The Rebel Flesh
The Doctor: I’ve got to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose.
Production Code: 2.5.
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep5).
Story Number: 217a. (Footnote ).
The first half of a story which seems to reaffirm the themes of this season and the previous season…
By the way, this review will mention the plot of Amy’s Choice.
It’s from that story that those themes first became prominent. (The review will elaborate as it goes on). Another story that this is reminiscent of is Fury from the Deep – the TARDIS spiraling down to the water’s edge; the testing of the pipes of the refinery with the Sonic.
INSIDE THE SPACESHIP
Before that, there’s an extraordinary scene in the TARDIS (and before that the pre-credits in the monastery which sets up the premise of the story).
The team “chilling” in the TARDIS is extraordinary enough, (a bit of Muse of the stereo, a game of darts), though it’s the Doctor’s devious plan of fish and chips (interrupted by the Solar Tsunami) which is even more interesting. Amy seems to be under surveillance this season – so far we have the Silence’s, the Eye Patch Lady’s, but more obviously benign is that of the Doctor’s, concerned with her pregnancy-scan, again.
Although the monastery is a diversion there’s the mystery of the Doctor seeming to confirm to himself that “I think we’re here. This is it”. (Aren’t they there by accident, asks Amy?)
There’s five guest actors introduced. Raquel Cassidy plays a model of a very traditional “recalcitrant commander” of the Base (Soon-To-Be) Under Siege.
“I’ve got to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose.”
The Doctor doesn’t quite sort the cockerel – and wakes AFTER all hell has broken loose. The missing hour seems significant. The audience is with the Doctor, as it were, as he loses an hour– it would feel wrong if he was revealed as a duplicate-Doctor (and of course by episode’s end it’s emphasised that he’s the real deal. It seems. Really though, what if – like Amy’s Choice – BOTH options were revealed to be not the “real deal”? It was two duplicates, Doctor2 and Doctor3 that are together at the end of this episode? Unlikely, could happen though). I’m going to speculate that one – or both – of the duo of Amy and Rory waking up on the floor are actually duplicates.
After the “cockerel event” – Jennifer (though it’s really Jennifer2 and she doesn’t seem to realise that herself quite yet) says that she thought she was going to die.
“Welcome to my world” says Rory.
So, yes, this “Rory is always dying” IS a thing then, a theme.
Act 2 and Jennifer2 and Cleaves2 realise they’re not quite the originals.
Curiously, the Doctor’s talking about the “early Flesh, the early stages of the technology” when he’s trying to guide Cleaves2 into her new mode of being.
Rory doesn’t have the same expertise to draw on when guiding Jennifer2, but he does know the feeling of being a duplicate with memories added, wondering if you’re real.
“Always with the Rory” says the Doctor, almost as if he’s exasperated at having more than one companion to worry about. Amy he is particularly worrying about, reminding her “to breathe” (presumably because of “her condition”, the quantum pregnancy).
Just as the “Gangers” rebel, so Rory is ultimately rebelling too by the episode’s end – he doesn’t quite get the attention the other two occupants of the TARDIS show each other during the TARDIS-travels, even though there’s no question that he’s happily married to Amy. We can guess at Rory’s other motivations for directing his own adventure, an adventure that means he can connect with someone else with similar experiences – the boy who was plastic can relate to Jennifer2. Though he’s also looking out for Jennifer too.
A brief mention for the story I thought this episode recalled the most – the novel Cloud Atlas. I realise there’s a swirling brew of precursors for this story from Frankenstein, Blade Runner, to the revamp of Battlestar Galactica (the glowing rebirth baths). I mention the book because – like this half-season of Doctor Who – there’s half-a-dozen genres which form one long narrative. One chapter of the book concerns itself with telling a story of one particular “fabricant”, a life-form created by humans as a supply of unquestioning slave labour, but this one fabricant Somni questions her position and rebels. The emphasis on the pathos of Jennifer2’s situation is what links these two stories.
So the third act.
The originals and the Gangers are now in two groups, warily regarding each other (though Jennifer and Cleaves are missing).
Doctor Who has a tradition, which began before, but was cemented by, Doctor Who and the Silurians, and that tradition is that of the Doctor as a broker of peace between two potentially warring tribes.
The Doctor of the second ever story, The Daleks, is a provocateur rousing a populace to throw off their oppressors: which is the opposing tradition – most recently seen with the resolution of Day of the Moon earlier this season.
So, the Doctor is trying: trying to broker a peace.
Cleaves – like the mistrustful human of Cold Blood – puts an obstacle to the roadmap to peace by zapping someone: Buzzer2.
It’s chaos now, with the originals barricading themselves in with the Doctor and Amy, (as Rory runs off), though they’re not alone.
To mention the themes of the season again – I wrote in the review of The Curse of the Black Spot:
It’s an amazing scene which is the core of the story really, which manages to fit in the themes of the story – AND QUITE POSSIBLY THE THEMES OF THE WHOLE SEASON – while foreshadowing the emotional crescendo at the end of the story. Some of the dialogue:
“It’s not one star, it’s two. The Dog Star. Sirius, binary system.”
Two stars. Two universes, in a lot of stories of recent Doctor Who. Now, two Doctors.
So it’s an interesting cliffhanger – double the Doctors, double the peace?
Or will things be just that little more unpredictable than that?
Footnotes (and links)
The story number 217a signifies it’s the first part of this Doctor Who story. It’s down to the “To be continued” and “Previously” to clarify when exactly a “story” continues and ends (without onscreen titles indicating episode-numbers of stories).
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. (Link for book.)