Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Almost People. Review.

Dr Who, The Almost People, the ganger Doctor
Just as last night's Champions' League final was a game of two halves - with a lot more of interest happening in the Manchester United half than the Barcelona one - so, after a first part that left the story with seemingly nowhere to go and threatened to give us forty five minutes of barely more than people shouting, The Almost People somehow manages to be an improvement on The Rebel Flesh.

Despite a paper thin plot - the original staff are in one room and decide to move to another - it throws in enough twists, turns, details and deaths to keep us going, as the Doctor teams up with his duplicate to try and get as many people out of the acid factory alive as possible.

Dr Who, The Almost People, the ganger Jennifer
The ganger Jennifer. Sometimes adrip but
rarely a drip.
Granted, none of the twists are actually surprising, and the revelation that the Doctor and "John Smith" have swapped places is about as unexpected as the "shock" revelation at the end of Part One but it all keeps the story moving. Plus, Matt Smith's clearly having fun playing two parts at once. The right people get killed along the way; the original Jennifer really was a drip, the world didn't need two Jimmys going on endlessly about their son, and the charmless Buzzer was always asking to be eaten.

The exception to the right people getting killed was the ultimate survival of the original Cleaves who'd been a thoroughly unpleasant and block-headed individual all the way through. I suppose we have to put her unpleasantness down to the blood clot in her brain, and her later personality change down to its removal. But why do I get a feeling the duplicate Cleaves and Doctor will be back before the end of the series?

If it was mostly an entertaining episode, and the factory staff turned out to be more interesting than in The Rebel Flesh, the main downsides involved the assistants. Rory really is spectacularly stupid in this half, trusting "Jennifer" to a ridiculous degree, even when she's acting in a manner that should set alarm bells ringing in the emptiest of heads. Happily operating machinery, without the slightest clue what it's supposed to do, really doesn't reflect well on a man. As for, "This wheel's way too hard for a girl to turn," Argh!.

Amy, meanwhile, is consistently stupid and unpleasant, tactlessly insulting the duplicate Doctor who's trying to save her, and, for no good reason, blurting out that she's seen him die. I suppose we could put it down to her being a  duplicate and not the real deal but sadly her stupidity and ignorance here aren't out of character for the original Amy.

Dr Who, The Almost People, the ganger Amy
And that brings us the climax that threatens to overshadow the whole episode, as we get the reveal that the Amy we've been following for the last few weeks isn't Amy at all but a ganger, while the real Amy lies in a room somewhere, about to give birth, as Frances Barber shows off her taste in lipstick.

Compelling a revelation as it is, the ginger ganger is the episode's real problem. After two episodes of the Doctor telling us that gangers are real people too and should be allowed to live, he then, at the tale's climax, whips out his sonic screwdriver (where did he get that from? He's already given it to his lookalike) and ruthlessly destroys the fake Amy for no reason at all. I assume this section was written by Steven Moffat rather than Matthew Graham and it seems that either Moffat hadn't at that point read Graham's script or simply didn't care about it, as the Doctor's action here takes the philosophical point Graham's just spent two episodes making, screws it up and throws it in the bin.

So, Amy's about to give birth. But to what? Will it be the space suit girl? Will it be River Song? Will it be to a football team that can actually take on Barcelona? Only next week will tell us. Will we be there? Of course we will. Will we have a clue what's going on? Don't bet your bow-tie on it.


Kid said...

So disappointed have I been with the last few episodes, I didn't watch it as it was broadcast even 'though I could have - I just wasn't excited about it. I watched it later on iplayer and was surprised to find I quite enjoyed it. (Maybe it was because I had no expectation of it.) However, improvement as it was, I can't shake the feeling that it's all very familiar and that I've seen it all before. Running down narrow corridors, dimly-lit passageways, people and their doubles, Tardis out of reach, bad aliens who are actually good aliens (or vice versa), loads of exposition as we go along to explain a clear as mud plot, etc., etc.

Sometimes the episodes are a curious mix of excitement and tediousness in equal measure.

Steve said...

I think it was the familiarity and predictability that made me enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't drum up the interest to watch part 2 - that's a first. Noisy 'action' substituting for suspense and plot - found it chaotically unclear too. Despite a few good ones (xmas one brilliant) i'm finding the new matt smith series to be missing the depth and quality of the previous ones.

phantom_tiger said...

I love your description of the plot: let's move to another room! You noticed some of the same things I did :) Rory was VERY thick; Amy is really really unsubtle in the way she both warns the Doctor he will die, and the way she keeps rudely saying but you're not the real Doctor in a way that pretty much tells everyone they're switched. As if you could be mean to even a duplicate Matt Smith. Come to think of it, it makes me yearn for Sarah Jane who would have coped better. I was trying to keep track of the sonic screwdrivers. They keep passing it back and forth but I think he shouldn't have had it at the end. Can the Flesh do screwdrivers? My problem is that the plot point about gangers was already in the bin. At the end there aren't any duplicate sets left so the problem with having two of the same person is basically nil & that the duplicates are the ones holding off the monster, not getting to safety like an equal. The guy with the son getting killed just in time was way too convenient a plot twist. Meanwhile the suspicious part of me realizes there is now possibly a duplicate Doctor that has survived and might well have been invited to his own death.

ps. Game worth it to see Van der Saar's final appearance.

Steve W. said...

Yeah, I also thought them only leaving one of each character alive was a cop-out. Bearing in mind the central theme of the story, it would've been more interesting to have at least one complete duo left alive and having to learn to come to terms with each other.

phantom_tiger said...

It might have even been cool. Why is it the Doctor is really the only one who gets on with his other self right away?

Oops. That should be Van der Sar. Late night extra a.

Steve W. said...

I suppose it's because he's used to meeting other incarnations of himself, thanks to all those 1970s and 1980s multiple Doctor stories. The humans sadly lacked such experience.

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