The Rebel Flesh

Yes, it’s the “classic” two-parter, the counterpart to last season’s Silurian story. Here are the elements that feel “classic” to me and the classic stories where we’ve seen vaguely similar things before.

  1. There’s a preexisting world here that the Doctor (apparently) stumbles into, as opposed to what feels like a pantomime arranged for his benefit. (See: almost every classic story except for the overrated, unnatural allegories of the latter McCoy era.)
  2. We have not one but two types of deadly industrial sludge to contend with. (The Green Death.)
  3. The “expendable” servant class becomes self-conscious and rebels. (The Sunmakers, The Robots of Death, sort of.)
  4. Oh no! double Doctors! (The Android Invasion, Meglos.)
  5. “Operatic” costumes, in this case acid suits. (Terminus.)
  6. Miracle technology gone awry. (The Robots of Death (again), Inferno, Nightmare of Eden, but then also a zillion billion other science fiction stories.)

The idea of duplicates that consider themselves equal to the humans they’re duplicating also feels familiar somehow, but maybe I’m remembering Battlestar Galactica instead. The point is, all of these seemed like ingredients for the sort of old-school adventure I’d really enjoy.

Unfortunately, it’s weak enough that I almost wished for more pirates instead. After an opening scene I really liked, where the ganger falls into acid and no one seems especially put out about it apart from the need to reset the counter since the last accident in the workplace, it’s downhill, from that bit with Amy and Rory playing darts in the TARDIS while listening to that Muse song they used in Twilight onward. The dialogue utterly lacked the crispness of the Moffat and Gaiman episodes, for a start. And somehow the way this Doctor injects himself into situations just doesn’t ring true to me. Not that you get too far in a story if people always say “no unauthorized personnel” and throw you out, but surely there’s a happy medium.

The theme is promising enough. I get it: the technological proxies are allegories for the human proxies we send to do our dirty work and write off when they’re hurt or killed, but they’re people Just Like Us, in this case literally. Then there’s the added wrinkle of Which One’s the Real Me?, which I can’t help thinking somehow undermines the main point in some way but is still, in theory, interesting. It’s The Thing crossed with Frankenstein, which is a respectable enough pedigree.

But then there’s silly stuff like Jennifer-ganger’s head spiraling out of a hole in the lavatory door and moaning a scary phrase that seems at odds with the way her character acts before and after, and looking totally ridiculous besides. There’s her slightly uncomfortable quasi-romance with Rory. There’s thunderingly obvious “how do you tell them apart?” bits like the sneezing and the wedding ring. And of course there’s the cliffhanger, which we all saw coming a mile away and which doesn’t seem like much of a crisis. Yes, on the one hand, if the Doctor-ganger is loyal to the rest of the Flesh, he’s going to be the perfect adversary for the real Doctor. On the other hand, if he’s a perfect copy, he’s going to recognize the need for either peaceful coexistence or some humane euthanasia for the Flesh. So the ending is pretty much written.

A couple of questions:

  1. How many times can the Doctor keep looking at the Schrödinger’s Pregnancy readout?
  2. Didn’t the stupid “psychic paper” stop working a while back? Did he get a refill pack?

Man, I’m too bored even to critique this one properly (as if I ever do). Maybe I’ll have more energy to do it next week.