Contributor: Gregg Wright
There’s plenty to like in this conclusion to “The Rebel Flesh”. But I think the core of the problem with both of these episodes is that this story isn’t good enough, or grand enough, to warrant stretching it out over two episodes. It’s a good enough stand-alone story, but I think it would have worked a bit better as a single episode. It helps some that it connects with a great plot twist with major ramifications on the overarching story. I can’t help but be reminded of last season’s Silurian two-parter, whose second part would have been a complete disaster if not for the shocking ending.
This second part yet again focuses heavily on the morality play over humans vs. Gangers. I found most of it interesting enough, but I’m starting to get really tired of some of the tropes that result from this type of story. Whenever you have two copies of a character, you can almost always predict that the episode will have to shoehorn in a number of plot contrivances so that only one of each is left standing. If this was just a format issue, meaning that you have to get rid of copies of regular characters so that things are back to normal by the next episode, then I could almost understand. (Though, this still greatly annoys me. Here’s a tip: If you’re writing a stand-alone episode, DON’T do a doppelganger story.) But that is clearly not the only reason for the problem here, as the writer seemed just as interested in leaving only one of each of the guest characters left alive as well. And therein lies the hypocrisy of the episode. The whole message that the episode is trying to convey is a very good one: that humans and their Ganger counterparts should be treated equally. The episode goes partway with this, killing off humans and Gangers equally. But it’s unwilling to leave any of the guest characters with the problem of actually having to deal with the aftermath of their being two of them. The episode should have been more committed to its own message in this regard. I should note that the Doctor does mention to his ganger that his molecular memory might survive, so hopefully this means that we’ll see the Ganger Doctor again in a future episode.
As predictable as it was, I liked the twist in which the Doctor switches shoes with his Ganger to teach Amy a lesson. It illustrated the point beautifully, even if I’m still slightly annoyed that it was even necessary in the first place. The inclusion of a second Doctor was probably one of the more satisfying aspects of the episode. If the Ganger Doctor really had joined Jennifer’s rebellion, then it would have defeated the Doctor’s whole point. So I was glad to see him remain on the Doctor’s side for the whole episode, though personally I think the phone call scene would have been more impactful if it had actually been the Ganger Doctor who made the call and tricked the other Gangers into thinking he’d joined them. Still, it manages to be one of the most effective moments in the episode.
Of course, it’s hard to feel like talking about much else after the big twist ending. The Amy we’ve been seeing since the premiere has been a ganger which Amy has been inhabiting from another location, apparently across time and space, considering how much traveling Amy has been doing in the TARDIS. It’s unclear exactly when the Doctor realized this; probably at some point during his scans, which sparked the Doctor’s interest in further investigating the “flesh”. It turns out that Amy really is pregnant–very pregnant–and has been somehow feeling the contractions even while in the ganger. And like the pain from the contractions, the eye patch lady is somehow bleeding through from what Amy’s actual body is experiencing. It’s all a bit head-scratching, but it will probably make more sense next week. Also, I must not have been paying close enough attention while I was watching, because the Doctor’s line near the end seems to indicate that he now knows that he will die in 200 years. I’ve now read online that Amy told him about this at some point in the episode, but oddly, I’m unable to remember where.
Despite my misgivings about this two-parter, I have to say that it could have been a whole lot worse. It’s a pretty decent story overall, and its biggest flaws lie more in the execution than in the concepts. Furthermore, the reveal in the final moments is impressive enough (despite how initially confounding it is) to generate a strong interest in seeing what happens next. It’s too bad we’re going to have to wait so long to see the conclusion to next week’s two-parter, as it’s almost certain to end with a major cliffhanger.