It’s hard to review the first of a two-part episode when most of it was mainly setup. Unlike the one-two punch of the Doctor Who Season Six premiere, “The Rebel Flesh” takes its time to introduce the guest starring characters The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) come into contact with, and put the wheels of the plot in motion. We get a sense of what’s going on but the real story doesn’t happen until the last act. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing. After all, we now have TWO DOCTORS!
Reminiscent of the Steven Moffat-penned two-parter “Silence in The Library”/”Forest of The Dead” from Season Four, most of “The Rebel Flesh” (and from the looks of it, the concluding “The Almost People”) takes place in one location. This time, it’s in an Earthly castle on some island that’s cut off from the rest of civilization in the 22nd Century. The complex, as it turns out, also doubles as an acid-producing facility where a handful of people not only work but also live. The acid, though, is so corrosive that the expert workers need to make disposable clones of themselves, known as Gangers — which retain all of their extensive knowledge of chemistry through remote control — just to go near the stuff.
Question #1: Did you all see that the cool opening shot of the workers in their protective body suits? Did anyone, even for a slight moment, thought “Sontarans!” to themselves? Was that a foreshadowing of things to come?
Anyway, The Doctor –- who is still trying to figure out if Amy’s pregnant –- and the gang hit a solar storm and the TARDIS crash-lands outside the creepy island castle. When Rory hears a Dusty Springfield song playing from the inside, they begin their investigation. (Seasons Five and Six has pretty much been one 45-minute Scooby-Doo episode after another.) The Doctor bluffs his way in by convincing the workers — and their leader, Cleaves (Raquel Cassidy) — that he and his companions are from the meteorological society. She takes them on a tour of the facility and there, he sees the vat of white goo that creates the Gangers called The Flesh. He’s fascinated with it, and it seems to be fascinated with him as well (almost sucking his hand in).
Question #2: Don’t Sontarans reproduce through cloning? And in an almost-similar fashion?
In the meantime, the solar storm is getting worse. The Doctor offers to transport all of the workers to safety in the TARDIS but Cleaves refuses, believing that help will arrive from the mainland. Undeterred, The Doctor climbs up the castle’s solar-powered generator to disconnect it when a solar lightening strikes, knocking him and everyone else out cold. When they come to, they think they’ve been unconscious of a few minutes. Turns out, it was an entire hour.
During that hour, The Gangers — having become sentient thanks to the solar storm; and without human help — had gone through all of the workers’ personal items back in the main hall of the castle. As The Doctor notes, they’re confirming their memories. The Gangers have become the workers. Everyone is on guard.
One of the workers, Jennifer (Sarah Smart), isn’t feeling too well and Rory escorts her to the restroom for protection. There, to Rory’s determent, she reveals herself to be a Ganger, though she can’t stabilize. Rory runs and hides.
Back in the main hall, The Doctor discovers that Cleaves herself is a Ganger who also can’t stabilize. All she wants is to be left alone and not to be used as something as disposable as a tissue. The workers, though, have a different idea, so she escapes.
Amy, worried that Rory’s been gone too long, goes looking for him. In a dark corridor, Amy sees a flash of the Creepy Eye-Patch Lady. In the meantime, The Doctor returns to the TARDIS to see that the acid has caused a sinkhole that it’s sinking into. Things are getting downright weird for our heroes.
After some time, Rory stumbles upon Ganger Jennifer again, who now weeps of past memories. To her, she is Jennifer, no matter where she came from. This touches Rory and he makes it his quest to take her back to The Doctor who would keep her safe from the others. (And from the looks of it, it seems that Rory has taken a shine to Ganger Jennifer.)
In the meantime, The Doctor runs into the rest of The Gangers and convinces them to meet and talk with the original workers, to get them to work together to leave the island. The Gangers, The Originals, The Doctor, and the reunited Amy and Rory gather in the main hall. When the peace talks seem to have reached its intended goal, Original Cleaves, who has been missing since the solar lightening strike, arrives with an electrical cattle prod and Tases a Ganger to death.
Question #3: Didn’t Sontarans use spears that Tases the living hell out of beings in the Season Four episodes “The Sontaran Stratagem”/”The Poison Sky”?
Ganger Jennifer escapes. Rory goes after her but it’s too late. Original Cleaves’ assassination of a Ganger was a declaration of war. It’s “us vs. them” time. The Doctor, Amy, and The Originals can only do one thing and that is hiding in safest place in the castle: the chapel. There, they hear a voice. A voice that annoys and frightens The Doctor. He demands that the being attached to the voice show itself. It does. It’s The Ganger Doctor, in a pretty neat, through somewhat telegraphed cliffhanger. But it still left me with a couple of more questions:
Question #4: Are we witnessing the birth of the Sontaran race?
Question #5: Should we start making bets that The Ganger Doctor was the one who was shot and killed in “The Impossible Astronaut” and not our beloved Doctor?
Look, I know I’m harping on this Sontaran thing. It’s my theory and nothing else. I’m not privy to whatever showrunner Moffat or writer Matthew Graham (Life on Mars) have planned in these two episodes. I’m just having a little nerd-fun, as well as you all should. Please post your own theories in the Comments section below.
And speaking of the two episodes: since it’s Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. next week, “The Almost People”, won’t air on Saturday, June 4th. Make sure you mark that on your calendars.