Saturday, 21 May 2011

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh (1)

Doctor: 'Human lives are amazing. Are you surprised they walked off with them?'

Matthew Graham's first effort at a Doctor Who script ('Fear Her') was an anomaly in that, despite Graham's impeccable writing pedigree, it was absolute tosh. No writer, no matter how talented, can pull off a scribble monster. True, the minuscule (some may say non-existent) visual effects budget didn't help matters—but it was still pretty bad. Thankfully, tonight's episode went a long way toward making amends. It wasn't perfect, but I didn't herniate myself from weeping at it either—which is always a bonus.

'The Rebel Flesh' was always going to struggle, coming as it did after 'The Doctor's Wife' (AKA my new favourite episode ever!) The idea of using 'inferior' beings as slave labour isn't a new one—it was used to great effect in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a film which also explored the issue of identity and what it means to be human. In the case of the Gangers, the matter was further complicated by them being exact replicas of their 'parents'. They were mirror images of their human counterparts—inside and out—making them indistinguishable from the real thing.

If the flesh, memories and personalities are the same, then what (if anything) sets them apart? What makes them less human? If Cleaves and Co had pondered on that, instead of reacting to the perceived threat, maybe they'd have realised the Gangers had as much right to live as they did. They weren't monsters—at least, no more than they themselves were. Maybe Cleaves realised that from the start, and that's what frightened her. The human's hatred of the Gangers felt somewhat akin to racism—there was just no rhyme nor reason to it. They feared them because they were different, and likewise the Gangers feared the humans because they'd inherited their parents' mental disposition.

The plot itself was a traditional base under siege yarn, the twist being, rather than escaping from some outside alien threat, the enemy was very much of their own making. In fact, in many respects, they were fighting against their own ignorance and prejudices. The enemy knew them as well as they knew themselves, so it'll be interesting to see who outwits whom. (Or even who outwits Who.) Would they have turned on each other so suddenly and so absolutely? I'm not so sure. Cleaves is clearly something of a bigot and a control freak, yet her doppelgänger seems more self aware, more sympathetic, and infinitely better at reading Cleaves than Cleaves is at reading her. She didn't react favourably to doppel-Jennifer's call to arms, either. Maybe doppel-Cleaves is evolving. She certainly seems the more human of the two.

Rory seems to have taken a shine to Jennifer, and Jennifer certainly wasn't shy in making her feelings for Rory known. Finally, someone who sees Rory for who he is. After Sexy calling him pretty last week, Rory's sex symbol status seem to have sky-rocketed. I'm not sure Rory fancies Jennifer per se, I suspect it's more his nursing instincts kicking in and an innate desire to protect the weak, but Rory was something of a revelation tonight. He put himself in the firing line to save Jennifer—he even risked his life leaving the chapel sanctuary to go in search of her. What will Amy make of that, I wonder? She didn't seem to know what to make of Rory's protectiveness tonight.

Which brings us to the Doctor. How did he know that the crew were using earlier technology? Earlier than what? (I know, earlier than later technology, but how does he know about the later technology—unless he's actually been later?) Despite, ostensibly being there by accident, how comes he knows so much about what's going on? And why did he try and dump Amy and Rory at the chip shop, before the TARDIS was 'unexpectedly' hit by the solar tsunami? It's almost as if he wanted to go alone. But why? Because the TARDIS always takes him where he needs to be—or was it something more premeditated?

Admittedly, the Doctor's doppelgänger turning up wasn't much of a surprise. (Although it was a surprise that he looked like Odo. ) Now that we've been introduced to the Doctor's Ganger (and the technology spawning him), can we start to speculate on what happened back in episode one? Was the Doctor who died a doppelgänger from the future? Or is that too simple for the Moff?

Other Thoughts:

—Was the Doctor's accent supposed to be Yorkshire? Isn't Marshall Lancaster from Macclesfield?

—Caerphilly Castle added a lovely Gothic charm to the story.

—Did the vats of living flesh remind anyone else of the resurrection technology from Battlestar Galactica?

—Eye patch woman had a brief cameo again this week. Weird!

—I wonder if the Doctor's boots rotting in the acid will have any future significance? His doppelgänger is still wearing his boots. Is that the only way we'll be able to tell them apart?

—Amy's pregnancy test is still swinging to and fro from positive to negative. Surely the Doctor knows what's going on by now?

—Wow.... that was some dodgy CGI. That head on a stalk looked decidedly shoddy. And the less said about Mr. Fantastic's arms, the better.

—Why did Dicken keep sneezing?

—Loved Amy kissing Rory's finger better. Awww.

—Since the Doctor and Rory seem to be Dusty Springfield fans, I'm guessing Amy's the Muse fan? Rock on, Amy!

—Why does a crashing TARDIS make the same sound as a crashing prop plane?

Quotes:

Doctor: 'Text book landing.'

Amy: 'Oh, we've gone all medieval.'
Rory: 'I'm not sure about that.'
Amy: 'Really? Medieval expert, are you?'
Rory: 'No, I can just hear Dusty Springfield.'

Rory: 'My mum's a massive fan of Dusty Springfield.'
Doctor: 'Who isn't?'

Doctor: 'There are people coming. Well, almost.'
Amy: 'Almost coming?'
Doctor: 'Well, almost people.'

Doctor: 'I can see why you keep it in a church. The miracle of life.'
Buzzer: 'No need to get poncey. It's just gunge.'

Amy: 'Doctor, Rory.'
Doctor: 'Rory?'
Amy: 'Rory!'
Doctor: 'Oh Rory... always with the Rory!'

Doctor: 'I've got to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose. I never thought I'd get to say that again.'

Jennifer: 'My name is Jennifer Lucas. I'm not a factory part.'

Rory: 'Are you sure you're feeling better? No more super-elastic punches?'

Doctor: 'Yes, it's insane. And it's about to get even insanerer.'

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