Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh

About half way through last week I found out that Matthew Graham was writing Saturday's episode, and I let out a groan. On Friday I found out it was a two parter. Another groan. Graham's previous works include 'Life on Mars' and 'Ashes to Ashes' were some of the best programmes made by the BBC in recent years, a strange mix of fantasy and SF that was strong throughout. A real gem. But since then it's just been bitter disappointments with the abominable 'Bonekickers', in which a band of archaeologists work together to solve a mystery and inevitably destroy the priceless artefact of the week, and Doctor Who dud 'Fear Her'.

So with low expectations I watched 'The Rebel Flesh', and fortunate because in a word, it was "Meh". The location work was good, the monsters fine, but it was a standard base under siege with some contrivances to move it along. The 'war' between the humans and their flesh-clones was largely started by commander on the base taking an irrationally aggressive stance against the clones and the clones making no attempt to take a course other than killing the humans in response. Seeing as they are clones of each other and most of the people on the base were prepared to meet and talk peacefully with the clones it seems odd that the actions of the commander are not immediately predictable and are allowed to lead to full hostilities between two groups of people who both know that by large the other would find a peaceful settlement agreeable.

The idea behind the story was okay as far as they go, but the question of whether clones or duplicates have souls and deserve equal rights to their originals is not a new idea in SF. There seemed no particular explanation for why they were pumping acid out of the ground for any reason other than to raise the stakes with a greater threat in the story.

I do love Matt Smith and the regulars and they nearly always save even a duff story. But Amy and Rory do not seem well served here bordering on mischaracterisation. Amy just wasn't given much to do and Rory seemed to act in a manner designed to fit the needs of the script rather than what we've previously seen. This is the chap who waited 2000 years for his girlfriend and yet this story seem to be pitched with him taking a shine to clone-Jennifer. It would seem entirely appropriate that Rory would empathise with the clones questioning their humanity because Rory had to deal with being an auton duplicate and he is, after all, a nurse. But the story seems to be tipping over into him being very taken with her on a level beyond mere sympathy. And it's not difficult to see when watching Doctor Who Confidential, where Steven Moffat and others talk about a 'love triangle' in which Rory falls for Jennifer because she is the damsel in distress and makes him 'feel like a man'. What a load of cobblers, it undermines the character and is quite a backwards step given that I though we were now over the insecurities in this relationship. It's no wonder with this attitude towards what men and women need from a relationship that Steven Moffat's fingerprints of this are all over the story leading to the ambiguity in whether Rory is showing professional care and sympathy or attraction towards Jennifer.

Overall underwhelming and quite probably forgettable. Unless there's a huge amount of material in the next episode then I'll probably be left feeling like this should have been a single part story which is a bit of a waste in a season only 13 episodes long.

The TARDIS probably sums up my expectations for the following part of this story.

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