The Almost People. It’s a loaded phrase, as it’s meant to be. First heard in “The Rebel Flesh”, Amy: “Almost coming?” The Doctor: “Almost people,” it’s rife with possibility. While the Flesh may be continuing their rebellion, the gangers are getting closer and closer to being as human as any of us.
Scripted by Matthew Graham and directed by Julian Simpson, (despite the cries heard across the Atlantic, of MOOOOOFFFFFAAAAATTTTT,) the conclusion of the second two-parter in S6 is full of twists, turns, and more than a bit of horror both blatant and subtle.
Harkening back to “The Impossible Astronaut”, we’re left questioning what we’ve been told. Was that the Doctor? If the Doctor’s ganger is the Doctor too, could that have been a duplicate who died?
Duplicates are important in this season. We’ve got a monastery full of duplicates, a duplicate Doctor, and Rory. Rory spent two thousand years as plastic, and we know that he remembers it. In TRF, the memory of what being less than human and yet, so very human, gave Rory empathy for the gangers. Or did it? Was there something more to it than that?
We pick up where we left off, with the ganger Doctor. Is this what it’s like for the, “Real,” Doctor? Sorting and contextualizing all those selves with each regeneration? “Reverse the jelly baby of the neutron flow,” sums it up quite nicely. If you’ve got sharp ears, you’ll hear a few past Doctors, including Tom Baker and David Tennant. The idea of two Doctor’s makes the humans uncomfortable. Fear and revulsion, tempered by her love of the Doctor, color Amy’s interactions with his doppelganger. Meanwhile, the Doctor seems thrilled to be part of a matched set. Except for the shoes.
The, “Us and them,” mentality espoused by both native groups of gangers and humans, begins to be echoed by Team TARDIS. Rory has, despite doubts when he runs into two Jennifers, thrown his lot in with the Doctor’s aim of saving both humans and gangers. Amy is far more suspicious of the ganger Doctor, and the gangers in general.
We’re shown the ways the humans and gangers really are the same people: Cleaves’ headaches, Jimmy’s attachment to his son, yet Jennifer is bent on revenge. As a human, Jennifer’s a mouse and as a ganger, she’s the id unleashed.
Amy’s confrontation with the ganger Doctor is chilling, as she reveals that she’s seen the Doctor’s death. His response is even more frightening, because this is perhaps the first time since “The Beast Below”, that we’ve seen this sort of rage displayed as he slams Amy up against a wall and exclaims, “. . . It’s all the eyes say, ‘Why?'”
Duplicity and accusation, secrets and lies, and a game of survival of the fittest. Jennifer manipulates Rory into accessing systems that won’t recognize a non-human. The dialogue is such a subversion of the, “helpless female,” human Jennifer imagined herself to be, that it raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
A phone call tips the balance, as ganger Jimmy speaks to, “His,” son.
Ganger Jennifer: “You tricked him into an act of weakness.”
Ganger Doctor: “No, I helped him into an act of humanity.”
There is reconciliation and redemption among the gangers and humans, but Jennifer is still a threat and the factory’s going into meltdown. The ganger Cleaves and Doctor stay behind to destroy Jennifer, and the Doctor reveals that they swapped shoes. A happy ending seems to be in store.
Except. . .
Everything we know is a lie. The story’s been telling us this, all along.
The final words of the ganger Doctor to Amy, “Push, but only when she tells you.”
The many, many instances, perhaps going back to the fifth season, where the Doctor has commanded Amy to, “Breathe.”
Amy is flesh, a duplicate.
Doctor: “Hold on, we’re coming for you. . .”
Amy: “I’m right here.”
Doctor: “No you’re not, and you haven’t been for a long, long time.”
We see Amy wake up in a a sterile white room, obviously pregnant, and the mysterious woman with an eyepatch is there, telling her to push.
Matthew Graham has managed to take a Frankensteinian premise, and make it much more horrifying, while Simpson’s direction has brought Arthur Darvill forward as the voice of benevolent altruism and courage in the face of both a mob mentality and shocking betrayals. Matt Smith plays both Doctors in very different ways, and Karen Gillan embodies the loyalty we expect from Amy, while at the same time showing us the fear and betrayal as Rory steps away from his wife to allow the Doctor to destroy her. Ganger Amy may be a duplicate, but she doesn’t know it. This isn’t a self-aware, willing participant in the real Amy’s abduction, this is a shell, holding Amy’s living consciousness.
Sarah Smart’s Jennifer, is absolutely bone-chilling, but I really found myself connecting to Raquel Cassidy’s Cleaves. Cassidy manages to make both human and ganger versions equally human and equally flawed, and she’s definitely a match for the Doctors in attitude.
We’re left with questions: How long has Amy been a duplicate? Who took her, and why? Is she really pregnant? Is the child in the space suit Amy’s child? If so, how can the child regenerate? Moffat has said we’ll learn who River Song is before the mid-series break, so we’ve got to wonder: Is Amy River’s mother?
We’re also given answers: The indeterminate pregnancy is obviously a reflection of the fact that Amy’s ganger is connected to Amy, and the TARDIS can sense both. The Silent’s command that Amy, “Tell the Doctor what he must know, and what he must never know,” has a probable explanation: Amy told him she was pregnant, and that she’s seen him die. Although I doubt that it’s that simple. Things are rarely simple with Steven Moffat.
A running theme this season, has been that someone other than the Doctor is the emotional center of each episode. In “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Almost People”, we see the Doctor shoulder some of the emotional burden, but I think the sense of him as an observer is intentional. It’s implied that he’s known Amy isn’t Amy for a while, which gives the detachment some context. It will be especially frightening if we learn that Amy hasn’t been Amy going back to some point in the fifth series. Since we know Rory remembers being The Lone Centurion and the whole two thousand years of waiting for Amy, will Amy have memories of being in captivity and being in the TARDIS?
The takeaway from “The Almost People”, breaks down as follows: 1) We’ve got a lot of questions heading into the mid-series break, and it’s likely that only a few of them will be answered. 2) Some of the arc threads have their origins as far back as the fourth series. 3) This is where it gets complicated.
With the title of the mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes To War”, we’re led in a particular direction. River is in prison for killing a man, “A very good man.”
Does the title refer to the Doctor, or someone else entirely?
NB: Check your calendars, America. We’re now a week behind the UK, due to BBC America deciding Whovians wouldn’t be bothered watching television on Memorial Day weekend. The scheduled air date for the second half premiere is September third. Labor Day weekend. If you want to make sure we’re not put a week behind again, tweet @BBCAmerica.