Doctor Who, Series 6- Episode 5: The Rebel Flesh

Written for TV Pixie

We’ve all had times we’ve felt our bodies were turning against us: particularly after one too many Lambrini and Aftershock cocktails with an Apple Sourz chaser; but this week’s tense, thought-provoking and atmospheric episode of Doctor Who took that to another extreme.

Meet ‘The Flesh’: a big vat of rubbery skin that instantly brought to mind ex One Show host Adrian Chiles. The Flesh is being used by a team of gritty 22nd century types to hatch spare bodies which they control by neural link: sending their disposable, replicated selves to do the dangerous and menial tasks involved in the day to day running of their acid factory.

It was a concept that instantly brought to mind that film. You know, the one where artificially created plastic humanoids develop basic human emotions and are hunted down by ‘Blade Runners’ in case they cause havoc.  What’s it called again?

Ah yes: Never Say Never, The Justin Bieber Story.

The time team end up at the 22nd century island-factory due to a solar tsunami, which knocks the TARDIS off course. It also agitates the ‘Flesh’, which is why you should always wear sun block, people. The Doc poses as a meteorologist and warns Miranda, the factory foreman (played to cynical perfection by Raquel Cassidy) that the worst of the tsunami is yet to come and that it’s dangerous to continue to operate the ‘gangers’; their name for the fleshy body doubles.

Unfortunately, Miranda won’t listen and as a result the workers are sauntering around in their ‘gangers’ when the second wave hits.  For some reason, the Earth’s magnetic field (historically very good at protecting us from Solar tantrums) doesn’t stop the sun’s energy from zapping the factories inhabitants into a mini-coma.

The workers wake up to find their ‘gangers’ have become independent and gone walkabout, like melty-faced Frankenstein’s monsters (or, to use a more modern analogy: slightly crap photocopies). However, in traditional Doctor Who style, it’s not immediately obvious who’s in the wrong here. Like the Ood, the ‘gangers’ are scary looking, however the hostile human originals soon prove themselves far more monstrous than the newcomers.

The killing one of the lookalikes by an unexpectedly murderous Miranda sends the potentially cooperative clones into a rebellious tizz. In an attempt to escape, the Doctor and Co barricade themselves into an anteroom only to find- surprise!- that there’s a Doctor there already. A semi melted, slab-faced ‘Ganger-Doctor’ in fact who (arguably) looks rather better than his human counterpart. Or at the very least roughly the same.

As cliffhangers go, the ‘two doctors’ idea is a winner. It may also explain the series opener in which our heroic, Easter Island featured main man was apparently killed off. Hopefully not, though, as that’s a bit too ‘easy’. Knowing Steven Moffat it’ll be a lot more complicated than that: ideally involving complex time banditry, the Universe exploding at least three more times and River Song punching a Dalek in the face.

Also, it all depends on what sort of acid the factory’s creating: it’s not made entirely clear. If it’s the ‘other kind’, they may just wake up next week and realise that none of it actually happened and they’ve just been collectively tripping their bums off. Only time will tell.

Another interesting aspect to the episode was Amy’s confused, feature-shuffling reaction to the whole concept of someone else fancying Rory; even if it was a jelly faced Northerner with whiny tendencies and an unfortunate habit of turning into an eel-necked extra from Beetlejuice.

Despite his frequent misadventures, Amy takes her chap for granted in the same way most people rely on gravity, or the fact you can always find a Tesco within four feet of your current location. In fact, you could argue Amy’s entire character (particularly her veneer of gobby self-confidence) is founded on the solid rock of Rory: take that away and she wobbles like a vat of artificially created plastic skin in a solar tsunami. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out next week.

Just one final thought/complaint: the manual workers at the acid plant are, on the whole, more Northern than a herd of Billy Elliots doing a clog dance in the Warburton’s bakery. I’m not sure why the writer decided that factory work = Northern people. It’s not 1790, you know: we don’t all work down t’mill weaving yarn on a Spinning Jenny.

No, we have lattés now: although to be fair they’re pronounced ‘Caffy Lattys’ and made from black pudding and frothed lard rather than coffee and milk.

But still. Tsk.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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