Doctor Who 2.6: The Almost People review

Review

The Almost PeopleThe Almost People review

Rory: You’re going to have to start explaining some of this to me, Doctor.

Production Code: 2.6.
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep6).
Story Number: 217b. (Footnote [1]).

Of course if you haven’t seen this don’t – don’t! – read this plot-detail-heavy review…

This was a story that relied on a huge of amount of conjurers’ misdirection, misdirection from previous stories and this one, but the “magic trick” at the end was stunning drama, comparable to any “The Lady in the Box” trick.

AMY’S CHOICE

The Almost People review

Doctor Who the television programme (the one on every week for several weeks each year) doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Orbiting it are several “outside texts”, though not too outside as some of them are part of the narrative like the Space and Time scenes, or not part of the narrative like Doctor Who Confidential. This week it was a curious Doctor Who Confidential as it really filled in some tiny narrative gaps that perhaps needed filled in the actual broadcast story – so be aware that programme is discussed along with the narrative “revelations” within it (which in theory could be deduced from this week’s DW episode so don’t worry above anything major being discussed. Just a bit of clarity).

Space and Time seem even more relevant to the main flow of the programme now what with TARDISes appearing inside TARDISes (The Doctor’s Wife) and two Amys – well at this stage of the (vaguely chronological) review it chimes with the two Doctors but of course later in the review, well.

There’s also been a running of theme, since Amy’s Choice, and highlighted by stories 2 and 3 this season, that of “two Universes”. Combined with the alternating pregnancy-scan that’s one of the conjurers’ misdirection – the solution to “what the heck the Schrödinger’s scan is all about” seemed to hinge on two universes, two equal choices in some way. In the end there was a duality of sorts but not the one everyone had been pondering on. Misdirection.

Amy in Act One of this episode seems to have made a choice over the two Doctors – one is really real, the real deal – the other, not so much. Of course there’s a certain irony with what we know later (if you haven’t seen this story stop reading)!

Hovering arc-elements such as “Will Amy tell the Doc about Eye Patch Lady?” are hovering no longer, and another one (although we don’t realise till later!), “Will Amy tell the – original – Doctor about the moment of his death?

REVOLUTION 9

The Almost People review

As Act Two begins and the Doctors have been separated there’s still the tension of the mystery of whether that missing hour means that Amy and Rory – who woke up far from the cockerel and next to the Flesh! – were actually “switcherooed” during that missing hour.

Nobody (I would suggest) was thinking the switch might have occurred BEFORE that missing hour. Another conjurers’ misdirection. As Rory uses the hand-print tech it seems he’s no duplicate.

“I can’t explain it to you now but I need you to trust him. Can you do that for me Amy?”

A fascinating line as it mirrors the line used by the Doctor (and the “him” this time IS indeed The Doctor) in the other instance in the Moffat era when there were two Doctors in the story – THAT moment in Flesh and Stone, which proved to be quite pivotal.

There’s a heady brew of SF genre elements that has produced these two seasons (or season and half-season) – parallel universes, dreams, overlapping timelines, plastic or otherwise duplicates that more often than not result in this theme of duality: the two Doctors in the forest, the two Doctors in the monastery.

The two Amys (of Space and Time).

There’s another echo of an earlier story as Jennifer2 has another great line:

“You are one of us.” *clicks fingers, points in a smooth motion* “Join the revolution!”

How may revolutions have there been across the stories of Doctor Who? As mentioned in the previous review of the previous episode, the Doctor is sometimes peace-broker, sometimes provocateur of a revolution, so the Doctor siding with Jen2 is an all too plausible dark twist. However the phonecall (which stays just on the right side of mawkish) proves this Doctor is still Doctorish: the audience can grasp that this would be a “bad” revolution.

Although Jennifer2 had some subtle and emotive lines last episode, especially the “I am me!” dialogue with Rory, the tale of the girl with the welly boots, the dialogue is perhaps less subtle this episode.

“Who are the real monsters?” Jennifer2 asks Rory (this being one of the less subtle lines of the story). This scene, with the discarded Flesh, again (like the TARDIS corridor horror scenes of The Doctor’s Wife) is on the edge of “acceptable” tea-time horror but, this time, even more so. The “wall of eyes” has its horror dulled by the eyes looking like the plastic googly eyes of toys (maybe intentionally so)?

I have to say both Sarah Smart (Jennifers) and Raquel Cassidy (Cleaveses) give superb performances in this story, though the Cleaveses have more nuanced dialogue this particular week (the word “badboy” sketches in some of Cleaves’s past in an enigmatic way – but seems to fit her character. Whoever she was admonishing you can imagine her at least admonishing).

YOU SAY GOODBYE I SAY HELLO

pic

So the Doctor’s phonecall has convinced Jimmy2 not to abandon his humanity in joining the monstrous Jennifer2.

It’s another theme of the season it seems, that of the semi-reluctant father coming to terms with the idea that they’re a father.

How would Rory react?

When Jennifer2 is shown onscreen as a Lazarus Experiment-style literal expression that the character has become “a monster”, it seems far from the ambiguous tone of the previous episode and its moving scene of Jennifer2 and the red welly boots. It’s possible – and a little paradoxical – that providing a “scary monster” for this part of the story actually makes it less scary and more appropriate for the “Doctor Who is for everyone” timeslot of Saturday tea-time. A story without these rubber monsters to detach it that little further from reality means the horrific story told is more abstract. It’s less “grimly real” than last week and more fantastical.

It’s sad to see the (other) Doctor go, as the Doctor reveals his own, necessary, conjurers’ misdirection that he used to trick Amy.

