**** Warning this post contains spoilers about The Rebel Flesh and may refer to previous episodes of Doctor Who. If you haven’t watched the episode or don’t want to be surprised do not read further. ****
This week’s episode is the first of a two parter written by Matthew Graham (co-creator of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes), who earlier penned “Fear Her.”
We open on a 13th century monastery turned 22nd century factory. Three workers (Jennifer, Buzzer and Jimmy) are monitoring the potency of the acid vats. When Jennifer playfully nudges Buzzer in good fun, Buzzer gets knocked into the acid. There is no rescue attempt, no fear, and the only remorse comes from the loss of one acid suit. Buzzer disintegrates into the acid. When Jennifer and Jimmy leave, Buzzer walks up to them and wants to discuss what just happened. He wants it to be on record that it wasn’t his fault that he fell into the acid, that he was pushed while they were messing around. Jimmy is just annoyed that he might miss his son’s birthday party because of all the paperwork he will have to fill out. It’s very clear that there is more going on then what we can plainly see.
Inside the TARDIS, which has turned into a pub, complete with darts and loud music (Amy and Rory seem to have redecorated a bit!) the Doctor is sitting back still staring at Amy’s full body scan which is showing her quantum pregnancy. He suddenly decides that he needs to drop Amy and Rory off somewhere (presumably to get Amy away from the TARDIS, he seems scared about her pregnancy), and tells them he has other things to do. They refuse to leave the Doctor’s side… and then before any of them can say anything else, they hit a solar tsunami and fall to Earth while crash landing, although they don’t crash, they land perfectly, exactly where they needed to be.
When they arrive, they are at the same medieval castle looking place, which the Doctor identifies as a medieval abbey. Rory tells them it can’t be though… because their is modern music playing through the air. There is a break in the ground exposing some pipes that say “Warning: Corrosive.” It seems there was some sort of gamma particle release preceding the tsunami that caused a geomagnetic quake on the island. There is something corrosive being pumped off the island to the mainland. They decide to explore.
When they get inside it is quickly apparent that the corrosive substance they are pumping is acid, when Rory accidentally puts his finger in an old drip of it. Alarms sound, and “people, well… almost people” are coming. Off they run. They enter a room of harnesses that are holding people onto the walls. The people look like they are asleep. In come five different people… all the same people who are lying in the harnesses. We come to find out that the people in the harnesses are the originals, while the people the Doctor is interacting with are duplicates controlled by the people in the harnesses. Miranda is the leader of this group of government contractors. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to convince Miranda that he is from the Meteorological division of the government, and he is there to warn them about the solar tsunami that is on its way. The leader seems unconcerned about the storm. “We survived the last one and we will survive this one as well.” The Doctor seems to know exactly what he is looking for, and asks to look at their critical systems.
Miranda brings him to a very large vat of white material in a dark room. This is apparently the government’s worst kept secret, the Flesh. It is fully programmable matter down to the cellular level. She explains that the Flesh is the material they use to create doppelgangers (Gangers) of themselves. The Gangers are apparently used to reduce the human losses into the acid vats that they were mining. These Gangers are identical in every way to the people in the harnesses. They contain everything down to the personality and memories of the person controlling them, but they must be controlled by their harnessed original or they return to Flesh. Miranda sends Jennifer back to get back in her harness since she is the only one not already in Ganger form. We watch her turn from the Flesh back to Jennifer in a matter of seconds. The Doctor examines the Flesh and says that he could sense it scanning him, and when he touched it, he said he could feel everyone’s collective memories and thoughts in his mind.
The storm begins to rage, and the Doctor insists that they all need to leave, otherwise it will be bad for everyone. Miranda refuses, and tells her workers that until the mainland shuts them down they will continue working. The factory is solar-powered (you see where this could be bad in the middle of a massive solar tsunami), so the Doctor sets off to disable the weather vane in an attempt to save the factory and all of the people.
The storm heightens, and the Gangers watch, pipes are bursting and acid is leaking everywhere, including right under the TARDIS, causing it to sink. There is some flashing of the lightening, and We can see a flash between the Gangers looking completely normal, and them looking like the Flesh while screaming. Its pretty creepy. Anyways, the Doctor climbs the tower with the weather vane, but is too late, there is a massive power surge that blows him off the tower. He is knocked unconscious. The storm seems to have knocked everyone else unconscious as well.
When everyone wakes up and regain their bearings, they regroup in the harness room. Its an hour later. Jennifer looks to be crying in the corner of the room. Rory runs to check on her, and she is talking about how badly it hurt, how she tried to escape, but she couldn’t. She looks genuinely terrified. Everyone is accounted for, but then they hear music. The music starts, then is changed to another track. There is someone else around… the Gangers are still alive. The storm has released the Gangers from the control of the harnesses while still living.
Everyone makes it back to crew quarters, and it looks as though it has been ransacked. Everyones belongings have been sifted through, looks like the Gangers have been looking for something. The Doctor explains that the Gangers are looking for validation for the lives they remember, but don’t fully understand. He says that they are scared and confused, and unstable since this is the first time they are “on their own”. He doesn’t know how long they will remain stable. Miranda seems really unsure of this latest bit of news. She seems confused and like she is trying to work something out. Jennifer feels sick, and heads to the loo. Rory follows her to keep an eye out for any surprises.
