But who are the real monsters?
This was an odd episode. For the most part it was a bit rubbish, really – the sort of episode which has lines like ‘But who are the real monsters?’ (in this case the answer would be the writer and script editor for writing that line and failing to excise it, respectively) – but then it did have an absolute blinder of an ending. In fact, that ending almost makes me inclined to forgive the episode for a lot of its faults. Almost, but not quite.
Let’s start at the very beginning – an apology for last week’s review, which was poor, even by my standards. It was a bit all over the place, but then it rather mirrored the episode in that respect. When I said nothing happened, that wasn’t exactly true. Stuff did happen, but just veeeery slowly. It almost reminded me of a old episode of Doctor Who (and since the moron the Telegraph have got doing the reviews for them liked it, I’m probably on to something) but the old episodes were, for the most part, shorter, and played out over far more parts. It’s easy to forget now, but Doctor Who used to be a serial format. Cliffhangers at the end of episodes used to be the norm. In fact, cliffhangers at the end of every episode were the norm. However, in the new format, the old style sort of pacing just doesn’t work. Episodes aren’t constructed in the same way any more. But I digress…
So, moving right along we get the Doctor’s ‘ganger doing Tom Baker impressions. Fantastic. Nothing I love more than a Tom Baker impression/reference to Jon Pertwee. Wonderful. Smith did his trademark ‘jerking around like a puppet’ thing which he hasn’t had a chance to do in a few episodes and got to play two of himself. As always, great acting, and in fact, all the cast did a stellar job with what was at time less-than-stellar material. Apart from that little kid, who was useless and can go and jump in a well. Then – hooray! – they escape through an air vent! Tremendous!
Then, the episode puts on the brakes. Again. As with the last one, there’s lots of standing around in rooms discussing the plot and ethical dilemmas. We have some interesting stuff in the earlier parts about ‘what makes a person a person’, but as we got later into the episode, the idea was pushed to one side, and then, right at the very end, abandoned entirely* (I’ll come back to that). Anyway, the Doctor and co quickly find themselves assailed by acid and that necessitates they escape to the evac tower (before they get deseeebled**). This facilitates an awful lot of ‘the ‘gangers are the same but they’re different but they’re the same’ talk we’ve already hear enough of. For pity’s sake, the leader’s ‘ganger keeps saying things like “…it’s what I would do. AND SHE IS ME!” as if we hadn’t already got that. Rather than trying to address any more interesting philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and are we simply the sum of our memories and since all our cells are constantly being replaced, how are the ‘gangers truly different from us? but rather than doing that, we get running around and a CGI monster that looks like it wandered in from Dead Space. Or The Lazarus Experiment.
Look, I’m not saying Doctor Who, a show with a large following amongst children, should be 100% issues and serious though, I just think that for an episode to raise them all, and, what’s more, to spend most of its running time having Serious Conversations while doing not very much, to not bother with those, you know, interesting, worth-thinking-about questions and just substitute talking far too much about the least interesting points (and when you get to the point where you’re using dialogue like “But who are the real monsters?”) you can just about bugger off.
There was fresh nonsense – the wall of eyes (what?) and the stuff with the discarded Flesh, which seems like it was lampshaded but never fully addressed. What’s more, Rory seems to have reverted to the ‘hapless buffoon’ character he used to play, not noticing that the ‘ganger he’s inexplicably got a crush on despite being married to Amy Pond is a ‘ganger, despite it being SO OBVIOUS the children in the audience must have been shouting it at the bloody screen! The behavior of the other ‘gangers, meanwhile, makes literally no sense – they turn on a penny from ‘DIE PUNY HUMANS’ to ‘Sure, we’ll help you kill Necromorph Jenny’. Not that her behavior makes any more sense – ‘let’s try and kill everyone because…’ would seem to be about the size of it. As I’ve already mentioned, the Dead Space abomination she turns into at the end is just a lazy attempt to provide some dramatic tension, as is all the stuff with the acid (it was never explained why they needed all that acid either, was it?). The saddest part of it all is, unlike some I could name Matthew Graham isn’t a complete incompetent and can actually write worth a damn. How he, of all people, was able – willing – to churn out this dross is beyond me.
Apart from the ending. Well, actually, we began with the buildup – apparently they couldn’t just all run for the TARDIS during the approximately five minutes they spent chit-chatting about what it means to be human, and ‘ganger Leader Lady, ‘ganger Doctor and Lazarus II were exploded by the sonic (though not before ‘ganger Doctor had dropped another colossally unsubtle hint along the lines of that ‘still waters run deep’(or whatever that was) line from The Doctor’s Wife). At this point, I’d grown tired of what amounted to attempts to force the pathos down our throats, although they did imply that ‘ganger Doctor might return… Then ‘ganger-With-The-Irritating-Child is dropped of with said irritating child, and ‘ganger Leader Lady and others to a press conference hosted by Evil Corporation of whom we’ll doubtless be seeing more. Then, Amy begins contractions and they step back into the TARDIS. Now here’s the interesting bit. Amy’s been seeing Eyepatch Lady since episode 2, and she’s had plenty of time to go missing and reappear before then, which is most interesting, since it turns out she’s made of Flesh. Yeah! That’s more like it – something really unexpected! Was that why they made the episode so predictable? Just so we’d be more impressed by the actual surprise? Anyway, as I said earlier, at this point, the episode ceased any pretense at caring about philosophical issues or ethics or morality or whatever, and the Doctor explodes her with his sonic, for what reason I’m not entirely sure. The one person throughout the episode who was unswerving in his support for the Flesh, and he’s happy to pop this ‘ganger like a balloon despite there being no appreciable reason not to let her live?
This seriously bothered me. The Doctor’s always had questionable morality, right back to An Unearthly Child, but this seemed truly needless***. We discovered why the Doctor had been acting mysterious since the beginning of the episode, why Amy was giving the TARDIS scanner funny readings, what was the deal with Eyepatch Lady, and that Real Amy’s been missing for ages, but still, why kill ‘ganger Amy? What harm was she doing? Perhaps this will be elucidated later. I hope it will, anyway. There are still, however, interesting questions left to be resolved, and with a cliffhanger from an ending which was, for once, genuinely surprising. It’s nice to have no idea where thin0gs are going. So, a bad episode with a good (or at the very least interesting ending. Can’t wait to see where things go next time!
*Some of you are going to moan about me once more mentioning Lawrence Miles, but his blog has a bit on its sidebar contrasting the morality of Genesis of the Daleks – “Have I the right… etc” with the morality of the Doctor’s actions at the end of Day of the Moon (which if you read my review, you’ll remember I questioned at the time).
**and if you haven’t watched the IT Crowd episode ‘The Work Outing’, I highly recommend you do so. It also features Uncle, from The Doctor’s Wife.
***see the first one of these for more, though I’d also recommend this from the same source.