“The Almost People” Review: SPOILERS
by Kyle Anderson on June 6, 2011
Can you believe that happened? The last five minutes; WOW! What a cliffhanger, right? Yeah, well I’m not gonna talk about that yet. “The Almost People,” the penultimate episode of this half of That Show, as Mr. Simon calls it, was also the conclusion to “The Rebel Flesh,” an episode, if you’ll remember, that I found sort of bland and unimpressive. Would the second part redeem the first or would the whole thing float away out of memory like a witch in a bog? I guess you’ll just have to wait. Until…
…now. The last episode set up some interesting quandaries for our lead characters. With “Flesh” copies of all of Acid Island’s workers, the heroes were in the middle of a very strange war. Rory had taken off to protect and defend the Flesh Jennifer, who had a very touching scene where she said that if she looks, sounds, and has the memories of Jennifer, then she is indeed really Jennifer. The Real People and Flesh People struggled to come to grips with identity while the Doctor, who knew a lot more than he was letting on, created a Flesh version of himself (whether it was accidental or not is left ambiguous).
All up to speed now? Let’s move forward. The bulk of “The Almost People” involved both factions trying to escape the acidy island and melt the ones who aren’t them. It’s often been said that the best science fiction tells us something about ourselves in real life and might even send a social message. The effectiveness of this is almost always tied to how well the story is told that surrounds the message. The message here is all but beaten into our skulls with some sort of message-delivering hammer. At one point, referring to the humans leaving half-melted Flesh people to rot, Flesh Jen even says, “Who are the real monsters?” Ow! My head has had something knocked over it. It’s a story about prejudices and how people will always fear and hate “The Other,” even if that other is literally exactly the same as them. This idea is a sci-fi staple that has been used in such properties as Blade Runner and Battlestar Galactica. I honestly don’t know how well this idea is actualized here, considering having synthetic people running around is immensely different than having exact copies of people with the same memories and emotions running around.
Something strange about “The Almost People” is that it doesn’t continue to explore the same themes and issues as “The Rebel Flesh,” but instead it creates a new batch of them and characters who behaved one way in part one are almost completely unrecognizable in part two, notably Real Cleaves and Flesh Jen. In part one, Real Cleaves starts the war by refusing to listen to the Flesh People and fries Flesh Buzzer. So, we assume, she’s the hot-head who can’t be reasoned with. But in part two, she’s one of the most level-headed. Flesh Jen, as I said earlier, had a very heartfelt speech to Rory in part one about how she knows she’s Jennifer even if she’s not the original one. It’s a really nice sentiment, and one that makes Rory immediately feel for her, as he knows what it means to be artificial, even if it’s just in his memory. Yet, here in part two, Jen is militant and violent and even turns into a weird CGI monster thing that Doug Jones would play were it a del Toro movie. She mentions to the other Flesh beings that she can feel the death of all the wasted Flesh Folk from the past, which gives her a bit more motivation, but where did that come from?
Matthew Graham’s nickname should be “Deus ex Machina.” The success or failure of any of the characters in the story comes from coincidence and not from any of their own actions. It starts right in the post-credit sequence where they just happen to find a duct system in the supposedly impenetrable chapel. Why go to the trouble of saying there is “only one way in or out” just to change that almost immediately? They could have said, “The most secure place is the chapel, it would be the easiest to fortify,” or whatever. Then there’s the idea of the TARDIS, stuck in the ground thanks to a pool of acid, which just so happens to fall directly into a TARDIS-shaped area in the most remote room in the compound. And the door to this room needs to be held by two people, even though they seem to have ample time to get to the TARDIS before Monster Jen got to them. Also convenient: No set of “twins” survived. Both Buzzers and Jens bit the dust, Flesh Jimmy and Flesh Dicken survive, as does Real Cleaves, whom we’re supposed to side with at the end… It’s all her damn fault the whole thing happened in the first place! Also, she didn’t have a blood clot in her brain in episode one, did she? I swear they never mentioned it at all, but here she has one just so the Flesh Cleaves can also have one. AND, it doesn’t matter anyway because the Doctor had a vial of special clot-unclotting elixir. So, a terminal illness we didn’t even know she had is cured thanks to something the Doctor just happened to have lying around. Thanks, Graham.
