Welcome back to more Who review. Last week I noted that the episode we were given was really quite good, but it would take the final part of it to really decide if the story was good or not. Well, that second part is here – and boy, is it a bit of a doozy, eh?
Hop behind the cut for some thoughts on the episode. As a note, spoilers are indeed discussed, so you might want to watch the episode first.
So last week we were given the story of the Rebel Flesh and the gangers who inhabited an island with the sole purpose of working and, eventually, dying – presumably on the job during one hazardous task or another. Of course, as luck would have it a freak storm has actualized the gangers and now they want a spot of revenge against those that have been oppressing them due to their lack of human rights. I mean, they’re not human… right? According to the Doctor, they’re as human as anything else. And as luck would have it, there is now a ganger Doctor! It looks like this is turning into quite a sticky situation.
Of course, a big element of this episode relies on the Doctor’s trickery throughout the episode. The Doctor himself is a complicated character who doesn’t regularly lay all his cards out on the table until the last second, and obviously this episode is not discernibly different in that regard. The trick here is that there are now two Doctors; they can complete each other’s sentences and they supposedly have their own agendas to work out. So when the two Doctor’s split up and one becomes ostensibly “evil” (however you want to define that word in this heavily metaphorical episode) it adds an interesting parable throughout the episode on what the character of the Doctor is capable of.
Part of this goes to Matt Smith’s performance as the different Doctors. That is to say, the characters who are the same yet very minority different. Of course, the un-Doctor’s “not real” nature causes tension on the program, as the gangers are thought to be inherently evil and the immediate distrust given by Amy Pond creates a rather curious split between the characters. Amy has a rather unabashed love for the Doctor, so the fact on the show that she can look at a version of the character and see nothing but disgust introduces a curious element to the story: what exactly makes the characters “real”? If the only noticeable difference is the choice of shows, what makes the Doctor’s inherently different aside from the fact that one is made of synthetic flesh? They are the same person, aren’t they?
Suffice it to say, Graham has written quite a nice set of scripts with the two episodes. The story is steeped in metaphors about the comparisons between people and un-people that obviously can be taken out of context and applied to any form of “group A vs group B” scenario. It’s a story about being able to rise up against preconceived notions and work together as a group, and it’s a rather dark and science-fictional representation of what can go decidedly bad in a situation like this. Granted, the villain in the end is able to literally turn into a monster, the point is made rather clear – and all through an engaging Who story. I said before that Gaiman and Moffat have certainly set a bar at the moment, but Graham writes the third best set of episodes for a series that has been rather decidedly great since Moffat took over (despite some people’s silly reservations).
The last bit that really makes this episode go from just good to great is the very sharp connection to the series’ larger plot. For the most part, unless Moffat is writing the episode you shouldn’t expect to see anything but a glimpse of the bigger elements to it. A woman in the wall here, an unsure pregnancy there… the big moments are for Moffat to write. Not here, though. Moffat has taken a bit of a page from Davies’ old playbook and given us a curiously connected three-parter that you wouldn’t even originally assume is directly connected. See, the big reveal here is that the Amy we’ve spent the entire season with is not actually the real Amy, but is instead an example of the synthetic flesh that we’d spent the episodes with. The Doctor’s real reason for coming to this island, previously unknown to us, was to discover what to do about this, and given Doctor’s “all life is sacred” attitude, his destruction of the Amy ganger at the end does not bode well for the future (nor does the title of the next episode, “A Good Man Goes To War.” It’s quite an interesting switcheroo, both within the context of the show but also in the outside element of the viewer being knowledgable about trends in the writing of the show. I can’t say I expected that big of an ending from this ending, and Moffat has definitely figured out a way as showrunner to pull the wool over our eyes when it comes to where the twists are going to come from.Continued below
So what do we have left? A mid-season cliffhanger finale full of babies, River Songs, and Amy Ponds. Oh, and Cybermen! That’s always exciting. While it’s disappointing that the show is so short at the moment, it’s going to be interesting to see exactly what Moffat has planned for the next episode. Moffat has taken the Doctor in a wildly different direction from Davies, but a few elements remain true: the Doctor is the friendliest face you’ll ever see, but he is the most dangerous thing in the entire universe (as illustrated numerous times, especially in the last season finale). Given the way the season began, I’d say that the tension is rather viciously high at the moment.