This week’s journey in the TARDIS brings us a two-parter written by Matthew Graham that aired on 21 and 28 May, 2011.
The Doctor (Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) find themselves on 22nd century Earth, after getting caught in a solar tsunami. There, on a remote island, a factory and its employees are hard at work.
The workers deal with a highly corrosive acid, so instead of handling it themselves they use a programmable substance known as the Flesh to help create doppelgangers of themselves to do the work.
When the same solar storm that hit the TARDIS strikes the factory the doppelgangers are given their own sentience (or perhaps the Flesh had it all along, and has finally found a way to rebel) and the Time Lord and his Companions find themselves stuck in a war.
Things get really interesting when its discovered that the storm helped create a ganger of the Doctor.
With some nice location work, and some solid pacing, this story walks the fine line of being creepy while debating what it means to be alive, a person.
As the gangers get ready to rain hell down on the workers and our heroes, and the revelation of the ganger Doctor despite the fact that we know its coming, serves as the episode’s cliffhanger.
The Almost People picks up exactly where The Rebel Flesh ended with the introduction of the ganger Doctor.
As the episode progresses, there are a lot of fun moments between both Doctors as the gangers elevate their attacks on the humans. But what Amy suspects, but does it wrong, is that the Time Lord has swapped places with his ganger.
But as things continue, there is even discussion about the increasingly human gangers about whether or not violence is the answer.
This episode does some nice work exposing prejudices and judgements we have about people who ‘aren’t like us.’ There is darkness and goodness on both sides making the villain of the piece a little ambiguous… except for the the ganger version of the factory worker, Jennifer Lucas (Sarah Smart) who has some very definite and foul plans for the humans, and manipulates Rory every step of the way.
There’s also a brief nod to the ongoing spookiness of the series arc as the Eye Patch Lady (Frances Barber) makes another appearance.
Of the two parts, the second is the stronger. I realise in part one you have to set up the story, characters, move things along and hook the audience, but the second one just rollicks along, and the duo Doctors and figuring out which is which is great.
Now, it’s time to take a deep breath because next week we tackle a pair of revelatory episodes beginning with A Good Man Goes to War.