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Monday, 23 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh

This series of Doctor Who really is delivering like no other since the show's return in 2005! Each and every episode - in my opinion - has had something special about it, even if it wasn't the very best we're used to. I can honestly say that there has not been a single minute of boredom or "wandering off" for me at all this year.

And the most recent offering, Matthew Graham's The Rebel Flesh, was no different. Well, no. It was different, that's what made it so enjoyable. It seemed we were taken back to the good old days of the "Base Under Siege" adventure that Classic Doctor Who did so well when Troughton was driving. Our team arrive at an ancient monastery on an island on near-future Earth where a team of miners are pumping acid to the mainland. But there's something different about this mining operation. The miners are in no danger at all, despite the acid's potency. Instead they use Gangers, duplicates of themselves, controlled from a safe distance, made out of the "world's worst kept secret" The Flesh - programmable organic matter that can become anything you want.

A solar tsunami forces not only the TARDIS crew to seek shelter at the monastery but also causes a power surge that gives the Gangers a life of their own, independent of their human controllers' grasp. And these duplicates - these Gangers - they want their freedom.

And so a different story takes place. A war between humans - with souls, feelings, memories, loves and hates - and their Gangers - with all the same memories and feelings... 

Just because they're not "actually human" does that mean these duplicates are disposable? Does it make them less human, just because they're exact copies? It's a difficult situation to chose sides over. And I'm sorry but I found myself siding with the Gangers most of the time. They just want to be left alone to live their "lives" after all!

Some awesome guest stars and a few lovely little plot bits made The Rebel Flesh a pleasure to sit through! Marshall Lancaster and Sarah Smart shone as the sympathetic ones here. The little story-beat about Sarah Smart's character's attraction to Rory (an attraction that is gently reciprocated, showing another side to both his character and his wife's) was beautifully played. And the Ganger makeup is genuinely disgusting. 

There's very little I can complain about really. It's very much a Part One, but since it IS Part One that's okay... The cast are mostly brilliant, Raquel Cassidy being the only weak link for me (something I never thought I'd ever say), the rest were brilliant. The story has enough in it to be interesting, even intriguing, but isn't so busy you lose your way - it's pretty confusing watching a story with two of each character after all! 

One niggle is the "Prisoner Zero-Head Ganger Jennifer" in the toilets. It wasn't needed and the "monster" would have seemed more threatening without it. And another, but far less annoying, niggle is this: After the Doctor spoke the line "'s as if The Flesh was scanning me!" it was clear to anyone with eyes and a brain to work them that the cliffhanger ending would be a Ganger Doctor revealing himself to the confused and frightened cast. And it happened. And it was awesome. I just hope the whole thing doesn't go "all snarly monsters and SFX" for part two - this story works as a two parter because it's small and the threat is creepy. Keep it that way? Cheers.

Oh, one last thing! Anyone else get the feeling they've been through all this before? "It's even learned how to replicate itself, at a molecular level..." - I think we're watching duplicates of our team!