**Warning! Here there be spoilers! DO NOT read ahead if you have not watched through Series 6, episodes 5-6 of Doctor Who. If you have, or don’t care, read on, but don’t get mad…**
Because iTunes took its sweet time putting up “The Rebel Flesh” for me to download, I decided to just review it and “The Almost People” back to back as they’re both parts of the same story anyway.
I think that what I’ve loved so far about Steven Moffat‘s run on Doctor Who is his cold opens for each episode. He has mastered the hook, giving us a completely strange–usually eerie–situation in which the Doctor and his companions will find themselves. It’s usually something impossible, something that really draws our attention and keeps us asking for more. In no way am I saying that Russell T. Davies didn’t do that; in fact, quite a view episodes made good use of the opening tease. I just think that Moffat and his crew have it down pat, and I like it. Here is why:
“The Rebel Flesh” opens with a trio of people in spacesuits (motif, anyone?) walking down a corridor and opening a sealed pit filled with acid. One knocks the other in accidentally; she apologizes nonchalantly–not in a sinister way, just matter of factly, as though it were just normal happenstance in the workplace. They don’t pull him out, and he begins to disintegrate as they walk out of the room muttering about the readings they had just taken of the liquid. As they get back in the hall, the same man who just disintegrated stands in the hallway, alive as can be, telling them to fill out the report saying it wasn’t his fault. I love this type of opener, where it really makes me scratch my head and say, “How are they going to work that one out? Is he an android? Does death have no meaning on that island? Is he a ghost? Is he a clone?”
This is Doctor Who‘s Avatar episode–if the Avatars decided to come to life and kill their controllers. It’s even rather like Blade Runner or I, Robot in many ways, a different spin on the “created servants turn on the masters” story. The people on the island can control lifelike bodies (gangers–as in doppelgangers) replicated from a mimetic liquid called The Flesh, which allows them to work with the acidic substance in safety. As the cosmic storm from the sun hits, it breaks the connection with the gangers and animates them. This brings us to one of my favorite types of show or films–who is real and who is not? But then the problem is: these animated gangers have all the feelings and memories as their human counterparts. They are almost people, they are human in every way except they are not fully formed at all times. But they are alive, with hearts, hope, and dreams. However, because each group fears the other (fears themselves, really), they must go to war. Just as the Doctor and Amy and the humans hole up in a defensible room in the monastery, Rory goes after a straggler. Then the Doctor’s voice comes from the shadows, and we see that he has a double as well, because when he examined The Flesh before, he touched it (no surprise, really, that it came to life). With this revelation, “The Rebel Flesh” ends.
The Doctor’s ganger is a carbon copy of him. They finish each other’s sentences and begin to work out how to solve the situation. However, it seems that the Doctor-ganger grows increasingly unstable, particularly when Amy refuses to recognize him as the Doctor, calling him the almost-Doctor. He can psychically connect with The Flesh, and he feels its pain. Eventually, the Doctor is able to convince the gangers–most of them–to do the right thing, and the humans escape in order to tell the world about what is going on at the island, that The Flesh is conscious and should not be manipulated and tortured.
The most significant part of an altogether excellent set of episodes is the end. The Doctor intended to go to that island in the first place–it was not happenstance like many other adventures. From the outset of “The Rebel Flesh” he is looking at Amy’s dual positive/negative pregnancy reading, and he obviously has expected something is wrong for quite some time–as have we all. For awhile now, I suspect since the run-in with The Silence, Amy has been taken and replaced with a ganger. The ganger is not pregnant, but the real Amy is, and it is her psychic link with it that has caused these dual readings. Amy’s recurring visions of “Eye Patch Lady” make sense now, as they’re transferrances from the real Amy into faux-Amy’s consciousness.
Amy is being held captive by “Eye Patch Lady,” and she is very pregnant. She’s been there for nearly the entire season, and we’re nearing answers for some of these big questions. I was really happy to have this explained, and in a way that I did not expect in the slightest.
This was an atmospheric episode, self-contained in a single structure, much like “The Impossible Planet” or “The Satan Pit” with a terrifying enemy that seems to come from within themselves. The Doctor and Rory are coming for Amy, and the next episode will be a cliffhanger before the summer break. I can’t wait for it, and I suspect it will be huge.
As the faux-Doctor is solidifying, he is trying to absorb all the information of the Doctor’s past lives and regenerations, and he says, “Would you like a jelly-baby?” in Tom Baker‘s voice. Really an excellent treat for Doctor Who fans.
The Doctor and his duplicate have some great moments while stroking each other’s egos.
Previous episode: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Next episode: “A Good Man Goes to War“