Boob Tube Breakdown – Doctor Who: There can be only one

Doctor Who: Series 6

“The Almost People”

Aired: June 4, 2011

Writer: Matthew Graham

Director: Julian Simpson

“You haven’t been here for a long, long time.”

– The Doctor

Well, that was quite an impressive bit of misdirection.

Up until the end of this week’s episode, I was feeling pretty smug. Last episode, I already said that I thought the ‘ganger Doctor was a red herring and wouldn’t end up being The Doctor killed on the beach in the first episode of this season. And from the very beginning of this episode, I was already convinced the two Doctors had switched shoes (especially once Amy started being such a dick to the one she thought was the ‘ganger).

What’s great about Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who though is that you never are quite sure where it’s all headed. I may have been able to figure out those minor plot points before they happened, but it was all a smoke screen designed to distract us from the even bigger surprise – the fact that Amy has been a ‘ganger this whole time. That was a lovely swerve that I don’t think anyone saw coming.

It was also a great development in that it solved two questions that have been lingering all season long, but in the process created a whole slew of new questions. We found out how Amy could be simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant at the same time and we found out why she kept seeing the creepy woman with the eye patch. But we don’t know how she got pregnant, where (or in what time period) she is being held and who actually has her. We don’t know who the eye patch woman is or who she works for. And we don’t know why they are so interested in Amy’s baby.

While that was a wonderful payoff that gives us a lot to chew on for the next week, the rest of the episode was a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked watching the two Doctors interact with each other. I thought Matt Smith knocked the dual performance stuff out of the park. And, when she wasn’t sneering at the ‘ganger Doctor, Amy’s reactions to the two of them going back and forth were really enjoyable too.

I also thought this episode did a really solid job redeeming Foreman Cleaves. I said last week that I thought her sudden cattle prodding of a ‘ganger seemed forced and made her really unlikable, but I thought, out of the minor characters, she was the star this week. Cleaves was likable and it was clear this week why she was the leader of this team. I also really enjoyable watching the ‘ganger Cleaves first be impressed with how cleaver the real her was, then be able to outsmart her by guessing the secret password she used. Just great material for her all around.

The Rory and Jennifer stuff, which I thought really worked last week, was a bit more problematic this week. Creating a second ‘ganger Jennifer to trick Rory seemed overly convoluted and really unnecessary since he was already sympathetic toward ‘ganger Jen and probably could have been tricked into turning off the cooling vents without the elaborate scheme. It also seemed out of character that ‘ganger Jennifer, who was haunted by the suffering of the fallen ‘gangers, would purposely create and then kill another Flesh Jennifer – unless we are supposed to believe the second ‘ganger Jen was in on the plan. Either way, the whole thing seemed messy and a bit nonsensical.

I also feel like there needed to be a bit more explanation as to why ‘ganger Jennifer was suddenly so evil. The rest of the ‘gangers seemed to be mirror images of their creators who were simply scared and willing to kill, if necessary, to protect themselves. But she seemed like quite a departure from the original Jennifer and also seemed somehow more connected with the Flesh than the others – as if it was somehow communicating with her and getting her to carry out its will. If that was supposed to be the case, it was never really explained why she was more in tune with the Flesh than the other ‘gangers, who seemed to be fully transformed into real people. It was also never really explained how she was able to turn into a crazy Resident Evil style monster at the end of the episode either.

Still, while the rest of “The Almost People” was hit or miss, the ending was incredibly strong and incredibly exciting. And there were enough enjoyable moments throughout to carry the ones that didn’t quite work as well. But, most importantly, I really can’t wait until next week to see what happens.

And another thing …

  • As the Flesh was struggling to form the ‘ganger Doctor, two previous incarnations briefly emerged. The “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” line was a shout out to the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. And “Would you like a jelly baby?” is from the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. (We even got the audio of Baker delivering the line, which was a nice touch.)
  • While I don’t think that ‘ganger Doctor will be seen again, I do think it may be significant that he says that his molecular memory may survive. Perhaps next week The Doctor will somehow be able to control the Flesh from within.
  • Did the ‘ganger Doctor’s sonic screwdriver also melt itself after it melted him and Cleaves or is it still sitting there waiting to get devoured by acid?
  • The real Doctor now knows that Amy witnessed his eventual death. She told him when they were both outside, when she thought he was the ‘ganger.
  • At the end, it’s revealed that the company that makes the Flesh is named Morpeth Jetsan, which is an anagram for Phantom Jester. Take from that what you will.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff

So I was off on my theory about how Amy was simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant, but I could still be right about my theory that The Doctor who flew the TARDIS into the sun at the end of the last season (and got trapped outside of our universe) is the one who gets shot on the beach.

The real question right now though is: When did Amy get replaced with a doppelganger?

My first thought was that it happened when The Silence captured her in “Day of the Moon.” The Silence had her for a while before The Doctor and company were able to rescue her, so it would have been easy for them to switch her out with a Flesh ‘ganger at some point. However, that can’t be the case. She had already told The Doctor that she was pregnant in the previous episode (“The Impossible Astronaut”), but more importantly, she sees the one-eyed woman for the first time in the orphanage before The Silence grab her. So Amy was already a ‘ganger at that point.

So, the way I figure it, either Amy was swapped out with a ‘ganger sometime before the start of this season or it happened during that three month gap between “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon.” (“Day of the Moon” leaps ahead three months in time to a point where the entire crew is scattered and being hunted by Canton, so it’s possible Amy got kidnapped and replaced at some point then when she was separated from the group.)

As for who has her and why, your guess is as good as mine.

Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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