Doctor Who #875: The Almost People

"You're twice the man I thought you were."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 28 2011.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor's a Ganger and Amy's a Ganger and everyone's a Ganger!

REVIEW: Because this one ends with the shocking revelation that Amy is a Ganger feeling the phantom pains of the real Amy, about to give birth with the help of an eye-patched midwife somewhere and somewhen unknown, the two episodes that precede that epilogue are considered less than memorable. I still find a lot to like and even love, however. It's not QUITE as Twilight Zone as I remembered - the original crew aren't also (twist!) Gangers, for example - but it definitely scores points for making me paranoid even on subsequent viewings. Part of it is that some Gangers do pull some fast ones. The bad Jennifer kills a different Flesh Jen as part of her plan (which makes her a hypocrite), and of course, the two Doctors switch shoes to make a point.

That's at the center of this episode. While the humans and their Gangers go to war against one another, the two Doctors cooperate and accept each other's right to exist. They teach by example. While the humans can be expected to mistrust both Doctors to some degree, even the original, it's Amy who's tested most. She comes to regret her rejection of the fake Doctor - or rather of who she thinks is the fake Doctor - and it proves that there really doesn't need to be an ethical difference between a person and their Ganger. The "us or them" situation was created by the humans' reaction. The switcheroo actually gives the Doctor the first hint that Amy witnessed his death, proposes a red herring about the Flesh Doctor getting killed in his stead, and sets up the shocker that AMY is actually the Ganger, and the reason the Doctor went to the island in the first place. Like the Doctor, the character of Flesh Jimmy shows that a copied human bond is as good as the real thing. He ultimately isn't swayed to Jennifer's cause and takes Jimmy's place as "their" son's life. He's part of a number of "happy endings" the Doctor engineers, again to make the epilogue more shocking.

On the other end of the Ganger spectrum is Jennifer who rejects her own humanity and becomes a grotesque monster (similar to Lazarus, but much better and creepier). The grotesque doesn't stop with her; there's the pile of conscious but inert Gangers, the eyes on the wall (both a bit naff) as well. More grotesque still are her actions, a corruption of the soul that manifests as gross bodily mutation. She manipulates Rory and tricks him into putting everyone in danger. She visibly relishes killing another Jennifer, even one of her own species. The crucial clue is in The Rebel Flesh, Ganger Jennifer's story about getting lost on the moors, and imagining a "tough Jennifer" who would lead her home. Some kind of personality schism? Is Flesh Jennifer this "tough Jen"? Might the one she kills even be a Fleshy "weak Jen"? One personality killing the other? As with Rory's connection to artificiality (plastic/Flesh), writer Matthew Graham's script is just a little too subtle about this. It can be decoded, but it takes a couple goes.

SECOND OPINIONS:
My original review for the two-parter, Giving the Flesh Its Due, is actually much shorter than usual from lack of time. I kept to the essential themes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Everyone remembers the shocker, but repeat viewings reveal a lot more depth in the 40 preceding minutes.

5 comments:

Brian said...

No no no, the Doctor wanted to be a GINGER, not a GANGER!

(cue obvious joke about the number strings below the comment entry form here: "Please prove you're not a ganger"...)

Siskoid said...

Wish I'd thought of those.

In the future, you will have to authenticate your comments by proving you're not a Ganger, an android, or an alien shapeshifter.

LiamKav said...

I remember listening to a podcast where they were talking about an independent comic set in a world where humans and robots work alongside each other. At one point the main human has to prove that he's a human, and he does so by reading a captcha window.

Siskoid said...

Yes, that's Alex + Ada and it's awesome.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I didn't care for this one. I found the base unleader to be violently unreasonable for the sake of being violently unreasonable (albeit utterly unreasonable base leaders are a long Who tradition) who escalates things into straight-up murder in an absolutely psychopathic, plot-requires-her-to, no-human-being-would-react-that-way-to-those-stimuli kind of way.

Also, the bit with Amy repeatedly putting down the Doctor and the Doctors having switched was SO telegraphed and SO obvious, and SO overdone, it was just pathetic. And Amy's change of heart at the end doesn't seem very well motivated. It's just trite and there to complement the message, not an outgrowth of anything the character did or learned.

So, to me, it fell flat, because the development and moral felt contrived and arbitrary- or, in some cases, merely the situation that led to them in the first place did.

 

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