One final thing, Flesh Jimmy and Flesh Dicken (and who the fuck is Dicken? Is he even a character?) stand on a special place in the TARDIS and they’re suddenly stable and can go on living like real people. Has the TARDIS always had the ability to make artificial things real? I feel like it would have come up in conversation once or twice before then.
“Boy, Kyle,” most of you are saying, “you sure have a lot of complaints about the writing of this episode. Does that mean you didn’t like it?” I’ve now watched “The Almost People” two times and most of my complaints arose during the second viewing, but I still have to say that, no, I actually DO enjoy this two-parter. To explain, let me say two words: Matt Smith. He is just so naturalistic and believable in his role that even in the most ridiculous of situations, he adds the proper amount of credence to the happenings. In this episode, Matt plays double duty as both the Doctor and Ganger Doctor. Every scene with them together is magical, and I have to assume Steven Moffat himself took over the writing of these scenes and the stuff with Amy’s dislike of who she believes is the Ganger. A second viewing of this episode really adds and changes everything. Once you know the twist, that the Real and Ganger Doctors swapped shoes to see how they’re treated, you can see just how heartbreaking it is for Amy to mistrust the Real Doctor just because she assumes him to be a “fake.” In this episode, we really get the feeling the Doctor knows everything and is manipulating the action, something that deepens his character and makes him far more complex. Amy also confesses to the Real Doctor, believing him to be the Ganger, what she knows about his eventual death, something he is not prepared to deal with. Really, when Matt Smith was on-screen, I loved the episode, and when he wasn’t, I was bored. Favorite thing: when he called Rory, “Roranicus Pondicus.”
Also, random thought: How many sonic screwdrivers are there? At one point, the Real/Fake Doctor tosses the sonic screwdriver to the Fake/Real Doctor, but later on they each have one. Soooo… what’s that all about?
I suppose I ought to talk about the cliffhanger. Throughout, the Doctor has been saying weird things to Amy randomly like “breathe,” and “push when she tells you,” things that don’t make a lick of sense until we understand what’s going on. The Doctor wanted to go to the castle to inspect the Flesh because he had figured out that the Amy that had been with him for months now was, indeed, a Flesh Amy, and her real body was elsewhere while her consciousness was driving the clone. I thought, and still do think, this is a genius move. It totally explains why the Doctor was getting alternating scans of her pregnancy; Amy is really pregnant, but the form she’s in currently is not. I was wondering how they were going to explain the Eye-Patch Lady and how she can be all over the place, watching Amy. That’s because she isn’t. It’s Amy who is occasionally seeing her while she’s locked in some weird birthing tube. The Doctor presumably now knows where she’s being held, more or less, and destroys the Flesh Amy to wake Real Amy up.
Several questions we need to ask about this:
1) EXACTLY how long has the Amy we’ve been seeing been Flesh? The first time we see the Eye Patch Lady is in “Day of the Moon,” in the creepy orphanage. I believe sometime during the 3-month gap after Amy shoots the little girl in the astronaut suit and when Canton is pretending to hunt them down, she was plucked out and replaced with the duplicate. If you remember, Amy tells the Doctor she’s pregnant, and then when she’s on the TARDIS in “DotM,” she says, “Just kidding, I’m not.” It had to be sometime in that gap that we don’t see, which explains why we didn’t see it. (Moffat, you jerky genius)
2) WHO took her and why? Clearly, based on the next time trailer, the Eye-Patch Lady is not a nice person and works for some nefarious, clandestine organization lead by a shouting military guy. While I don’t actually know who these people are, the symbol on their flag and insignia is a symbol we’ve seen before. In last series’ “Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,” the blanket and stuff River wraps bears the same symbol. It sure looks an awful lot like a certain Greek letter, doesn’t it?
3) Where is she? I don’t know.
Okay, I have nothing more to say before what is now the most excited I’ve ever been for a new Who episode all year. I give you the trailer for episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”:
And the prequel and some clips:
CRAP ON A CRAPSTACK I could not be more excited. All right folks, in one short week, we will know who River Song is, we’ll know what Amy’s baby is, and we’ll know why a good man goes to war.
-Kanderson does not have a ganger that he knows of, so follow him on TWITTER!!