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The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

Posted: Sat May 21, 2011 7:57 pm
by JamesA
I was watching tonight's episode, admiring the Knightmare-like feel of this episode given some of the resemblence in location. Then with a bit of research along with the aid of Canadanne's map, I discover that part of the filming was shot at Caerphilly Castle, which is where of course various scenes of Knightmare were also filmed!

As for the episode itself, this is actually the first of the series that I've actually enjoyed: all direct action, zombie-like creatures and no bizarre "didn't see that coming" plot twists.

Will try and elaborate more on this later.

Re: The Rebel Flesh

Posted: Sat May 21, 2011 9:10 pm
by Canadanne
Yup - I recognised it straight away (have looked at so many Welsh castles while researching the KM locations!) and found it really distracting. *g* They filmed some of Merlin there as well, so it all looked rather too familiar... ... y%20Castle

Re: The Rebel Flesh

Posted: Mon May 23, 2011 11:57 am
by Pooka
Fantastic spotting! I knew I'd seen it somewhere...

I liked the episode, my dad less so (he walked out halfway through, apparently bored), although I'm withholding judgement on the storyline until the next episode. If something happens to Rory I'm going to be upset, though.

Re: The Rebel Flesh

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 10:43 pm
by HStorm
Another late review. My excuse this week is I'm on holiday and so am too busy actually doing things to write. Anyway...

A decent return to form to open the mid-season two-parter, after Neil Gaiman’s brave-but-clumsy attempt at psycho-surrealism. Although it had a few moments that caused me to roll my eyes, the prevailing attitude in this old-skool base-under-siege storyline was thankfully not silliness. To its credit, the current season has had the courage to stick to its guns and continue its dark vein, and with The Rebel Flesh, we have a tale that focuses on the themes of paranoia, terror, prejudice and arrogance. It doesn’t handle any of them with ground-breaking sophistication or depth, but it resists most of the opportunities to lodge the tongue in the cheek, and so sudden ill-timed moments of twee ‘humour’ are in a tiny minority here.

The only one that really jarred was the Doctor’s bloody awful pretence of doing a northern accent. It was ill-timed, served no purpose other than to slow down the storyline at a critical moment, and stands at stark odds with the Tenth Doctor’s equally tiresome “Don’t-do-that-no-seriously-don’t-do-that!” stance when his companions tried to mimic other accents. This is a shame, as it completely ruined a well-developed moment of friction and confrontation between the humans and their doppelgangers.

The scenario is not madly interesting in itself. Duplicate people wanting their freedom, and even to replace the originals, has been a staple of sci-fi and horror for so long it amounts to a cliché. Even the considerable effort that the script goes to to make the ‘Gangers sympathetic victims rather than insidious monsters is hardly new. But it all happens in such a well-cooked atmosphere of unease and mutual suspicion that it seems not to matter very much.

Jennifer introduces an angle that had genuinely not occurred to me until this point, which is that a threat to Amy and Rory’s marriage might come from the opposite direction to the ones that have emerged to this point. Up until now, Rory has been the one feeling threatened, inadequate, fighting a torrid but successful battle to keep the heart of the girl of his dreams, whose head had been turned more than once. Now Rory is the one who finds a new object of affection in the shape of a vulnerable girl who takes an immediate shine to him. Although Amy makes commendable efforts not to become jealous when she sees him comforting Jennifer, she is still visibly shaken and hurt by the sight. That Rory quickly becomes very protective toward the replicate-Jennifer, and even takes enormous risks to help her, suggests that his head has now been turned as well.

None of this is to say that Jennifer is an interesting character. On the contrary, she is the kind of dreary, helpless-female-Dr-Who-character that Jo Grant and Peri Brown used to epitomise in different ways; confused by everything around her, sporadically inassertive, all wrapped up in whiny self-pity, and always in need of help and comfort from the big male. Given her greater drive and authority, I’d argue the duplicate Jennifer is more interesting and worthy of greater respect.

The duplicates might show evidence of sharing the memories of the originals, but it’s noticeable that they don’t necessarily share all the same personality traits. As I say, Jennifer’s duplicate is more assertive and aggressive, more authoritative. Cleaves’ duplicate appears more peaceable and less bigoted or arrogant than the original. Buzzer’s duplicate seems less clumsy but more emotionally vulnerable. With this in mind, while the ‘Gangers can fairly claim they have a right to life, their claim to being the people they are duplicated from is not true. Biologically and genetically they may make such a claim, but philosophically they are different people.

