Doctor Who episode 792: The Almost People (28/5/2011)

‘I needed to see the Flesh in its early days. That’s why I scanned it. That’s why we were there in the first place.’ Might as well acknowledge up front that the end of the episode is darker than anything the seventh Doctor did to Ace. In the previous scene the Doctor made it clear that ‘The energy from the TARDIS will stabilise the Gangers for good. They’re people now.’ So, the Doctor murders a person that is perfectly capable of living as Amy to prove a point. Once again, somehow, there’s a lack of judgement on the part of the production team. I guess it’s meant to be set-up for the Doctor, in his fury, becoming a villain, an idea that is strong in the next episode and that they keep flirting with through the rest of Matt Smith’s run and Capaldi’s first series. Here, it’s about as good as Old Sixie throttling Peri.

Which is a shame, because if you edited out this last-minute twist, the rest of the story is pretty good. A little slow and “running through corridors”. Not a classic, but, like The Satan Pit, unjustly overlooked because it doesn’t have Moffat’s timey-wimey cleverness or RTD’s sense of spectacle. Even so, it’s full of striking images. The pile of discarded faulty Flesh is hideous, hammering home the point that the humans treat their avatars without respect or even a second thought. The wall of accusing eyes might be an in-joke reference to Marco Polo, but it’s probably just a surreal visual, like the later transformation of Jen into a Daliesque elephant (which works much better than the Lazarus monster).

Almost People

Matthew Graham’s script avoids making either humans or Flesh straightforward monsters. Amy’s low-level prejudice against the Flesh-Doctor is contrasted with Rory’s sympathy for the Flesh even if ultimately both are tricked in the same way. Matt Smith looks like he’s enjoying playing two versions of the Doctor. Flesh-Jen has been understandably damaged by human callousness and sees Flesh-Jimmy’s compassion for his “son” as being tricked into a moment of weakness (‘No, I helped him into an act of humanity,’ says the Doctor, rather brilliantly). Mark Bonnar is very good. Raquel Cassidy is even better, bringing a weary determination to both versions of Cleaves (although it adds insult to injury that the Doctor diagnoses and cures her when he didn’t even bother inquiring what was wrong with Abigail in the Christmas episode). It’s a shame all this good work leads up to that finale, but I’m tempted to give Graham a pass on that and chalk it up to a series arc that’s looking increasingly ill conceived.

Next Time: A Good Man Goes to War


One comment

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 791: The Rebel Flesh (21/5/2011) | Next Time...

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