Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble! This week’s “Doctor Who” episode, “The Rebel Flesh,” has the Oncoming Storm and the Ponds (Is Amy wearing the same shirt as in the series opener episodes?) up against a solar storm and a bit of rebellious gunge. After his scanner yet again shows Amy as being both pregnant and not, the Doctor lands in the 22nd century at a 13th century island monastery now converted into a “Flesh” factory. (Well, not that kind, haha). The acid mine workers at this industrial factory, in an effort to lessen employee turnover, essentially clone themselves via “The Flesh.” But these replicates aren’t just robots; they actually take on the same personalities and memories as their originals. The Doctor, posing as a meteorologist/weatherman, gets caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, after the solar tsunami causes the doppelgangers, or “gangers,” to go rogue. To further complicate things, the sentient “Flesh” copies the Doctor. Imagine that: Another Doctor with his same memories and intelligence. Dangerous stuff there.
Writer Matthew Graham seems on his way here to vindicating himself from series 2’s regrettable throw-away, “Fear Her.” It mightn’t have been timey-wimey, but it sure was, um, peopley-weopley; lots of characters running about. The episode reminds me of the “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” two-parter, in which a heartless, one-minded character (Cleaves in the current episode, Restac in the aforementioned series 5 episodes) screws up a peace treaty in progress. In addition, we have a massive cliff-ganger, err, cliffhanger at the end of both two-parters’ second episodes. I only hope the cliffhanger for “The Almost People” doesn’t involve Rory dying–again–as he did in “Cold Blood.”
I like the acid that the Doctor and his friends have to navigate around throughout the episode; not a monster, but menacing nonetheless. The Flesh and its eyeball-y gooey replications bring about interesting cloning-related complications, i.e the trouble of shared identity. If someone else were exactly like you, would you want to share your memories, your personality, your life, with her/him, or would you basically say that there’s only one acid suit (are those Sontaran suits recycled?) to go around and you deserve it? Graham’s “monsters” aren’t really monsters; they’re not naturally violent. Yes, it’s a cliche showing humans as monsters in comparison to actual monsters, but I still like how Graham tints his gangers with innocence. For example, after the real Dicken coughs, his ganger Dickens tells him politely, “Bless you.” The ganger Jimmy offers to accompany and lend a helping hand to the real Jimmy. Even the ganger Cleaves is a softhearted sweetheart, remorseful over having left behind her crew.
My favorite once-Auton, Rory, is continuing to be very intriguing. Not only do we see some more gangly running from him in this episode, we also see him bring out his inner “Lone Centurion” again. It’s interesting seeing him attend to the distressed ganger Jennifer, tackle a cattle prod-wielding Cleaves, and rather uncharacteristically take the risk of searching for Jennifer amid some gangers on the loose (compare this to “The Impossible Astronaut” in which he had to be prodded, as it were, by the Doctor to accompany River Song down The Silence’s sewer tunnels). Perhaps it’s do with having once been a plastic replicate of himself that he’s willing to help out the gangers. It’s almost as if nothing else matters except for whatever or whomever it is he’s supposed to be protecting. It’s an interesting dynamic, seeing him as protector once again, but not of Amy’s.
Other notes and “wonders”:
- Looking ahead to episode six, I imagine the Doctor’s boots will come up again to differentiate the original from the ganger (hopefully not, as that would be too predictable).
- Can the gangers indeed keep stable without their originals?
- The Doctor had a plan before the solar tsunami hit, having intended to drop the Ponds off first before getting to his destination; he also knows quite a bit about “The Flesh,” that at it’s still at its early stages. What was the reason the Doctor decided to go to this monastery? Might it have to do with the headless monks that I heard will be in the mid-series finale?
- Will we finally get some answers on the creepy Madame Kovarian, aka Eye Patch Lady?
- Will the Doctor’s snow globe make another cameo? (Haha). I guess only “time” will tell, haha.
- “Behold, a cockerel! Love a cockerel.” -The Doctor’s first words upon stepping into his latest adventure.
- “So, where are these Dusty Springfield-loving monks then?” -Amy, eager to meet the curious inhabitants of the monastery.
- “There are people coming. Well, almost. / “Almost coming?” / “Almost people.” -The Doctor warning Amy about who or what’s to come.
- “Well, we’ve halted. How are we all doing on the calm front?” –The Doctor reacting to instruction from an intruder alarm to “Halt and remain calm.”
- “Amy, breathe.” -The Doctor, to the pregnant/not pregnant Amy.
- “Are you sure you’re feeling better? No more super-elastic punctures?” -Rory to ganger Jennifer, now both reconciled.
- “Before we do anything, I have one very important question: Has anybody got a pair of shoes I can borrow? Size 10. Though I should warn you, I have very wide feet.” -The Doctor poses the question that “oversteps” all other questions in the episode.
- “Ee by by gum. Or not. Good. Right.” -The Doctor shamming a Northern accent, repeating his “Who da man?” moment from “The Eleventh Hour.”
- “It’s interesting you refer to them as ‘it’ but you call a glorified cattle prod a ‘she’.” –The Doctor on Cleaves’s interesting use of pronouns.