This episode reverses the trend of The Doctor’s Wife, in that the performances from the regulars are largely excellent, whereas the guest actors are a bit too soap-ish and folksy. Sarah Smart, who seems to have a resemblance to Janet Ellis, starts poorly, but improves without ever rising to real heights. Raquel Cassidy is a bit too self-consciously stony-hearted as Cleaves, perhaps underlining that the character isn’t anything very meaty (the stereotype of the arrogant, reckless, “no-one-may-question-me” corporate-scientist-leader), and Marshall Lancaster seems unsure about how to play Buzzer, as his sneezing fits appear to be the only characteristic to get hold of. Mark Bonnar is predictably good as Jimmy, but then he also has a stronger role to play i.e. his characters are the ones who find a bond of common ground.

Matt Smith is much better here than in his misfortunate detour into emo-ham in The Doctor’s Wife. His acting as the ‘Ganger Doctor seemed exceptionally sinister without being in any way different from the Doctor’s usual behaviour, which is a neat trick if you can do it. Karen Gillan does what she does best (facial acting to die for), and Arthur Darvill once again shows his real versatility, varying between the clumsy, inassertive follower and a protective, confident near-rebel, without any impression of inconsistency.

It’s an interesting rather than thrilling cliffhanger, but it’s certainly engaging enough to demand the audience keep watching. But at the same time, I do get the worrying impression that most of the plot-life has already been used up, and so there’s a real danger that part two will be yet another let-down. I hope not of course, but I fear there’ll be a lot of treading-of-water in part 2.

Promising, if not madly deep or original, and full of dark atmosphere and refreshingly little silliness. I’ll give it an 8 out of 10, though not by much.

Re: The Rebel Flesh

Posted: Sat May 28, 2011 12:31 pm
by BBrooks

Here's my belated review, my excuse this week is that I'm just lazy and never get round to doing it. :-D

I'm admiring Season 6's "no holds barred" attitude, having someone melting in a pool of acid in the opening gambit, is something I didn't expect. I'm also loving the nods to previous story's, intentional or not. If you can cast your minds back to the Colin Baker story "Vengeance on Varos", they had a similar and even more gruesome acid bath scene. There was another nod in "The Doctor's Wife" to "The Brain of Morbius" about how body parts were used to extend peoples lives.

"The Rebel Flesh" was more in the style of Classic Who and that's a good thing. The original plot continued this seasons penchant for the Dark and Scary, borrowing elements from "The Thing" and "Invasion of the Body Snatcher's". A great supporting cast, Sarah Smart and Raquel Cassidy were on top form and there was brilliant Make-Up and Effects.
For the first time since the opener, Rory has been given more to do and the episode focused more on him. Let's just hope he doesn't die again in Part 2. :-) The "Ganger Doctor" cliffhanger was a good one, a duplicate Doctor was done for comedic effect back in 2008's "Journey's End". Hopefully "The Almost People" tonight, will show a darker side to having Two identical Doctor's around.

There was only the odd silly moment, such as when Jennifer's neck stretched out through the toilet door. I didn't spot any indication during the episode, that the Gangers were capable of doing that. Maybe if a Ganger gets shot or harmed, it can heal itself T-1000-style. Or (as there made of a goo-like substance) they're able to squeeze through narrow vent's or openings, like Tooms from "The X-Files".

Theories-wise, maybe the Doctor that we saw die in "The Impossible Astronaut" was actually the Ganger. That's if he somehow survives after this story and as for the Eye-Patch lady. Her name is Madame Kovarian for those of you who don't know and we'll know her intentions by tonights episode. It looks like she will be the one who kidnaps Amy in Episode 7 "A Good Man Goes to War".

I give this episode an 8 out of 10, it was very good and action-packed. Also the dark and grimy castle setting gave it that extra ingredient, needed for a scary DW episode.

Re: The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

Posted: Mon May 30, 2011 6:37 pm
by JamesA
To save having to create a separate thread for the second part, I've renamed the thread so that discussion can interlock both parts together.

To reinforce my previous comment, I'm staying with my view that this two-parter is the only Doctor Who story of this series that I've actually enjoyed so far. Especially liked how some of the humans and flesh ended up joining forces to remedy the situation. The Jimmy and his son parts I found especially touching, and I also found the banter between the two different versions of The Doctor very amusing too.

Also noteworthy was the final scenes in the second part, provided an interesting yet sinister taster for the mid-season climax that's due to take place this weekend.

Re: The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

Posted: Tue May 31, 2011 8:41 pm
by HStorm
Let’s start at the beginning shall we? They could hardly have made Matt Smith’s double more obvious, during the moment when the ‘Ganger Doctor is grabbing the original Doctor by the lapels, without dying his hair bright ginger. The back of the double’s head is almost completely different from Smith’s. For heaven’s sake, BBC Wales, try a bit harder will you?

