Monday, May 23, 2011
Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh
I have a feeling that most people didn't like this last episode. I happened to enjoy it a fair amount, but I think there was so much Gaiman fan-boyism from the last episode that no one really paid attention to the lack of character development and interest to see that Gaiman really just wrote a Gaiman story and not a Doctor Who episode. And now, with a story with develop, pacing and moral decisions to be made (in other words, classic Doctor Who), most fans forgot what an episode was supposed to be like and instead pined over random good quotes about biting being like kissing with a winner.
I hope that isn't true. But I somehow think that there won't be much love for this episode because it followed Gaiman's tribute to Gaiman.
The episode was penned by Mathhew Graham, who co-created "Life on Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes". He also wrote the really shitty second series episode, "Fear Her", but found much more of a place with this script.
It is a two-parter episode and I usually like non-Moffat two-parters. The classic Who episodes were serials and often had cliffhangers (just as predictable as this one's)as we needed to wait until next week to find out what was going on. Moffat's two-parter's aren't bad, but are very rarely consistent in theme and mood and might as well be two different stories.
But the cold opening of the episode was nice. It really was a brilliantly disturbing scene to see how casually everyone dealt with the death of one of the workers. This also set up the attitudes that will propel the story later: these are things, casually discarded as carelessly as worn gloves by the workers.
Anyhow, the Doctor plans on dropping off Amy and Rory for a little while (to get some fish and chips) as he has business to do. A solar tsunami (really?!) blows them to this location, however. And we find that there is a living plastic "flesh" that the workers use to create doppelgangers (or gangers) of themselves to work in dangerous conditions with. Well, of course, things go wrong and the gangers seem to be able to live on their own, keeping the memories and personalities of their counterparts. So, the morality here is, are they alive? What is alive? Are they soulless machines with just some AI that lets them believe they are alive? Or are they sentient beings? And what exactly does being alive mean? The gangers have just as vivid memories and attachments to their counterparts in every way, including a bond with their counterpart's children.
Of course, things go wrong and some clod of a character starts a war and the episode ends with the Doctor having a ganger of his own, making his decisions on life and identity more personal leading into the next episode. But that's just how Doctor Who works.
Anyhow, less about the plot and more about a few specific things:
First of all, as much as I've been railing about the Amy/Rory jealous stories as intellectually lazy, there was a prime chance to play it up in this episode and they didn't. There was an attraction between Rory and Jennifer and Amy didn't freak out or whine. In fact, it made sense. Firstly, Rory is a nurse. It stands to reason that he'd be drawn to help the vulnerable character, even as the Doctor chastises him and tells him not to. This is character development, folks. Rory is finally getting some personality other than dying every week to make Amy's plight seem worse. But secondly, Rory spent 2000 years as a plastic Auton, convinced that because of his memories and feelings for Amy, that he was human and his identity was valid. It stands strongly to reason that he would be drawn to defend Jennifer and the plight of the gangers. And you know what the best part of this is? It was all played without Amy being jealous (at least so far, there is a second half that could fuck this up).
Second, I am wary about something meta-plotwise in this episode. First of all, the Doctor knew about the living flesh before arriving. It stands to reason he was intentionally going there. Was this where he was planning on going after dropping off Amy and Rory? If so, I am really very cautious about making a ganger Doctor to go and die in his place (from the Impossible Astronaut). That would just be too lazy of a way around the season's story arc. There are a lot of reasons why it doesn't seem to work (memories; all of the future off-stage experiences that he had with River would have been as a ganger thus demeaning their relationship; the similarities to the intellectually lazy way of creating a Doctor Mark II sex doll to give to Rose to end that storyline), and I hope that they do not go there. But I am worried.
Third, why the hell (other than plot convenience) does the next century's military need to mine for acid? I mean, does acid become really incredibly useful? That just seemed like such an odd thing to have such an intense factory mining operation to be built around.
Molly: (As usual, Molly is next to me as I do this. Because of her age, her portion will be as a Q&A format and I'll type what she says as she says it and format it later.)
Chuckie: So, what did you think about the episode, "The Rebel Flesh"?
Molly: What's a rabble flash?
Chuckie: No, the Rebel Flesh. That was what the episode was called.
Molly: No, it's called Doctor Who.
Chuckie: Yes, well, this episode of Doctor Who was called "The Rebel Flesh".
Chuckie: So, what did you think of it?
Molly: I liked it.
Chuckie: What did you like about it?
Molly: Um, that... that... that... um, well... that... um... um... that they was playing games.
Chuckie: What games were they playing?
Molly: That one like were you throw that fuzzy thing with the point on it at the circle with the black thing on it.
Chuckie: You mean darts?
Chuckie: You liked that they were playing darts in the TARDIS during the opening?
Chuckie: Was there anything else that you liked about the episode?
Molly: No. It was full of... (She pauses, then reaches up and pulls my head to her ear to whisper the next word to me.) ...crap because they didn't explain anything.
Chuckie: (laughs) Wow. You remembered me talking about crap in other episodes, huh?
Molly: They didn't explain why they was goop.
Chuckie: What happened in this episode?
