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October 7, 2015

'Doctor Who' Season 6, Episode 6 Recap

by Mike Moody, posted Jun 6th 2011 2:25PM
doctor who the almost people['Doctor Who' –'The Almost People']

It sure was nice to see all of this "Flesh" and "Gangers" business finally lead to something truly shocking and intriguing for our time-traveling TARDIS crew on the latest 'Doctor Who.' Now -- for those of us who didn't skip ahead, of course -- begins the longest week ever: The wait for the eagerly anticipated 'Doctor Who' mid-season finale, 'A Good Man Goes to War.' Can. Not. Wait! Torrents. So. Tempting! Damn you, Memorial Day weekend!

OK ... where were we now? Oh, yes, 'The Almost People.' Right. Let's get to it then ...

The latest 'Doctor Who' double-episode arc began with a fun and insane gothic horror creepfest, 'The Rebel Flesh,' and things only got creepier and "more insanerer" with 'The Almost People.' This week's episode offered more horror and suspense -- and more disturbing questions about human perception and identity -- before delivering a brain-rattling freak-out of an ending. I mean, did you see what happened!? It was just so ... barmy!

But before we get to that disturbing ending, let's back up to where we left off last time, with The Doctor meeting his slimy-faced Ganger, who we'll call "Smith."

It was pretty much a given that The Doctor was going to treat Smith with care and respect, unlike how the factory workers treated their unleashed Gangers. The pair of bow-tie-wearing gents got along like old chums, and our Doctor even seemed understanding and patient while Smith was sorting out the whole regeneration craziness in his dizzy, fleshy head. I caught the voices of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) flying out of his mouth. The bit about "moving on" after Doctor Ten was quite clever, as was the reference to the First Doctor ("One day we will get back.") and to the Third Doctor ("Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!"). (Note: For those looking to explore the classic 'Doctor Who' stories but don't know where to start, let me point you to Kyle Anderson's great 'Doctor Who For Newbies' posts on The Nerdist, as they directed me to some of the best of Baker, Pertwee, Hartnell and others.)

One of the most interesting things about this ep was watching Master Matt Smith play yet another version of The Doctor. Smith's Doctor is always confident, smart, and more than a little bonkers, but he's also contemplative, caring, and dark. Here, we saw a few different shades of The Doctor's personality that we don't get to see very often. He was angry, scary, and even somewhat cold, confused, and desperate at times. Smith, ever the man in need of a room full of acting awards, pulled it all of brilliantly. The Doctor and/or Smith's minute-to-minute mood changes never felt forced or overplayed. The complexity of the performance drew me in even more and helped me look past some of the ep's clumsier aspects.

I'll be the first to admit that Matthew Graham's script was a little clunky here and there. I was never really all that intrigued by what was going on with mousey little Jennifer, and the mystery surrounding the character just felt tedious. I wanted that bit of the episode to be over with so that we could spend more time with Amy, The Doctor and Smith. And the culmination of the Jennifer plot -- she was multiple Gangers all along, she went nuts, tricked Rory, and turned into a gross CGI effect -- felt pretty stock and uninspired. Sometimes it's fun when a 'Doctor Who' ep devolves into "Scary monster! Run!"-type silliness, but sometimes it just feels tired.

Watching Amy react to Smith, who later turned out to be the real Doctor (at some point anyway, I'm still a bit fuzzy on when they did their quick change), was far more interesting. The scene with Amy revealing to Smith that she saw The Doctor die was intense to say the least. I almost lost it when he pushed her up against that wall. It was the kind of scene you couldn't see coming, and it felt fresh and dangerous. That scene seems even more out of the ordinary when you consider that Amy might have been talking to The Doctor himself, and not to Smith, out in the hallway. It's unsettling to think that The Doctor is now fully aware of his futuredeath, especially when River Song warned against telling him about it some episodes ago.

I liked that The Doctor pulled the ol' switcharoo on Amy, who was having trouble accepting that Smith was worthy of the love and respect she gave freely to The Doctor. He was born of fleshy gunge, but Smith still possessed The Doctor's heart, mind, and soul. Amy finally accepted him in the end, but their friendship was short-lived. Smith, along with Ganger Foreman Cleeves, sacrificed himself to save his friends. (Still, I don't think we've seen the last of Smith. What was that The Doctor said about his "molecular memory" surviving?)

OK, yes, the ending ... right. Remember that recent 'Fringe' season finale? This ending was probably on the same mind-boggling level as that bizarre WTF-fest. The Doctor revealed that he landed the TARDIS near the castle to research the origins of The Flesh, because he was working on a way to sever its link with Amy, WHO WAS A GANGER ALL ALONG! Wha?

Well, maybe not all along, but Amy certainly went into Ganger-mode after one of her more traumatic experiences during the two-part series six opener. The sequence with The Doctor acting almost cruel to the Amy Ganger, and then melting her with the sonic was one of the most unsettling things I've seen on this show in quite some time.

So when was Amy replaced? And who replaced her? And to what end? And who got her pregnant? And is she gonna to give birth to a people-eating demigod baby person?

Here's hoping we'll at least start to get some answers to these baffling questions during next week's mid-season finale, which features the Eye Patch Lady standing front and center as well as the return of the glorious River Song.

So what did you think of 'The Almost People?' Did Smith's performance and that gripping final scene make up for some of the ep's clunkier moments?

'Doctor Who' airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America.

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I'm a little confused. I saw this episode LAST week. This week I watched episode 7, the one before the break. What happened down there in Yankistan, exactly?

June 07 2011 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
General Kenobi

I can shed some light on one of the questions you asked... The Doctor switched with his ganger almost immediately. It was definitely the Doctor in the hallway with Amy when she tells him of his death. We know that because later in the episode, right after the switch is revealed and the ganger is about to sacrifice himself, the Doctor comments that he isn't invited to this death, clearly suggesting he now knows about his invitation to Amy for his own death, which was the information she thought she was telling his ganger.

June 07 2011 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wasn't a huge fan of this two parter - I think one episode would have been better. Yes, that ending was great and some of the Doctor ganger stuff with Amy was good, but too many characters and gangers that we just don't care about.
You'll love the finale...it's great, and the big spoiler is......ghghmmmmm!

June 06 2011 at 7:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Best ending to a Doctor Who ep probably EVER!

June 06 2011 at 5:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The mid-season finale is going to be cool like bow ties. Can't wait!

June 06 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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