The Rebel Flesh
The Almost People/The Rebel Flesh

Story No. 237 and 238 Hello, I'm the Doctor
Production Code Series 6, Episodes 5 and 6
Dates May 28 and June 4 2011

With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill
Written by Matthew Graham Directed by Julian Simpson
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis.

Synopsis: In an acid-mining project, dopplegangers are being used to perform dangerous work. But when a freak accident gives them sentience, the implications may be doubly serious for the Doctor.


Doubly weird, yet still effective by Clement Tang 23/12/12

I've never watched Fear Her, but I know that it's panned by many fans and Matthew Graham wrote that story, so finding out he was writing this story made me cringe. A lot. Luckily, this story is enjoyable enough for me, albeit a bit of a mixed bag. The plot is basically about doppelgangers, or Gangers for short, and the Doctor wants the Gangers and the humans to co-exist. Of course, each race thinks purely of themselves and wants to get rid of the other. It's like Doctor Who and the Silurians, only with identical people and personalities. It's a bit cliched, but the story works. It moves well enough to keep you entertained.

The acting is not fantastic, but is not bad by any means. The TARDIS trio are fine, but the supporting cast don't stick out much, with the possible exception of Miranda Cleaves. At least isn't not over-the-top like Tomb of the Cybermen. The dialogue isn't fantastic, either, but it's okay compared to Time and the Rani. (Sure, give Mel all the bad lines. We hate her enough.) The setting is not realistic, though. Even though the story works, the idea of workers in a monastery is too tacky.

My opinion may change over the time, but I won't see it as a bad story. It's entertaining enough. Keep in mind that the last few minutes are a twist and requires you to remember the story arc, but other than that, watch it if you must.


They've reversed the jelly baby of the neutron flow! by Evan Weston 16/11/18

The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People is Matthew Graham's second attempt at writing Doctor Who, after Series 2's utterly forgettable Fear Her. One of that story's main problems, along with several others, was a complete lack of material capable of filling 45 minutes. It was a filler episode that wasn't filling. Though it seems to be, The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People is not a filler episode, and it's stretched to 90 minutes. Its chief problem? There's really only enough content for 45.

There's no reason for this story to be a two-parter, other than Moffat's desire to place it into the schedule that way. The opening 20 minutes could easily be condensed into about three. The only crucial scene contained within is the principals' introduction to the flesh, which can be explained once the Doctor and the Ponds arrive... after the solar wave hits. That puts you halfway into The Rebel Flesh even before the opening credits roll, and you can easily save the rest of the time by cutting out three quarters of the running-through-corridors scenes. There's also a long stretch of time in both parts where the Ganger camp just sits around doing nothing, and it's clear that Graham is stretching to fill time.

With so much down time, the story's plot twists become incredibly easy to predict. The scene in which Rory is forced to choose between Jennifers is a joke; it's painfully obvious that both are Gangers, as we saw Jen requiring a human just moments prior, and it was implied that the Ganger killed the human Jennifer back in the first part. Likewise, the Doctor would not put up with Amy's rantings and ravings were it not the real one she was insulting, thus rendering the shoe switch plot twist solved 30 minutes before it's revealed through exposition. With both plot twists figured out almost instantly, The Almost People becomes nearly a complete bore. The climax does its best to resuscitate the pace, and things finally start happening, but at that point it's far too late.

Oddly, though the story is unbelievably slow, the character development for the supporting cast feels rushed. Jennifer is established early on as the shy, nervous one. This is amplified during Rory's conversation with her Ganger. But once Miranda shoots one of the Gangers, Jennifer goes berserk, which seems totally out of line with her character. Don't get me wrong, Jennifer's Ganger ends up being a fun and necessary villain, looking best in that awesome monster form at the end, but the reversal seemed sudden. On the flip side, Miranda is a complete tool just so she can incite the war against the Gangers, and once the script is done with her, she becomes a sad and strong woman fighting to live just a bit longer. What? I get that Graham is trying to write two very three-dimensional women here, but there's such dissonance that I can't buy either of their characters. Maybe the corridor running hurt my head.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Buzzer is an underdeveloped character who ends up as cannon fodder, and Graham clearly doesn't give half his morning crap about Dicken, who maybe has five lines for the entire episode. Jimmy, though, is the only true success in the bunch, a man just doing his best to see his son again. The Ganger concept only really works with Jimmy - you truly believe he's the same man, and when human Jimmy shockingly dies (this is the only legitimate surprise in the whole story), Ganger Jimmy is able to step into his shoes and be a father convincingly. Mark Bonnar gives a touchingly subdued performance, and the character's reunion with his son is a lovely moment in the denouement.

Our principals are actually above average, except maybe Karen Gillan, who gives in to a bit of overacting when she's yelling for her husband or calling out the Ganger Doctor. Matt Smith gets to play himself twice, which is a really cool idea played out fairly well. With the plot twist in mind, Smith's best moment is his resignation to the Ganger side. We know it's all part of the plan, but you do get the feeling that he's disappointed with humanity here, and that's tragic and poignant. Arthur Darvill actually gets a decent amount to do, and he's just silly, gullible Rory throughout. Graham uses him as a plot device a bit too much, but it's nice to see Rory get out and do something on his own for once. And he didn't die!

The sets aren't as extraordinary as the rest of the series thus far, but that was never the intention. The real production marvels in The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People are the titular characters. Makeup paints them a bit paler to distinguish them, and Miranda's looks particularly good. But the Ganger faces are mortifying and sad at the same time, and Jennifer's extensions and monster form are classic body horror. The flesh just looks disgusting and shallow, which helps deepen Graham's little racism metaphor. Speaking of which, here's another silly message thrown out by a Doctor Who guest writer: being racist can lead to anger. Who knew, Matthew?

This is a short review for a two-parter, but The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People didn't give me much to go on. It's not a terrible story, not by a long shot - the two Doctors are great fun, some of the supporting characters are interesting, the action (or what there is of it) is engaging, and the Gangers look fantastic. But there's just not enough story or character here for me to call this a good story, and Graham drops to 0 for 2 in his quest to write Doctor Who. Had this been a standalone episode, I might be writing a different review. Such is life.

Oh, and that cliffhanger? Ugh. Please don't imply that Amy didn't actually experience the events of the first three-and-a-half stories of the season. Revisionist history is obnoxious in fiction, and I know Moffat's only trying to use the story element as arc plot like he did in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, but Ganger Amy was just an annoying concept from the start. Too bad it's about to get a whole lot worse.