Wow, that was certainly an interesting episode of Doctor Who. Where the last episode in the two-parter was fairly weak, this one took a direction that I actually liked. Again, the comparisons to “Cold Blood” of last season could be warranted, as this one also ends with a fairly important event that may well shape the rest of the season to come. It will certainly shape the next episode, “A Good Man Goes To War”.
For those of you who didn’t see last week’s episode, I don’t think you missed too much. Pretty much all of what happened last week is summed up nicely in the opening recap (anything you’re unclear on can be quickly clarified by Wikipedia), along with some new footage of The GangerDoctor reacting to the newly acquired combined experiences of his 11 lives. According to the recap page on TV Tropes, (avoid that page if you don’t want spoilers) he speaks in the voices of the third, fourth and tenth incarnations, something that I only half noticed while watching the episode. Specifically, I only caught the Fourth Doctor’s distinct voice.
As Americans (and indeed, some English people) will not have had a chance to see this episode yet, I will avoid spoiling as much as I can. Suffice it to say that there’s all the clone action that you could expect in here, from the tired old “shoot her, I’m the real one” (with a little twist) mainstay of the genre to the fairly obvious possibility of a Ganger stepping up to take the place of the real one. Trying to keep track of who’s real and who’s not can get a bit disorienting after a while, which I suspect was the whole point (although given the motivation behind the actions of the characters, noting one version as “real” where the other presumably isn’t is doing them a disservice). As I wrote in my review of last week’s episode (linked to below), there was a moral debate over whether Gangers should be used as slaves. So Doctor Who, so predictable. Saying that, there was some rather nice and some quite sad Ganger scenes, and I was surprised to see both of the Doctors acting weirdly towards Amy (for good reason, as we find out later on).
The bad thing about this episode is that apart from the reveals mentioned below, it doesn’t bring a whole lot that is new to the episode, relying on old clichés as described above. One thing that could also be troubling for newer viewers is following from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, as we go from “The Rebel Flesh” to “The Almost People”, which leads into “A Good Man Goes To War”, which in itself is said to contain a “game changing” cliffhanger to keep us guessing over the summer hiatus. This is possibly the longest stream of consecutive cliffhangers we’ve had in the revived series.
The good thing about this episode is that you start thinking about earlier events of the season in a different light and challenges what you think you know about the characters. And anything that gets you to go back and analyse earlier episodes for clues is a good thing, right? There were also some positives in that the character of Jennifer is treated like the nutter she is, apart from a brief period of time near the beginning of the episode. It is also nice to see some of the mini-arcs finally tied up (we think), such as being the first story that does not involve Rory’s death in some capacity, as well as the viewer finally finding out what the hell is going on with the Schrödinger baby.
Ganger Doctor was a fairly well telegraphed reveal last week, but these ones you probably wouldn’t see coming if you weren’t already told, especially because they’re quite ironic if you think about it. It’s also an interesting thought experiment to try and work out exactly when the Doctor knew what was going on overall. As cliffhangers for Doctor Who go, it’s better than last week’s one but it’s not as good as the one leading out of “Day Of The Moon” (I’m talking about Sparkly Time Child here). In last week’s review, I wrote that I hoped the two-parter had a weak set-up and had a strong pay-off. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.