Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People REVIEWED

It seems this blog has rather degenerated into merely reviewing this series of Doctor Who. Which is no bad thing, but certainly not what I intended it for. But I have so little time. So I keep telling myself.

Anyway, let's review Doctor Who. SHOOT.

The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, set in a characterful island monastery, is a story telling of a group of researchers who make doppelgangers of themselves in order to carry out their "dirty work". A lightning storm gives these so-called Gangers the freedom to act independently of their human counterparts, and the stage is set for a classically Gothic Frankensteinian adventure. This is exactly the kind of story that Who should be telling; a philosophical morality tale as much as an action-adventure, an exciting concept to go along with the explosive storytelling.

The setting was once more fantastic - while the production team have still not got away from the Earth-centricity of the Russell T Davies era, at least we've moved away from grimy North London housing estates, hopefully for good. A Gothic medieval monastery on a desolate rocky island. The production made full use of the gorgeous Welsh architecture available to create a grandiose but decayed complex suitable for such a story. The strong cast held together the complex narrative well, although I felt there was one too many workers, which made certain scenes a bit full. A problem that occasionally seems to plague Who is stilted dialogue - a sense of unnaturality and over-exposition within character conversations was visible within this story as well. On the other hand, the totally absurd opening sequence of The Rebel Flesh, which sees two of the characters laugh off the accidental killing of the third (a Ganger, of course, we later discover), set the scene beautifully and neatly introduced us to this episode's main theme, the sanctity of life.

How we define someone/something as human, another integral concept, was intelligently explored through the character of Jenny, whose sequences with Rory offered both a gorgeous appraisal of the value of human memories and a way of exploring Amy Pond a little more. The portrayal of Amy as selfish and as taking Rory for granted throughout the series has partly alienated many viewers, me included, so I was very pleased that we were shown through her loneliness and partial helplessness without Rory that their relationship is two-way. This is another interesting angle that I hope will be explored further as the series progresses.

The conclusion of The Rebel Flesh was predictable, but that of The Almost People was certainly not. It sets up the mid-season finale something awesome, and that is some Northern slang I never expected to use in a review. Finally, the best thing about this two-parter was the way it was put together rather like a complex jigsaw. Everything that happened made perfect sense, and nothing felt forced or thrown in. I'd more or less worked out the twists (aside from the very last one!), but they didn't feel in any way obvious. It's a testament to the quality of the writing that the story invited such intelligent viewing. All that remains for me to say is OMG MOFFAT... Roll on next week.

Verdict: 7/10+9/10. Overall: 8/10

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