Now here’s a story I have almost no memory of, but for the twist at the end.
I’ve not been massively complimentary about Season 6 of Modern Doctor Who, but that could be about to change with my review of The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People.
Doctor Who – The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People Review: What’s This One About?
Rubber Doppelgangers present their human counterparts with a lesson in ethics.
Thoughts – A Novel Concept
Whenever a fresh idea comes along to Doctor Who, I’m all for it, and after – at the time this was made – 48 years, it’s delightful to see that a writer is able to bring something new and different to the table.
Sure, Doppelgangers have appeared in Doctor Who on numerous occasions, but they are usually boo-hiss villains who are really other people who just so happen to look like member of the regular cast.
This is different. Here, the Doppelgangers come in the form of “disposable” rubber replicas of people employed to work in dangerous environments. At the very start of the story, the attitude the humans have towards them is spelt out clearly with the death of doppelgänger version of the guy who played Chris in Life on Mars. He died as a result of play fight and the only thing the people cared about was the destruction of the safety suit he was wearing. But as we find out, when the Gangers die, they suffer; it’s not like they are truly disposable.
So what comes next – as the Gangers gain sentience following a lightning strike – makes sense and allows the story to develop in an effective manner.
And I have to say, I like it.
The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People is – for the most part – a strong story about ethics. If a Ganger has all the thoughts, feelings and memories of a normal human, then surely they should be treated as such?
The question is raised in a number of ways, including Jimmy and his alternate both expressing their love for his son and – more obviously – Amy’s attitude towards the Ganger version of the Doctor.
It made for two engaging episodes that flowed well and never dulled down.
The story also had two very good twists.
The first being that the Doctor and his alternate had swapped shoes, meaning that it was the “real” Doctor who was the victim of prejudice the whole time. Not only did this provide the story with a great moral point, but it also advanced the story-arc of the Doctor dying, by having Amy tell the one she thought was the “fake” one about the shooting by the lake.
Oh and also, for people watching at the time, it also meant that a question over the story-arc was briefly raised. Maybe it was that version of the Doctor who was killed? That’s certainly what I thought when I first watched it, because – as I’ve said before – there was obviously no chance of the real one dying.
But anyway, apart from that there was also the twist of the Amy we’d seen since midway through Day of the Moon being a Ganger herself.
Now that was a shock, but it made sense, not only from the point of view of Amy seeing that woman every so often and The Doctor getting weird pregnancy test results on the scanner, but it also made sense within the story itself, giving a good reason for why the Doctor was there in the first place and for why he was urging Amy & Rory not to come with him.
So I was pleased with that.
Rory Grows A Pair
The other thing that pleased me was that in this story, Rory seems to grow a pair and be more than just the hanger-on of the TARDIS crew.
He has his own feelings on events and wants to help out Jennifer in spite of the often overbearing and controlling Amy telling him not to.
Things like that give a character depth, and I don’t think he had so much of it up to this point
The Only Problem
The only problem…well…the only major problem with the story was the end.
Again, because it’s Doctor Who, there seems to be this need to have a monster in it, and in this case the Ganger version of Sarah turns into some sort of crappy CGI beast.
It’s as if they were struggling with a way to get rid of the Ganger version of the Doctor, to reduce the cast numbers a bit and to find a way to take the story away from the monastery and that was the best they could come up with.
It wouldn’t be fair to say it cheapens it, but it certainly felt unnecessary.
The Crap One Survives
Another small niggle for me was that the character (Dicken) who has the least to say – the character played by an actor who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page – survives.
Or no, scratch that; his Doppelganger survives.
He didn’t contribute a single thing to the episode and yet there he is, triumphantly walking into that conference unscathed.
Seemed a bit odd to me.
As far as I could see he contributed nothing to the story whatsoever and wouldn’t have been missed if he wasn’t in it at all.
When looking up the writer for this one, I was surprised to find that he wrote the fairly awful Fear Her.
But then I was even more surprised to find he was the writer of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought this was a great story, and as anyone who read my Top 50 TV Dramas of All Time knows, I’m a huge fan of both of those series, but how could a writer capable of output of that standard be responsible for a story like Fear Her?
It really does boggle the mind.
- How did the Ganger version of the Doctor also have his clothes?
- This is all very “Northern”, isn’t it? Mind you, seeing as the writer is who he is, I’m not shocked.
- Nor was I shocked to see him hire the boy off Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes either, although I was surprised that his character didn’t make it to the end.
- He’s also put on a bit of weight since his appearance in those shows.
- There’s a scene in The Almost People where the Gangers are discussing their plan of action that ends with a really awkward pause. While on the whole this is directed quite slickly, that bit looked amateurish. Talk about a long cut.
- Hey look, it’s the girl from At Home With The Braithwaites
- Speaking of her, I’m not entirely sure why her character was so motivated to be against the humans. Maybe it was because it was quite late when I watched it, but all that stuff about the little girl and her wellies just didn’t cut it for me.
- This story is set in a good location. It looks and feels different from anything we’ve seen from Doctor Who for a while. That’s certainly a positive.
- Another positive is the lack of the interminable “11th Doctor Theme”. What a bonus that was.
- Rory believing The Doctor ahead of Amy was a bit of a shock was it not?
- Numerous times throughout the history of Doctor Who, including examples during Matt Smith’s time, The Doctor has failed to help cure someone who is dying if the cure isn’t available in that person’s own time. And yet here, he happily gives away a cure for a cerebral clot. I’ll remember that…
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A
Doctor Who – The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People Review: Final Thoughts
The best story of the season so far by a mile, and probably one of the strongest Matt Smith stories, full stop, this two part story manages to be thought provoking, well acted, story-arc advancing, exciting and it even has some great twists in it.
Like many recent Doctor Who stories, the only noticeable flaw is that it didn’t need a “monster”.
On the whole though, I’d give it a solid thumbs up.