Doctor Who episode 791: The Rebel Flesh (21/5/2011)
‘I feel everything she has ever felt and more. I’m not a monster. I am me.’ This channels Season 22 complete with a horror movie setting and aesthetics, acid baths, inappropriate period music and an interest in body horror that encompasses references to Frankenstein, The Thing and Aliens. It also plugs into Moffat’s fascination with memories making the man, and ‘What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us?’
On the whole, I think it works. Like The Hungry Earth there’s a very retro, slow-burn vibe to it that’s at odds with Moffat’s double-punch approach to two-parters (taken to an extreme in the Series Six opener). You can almost spot the old-style “Part One” cliffhanger, when Cleaves is revealed to be a Ganger. So far, there’s no particular reason why this one needed two episodes and, say, The Doctor’s Wife only required one – mostly, the modern Doctors can solve a problem of this scale in a neat 45 minutes. Only once we know what’s coming at the climax of next week do we retrospectively realise why quite so much time is spent setting up the idea of the Flesh. At the time, especially given the Gangers’ insistence that they are as authentic as the meat and bone originals, many viewers suspected this was clueing us in to the solution to “The Doctor’s” death at Lake Silencio.
This includes some great images: the island monastery that houses a futuristic acid factory; the vaguely Stargate SG1-ish acid suits; the gooey Flesh (which generated some suitably tactile toys in the twilight of the Character Options figures); the Ganger Jennifer contorting herself to squeeze through tiny gaps, and, best of all, the cliffhanger-reveal of the Ganger Doctor. I also appreciate writer Matthew Graham giving Rory more to do than usual, as he sympathises with the Gangers – perhaps, because as established in The Doctor’s Wife, he can’t bear to see anything die.
Next Time: The Almost People