To the episode itself, hmm hmm. I was extremely impressed with it on first viewing, and indeed on subsequent sittings it still has points going for it. But I have to say that the flaws in it become a lot more noticeable too. In particular, The Almost People displays an occasional tendency to throw in a sudden plot-twist, as if to say, “Hah! Bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?” No, we certainly weren’t, chiefly because one or two of the twists stop the story making any sense.

The main one is the revelation that the Doctor and his duplicate swapped places. It shames Amy for her prejudices in a delicious manner, but it also suddenly makes the prior behaviour of the other ‘Gangers very difficult to fathom. They invite what they think is the Doctor's ‘Ganger to join them. They weren’t there when the Doctor’s duplicate first showed up, so the only way they could realise he might have been a ‘Ganger is if they could in some way ‘sense’ something about him, almost on a genetic level. But if it then turns out that he isn’t the ‘Ganger after all, but the original, well where did they get the idea from? And how do they manage to make exactly the same mistake Amy was making all along? And how can the original Doctor sense the torment of the Flesh more keenly than the ‘Ganger can?

I know he’s never going to challenge the leader-board on Mastermind, but this episode really does Rory no favours at all. It’s nice to see him getting a pro-active role for the first time in a long while, but in the event, the activities he gets make him look like a love-sick cretin. How much of a fool does he have to be to go along with everything Jennifer’s ‘Ganger tells him? Providing muscle to help turn the wheel is one thing, but does it really never cross his mind to ask why she needs him to place his hand on the palm-reader? Not realising how easy it would be for the Flesh to emulate a burn is also pretty thick. I’m sorry, like I say, Rory’s no intellectual heavyweight, but he’s not that stupid.

Some of the guest-acting is, again, terrible. Sarah Smart in particular, who was dodgy enough in the first episode, is just awful when playing Jennifer’s ‘Ganger. The face she pulls before she attacks Buzzer looks so over-the-top it’s embarrassing, while the moment when she snaps her fingers, points, and tells the Doctor to “Join the Revolution” is so corny and stagey I winced. Her whole ‘descent-into-revenge-driven-psycho’ arc is not at all believable. Raquel Cassidy is again wooden as both incarnations of Cleaves, although her performance is mitigated somewhat by how inconsistently her role is characterised in the script. She was a cold-blooded murderer at the end of the previous episode, ruthlessly gunning down one of the ‘Gangers for no reason at all bar her own paranoia. This detail seems to be totally overlooked and forgotten in episode 2, as she and her ‘Ganger almost take on the role of reluctant warriors trying to keep the conflict from getting any further out of hand. But then the original still instructs Buzzer to attack (what she thinks is) the Doctor’s ‘Ganger, and the duplicate still invites the Doctor to change sides with talk of “you’re one of us”. Indeed, the script can never make up its mind whether Cleaves is supposed to be sympathetic or cynical. The male guests are also uninspired – Marshall Lancaster is a complete plank as Buzzer - except again Mark Bonnar is quite impressive when he has fatherly moments to act out.

The regulars on the other hand produce perhaps their best work of the year to date. Matt Smith is tremendous in a dual role that calls on him to portray many characteristics. The torment of the Doctor’s ‘Ganger as it struggles with past-regenerations interfering with his present form is superb. Look closely at his eyes while he’s at the throat of the original, and the anguish and terror will make you flinch, right up there with the very best eye-work that Karen Gillan has done. Smith does the quirky, wittering eccentricity of the Doctor with his usual aplomb, and it makes appearing alongside himself very engaging where it might easily have been irritating. He also shows great hurt and resentment at Amy’s apparent rejection of the ‘Ganger, and desperation and anger in the scene when he nearly attacks her; a moment disturbingly reminiscent of the Sixth Doctor trying to throttle Peri. At the end, when ordering Rory to stand away from Amy, his authority is both fierce and sinister. Time and again, Karen Gillan once more shows her great talent for portraying fear, but reveals equal skill for playing a stubborn bigot. Arthur Darvill maintains his usual fine standard, especially in the scene when he confronts Jennifer’s ‘Ganger about tricking him, though by now he may be forgiven if he feels his efforts are wasted on scripts that give him so little reward.

