DOCTOR WHO: We’re Almost Gonna Talk About THE ALMOST PEOPLE

“THE ALMOST PEOPLE” – Series 6, Episode 6, Story 217b – Written by Matthew Graham; Directed by Julian Simpson – The Eleventh Doctor, Rory, and Amy are at their monastery in the future caught between the humans and the gangers and blabbedy blabbedy blabbedy. Are we even supposed to talk about what happens in the first 95% of this episode? Because Amy Is A Ganger, And Original Amy Is About To Pop Out A Baby.

Does anyone actually care about THE ALMOST PEOPLE? Isn’t everyone really just gonna talk about that last few minutes and try to figure out what that means?

I feel bad for Matthew Graham. As bland and stretched out as THE REBEL FLESH was last episode, the second half of his two-parter is a marked improvement. There’s real tension here, characters have actual emotions, and there’s some clever bits to keep you guessing. Though if you didn’t guess the Doctor swerve, well, if we were watching together you would have totally heard me groan and say, “So obvious” and if you didn’t know what I was saying you totally would have faked it.

I’m not saying ALMOST is a great episode, but it’s almost a perfectly fine run-around-and-shout story, and where last episode needed more story, there’s some actual complexity here that needed more room to fully explore. Graham doesn’t take the easy “the gangers are monsters” vs. “the humans are monsters” angle, at all, but switches things up so some characters on each side are the actual monsters. Ganger Jennifer is a monster, but so is Human Cleaves, for most of the episode. What we have is two sides of a conflict of their own making and it would have been nice to explore that a bit more than we do here. The way it gets used in ALMOST is just to elevate the tension of the episode instead of being any kind of actual character study, like when Buzzer knocks the “Ganger” Doctor unconscious.

The episode encourages you to think of them as “Human” and “Ganger” and not individual personalities because it dresses them in uniforms. That is, the humans generally wear their orange jumpsuits and the gangers generally wear the acid armor. It’s all well and good to say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but when you’ve only got about 45 minutes it’s a good idea to give the audience a few visual clues because the characters are basically one note ponies.

The one part of this episode that pales in comparison to the previous episode is the Rory/Jen relationship. In REBEL FLESH, Rory’s determination to stick with Jen and see her to safety was admirable. When he found out she was a ganger he still stuck by her, but here Rory spends the bulk of the episode off-screen as Amy worries about him. He’s confronted with two Jens and, yeah, if you don’t know that both of them were going to be gangers, then you’re probably as nice as Rory. Good for you. Call me anytime you want to play poker.

Random aside: Do you know how I learned how to play poker? I was probably 12 or 13 and had a sleepover at my friend Jacques’ house. We played poker all night, and our comic book collections were the stakes – one issue a hand. Yeah, he took me for about every single comic I had brought with me until I figured out halfway through the night what was going on and won most of them back. Let that be a lesson to you, kiddies: Don’t gamble until you know the rules. Because your friends will dick you over for a copy of X-Factor 1.

The setting for ALMOST PEOPLE is really fantastic, with the old monastery being converted into a factory, giving the place both a really positive classic vibe and rather negative sense of industrial decline. Director Julian Simpson did a solid job in some tight quarters, but he was much better (as is to be expected) in the bigger rooms.

As much as I wasn’t sold on having two Elevens running around, and as obvious as the swerve was here, Graham and Smith did manage to wring some funny bits out of having the two of them chatting with one another. We even got a bit of Ganger Eleven channeling Doctors of days gone by, even combining them by saying he reversed the polarity of the jelly baby flow.

Unfortunately, Graham repeats one of Russell T Davies’ biggest philosophical blunders by seemingly equating you with your copy. Here, the human version of, er, Whatever His Name Was dies and his doppleganger just steps into his life, and everyone is seemingly cool with not telling his wife and kid that they’re not getting actually Daddy back, but a copy. Raising that point that he’s a copy doesn’t paint him as a monster, but he is a different person, even if he’s the same person. It would have been nice to see some of the philosophy on this examined a shade more than it was during the episode.

Definitely an improvement over last week and definitely an episode worth watching (even if it would have been nice to see this episode extended and REBEL shrunk so we could have had more character pieces), but it all gets washed away in the face of the epilogue, which was almost certainly written by Steven Moffat, yes?

After the Doctor sends the last human and last ganger into a meeting with their corporation, the Doctor tells Rory to get Amy inside the TARDIS. Amy is hurting with severe stomach pains. Rory insists the Doctor tell him what’s happening.

“Contractions,” the Doctor says without turning back to them. “She’s going into labor.”

