having a conversation in the pub with Owen, but four episodes in and we haven't yet scratched the surface. We haven't even gone up to the glass and given it a tap to scare the fish in her brain. Tosh doesn't become the focus of an episode until episode seven - Greeks Bearing Gifts - which is more than halfway through the series, and her mysterious character-defining crush on Owen comes to the surface in Chris Chibnall's paen to subtlety, Countrycide

The first of the quiet ones to have depth and shade thrust upon him, man-bat and perma-smirker Ianto Jones is seemingly destined for cult stardom. We don't know much about him, other than he quietly and efficiently makes the entire operation work and seems incredibly amused by absolutely everything. Distant Ianto is great. We like Distant Ianto. It's Blubby-Baws McSoggy-Face Ianto that throws us.

The problem with providing a character with a booster shot of depth and nuance in the midst of Cyberwoman is that it will surely not be the most memorable thing about that episode. On top of this, it hints that Ianto's front was purely to get his cybernised girlfriend into Torchwood Cardiff and use it as a base to revive her. This at least makes him look organised. Have you tried transporting a cyborg and a room sized conversion unit one hundred and fifty miles? Then hiding it for a bit while you forced your way in to a "secret" paranormal investigation group? Kudos Ianto, kudos. 

However, four episodes and some minor moping later, Ianto is seemingly over this trauma. He's doing his little grin and making with the sarcasm and flirting with Captain Jack. Future events show this not to be part of some long game, but Ianto's normal personality. So, presumably, Ianto does kinda like 'cleaning up their shit' after all. Perhaps he is simply a glutton for punishment, like most of Torchwood. His character arc - Grief stricken desperate man > undercover butler > actual butler > traumatised underling > what a wonderful butler (he's so violent) - is certainly unique, and has an air of reckless masochism to it. While his (and indeed everyone's) character lurches around in series one, it eventually settles on a bolder version of his initial persona. Thus, cult fandom was attained after all. 

Two episodes after Cyberwoman and Tosh and Ianto are faring rather better. They get paired off together investigating and make a rather likeable double act, able to cope with the tech aspect of things but a bit out of their depth when it comes to violence and espionage. Still, you can't help but cheer when Ianto smiles pleasantly before headbutting someone in the face. 

Countrycide does have slow character scenes, but otherwise it isn't exactly renowned for its nuance. It more than makes up for this with legendarily awful lines about sex and a brilliantly tense investigation of a seemingly deserted village. It's more in line with what many anticipated whent he phrase 'British X-Files' was bandied about. Then, just when you think it's a Torchwood take on a horror film, in comes John Barrowman. In slow-motion. On a tractor. With a shot-gun. 

Thank you Chris Chibnall. 

Next episode, we finally find out what massive personality defects Tosh has, and it turns out she is at worst a bit aloof. She's enthusiastically geeky, her use of stolen alien tech is endearing, and she's been shown to be resourceful whenever she's actually got anything to do. Her flaw is being quiet, relatively efficient and likeable in a team such as Torchwood. Owen is relentlessly unpleasant to her. Gwen is having an affair with him because no-one understands what she's going through (and I'm sure Owen is definitely listening). Ianto is either sullen, distant, or shoving stopwatches up Captain Jack. It's no wonder Tosh finds someone to confide in. 

At the end of the episode, Tosh's confidante is gone because Captain Jack teleported her into the sun. Because he's like that (and that's the way he is. Ahem). Is anyone talking to Tosh more? No, don't be silly. Though Gwen tells her that 'love suited her', as if it were a shirt. She doesn't really react to embarking on a lesbian relationship for (presumably) the first time, as her other partners are all male. For a show that wants to confront sexuality, it leaves a lot of questions hanging. 

One of these questions isn't much to do with sex, necessarily, and it is this: does anything properly nice ever happen to Tosh? 

Her character arguably consists of 'Geek. Fancies Owen'. She's almost a McGuffin to advance his plot along. Her backstory, as revealed in series two, is pretty miserable, and her fate is a slow and painful death while the man she loves dies again over the phone. I've lost track of the number of times I've felt sorry for her. It's one of the most depressing character arcs in recent memory. 

As she was created as an antithesis to Owen's character, it seems there's an imbalance in development. Because Owen is an ostensibly darker character, he's probably easier to write for. Tosh is quiet, and has to come out of her shell in series two. It's hard writing a quiet character and keeping them involved enough so that they don't just seem underwritten. In series two the first Tosh-centric episode is early on, which maybe something series one sacrificed in favour of the overall arc. 

Nonetheless, Tosh's presence is welcome. Despite Gwen being the audience identification figure, Tosh emerges as the most sympathetic and heroic character. Considering her losses, she gets the job done under extreme circumstances, rarely complains, and never gives up a lost cause. She occasionally gets little moments of unlikeability, where she processes information about people dispassionately, and is possibly the most quintessentially British character in the show: unfussy, patient, and well-meaning. 