This episode really is swimming in superfluous backward references. “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow,” from Jon Pertwee. “Would you like a jelly baby?” from Tom Baker (that scene is very reminiscent of Peter Davison’s debut in Castrovalva, when the Fifth Doctor went around impersonating his earlier selves). “No let it go, we’ve-we’ve moved on!!!” he screams in a noticeable parody of David Tennant. “Where’s my Daddy?” asks Adam, loudly echoing, “Are you my mummy?” The Doctor is “John Smith”. The TARDIS is “reliable” and “sexy” once more. Yes, I share the continuity thrill other long-time viewers get, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea for the series to play that card so strongly. The more continuity-dependent the series becomes, the more danger there is of it alienating people who have never seen older stories. (Should just mention that at a lot of moments in this episode, Matt Smith really does look like Peter Davison at his dazed best. Keep an eye out for them.)

The ending is not too clever. Cleaves again has a fundamental personality change and turns into a hardcore pacifist again to scupper Jennifer-‘Ganger’s plans. Exactly how Jennifer-‘Ganger turns into the giant animal isn’t very clear; if she’s able to do that, why didn’t she just do so hours earlier? The TARDIS’ energy ‘just happens’ to be exactly what is needed to make the ‘Gangers become real people, and the Doctor ‘just happens’ to have a cure for blood-clots on the brain tucked away in the TARDIS console? Handy. (Not that the blood clot really has any significant role to play in the story.)

Re-set button city. Give me a break…

But the story is not a write-off by any means. It has many good and valid things to say about the twin follies of prejudice and paranoia, as well as their causes and how inseparable they are. And the startling ending has more than a tinge of clever irony to it, given that Amy, who has spent most of the episode giving one of the Doctors the cold shoulder for supposedly being a ‘Ganger, turns out herself to be a ‘Ganger. When exactly did Amy become duplicated? Where is the original and when did she become cut off from Rory and the Doctor? Might it even have been before she met the Doctor? (It must have been before meeting the Silence as that was when she first saw the Eye-patch lady.) The ominous, bleak tones of the season are again sustained and enhanced by the gloomy, cold visuals, and the chilling atmosphere of danger and unsure perceptions started in The Doctor’s Wife has been carried over. The setting of a castle for a factory is very neat for adding to the ‘haunted house’ scenario, and there is a consistent undercurrent of foreboding. In short, even if it’s not all that intelligent, it remains genuinely dark and scary, and it always resists the option to be wilfully silly. Its most powerful redeeming feature is that it tries to be a drama, and largely succeeds in doing so. A flawed drama, perhaps, but exciting and never a farce.

The episode also gets fresh points for demonstrating this season’s willingness to break formula. In previous seasons of NuWho, the story arc, such as it is, has usually been made up of a long string of repeated references thrown into most episodes, none of which have ever actually developed or explored the idea at its heart in any detail. Furthermore, the string has only ever culminated at the end of the season. In this case, the string of hints has culminated at the midway point of the season instead, which is another breath of fresh air.

In the end unfortunately, a little like The Doctor’s Wife, the episode is far too deeply flawed for me to rate it higher than a 6 out of 10, even though I can’t deny that I would have liked to. The two-parter averages out at a respectable 7.

Re: The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

Posted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 11:52 am
by BBrooks
The two identical Doctor's were handled much better than they were in "Journey's End". The comedy wasn't overdone and it gave Matt Smith a chance to do something different with the part. The best bit about the opening 5 minutes though was hearing Tom Baker again. It may have only been a brief nod, but for 2 wonderful seconds the Fourth Doctor was back. They should have incorparated Jon Pertwee's voice in too for "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow".

"The Almost People" was just as good as the previous episode and it still mantained elements of The Thing (1982). In particular the moment where Rory sees the discarded Flesh, it looked similar too the deformed/mutated corpses that Macready & co. found in the Norwegian camp. Influences can also be seen in the moment where Jennifer's mouth stretches open and how she appears in monster form at the end.
HStorm wrote:Exactly how Jennifer-‘Ganger turns into the giant animal isn’t very clear; if she’s able to do that, why didn’t she just do so hours earlier?
I highlighted this in my last review, there was never an indication that the Flesh were able to shape-shift like that. If all of the Gangers had gone into monster mode at the start of the episode, then they probably would have won. The scene was clearly added just to give it an action packed finale, there's nothing wrong with that but it would have been better if it had made sense.

The twist ending which revealed that Amy was Flesh too was totally unexpected and the cliffhanger which shows Amy screaming for her life whilst giving birth, is one of the darkest NuWho cliffhangers ever. Karen Gillan conveyed that confusion and terror brilliantly on-screen. Frances Barber was every inch the baddie as Madame Kovarian, she's perfect Rani material and I'm looking forward to seeing how her character develops.

Overall it's another 8 out of 10 from me, a strong two parter and as the cliffhanger imply's. Things can only get darker from here on.