Amy becomes increasingly frightened as the stomach pains increase. Rory is caught between comforting his wife and pulling information out of the Doctor. “You’re going to have to start explaining this to me,” he tells the Doctor as he holds Amy.

“What? The birds and the bees? She’s having a baby. I needed to see the Flesh in its early days,” he explains and then reminds them that he was going to drop them off for fish and chips before everything started happening. “Shenanigans,” he says with a smile on his face and then catches himself. This isn’t the time for games and wordplay, so when he adds, “That’s a fun word, ‘shennanigans,'” it’s delivered on a come down. Excellent acting by Smith.

“I needed enough information to block the signal to the Flesh,” he announces, finally turning to them and getting all serious.

“What signal?” Amy asks.

“The signal to you,” he tells her and that’s when Amy becomes really frightened and the Doctor looks at her with this pained look of utter sadness. Calmly, he orders Rory to “stand away from her.”

“Why?” Rory asks, confused and hurting but starting to sense that something is wrong.

The Doctor explains in his fast-paced, academic voice that, “Given what we’ve learned I’ll be as humane as I can but I need to do this and you need to stand away!” As the line progresses the Doctor begins to lose his temper and shout.

Rory looks at Amy with hurt, but understanding eyes, and slowly backs away from her, holding her hand until the very last moment. Arthur Darvill play the moment brilliantly. This is the guy who waited 2,000 years for Amy and now, as she’s hurting and confused and scared, he does what the Doctor commands and leaves her standing there, exposed and alone.

Amy is center stage now, and her wet eyes turn from Rory to the Doctor and in a quivering voice she tells him, “Doctor, I am really frightened. I’m properly, properly scared.”

“Don’t be,” he says, now moving towards her. “Hold on. We’re coming for you, I swear it. Whatever happens, however hard, however far, we will find you.” His hand comes up to touch her face and she holds it to her. “I’m right here,” Amy insists.

“No you’re not,” the Doctor rebukes her, his voice turning cold. “You haven’t been here for a long, long time,” he says, backing away and raising his sonic screwdriver. The green light comes on and Amy gets turned back into Flesh goop.

We snap cut to the real Amy in some kind of white, hospital bed with the Eye Patch Lady looking down on her. She’s ready to give birth.

It’s such a great sequence that it will undoubtedly leave people thinking this episode is a lot better than it actually is, and when you combine this with the fact that the episode was already actually better than last week, THE ALMOST PEOPLE might be one of those episodes that people end up remembering more fondly than it deserves.

The ending raises a whole batch of questions, the foremost being why did the Doctor have to kill Ganger Amy? To break the signal? Seems a bit harsh, especially since we just watched two episodes where the message was, “Gangers aren’t necessarily monsters.” It also seems to me that, you know, if there’s a signal coming to the Flesh, maybe it can be backtracked? I don’t know – maybe I missed something but that seemed like a rather harsh ending for a very frightened creature, human or not.

The revelation of the Two Amys also seems to confirm that she was stolen away during DAY OF THE MOON, but maybe it was even earlier than that if Ganger Amy really doesn’t believe she is pregnant. (Regardless, we’re in full Scully mode again, with the whole abduction and pregnancy bit.) The Silence did tell her in MOON that she’d been there for a very long time, so it does make you wonder when, exactly, the kidnapping took place. (Maybe if it wasn’t 2:30 in the morning I’d have a better guess.)

It seems the Eye Patch Lady was appearing to Ganger Amy through her connection with Human Amy, and that Human Amy is definitely going to give birth next episode. Again, this harkens back to MOON, where we saw the picture of Amy and the Astronaut Girl looking all mom and daughterish. It’s all set up to make us think that the girl is Amy’s daughter and the Doctor is the father, but I’m guessing that’s just a bit too easy. So let’s go ahead and say that Amy was impregnated with Time Lord DNA – maybe the Doctor’s but maybe from another Time Lord.

*coughTheMastercough*

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11 thoughts on “DOCTOR WHO: We’re Almost Gonna Talk About THE ALMOST PEOPLE

  1. Pingback: The Almost People Reviews and Extras | Entertainment Blogs

  2. Good write-up – seem to mirror my thoughts a lot, though I can’t write a darn, ha-ha.

    If this can be taken at face value, basically confirming that the kidnapping goes back to “The Impossible Astronaut”, Producer Beth Willis said (on Doctor Who Confidential) “The flesh Amy’s been going through episodes one to six and hanging out, having these adventures with the Doctor and Rory, while the real Amy’s been trapped in this birthing chamber …”

    I will watch all the episodes again after this to see if some random things make sense whereas before were toss-off lines.

