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“The Almost People” Review: SPOILERS

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!!

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39 comments

  • So, since I torrent the episodes rather than watching them on TV, I’m up to speed with what has aired in the UK. All I’ll say is, not only is there an amazing cliffhanger at the end of the next episode that rivals this one, but the end reveals information that will either confirm or deny many theories that have been put forth up to this point.

  • The sonic screw driver confusion got me as well. I now postulate that the Doctor keeps two or three of them with him wherever he goes like Teddy Roosevelt stocked up on pairs of glasses. You know, just in case he gets cloned. Or drops one.

  • The “would you like a jelly baby” gave me chills the 4th Doctor will always be “my” Doctor and I love when the show references him. I believe the ganger Doctor was no accident and the real Doctor brought two sonics with him, prepared to give to his fleshy counterpart.

    Also did you catch the 10th Doctor soundbite followed by “No! Let it go, we’ve moved on!” I chuckled :D

  • I was also confused about the sonic screwdriver thing. But then I thought that maybe since the Flesh Doctor also “cloned” the real Doctor’s clothes, maybe that was cloned as well?

    But didn’t you find it odd that the Doctor had no problem destroying the Amy Flesh thing after fighting so hard to insist that the Flesh creatures should be protected? And if the Tardis makes artificial things real, then why wasn’t Flesh Amy made real? Those few things really really bugged me.

    Chad H – Yes! The jelly baby reference was probably my favorite part of that episode.

  • I’ve also watched “next week’s” episode, but I won’t spoil anything…

    The only explanation I can think of (and which will now make me re-watch this episode) for the potential multiple Sonics is this: it’s a copy. The TARDIS grows the sonic as an extension of itself (so both could be considered living to some extent), and when the Flesh scanned the Doctor, it also made a scan of the sonic, allowing both Doctors to have one.* The scene where a sonic is thrown between Doctors may just be there to perpetuate the idea that the real Doctor is actually the Ganger Doctor, since it’s before the reveal.

    That, or some faulty writing…

    * – If this is true, then another TARDIS could potentially also be made/grown from the Flesh, which is also interesting…

  • @Robin Burks I believe the Doctor had to actually make the Tardis stabilize them, also these flesh avatars had been brought to life by the solar storm the link was disconnected but they were still alive. When the Doctor disables Amy’s link she returns to the flesh liquid. Think of it like an Ice Cube when an ice cube melts you can scoop the water back into a tray and refreeze it, same with the flesh. You notice Jen in the episode purposely leads Rory into the flesh pile room to get him on her side and it was most likely created by Jen herself.

  • I didn’t really enjoy either episode much until the last few minutes of the second one. I thought it set the series up well for an episode which could become a Dr Who classic. Living in Scotland I have seen “A Good Man Goes To War” and it lived up to my expectations.
    I am still rather unsure of Matt Smith’s Doctor. He seems a bit too posh for one thing but I can’t quite say what it is I dislike. That said and, although this hasn’t been a great season as far as I am concerned, both Saturday’s episode and “The Doctors Wife” are now among my very favourite episodes since my very first- “The Sea Devils” in 1972, aged 5. I am so glad the Doctor is now doing well in the USA- you are in for a real treat!

  • First off, thank you for reviewing the show that aired here in the states this week, and not assuming your readers pirated next week’s out of some misguided sense of entitlement (like some US reviewers have).

    While the message was kind of overwrought, I actually thought the “Who are the real monsters?” line worked, because Flesh Jen was working to manipulate Rory to helping her, and wanted to make sure he got the point. She probably assumes Rory, not realizing he’s a character in a science fiction series, is more worried about whether people live or die and might miss it if she’s too subtle.

    I was so happy with the end of this season’s Harry Potter Syndrome (people having important information but deciding not to share it for flimsy reasons). Amy inadvertently telling the Doctor about his death means we can forgo her and Rory pining about whether they should tell him (something that seemed required in every episode so far), and I was incredibly relieved there actually was a good reason for the Doctor keeping quiet about the pregnancy.