Molly: Um, well, they couldn't control the TARDIS and they were traveling with no control of anything and they found a new world and there was acid in the tubes and there was people like, then there was an alarm and they said "Don't move" and then the Amelia Pond talked to them and the people were on the machines that made their arms stick out and they found that girl and they, um, like, Rory and her went into the bathroom and she broke the mirror and she turned into a snake body and then, um, Rory ran and he got out of the place and she said, "Rory, where are you? Rory, where are you?" and she, um, Rory was behind the place and she went and looked and she said she was stronger than me, well, the me with the same name and she looked in the mirror.
Chuckie: Wow. Is that it?
Molly: Mm-hm. I knowed a lot, right?
Chuckie: Yeah. But can you tell me a little about the gangers?
Molly: Oh, and I kind of forgot about this stuff... and they, well, the Doctor touched the goop and like hard goop and the gangers made new people and the Doctor like the other people now is two people.
Chuckie: Well, one of them is a ganger, right?
Chuckie: But tell me about the gangers. What do they want?
Molly: They, um... the girl ganger?
Chuckie: Yeah, okay.
Chuckie: What do you mean?
Molly: (She grabs my head and pulls it down to her mouth to whisper in my ear.) She wants to kiss him.
Chuckie: Oh. Do you think Amy should be jealous?
Molly: Not Amy. Amelia Pond. And no. They both like him. It's not like they're boyfriend and girlfriend.
Chuckie: Well, no, but they're married.
Molly: So? You can be married and still have a girlfriend.
Chuckie: Oh. You should let mommy know that. Daddy's been arguing that with her for a while now.
Molly: They both like him!
Chuckie: Okay, sweetie.
Molly: And it's not like Amelia Pond and Rory walked down a red carpet. And she called him stupid head.
Chuckie: So, who should Rory be with?
Molly: Amelia Pond.
Chuckie: And what about Jennifer, the other girl?
Molly: She can get one of the boy gangers.
Chuckie: Then she shouldn't kiss Rory?
Molly: No. That's still okay.
Chuckie: Well, this is coming from a girl with five boyfriends.
Molly: Daddy! The cats can hear you.
Chuckie: Sorry. Anyhow, what happened at the end of the episode?
Molly: There was a ganger of the Doctor. And we have to wait for the next episode.
Chuckie: What do you think will happen in the next episode?
Molly: They'll tell us what's happening and it won't be full of crap.
Chuckie: Well, hopefully. So, Pixie, how would you rate this episode?
Molly: Um, eight million ninety-nine moons.
Chuckie: Wow. That's a lot. You're starting with moons and not stars?
Molly: Start with moons.
Chuckie: Okay. Out of how many?
Molly: Out of six.
Molly: Sixty-six stars.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of ten.
Chuckie: Okay, anything else?
Molly: Um, eight-sixty-six suns. Then it would be very bright outside.
Chuckie: I guess so. Out of how many?
Molly: Out of ten.
Chuckie: You know that you gave more stars, moons and suns than it was out of, right?
Molly: Mm-hm. Because I liked it very much.
Chuckie: Out of the episodes you've seen this season, where do you put it?
Molly: In the middle. Well, wait. I don't know yet. There was some crap in it, but there was also some not crap in it too. But there's going to be a next one. I'll need to find out the next one then I'll know how much crap was in it once it's all over.
Chuckie: Very good, Sweetie. Daddy likes to get the whole story first too.
Molly: You mean, do what I did?
Chuckie: Yeah. So, anything else that you wanted to say about this episode?
Molly: I think the people who watch Doctor Who would like this episode.
Chuckie: You really don't like to go out on a ledge, do you, Pixie?
Molly: No. I don't want to fall.
Chuckie: Fair enough. Is that it?
Molly: We have to find out if Amelia Pond is pregnant or not pregnant. I think we'll find out in the last episode.
Chuckie: Yeah, you've got it down how it works, don't you?
So, that's our review. I thought that this was more of a return to classic Doctor Who episodes, even if it did steal a bit from "the Thing". Graham did much better this time around than with "Fear Her" and it was nice to see Chris Skelton banging about, even if it wasn't Ray or Gene bossing him around. Since it's a two-parter, I have some reservations since the story could always go to crap, but I am actually rather hopeful this time around. I'm just hoping that this isn't a silly means of wrapping up the "Doctor dies" storyline.
I give it three and a half stars out of five. There was character development that made some semblance of sense as well as an intentional aversion to the trope marriage jealousy storyline which could have easily been a factor in this episode. We'll see how the next episode goes though. I could see it knocking this rating up or down a half-star depending on how it pans out. But mostly I was happy to see a return to a more classic Doctor Who storyline.
Molly gives it eight million ninety-nine moons out of six, sixty-six out of ten stars and eight sixty-six suns out of ten. She also would have thought that this would be a middle-of-the-pack episode for this season so far, but she wants to wait to see the conclusion to see if there is either crap or not crap involved in the story resolution.
*For the record, yes, I am aware that the lightning mark I put on her face is from the album "Aladdin Sane" and that the song, "Rebel, Rebel" was on Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" album. However, I thought that this image was more iconic than putting her face on a lounging dog's body with its penis visible.