Jennifer is hunched over the bathroom sink looking ill. When she looks in the mirror she sees a flash of the Flesh, and vomits white Flesh. Its obvious she is a Ganger. She heads to one of the stalls right after Rory arrives and when he turns around she punches Rory. She has changed forms and stretched her arm through the door. Then she gets all stretchy and scary looking and asks Rory to let them live. Rory runs off terrified.
Back in the crew quarters, the Doctor tests a theory by heating up a plate and once it is hot handing it to Mathilda. She holds the plate with no problem, until the Doctor tells her that its hot, then she drops it in pain. She is a Ganger too. She is scared turns away and when she turns back is in the Flesh form. She is scared and angry, and tells them all that they are alive. She screams and runs away. It’s then that Amy reminds the Doctor that Rory isn’t with them and they go to inspect the bathroom. It’s here that Amy and Jimmy realize that the Doctor knows a lot more about the Flesh than he is letting on. The Doctor is sure that he can help all of them, if he could just talk to the Gangers. They all split up to search for Rory and Jennifer (Ganger). Amy runs to find Rory without the protection of an acid suit and the Doctor heads to the TARDIS since it would be far safer to search with all of the leaking acid pipes.
There is a very sweet scene where Rory finds Ganger Jennifer in the harness room. Jennifer talks about how she wished as a child for an identical twin that was stronger then her, that would save her when she was lost. Rory comforts her, and when she asks him to help her, he agrees.
The Doctor makes one stop before fetching the TARDIS. He stops by the vat of Flesh, and sonic scans it once again. After the Doctor leaves the room a mouth forms in the Flesh and says “Trust Me.” Outside the TARDIS has completely sunk into the acid-soaked ground rendering it completely useless for the moment. The Doctor stands for a moment too long in the acid, and his shoes begin to burn, after removing them he heads back inside.
All of the gangers, except Jennifer (Ganger) have assembled and figured out that they have the advantage over the originals, since they hoarded all of the protective acid suits.
Amy is running down yet another dark corridor looking for Rory when she encounters the same eye patch woman in the slot that she saw in Episode 2 and 3 before. Amy shakes it off and runs right into Rory and Jennifer(Ganger). Buzzer and Dicken arrive at the same time, and Rory tells them that they cannot harm Jennifer(Ganger). Amy doesn’t seem to understand why Rory is so protective of Jennifer(Ganger), since all Jennifer really is is a Ganger.
The Doctor has found the rest of the Gangers and asked them to join everyone else in the crew quarters, so that everything could be sorted out. Everyone except original Jennifer and original Miranda appear. The Doctor explains to all of them that they are all alive and that they should work together in order to save everyone.
Original Miranda decides to pay everyone a visit. She has created a 40,000 volt “glorified cattle prod” with the intention to kill all of the Gangers. She says that they are simply broken pieces of the factory that need to be “decommissioned”. Buzzer(Ganger) takes a step towards her, and she immediately tases him and kills him. The other Gangers are terrified and no longer trust that they will be safe with any of the originals. They all run off. The Doctor is appalled that Miranda would have killed Buzzer(Ganger). Mirada exclaims that this means war and it is now “us vs. them” and proceeds to persuade her crew to feel the same. Meanwhile Jennifer(Ganger) is having the same discussion with the remaining Gangers, their first priority find the original Jennifer.
The Doctor knows that war is brewing, so he seeks the most fortified room in the monastery, which is of course the chapel where the vat of Flesh is located. Rory hears Jennifer’s(we assume its the original) screams down one of the halls and goes running after her instead of joining the others in the chapel. The Doctor, Amy, Miranda, Jimmy, Buzzer and Dickens barricade themselves in the chapel, as the other gangers approach the door.
The Doctor turns to Amy and says, “Yes its insane, and its about to get even more insanerer.” The answer is immediate. Emerging from the shadows is a Flesh version of the Doctor, asking all of them to trust him. Wow… I wonder if this Doctor(Ganger) was some sort of plan on the Doctor’s part since he seemed to consciously interact with the Flesh throughout the episode. I also wonder if Doctor(Ganger) is the Doctor that is killed in the first episode of this season rather then the original Doctor. Is the Doctor(Ganger) a true Time Lord? Could he have regenerated into the little girl? So many questions and no answers till later.
Cliffhanger….. till next week for everyone, except those watching on BBC America who is taking Memorial Day Weekend off, and will be a week behind on the episodes for the rest of the half-season.
I love all of the moral questions that are being raised in this episode. The morality of cloning and enslaving life even when you think that life is an extremely simple life form.
What moral issues did you find fascinating in this episode?
2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh – A Recap”
What I wondered when I watched is if Rory is made of Flesh™. I hadn’t considered that the ‘dead’ doctor was a Flesh™Doctor. Thanks for a great recap!
I am trying to ignore the fact that this episode reminded me very much of the Silurian two-parter from last season and remain optimistic that the conclusion is not as awful!
I think the Doctor is about 10 steps ahead of everyone else in this episode and knows exactly what is going on. I do wonder if the Flesh is related to the Nestene Consciousness (likely) or even to the New Earth lab-rat people who were referred to as “the flesh” also back in season 2 (less likely).
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