  • Wow, CW, pass judgment much? Not all of us that have seen AGMGTW pirated it. I understand why those that did made that choice: BBCA made a dumb decision assuming that no Americans would be more interested in seeing a new episode than going out to play on holiday.
    Anyway, I thought there were a lot of good ideas in this story but they could have edited it down to just one episode. The one thing I think this season has suffered from (and I noticed in the next story as well) has been rushing new characters in and out with out much development. Without having any investment in these people, it’s difficult to get sucked in to the story and care about what happens to them when you barely have time to figure out what’s going on.
    That said, I am excited that they are bringing in so many damn possibilities for the story, and I was glad to see them handle the pregnancy issue well without having to make it a huge, drawn out thing. And I am almost positive Ganger Doctor will be back.

  • Not to nitpick here, but I would like to point out that the tardis doesn’t actually make the gangers real, nor does the episode say it does. Al the doctor says is that the TARDIS stabilised the ganger’s form, so he doesn’t turn back into the creepy-flesh look… He’s still flesh, but he won’t shift the way he looks anymore. Which makes sense, and actually explains why Amy hasn’t been shifting around forms in the episodes.

    At least, that’s how I understand it.

    Other then that, I really enjoyed this review, and I must say I envy you for being able to see “A Good Man Goes To War” for the first time soon. I already did, and would kill to be able to again. It’s great.

  • I had to work this Saturday evening, and since I will be at the Granada theater on the 11th to watch some comic or other, I decided to watch this and the next episode online. I did not pirate it. I used a legal program to go to the BBC website using a UK IP address and watched them both there.

    Incidentally, while I love Matt Smith’s Doctor, I am fast becoming a humongous Rory fan.

  • The Amy flesh avatar is also from a time far in its future. As the Doctor said he came to that time to find out about the technology early in its existence. So it looks like later on they can stablize themselves from switching back and forth from flesh form to human.

    As for the sonic the flesh could create clothes so I think that it created a sonic for him as well. As for when the Doctor and the Ganger are tossing the sonic around its part of their plan to work together on finding out about the flesh and the rest of the mysterious going on.

    I think the Ganger Doctor will be back as well. Maybe not this season but next.

    I’ve gone back and watched all the others as well. Amy must have gotten snatched during before the second episode but when do you think the Doctor clued in on the fact?

  • @Ray

    I’m very jealous. I had every intention of going (And buying many tickets so my friends could attend as well) but I have to work! No way out of it. Hopefully he will be back to Dallas

    (I too saw A Good Man Goes to War. I’m still picking up the pieces of my blown mind)

  • author

    I want to thank everybody so far for not giving spoilers to the next episode if they’ve seen it. I like that the comment threads on my stuff is a place for debate and a sharing of ideas and not ruining stuff for people who are waiting. Keep it up Whovian Nerdlings!

  • @Kyle

    I’d hate for anybody to spoil anything for me (Which is why I fast forward through the DW Insider commercial breaks. Every once in a while SPOILER)

    I have a question that’s bugged me since the beginning of S6:

    The extended title sequence with Amy talking before the theme, whats up with it? Is it just a BBC America thing and if so, whats the point? It seems to be inconstant

  • author

    @Art
    Yeah, that’s only on BBC America (and possibly Space in Canada, I’m not sure) but it is pretty annoying. I think BBC America is just very worried that new viewers aren’t going to know what’s happening, though I’m pretty sure that’s the fun of it. You never saw an “I’m Jack Sheppard, and a bunch of people and I got stranded on an island when our plane crashed…” for LOST. And that show was a billion times more complicated than Doctor Who.

  • @Kyle I’ve been biting my tongue the entire time. I have answers!!!! Spoooooillllerrrrssssssss fhsaofhsdaf[sahuihfpuihdsa[fhdisa[

    That was a close one, good thing I didn’t tell everyone that zombie Pertwee is the Big Bad this season…… doh!

    :D

  • I try to stay spoiler free because it makes me so angry when someone spoils Who for me (thank you, Twitter, on multiple instances of spoilerage).

    However, I haven’t seen the latest episode yet and I’m waiting until it airs next Saturday.