The two emissaries of each side (Human Cleaves, Ganger Dicken) is another duality but the story of “what happens next” for the Earth could fill another several dozen stories (and has in programmes such as Battlestar Galactica[2]). We the viewers instead turn once more to the TARDIS team for the – SHOCKING (as we have been told for weeks now) – cliffhanger.

WTF

pics

So, back to Doctor Who Confidential, mentioned at the start of the review as one of these “outside texts”.

I have to say this reviewer was bemused by the apparent contradiction of the previous 90 minutes and what happens in this scene, but Doctor Who Confidential filled in the tiny narrative gaps. A Flesh-Amy yes, but she wasn’t independent like the Gangers we just saw. Not even like the Ganger technology which, after the signal is broken, (the discarded Flesh) means the Flesh is alive with echos of the signal-provider. This Flesh-Amy was never “alive” as such, not even a tiny bit.

It seems this isn’t “early technology” but a straightforward Flesh “avatar” for Amy that’s allowed her to experience this half-season, like a dream almost, when she was elsewhere. It was the actual Amy’s choices – through a signal – which animates this Flesh.

These subtleties are found within the “outside text” of Doctor Who Confidential though, though these ideas are also in this story but obscured and much less clear.

Maybe these subtleties will be explained in the season proper in the next story, and it makes sense that the drama, the “ZOMG” moment of a companion being “zapped” isn’t dulled by lengthy explanations that this isn’t really Amy at all, neither a “Ganger” as such. The tech is more advanced. “Gangers are people too” was the message though of this story so in one way it’s a startling end, without the full explanation of the Flesh “tech”.

Those quibbles aside, it’s an amazing end to this six-episode run – one that manages to confound the audience with this dazzling conjurers’ misdirection – this “Amy” was Flesh all along. Wow.

And the actual Amy is about to give birth.

Rating: 4/5 (for this part of the story, previous ep 4/5)
and for the whole story, 4/5.
———

(The Almost People iPlayer)

———
Footnotes (and links)

1. ^

Moffat as showrunner has made a radical and curious choice with the “TO BE CONTINUED” at the end of this two-parter, as, previous to that moment, that was the signal that a Doctor Who story of the 21st Century would continue next week. It’s a new story next week though – really. Even the “TO BE CONTINUED” is confusing.

2. ^

That’s the superlative 2003-onwards revamp of BSG rather than the earlier programme.

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5 Responses to “Doctor Who 2.6: The Almost People review”

  1. Gizensha Says:

    “Who are the real monsters?” Jennifer2 asks Rory (this being one of the less subtle lines of the story). This scene, with the discarded Flesh, again (like the TARDIS corridor horror scenes of The Doctor’s Wife) is on the edge of “acceptable” tea-time horror but, this time, even more so. The “wall of eyes” has its horror dulled by the eyes looking like the plastic googly eyes of toys (maybe intentionally so)?

    More interestingly, “Who are the real monsters?” came after Jenifer2 creates a Ganger of herself and treats it in much the same way as the humans had been treating the Gangers, but without the excuse of not knowing the Gangers were sapient, and remember.

  2. John Nor Says:

    Yes indeed. I suppose it could be said to illustrate that Jennifer2’s dreams of revolution weren’t really based on any compassion to her fellow Gangers at all, just an escalation of her twisted joy at being a “stronger” Jennifer.

    I think it would have been an even greater story with more of Jennifer2’s motivation considered onscreen. The literal “monster” at the end was sort of a fudge instead of showing a more complex situation.

    (Thanks for the comment!)

  3. Carey Says:

    “It seems this isn’t “early technology” but a straightforward Flesh “avatar” for Amy that’s allowed her to experience this half-season, like a dream almost, when she was elsewhere. It was the actual Amy’s choices – through a signal – which animates this Flesh.

    These subtleties are found within the “outside text” of Doctor Who Confidential though, though these ideas are also in this story but obscured and much less clear.”

    While I agree that things aren’t made as clear as some would like, a rewatching of The Rebel Flesh/The Also People does explain the dichotomy.

    The Doctor goes back in time because he wants to see what the Flesh are, but by putting Cleaves in a position to testify to the disaster at the acid mine, he also affects the development of the Flesh. Throughout the story we are told that the flesh is fauly, and this is, along with the electricity surge, the prime reason the Gangers gained sentience. The Doctor, by getting Cleaves to testify, essentially makes sure that when he disconnects Amy the future Flesh will not be sentient, meaning that for all his regret at what he does, he isn’t killing her the way other Gangers were killed,

    As well as this, Jenny Ganger is an abnormality, and we’re hinted that it’s because the Flesh has been over used. When she has a psychotic breakdown she can remember past experiences as just Flesh that other Gangers cannot. Similarly, she is the only Ganger that has the ability to ‘reproduce,’ as evidenced by the dollops of Flesh that fall from her, the Eyeballs she produces, and the ability to split herself into two separate Jennys. But this is also down to the main theme of the episode: that of choice. All the characters within make choices and that informs us of their ‘humanity.’ They choose to stop, to be human, to be fathers, even to feel regret for the way they’ve previously treated the Gangers. The Doctor makes a choice to be the Doctor. But Jenny’s choice is to be a monster, to deny any humanity within her.

    Liked the review, hope this helps with your dilemma.

  4. janeaire Says:

    If the monster is a fudge, it’s dark fudge. Jennifer has already been juxtaposed with Amy, via the Red Wellies. Amelia wore red wellies the night she waited. If Jen is a monster, and Amy is like Jen, then Amy is a monster, and gets melted away like one. I think it makes the final reveal more horrifying, the way they put it together.

  5. John Nor Says:

    Interesting, a red wellies motif.

    I suppose there is a parallel and each of the two Doctors have to confront something monstrous, including the reality of Amy’s situation.


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