I still have absolutely no idea why she fancies Owen though.

Read more of Andrew's Revisiting Torchwood features, here.

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I was disappointed with the fact that they never did more with the fact that she was the only one who had had an encounter with the Doctor (aside from Jack) before the Davros arc.

When Tosh *did* have the spotlight, she rocked. To The Last Man was a major indicator of Torchwood Series 2's ability to standalone as something other than thing-we-endure-out-of-Doctor-Who-loyalty. And Greeks Bearing Gifts while wobbly in tone was largely absent of the cringe-inducing moments endemic to Series 1. And I bloody sobbed at her death scene and post-death video. Plus she came up with the Time Lock that saved Gwen and Ianto in Journey's End. It seems like the writers gave her a lot of post-death awesomeness to make up for her little screentime while alive.

Thanks for a fine summation. I adored these two characters the best out of all that was Torchwood. I miss them so and like to hope on Pete's world Torchwood the pair continue to live and work.

Thank you. Tosh is my absolutely favourite character from Torchwood, and as much as I love Ianto, I would want to see Tosh resurrected first and foremost. Of the entire team, she was easily the most under appreciated in favour of advancing the Gwen/Owen bollocks or Gwen/Jack that was constantly shoved down our throats.

Really should have had Ianto have flashbacks about Torchwood One before Lisa was revealed (and probably after, too.) Would've given that storyline more of an impact. I miss Tosh, but having her moon over Owen was just...ugh. Owen wasn't worth her.

These two characters were the heart of Torchwood for me, and it's not really worth watching without them. They gave a much-needed warmth to the show and were people to root for. I do think they should have gotten their own "Revisiting Torchwood" articles like the rest of the cast, though. They tend to be favourites of the fans and are definitely the most likeable of the bunch.

Bring them both back! It isn't Torcwood without them.

Aww, I had quite the crush on Gareth David-Lloyd around the time series two aired. Given that I later turned out to be as gay as a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide, I guess he should consider that some kind of accomplishment.

Ianto deserves a better write up than this. Self-sacrifice, love for Jack, estrangement from family???

Totally agreed, DH. Ianto was brilliant, complicated character and the show just isn't right without him. (Not that that was the only thing wrong with Miracle Day.. ugh, the fourth series was horrid.)

Sometimes i forget how much Tosh contributed to Torchwood mainly because as you say she had the quiet personality-but her episodes are some of my favourites and it was Tosh not Gwen that I identified with-her quiet resourcfulness ,loyalty in the face of dissapointment--she was always for me the face of an intelligent strong women with heart-who generally dealt with her issues internally as opposed to acting out.Ianto was to me th echarator who continued to develope through out the series -we saw him go from a youth to man-and i always felt his charactor could have continued to develop if COE had not occurred or had had a different outcome.I also felt that for two long he was under CJ's shadow and all credit goes to Gareth that he manage to make him something other that CJ'S lover

Indeed, "Thank you Chris Chibnall." And thank you Gareth David-Lloyd for gracing us with Ianto. I so wish we could get more of this... *still upset* ...

I suppose it says it all that Ianto and Tosh don't even rate their own write-ups. lol. But, yep they were woefully underused. I think the show believed that no-one would really be that invested in the quiet, less showy characters and their stories and so focused mainly on the showy three Jack, Gwen and Owen which I always thought was a shame because I thought they both had a lot to offer the show. I think the only time RTD cares about the quieter characters is when it comes to the potential angst of killing them off. Otherwise they don't seem to rate much.

I wasn't all that surprised Ianto didn't get much focus because he was always supposed to be a minor and short-lived character, but it didn't hit me until I started rewatching the show how sidelined Tosh was except in the couple of episodes that actually focused on her character. I think she actually managed to be less developed than Ianto and how is that possible when he barely seemed to appear on screen for alot of his run.

My two fav characthers Ianto and Tosh. I think because they were left so undeveloped in so many ways they have been a mine for fanfic writers. There are so many gaps to fill. We know Tosh is brave and resourceful and GDL admitted that Ianto and Tosh became close friends. You could see why. Many hidden depths..I never watched the series through Gwen I couldn't identify with her it was Tosh and Ianto who did that for me. Tosh loves lost causes that is why she found Owen so irresistable, had the programme developed as it should and they had not been killed off I'm sure they would have worked it out.

Love, love, love those two and miss them badly. Killing them off was the biggest mistake Torchwoods producers ever made (aside from the whole USA f**k up...). Tosh was so much more a role model them lying-cheating-heartless Cooper and Ianto had so much potential as a character and was brilliantly acted by Lloyd and they wasted all that for a bit of very badly written drama. Walking into the 456 room without protection gear, yeah right, even if they wouldn't have killed off Ianto then this would have been the moment when Torchwood became a laugh among the Sci-Fi shows out there. More about it later, I really could do with a coffee boy cleaning my own Hub here right now. ;)

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