    But that @Chad H guy is evil. I knew it was Pertwee! I knew it!!!!

  • @Kyle
    Thanks for thanking all of those who have seen Ep7 and may I second it. I’m sorry for all those who will have to try to avoid a week on the internet before the brilliance of Ep7. It is pure Moffat genius from the opening Amy speech down to the Title of Ep8 at the end.

    But a curse and a pox on anyone who even whispers a spoiler but I can honestly say that twice now I’ve been in groups of people where there is one friend who hadn’t seen it and it’s just been ‘we’ll talk when you’ve seen it.’ – Nerd Fandom etiquette.

    So for those who are doing it now or done it before and keeping schtum:- Pat’s on the Back Folks.

    Best
    J

    I was watching this film right, and at the end the hero is riding along a beach and then they find the head of the Statue of Liberty. They were on Earth all along!

  • Man, I am still so annoyed that next week’s (BBCA) episode’s important “spoiler” has been spoiled thanks to Twitter. By @DoctorWho_BBC at that!

    Anyway, I’m still anxiously anticipating it.

  • My theory as to why Amy is the only one struggling to tell the doctor about his death is because the silence told her to in the first episode. They have that subliminal suggestion. Thy told her she must tell him what he must not know.

  • Congratz on another fine review, Kyle!

    I do agree with most of the points you made especially regarding the character inconsistencies, people – even almost people – tend to hold fast to their moral stands and prejudges, so the flip-flopping was disturbing. I also agree that Matt’s performance held the episode together – I especially loved the turmoil Ganger Doctor was in when dealing with his previous regenerations, “I reversed the jelly-baby flow…” – He He! I can’t help but wonder if they thought of a visual version of that scene? Would it have been too cheesy to have seen the Ganger Doctor morphing from regeneration to regeneration visually rather than just vocally?

    Also I did see “A Good Man Goes to War” on Saturday, it was my birthday so I deserved a treat, anyway I prefer the BBC airing over BBCA because BBCA is a bit condescending toward their American audiences and I don’t like the way they chop up the episodes. I don’t pirate the show, I download it to watch it untouched and erase it after watching it over and over. I then pay for the full DVD product when they are released so the beeb and DW has not lost a penny.

  • I think it is a bit silly for anyone concerned about spoilers to be upset that they had something spoiled by Twitter. If I didn’t want something spoiled, I would probably avoid that one website where people from all over the world instantaneously give updates about things happening in their lives.

  • Once you (collective you) watch through this episode you HAVE to rewatch both again. The acting is simply amazing; Matt Smith simply stunning in this episode. And so many bits of dialogue change meaning when you know where the episode is headed, and which Doctor is which. Really amazing story-telling, this.

  • @Robin Burks RE: your comment about how it was strange he could kill Flesh Amy so easily… Flesh Amy was different from the Gangers they were fighting. The Gangers they were fighting had been “animated” by the electrical surge (very Frankensteinesquely) and were no longer leeching off of their real human counter parts from the control bed machines we saw them wake up from in Part 1. The Flesh Amy was still attached to Amy via the machine, using her memories and “energy” to exist (they specifically stated that if you get out of the bed and lose your connection to the flesh it reverts to raw material again). Flesh Amy wasn’t sentient or self-sustaining like the Gangers that the Doctor was trying to keep the humans from destroying. (They are very similar to the clone of Martha Jones in “The Sontaran Stratagem\The Poison Sky” if I recall.) I think that is part of the answer that The Doctor was looking for when he went there in the first place to investigate programmable matter – i.e. was he going to destroy a fully sentient being if he released Amy from her doppelganger or was it just made of raw matter? I believe that he concluded that the Flesh has properties of life on its own because he could feel it scanning him when he scanned it, but that it was more of a potential life rather than a fully self-sustaining life (kind of like the thought “is an artificial intelligence alive?”). We saw it’s potential realized when the power surge animated some of the Flesh, but it is still debatable whether that constitutes a full life form (since it required freak conditions to become self-sustaining – i.e. not “breedable” in the sense of a self-reproductive species). At the end, The Doctor dropped them off and they decided to fight against Morpeth Jetsan (sp?) and declare that using Flesh to make Gangers was causing at least on some level a pain or damage to the Flesh and\or the Gangers, thus it was unethical to continue using it.

