Doppelganger Shenanigans, Doctor Who - "The Almost People"
“I expect chocolate for breakfast. If you don’t feel sick by mid-morning, you’re not doing it right.”
Please note: this recap and commentary is a week behind the U.K., as the networks in U.S. and Canada opted not to air the new episode last weekend. Please confine discussion to the contents of this episode and not what lies beyond and has already aired east of the Atlantic. I realize this is a drag, but I promise vigorous discussion about “A Good Man Goes To War” next week if you are willing to join. If it were up to me, I would sentence BBC America programmers to the same fate as the Family Of Blood for this ridiculous scheduling choice. O.K… perhaps that would be a little extreme, but the sentiment accurately conveys my level of unhappiness.
We pick up where we left off with Doctor-Ganger struggling to reconcile Time Lord biology and its regenerations with the limitations of the flesh. The highlight of his spasms and gibbering is a quick reversion to the voice of Tom Baker’s Doctor making an offer of Jelly Babies. (Mmmmmm…Jelly Babies…) He also demands a reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow, a phrase uttered by Doctors past. Doctor-Ganger seems to sort his adjustment out quickly enough, and the two Doctors (not to be confused with “The Two Doctors” Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton) immediately establish a witty, self-congratulatory rapport with each other.
“You know, I’m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang out with me.”
The gangers outside break into the chapel using the factory’s acid, but the two Doctors and company escape through a maintenance shaft and take refuge in another fortifiable location, the control room, where they plan to make radio contact with the mainland.
The gangers discuss what to do. Miranda-Ganger just wants to live peacefully, but Jennifer-Ganger, unlike the rest, is haunted by some sort of collective memory of all the destroyed flesh of the past and pushes for a worldwide flesh revolution.
Miranda contacts the mainland and asks for rescue and extermination of the gangers that have run amok. She establishes a typed code word of her choosing to authenticate all future transmissions. (At this point it occurs to me that she probably should use the code word of someone else in the party as misdirection.) Miranda-Ganger anticipates her counterpart’s action and intercepts the transmission but cannot see the code word.
Amy is reluctant to trust Doctor-Ganger, despite the assurances of the original Doctor. The two are distinguishable only by their shoes, which The Doctor changed earlier due to acid damage. She confides in the original Doctor about another sighting of metallic eye patch lady, and The Doctor dismisses it as a “time memory” or a mirage and nothing to worry over. She follows the visibly upset Doctor-Ganger outside and apologizes for disrespecting him. Then Amy Pond asks Doctor-Ganger if he can die just as The Doctor can, because she has seen him die. Doctor-Ganger turns on her in a rage, pushing her against the wall. He seems to have ignored Amy’s admission and instead focuses on his new overwhelming insight into the sentience of the living flesh, which only wants to know why it is made and always destroyed.
Amy returns to the control room and asks her companions to keep Doctor-Ganger away from her. Miranda and Buzzer demand that Doctor-Ganger sit in the corner, despite The Doctor’s protests that his duplicate is no danger to them.
Back in the halls, Rory comes upon two Jennifers. They both request his trust. A struggle ensues, and Jennifer-Ganger falls into acid and is dissolved. Rory accompanies the real Jennifer, who is upset by this accident and takes Rory with her to attempt to clean the factory’s air. At this point we know something is amiss, as she uses Rory’s human hand scan to activate the machine that Jennifer-Ganger earlier was unable to operate. The procedure Rory unwittingly set into motion will cause an acid buildup that will kill all within the facility.
The Doctor insists on sending Doctor-Ganger out to find Rory and Jennifer, whom they see on a security camera, giving us a rare moment of tense opposition between Amy and The Doctor. Buzzer tags along with Doctor-Ganger, apparently to keep an eye on him.
Elsewhere Miranda-Ganger and her ganger crew use their radio to redirect the rescue shuttle to the courtyard to save them and leave the originals behind. She uses the code word that she guessed her duplicate would use. (I knew this would come back to haunt her.)
The Jennifer-Ganger that still has Rory believing that she is the original Jennifer shows him a mound of discarded flesh. A face in the flesh mound responds to his presence. Rory is appalled that the company could let this happen.
Outside, Doctor-Ganger and Buzzer find the real Jennifer’s dead body. Buzzer knocks Doctor-Ganger unconscious per Miranda’s orders and finds Jennifer-Ganger communing with the flesh pile after Rory left to find the others. Buzzer accuses her of murder, and Jennifer-Ganger responds with a monstrous flesh facial distortion before attacking Buzzer.
The other gangers find Doctor-Ganger and insist that he join their cause. Doctor-Ganger tags along to the big ganger rendezvous, where Rory discovers that he just helped this Jennifer-Ganger bent on human destruction lock The Doctor, Amy, Miranda, Jimmy, and Dicken in a room where the acid will imminently kill them. Rory has no idea about the factory overload and only wants to make certain that the ill treatment of the flesh is revealed to the world.