    There were some very good moments hodgepodged throughout the two episodes, but I felt they were unevenly tossed in with filler that could have been cut for a tighter two-parter – did the blot clot really matter or was that a convention to convince flesh Cleaves to stay with the flesh Doctor? Really, was flesh Doctor with real Doctor not able to come up with the better way to handle the monster other than how they did? Convenience is how I see it – an easy way out in the writing. Did we really need a monster other than to donk off a few “people” – you could have as easily had more or all survive and figure out how to deal with that. I could have done without the monster-Jen with the elongated neck (writer Matthew Graham says was inspired by a sketch in Alice in Wonderland when she had taken a potion and her neck had elongated).

    I had a problem with Rory going “overboard” for Jen. Yes, he is a nurse, he feels for people. It she seem right after how he handled Idris and her dying – that made sense. It should have made sense for his caring, but it didn’t feel write right. Perhaps if Amy and Rory had some sort-of a fight scene previously so he could say “You can’t boss me around”, or “I’m my own man”. or “Take that, you b***h!” as he runs down the hall after Jen.

    The double-scenes were fun with the Doctor, and while obvious there was going to be the switch, the reveal could have happened at any time because you really didn’t know how things were going to be resolved the last few minutes. It did have the feel of Moffat’s involvement in the last few scripted moments. There had to be a reason for the Doctor to be that stern and unflinching as he melted flesh Amy – he had a flesh counterpart, he empathized with the flesh, and yet “sploosh!” she goes. That did seem overly mean to both Rory and flesh-Amy. Heck, keep ‘em both – two for Rory or one each, lol.

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  3. It just all seemed to me like there was enough for a two-part story here but it was just spaced out all wrong. You make a great point about “convenience” being all over this episode – things happen because the producers want it to happen and not as a realistic outgrowth of the characters or situation. Honestly, when I was watching them rush through part two, I felt like I do sometimes when I write a story and take too long with the set-up and then just want the story to be over so I rush to the finish. That’s not what happened to them, obviously, but it really felt like part one was needing more story and part two was needing more time.

    As for the death of Flesh Amy – a friend on Facebook pointed out that what the Doctor did was basically cut the signal to her, and not kill her outright. She’s not going to be consigned to the ganger ball, in other words. I think maybe the disruption just kills the flesh, not the “person” inside it? I dunno. It did seem mean.

    There’s a bunch about the flesh we don’t know, though. Why did one of the Jens have the ability to stretch her neck and become a monster? Why did Amy’s face never go all featureless like the gangers here? Why did the flesh in the vat make a Ganger Doctor to have an adventure, but not a whole army to protect itself?

    I just want to see the conversation when Human Amy comes back and she’s like, “Rory, why is there a pirate outfit in my clothes closet?”

    “Um … you wear that.”

    “When we …”

    “I’ve never seen it before.’

    “Right. I meant, the other you wears it when-”

    “Stop talking, Rory,” hands him their daughter, “and change River’s diaper.”

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  4. God, I hated this. And the ending is just offensive. I’ve heard from many female viewers of the show who are completely horrified and sickened by this ending, which a lot of guys who liked it don’t seem to understand. This was squick to the nth degree, it confirms my feeling about Moffat as a giant misogynist, and I am so, so ready to never watch this show again.

    Seriously. I am on the fence as to whether I’m going to watch the next episode or just let it go. If it weren’t for River Song coming back in the next group of episodes, there would be nothing to tempt me back at all.

    Bleargh.

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    • how was moffat shown to be misogynist?? you are just being ridiculous
      i thought it was really good and a great cliffhanger leading me to want the next episode to come out right now!!!

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  5. If you don’t think that ending was hateful towards women, then you don’t. But between that and several remarks Moffat has made in the past about how he sees women… well, there’s a reason his female characters generally don’t ring true. He’s turned Amy, who I never liked because she was never anything more than a plot device even in season one, into a screaming victim who’s pregnant, I’m assuming against her will, in a “horror” ending that equates pregnancy with the kind of body horror found in the “Saw” movies. All I can say is, bleargh.

    His best female character is River, and she’s pretty much turned into nothing more than a Doctor groupie who’s so much as said that when the Doctor stops knowing her, she’ll die. REALLY? That’s all that’s keeping you going, formerly kind of awesome kick-ass archeologist lady? The regard of the Doctor is the only thing making your life have any meaning at all?

    And we all know where she ends up, because we’ve already seen it… in a computer being a mommy, because that is what Moffat has stated is what all women really want.

    Aaaaaarrrrrgh.

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  6. Pingback: Doctor Who Review: The Girl Who Waited | Earth Station One

  7. Pingback: Doctor Who Review: The Wedding of River Song | Earth Station One

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