Saturday 21 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh. Review.

Dr Who, the Rebel Flesh
The Rapture having bypassed my house completely, it's time instead for the TARDIS to take us where angels fear to flap, as we plunge into the depths of space and go further than we've ever gone before.

Up North.

It might not've been the end of the world on planet Earth but in the TARDIS it's feeling a little Apocalyptical as, blasted by a solar storm, the Doctor and his mates are forced to emergency land on an island-based factory employed in the creation of a wildly corrosive acid. In order to reduce the risk of them being dissolved in their own produce, the staff - who all seem to be from north of Watford - create mindless copies of themselves, called Gangers, that they control mentally in order to get them do the dangerous work.

Unfortunately, during the next burst of solar activity, the Gangers gain wills of their own, and the original staff and their duplicates soon find themselves at war with each other, as the Doctor deals with lookalike problems of his own.

Dr Who, the Rebel Flesh
After last week's determinedly offbeat offering, we're back with that old Who standby the base under siege. The twist being that the base this time is under siege from itself. The Rebel Flesh is an episode that keeps hovering on the brink of developing into something genuinely interesting but never seems to have the will to do so. The opening - with its depiction of Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes' Marshall Lancaster being dissolved in acid but not being that bothered - holds out a promise that we're going to be given a dark comedy.

But then we aren't.

Later, with it not being clear just who's an original and who's a copy, the show threatens to become a The Thing style venture into paranoia.

But then it doesn't.

Next it threatens to become an exploration of the ethics of creating lifeforms purely to do the dying for us.

But then it doesn't.

Next it threatens to become an exploration of what it is to be human.

But then it doesn't.

Finally it threatens to become an exploration of the nature of identity.

But then it doesn't.

The fact that none of these potentially interesting directions are more than passingly explored, as the tale settles for just being about some dull people versus some other dull people, means that while it's not an actively terrible episode, it's also not very gripping. In fact, the most interesting thing to me is that Rory finally acknowledges his own personal elephant in the room by joking about his alarming tendency to die on a regular basis.

Amy, meanwhile, has her own elephant to deal with as she yet again runs into the eye-patch hatch woman. If only the Doctor would tell Amy about the phantom pregnancy. If only Amy would tell the Doctor about the eye-patch hatch woman.

Among everything that's going on, there's a member of staff who keeps sneezing. My in-depth knowledge of sci-fi cliché tells me this may prove to be the story's pivotal point. Do the lookalikes lack an immunity to the common cold that'll see them off? And is there significance to the fact that the workforce haven't heard from the mainland for a while?

With its refusal to focus on more interesting themes and its similarity to previous Nu-Who stories like Waters of Mars, The Impossible Planet and even last year's Silurian two-parter, The Rebel Flesh seems a little too familiar to fully intrigue, and at times comes dangerously close to feeling like it was written by the ten deadly fingers of Chris Chibnall. Moreover, with its extremely limiting setting and it's not overly compelling threat, it's hard to see where the tale can go in the second half. It's therefore worrying that the trailer for next week seems to consist not of plot developments, twists, turns and intrigue but almost entirely of people shouting. We can only hope the BBC're simply keeping the best bits from us.


Kid said...

At least it was a bit more entertaining than last week's turkey of an episode. Yeah - why hasn't Amy told the Doc or Rory about the eyepatch woman? "Doctor, I keep seeing things." Not the sort of thing you'd keep from your fellow adventurers, eh?

Kid said...

No other comments, Steve? Maybe no one watched it because last week's was sh*t. Whaddya think?

Steve said...

From my cursory glancing at forums, the impression I get is that most people felt it was a bit midling, and I suppose that a feeling that something's a bit midling isn't the sort of thing that inspires people to comment.

phantom_tiger said...

For some reason the episode wouldn't commit to any one theme. All the characters keep changing their mind, they can adapt, they can't, they want war, no they don't.

Episode: I don't know where this is going.
Me: Neither do I.
Episode: This season of Doctor Who appears to be filmed using only one lightbulb.
Me: You noticed that too?
Episode: Now, I LIKED last week's episode. Why couldn't I be that episode instead of this one?
Me: You're a bit Tom Baker in style. All horror and corridors. And guilt.
Episode: Yes. There's that. I suppose.

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