Once Rory discovers what is happening, he tries to return to help them, but Doctor-Ganger stops him, knowing that the phone is about to ring. Jimmy’s kid is on the hologram phone, and Jimmy-Ganger is visibly moved to see his son, who is calling for a birthday greeting from his father. Overcome by the realization that his child’s father is about to die, Jimmy-Ganger runs back to help the original Jimmy.
“You tricked him into an act of weakness, Doctor,” Jennifer-Ganger spitefully says.
“No, I’ve helped him into an act of humanity.”
Miranda-Ganger orders Dicken-Ganger to drain the acid. Jennifer-Ganger tells her that it is too late to stop the meltdown and dashes off, still intent on killing everyone within.
Jimmy-Ganger lets The Doctor and company free, but he is too late to save Jimmy, who was mortally burned by acid a moment earlier. With his dying breath, he asks Jimmy-Ganger to take his place as husband and father.
Jennifer-Ganger has mutated into a giant flesh-creature that looks like it belongs in the Resident Evil video game series. Those that are left alive retreat down an underground hallway to the spot where the TARDIS is due to collapse downward through the acid-corroded ground above. The original Dicken is killed by Jennifer-Ganger while attempting to hold one door, and the second door is held by Miranda-Ganger and The Doctor. Amy demands that The Doctor board the TARDIS, and at this point The Doctor reveals that he and Doctor-Ganger switched shoes to learn more about the nature of the flesh. (Thus, you can reverse all the Doctor references above to refer to the other one.)
Amy is amazed, telling Doctor-Ganger that he is twice the man she thought he was. Doctor-Ganger cryptically tells Amy to “push,” but only when “she” tells her to do so. The Doctor makes a farewell quip to his other self about inviting himself to his own death, thus confirming that Amy did tell the original Doctor the secret that she and Rory had resolved to keep from him.
Miranda-Ganger and Doctor-Ganger hold the door to give the TARDIS time to dematerialize, and then they open it, using the sonic screwdriver that The Doctor left behind to dissolve the Jennifer-Ganger creature and themselves. Logistically, it looked to me like they could have escaped fairly easily on the TARDIS themselves and found another way to dispose of Jennifer-Ganger. The plot seemed to dictate otherwise.
Back on the TARDIS, Jimmy-Ganger and Dicken-Ganger are made “real” by the TARDIS’ energy, and The Doctor gives Miranda a futuristic remedy for the blood clot in her head. Jimmy is dropped off to be with his family, and Dicken and Miranda return to the corporation to spearhead reform for the flesh’s treatment.
All seems well, until Amy mysteriously goes into labor pains. The Doctor reveals that their destination was intended to give him insight into the nature of the flesh, based on its early form. He warns Rory to step away from Amy. The Doctor dissolves her into a flesh puddle using the sonic screwdriver, revealing that the Amy Pond accompanying them the majority of this season was an impostor.
The real Amy, whose consciousness was transmitted into this flesh form, loses the link by the dissolution of this avatar. She lies in a white tube, fully pregnant and about to give birth at the urging of the sinister metallic eye patch lady.
I do not know about you, but this did not go exactly as I expected. Gone is the chance to use The Doctor’s flesh double to thwart his own death, although conceivably another flesh double could be constructed. Amy Pond’s pregnancy was not a paradoxical condition upon which two universes hinged; it was very real.
Dissolving Amy’s double seemed odd after all the concern over the raw flesh’s feelings, but I conclude that was a more advanced version of the flesh material that was nothing more than a pawn whose movement depended upon the real Amy. Still, it was composed of living cells, was it not?
The episode itself was passable, if slightly anticlimactic in its execution. I dug the dynamic between the two Doctors and Matt Smith’s performance. His switch was a nifty trick and a good device for giving The Doctor knowledge of his grim future.
I have read increasing discontent with regard to Amy Pond this season, and in at least one way her character does seem to be regressing. Her first journey on the TARDIS in “The Beast Below” gave us a character that could disobey The Doctor and still teach him a thing or two. At least as far as this episode is concerned, her instincts were entirely wrong, and her willingness to trust The Doctor was shaky. I am willing to cut her slack for not being entirely herself; you try going through the physiological rigors of pregnancy while your consciousness is constantly transmitted into another physical form. I imagine it could be quite upsetting, even at a subconscious level.
Rory had his moment of rebellion as well, defying both Amy and The Doctor in an ill-advised attempt to protect the flesh. I myself did not totally buy his locking the door on them as he did, but it was a short-lived misjudgment on his part.
Next week, we have “A Good Man Goes To War,” the capper for the spring half of the 2011 season. The Doctor and Rory must rescue Amy and her soon-to-be-born baby from metallic eye patch lady, and River Song returns in another Moffat-penned episode! (Did you know that I constantly find myself double-checking that I spell “Moffat” correctly?)
C. Robert Dimitri harassed BBC America via Twitter, Facebook, and email, in an attempt to keep their broadcast schedule timely. He made joking Doctor Who references to them in his requests. He asked politely, he pleaded, and he threatened to abandon them as a viewer. He can only conclude that BBC America is run by the Daleks.
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