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Doctor Who "The Almost People" - TV Review


“The Almost People”

Writer: Matthew Graham
Director: Julian Simpson

The Doctor and his ganger play a game of switcheroo to study Amy, while the humans and their gangers continue their “them or us” feud in a bid to get off the island alive...

Like “The Rebel Flesh”, this second part of the two-parter is a trip through sci-fi memory lane. Unfortunately it isn’t quite as adept at making well-worn tropes feel fresh. Although the threat of the island blowing up (very Aliens ) adds a sense of urgency, you rarely feel there’s any genuine threat, while it turns out the gangers aren’t particularly interesting as bad guys. Their character development is just too simplistic – it’s great that they’re not moustache twirling villains, but they switch from “kill the humans” to “don’t kill the humans” too quickly to be convincing. And Jennifer’s transformation from naive youngster to human-hating psycho (to freaky CGI creature – WTF?) makes no sense at all. It’s also rather too predictable – Jimmy’s days were numbered as soon as he told us he had a young son waiting for him at home, while you could see the “twist” that there were two ganger Jennifers coming from a long way off. (That said, how come we didn’t see duplicates of any of the other gangers?)

It’s a shame the episode doesn’t quite deliver, because the first half of the story had so much promise – but to be fair, how many times do we end up saying that about denouements to sci-fi two-parters?

The episode does, however, give Matt Smith a chance to shine as two versions of the Doctor. Making the most of the confusion over which one’s which, Smith gets to run out a full range of emotions, from clownish and jovial (the early knockabout scenes showing off the Doctors’ mutual appreciation society are hilarious), to on-the-edge anger. Indeed, for a brief moment you do actually believe Amy might be in danger when she’s with the ganger (but not really) Doctor. Some 20 episodes into his tenure Smith’s still finding new facets to the role – impressive stuff.

But like series three’s “Utopia”, “The Almost People” is destined to be remembered more for its final revelation than anything else. When the Doctor hinted that he’d met the Flesh before, I never suspected it might be through Amy, and the idea that she’s been an impostor for the last few episodes (maybe even further back) is a twist that turns the series on its head. In a run that’s now bulging with questions we do, at the very least, now know why Amy’s been having visions of Eyepatch Lady, and why the TARDIS’s scanner was so confused about her pregnancy. Hopefully next week’s mid-season finale will give us a few clues about what’s going on. Please...

Just how long has Amy been replaced by the duplicate? We’re assuming it’s somewhere in the region of nine months, so presumably the switch took place while the Silence held her captive in “Day Of The Moon”. Or maybe it happened even earlier, in the gap between the “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day Of The Moon”, seeing as Amy told the Doctor that she was mistaken about her pregnancy at the beginning of the latter.

Also, what connects Eyepatch Lady with the Silence. Did the Doctor create his ganger intentionally in order to study Amy? And, how is the real Doctor going to respond to Amy (accidentally) telling him she’s seen him die? Was pushing her against the wall his genuine reaction to the revelation, or just an act to make sure she believed he was the ganger?

A little burst of Tom Baker’s voice asking if we’d like a jelly baby while the ganger Doctor’s trying to pull himself together? Plus, I loved all the subtle references the Doctors made at the climax about being “invited” to witness a death. He’s clearly twigged that something amiss is going on...

We’re pretty sure acid plant owner Morpeth Jetsan is a reference to Alien company Weyland Yutani – even the logo looks similar.

How exactly did the Doctors swap shoes without anyone noticing? Wibbly-wobbly shooey-wooey stuff, perhaps? And was monster Jennifer descended from the similarly disappointing creature in “The Lazarus Experiment”?

The ganger Doctor’s been melted so it looks unlikely that he’s the guy we saw shot at the beginning of “The Impossible Astronaut” – which would have been massive a cop out. Also, Dicken’s cold seemed to inexplicably make itself better (or just get forgotten about), so no War Of The Worlds denouement.

Doctor 1: "Yowser. An escape route. You know, I’m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang around with me."
Doctor 2: "Do we tend to say “Yowser”?"
Doctor 1: "That’s enough. Let it go, okay. We’re under stress."

Richard Edwards

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