    @Kyle Anderson and others… RE: the sonic… I might have to watch a few more times, but I think there was only one sonic until the end when The Doctor gets a new one from the TARDIS and melts Amy (recall from previous episodes that she can, apparently, just pop out a new one from her flight console at will). We didn’t specifically see the transfer where the sonic passed from Real Doctor to Flesh Doctor, but at some point in the beginning of Part 2 it went from the Real to Flesh while they were messing around. In that same time-frame they switched shoes. The sonic was then visibly passed from Flesh Doctor (who we thought was the real Doctor) to the Real Doctor (who we thought was the Flesh Doctor) before he went off with Real Buzzer to find Rory. Real Doctor (who we still thought was Flesh Doctor at the time) had the sonic until the end when he passed it back to Flesh Doctor so that Flesh Doctor could sacrifice himself and melt the monster.

    Also, about the thought that the Doctor “made them real” with TARDIS radiation… They were exact duplicates down to every tiny molecule. They were unstable because they weren’t maintaining links to their hosts (which is why the hosts have to be plugged into the machines in the first place), but they were still exact clones. Gangers aren’t just goo which is shaped like people. They are fully programmable matter that has been programmed to replicate every detail of the matter they clone. If you can find a way to stabilize them then they cease to be programmable matter and become fully integrated program routines. Between the power surge and the TARDIS energy they were able to separate from their hosts and stabilize fully. Note that the sonic couldn’t tell the difference between a Ganger and a human based on biology – The Doctor said the sonic could only tell the difference because Gangers give off a slightly different energy – this implies the sonic detected them as human in almost every way. Note also that the Jennifer Ganger was different. Whether it was a defect during their sentient animation or it stemmed from the fact that her Flesh had just been formed shortly before the power surge, she had a different physical and telepathic connection with the Flesh. She could remember all her past Ganger selves that had been decommissioned or destroyed which the other Gangers couldn’t (which we are to imply is what drove her mad and separated her from the sweet Real Jennifer). She could communicate with Flesh (we saw her talking to the pile of half-alive Ganger bodies and possibly even putting them to sleep or “turning off the light” on their pseudo-consciousness). Most importantly, she learned the secret to “growing” or multiplying so she had the ability to reprogram her own matter which allowed her to change shape and make herself stronger (the other sentient Gangers didn’t show any signs of inhuman strength and they didn’t dramatically change shape except a little when they felt unstable and their flesh lost it’s shape around the edges).

    @Everyone Does anyone else think it is weird that if The Doctor says the Flesh is alive and the two Doctors switched shoes then Real Doctor was wearing the unstable, living, flesh shoes that came from Flesh Doctor. Wouldn’t that feel weird? Could he communicate with or sense his shoes on the same telepathic level that he could with the other flesh at times?

  • Kyle, I look forward to your reviews almost as much as the episodes themselves. <3!

    Agree re: Matt Smith. He's just doing such a fantastic job. I think my favourite bit was "it's just so inspiring hearing myself say it"…*laughs* "i know!"

    Hilarious.

  • Why would Amy have to have been replaced between episodes 1 and 2? I skim-rewatched episode 2 a bit ago, and it seemed to me that the part when Amy’s trapped in the room with the “sleeping” Silence would have been a perfect time for her to be taken and Ganger Amy constructed. I remember thinking at that point back in April that it was a pretty pointless moment of suspense followed by a heck of a lot of weirdness.

    It’s immediately after that moment that Amy sees Eyepatch Lady for the first time. And since the Silence excel at post-hypnotic suggestion it should be simple for them to implant in Ganger Amy that she was not pregnant. Also, since I like to read too far into my TV shows, I think Amy’s little stutter “Because I was — I mean I thought I was” would rather neatly express the truth being subsumed by the Silence’s suggestion.

  • On a semi-related note. I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but the break on Memorial Day caused my DVR not to record either episode. I had to do it manually. Did this happed to anyone else?