TV REVIEW: Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 5 – The Rebel Flesh

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What’s It About?
While hovering in space over Earth in the 22nd century, the TARDIS is caught up in a massive Solar Storm. Riding the storm to the planet’s surface, the TARDIS crew find themselves in a remote island monastery that is processing highly corrosive acid for the mainland. The workforce utilise “the flesh” – artificial doppelgangers made controlled by remote. Are the gangers more alive than believed and how will the oncoming storm affect them?

Review It

Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes co-creator Matthew Graham is back penning a two parter of Who – his last effort being Series 2’s near future episode – “Fear Her”. Undoubtedly, this is a stronger tale than the former. As the first part of a two-parter, The Rebel Flesh is well paced, giving enough time for the guest cast to establish themselves, the immediate threat to be encountered and the main thrust of the story to become active. There are some chuckle inducing moments this week that do not feel forced and do not detract any from the inherent danger of the situation that Pond and her boys find themselves in.

The immediate threat of the Solar Storm is one that the wandering Time Lord ultimately can’t resolve in time and this is what kick starts the true story. As mentioned in Confidential, this is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster tale with added “what is life?” / Bladerunner / New Galactica / Clone Wars echoes, and I liked the moral ambiguity that was thrown up here. There are some nice “talking head” scenes where the artificial characters (Gangers) discuss their memories – firstly sweet little Jenny to Rory then between The Two Jimmy’s. Speaking of Jenny (which I was – pay attention), it’s nice to see Rory get some attention and the chance to man-up and look after someone – usually he’s the one on the receiving end. The interplay between Ganger Jenny and Rory is definitely “sweet” with the Ganger developing something of a crush and Rory becoming very protective. It will be interesting to see how this affects his dynamic with Amy.

Admittedly, the end of episode twist was apparent from very early on, but I can’t hold that against the story which filled the time slot without feeling rushed or slowed down by padding – a fault that can easily be levelled at many two parters in New Who (those written by Moffat and Paul Cornell are the only exceptions I can think of!) so definitely hat’s off to both Matthew Graham’s writing and Julian Simpson’s direction there.

And the niggles?

I thought Ganger-Jenny’s actions towards the end were a bit of a drastic change, though this was somewhat mitigated by her words during her chat with Rory earlier in the episode about wanting to be a “strong” Jenny. Up until the turning point, she had been a very sympathetic character and suddenly it seems as if she’s being placed as head-villain out of nowhere.

In summary:

This is a solid opener for what looks to be a memorable two-part tale. It contains all that Doctor Who should, lovely character moments, humour when it fits and an interesting “what if” concept together with a nice bit of moral ambiguity. Definitely one of the more mature episodes of New Who. I’m really looking forward to next week’s climax, even if it does mean there’s only a couple of episodes until the break!

Rate It: 3.75 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 0
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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