Claire cut off her toe on Heroes, and that was done brilliantly, but it was underplayed, I think, presumably because it play it as it would be would have been horrific. Of course, that was nothing compared to what happened to Jack in Torchwood after that. He was buried. In a hole. For hundreds of years. And when he came out, had he gone mad? Had he even lost his accent a bit? No. On his own, unable to breathe or eat or talk, for centuries on end, and the moment he's dug up he's straight on the job again, without missing a beat. I'm not buying it.
We've all seen the reports of torture in Guantanamo. It's becoming pretty apparent that you don't need to go to anything like those lengths to break someone's mind, at least for a while. We all know now that an hour feeling like you can't breathe and you're going to die is spectacularly awful enough to render most people useless for at least the remainder of the day. Unless you're Captain Jack. Earlier in the same series, Toshiko was basically date-raped and nobody said a thing. Even Jeremy from Peep Show can spot date-rape when it happens. (I did like that Toshiko didn't think of it that way, as she still 'loved' him, but I'd have thought Owen would have said something.) And don't get me started on the incredible stunts Jack Bauer pulls shortly after undergoing literal physical torture or while recovering from a heroine addiction or something.
It's so inconsistent, too. Staying in series two of Torchwood, because I think that has a lot more scope to do horrid things to the principal characters than most shows, when Zombie Owen went a bit mad and started breaking his fingers at Toshiko, she all but broke down. I thought that was great TV, and the final scenes between those two were also fantastic. (I'm struggling to think of a reason to watch the show without those two.) And yet, that was the same episode that Jack was dug up after apparently failing to notice that he'd been buried for longer than anyone else lives.
I don't know. It always seems fine at the time -- it's usually only after the show that I think "hang on, that was actually pretty fucked up" -- but even so. Maybe it's just really, really hard to write good TV without this kind of thing happening once in a while. Or maybe it's just lazy.