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Monday, February 18, 2013

Doctor Who - "The Almost People"

WHOSCALE: 5 out of 10

Considering that in my opinion, the bulk of the story was covered in the first half of the previous episode, it should be no surprise that the second half of this two part story scored lower on the Whoscale. 

Before I go into detail on what costs this episode so many points, I should note that the pacing for this story was a huge issue. I found it frequently difficult to understand what was going on because the dialogue from so many characters was gibberish. For some reason, Moffat seems to think that characters that talk extremely rapidly is "quirky." While this may be true, it should be a trait reserved only for the Doctor, not every character. When you get a room full of characters all conversing and their sentences are garbled because they're speaking so fast, it no longer becomes an appealing quirk, it becomes an irritating annoyance, because I cannot understand them. 

Besides the almost non stop music throughout this entire episode, that is perhaps my biggest complaint. As I stated in my previous review, the initial plot and story was not a bad idea for an episode of Doctor Who. The fact that it was a two parter of course, always yields a few points. However, in spite of the story's two part format -  and having watched this episode several times now since it aired - I still have trouble "keeping up" so to speak with the development of the story.

I think what I'm trying to say is that the episode does not have a very good structured narrative. For me, much of this episode felt like a mess, particularly when pointless elements start getting introduced into the story. For example, the doppleganger of The Doctor had no purpose whatsoever other than to confuse both Amy and the audience. Then we're forced to deal with yet another problem - as if we don't have enough of them already - Amy initially rejects the notion of "two identical Doctors," claiming that she can tell the difference between the two. This is later proven false due to The Doctor switching shoes with his ganger. What's even more ridiculous is that The Doctor claims that the reason he swapped shoes with his ganger was to determine whether or not Amy could truly tell a difference. Who the fudge cares?! 

The more I reflect on what I've just watched, the more I find it difficult to even summarize the story in my head. There was too much already going on by the time the Doctor ganger was introduced. Already we had a missing Rory, a missing Jennifer, a missing ganger Jennifer, three or four other gangers running amok and plotting a revolution against the humans. This was more than enough to resolve within the confines of this episode - and that's if you don't count the final ten minutes, which had nothing to do with this story whatsoever. 

Anytime a science fiction story deals with copies, there is always going to be that brief moment of confusion from the audience where they cannot tell which one is the original. Such an example would be the campfire scene in the snow in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, where a shape shifter takes on the form of Kirk, and a fight ensues. A few rolls in the snow later, we're confused on who the real Kirk is. However, the scene soon resolves this with the elimination of the shape shifter. My point is, it's confusing enough to drag out a story with two of every character over two episodes, it's practically mundane when you introduce a copy of a copy, as this episode did with Jennifer. We soon learn that Jennifer has in fact been dead for some time, at that BOTH the Jennifers that were walking around with Rory are gangers. Yet again, what purpose was served by having this element in the story? It served only to confuse the audience even further. 

Since Moffat teased the audience with the death of The Doctor in the season opener "The Impossible Astronaut," it was clear that throughout the remainder of this season, Moffat was leading us on with suggestions at how the incident at the lake could be avoided or circumvented. With "The Curse of the Black Spot," were introduced to a life support system that could sustain a dying person indefinitely. With "The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People," we're introduced to a copy of The Doctor. Naturally, my first thought when seeing this originally was that perhaps The Doctor at the lake was this ganger. However, the ganger dies of course near the end of the episode. 

The resolution of the story in my opinion was a joke. Cleaves' ganger - who for two whole episodes has sworn to wage war against the humans - suddenly decides that there is no point in the war and surrenders. Meanwhile, Jennifer, who is nothing more than a ganger, suddenly possesses the ability to morph into a horrific CGI monster similar to the one in "The Lazarus Experiment." That monster, in turn, was defeated by The Doctor's ganger simply pointing his sonic screwdriver at it, which reveals that it can break down the molecular patterns of the flesh, thus returning the ganger to a puddle of goo. So why not have just done this to the walkabout gangers from onset?!

The problem of having a double for each of the mining crew is quickly resolved by a few convenient acid-related deaths. The scene between the two Jimmys is practically scene for scene ripped from "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," where a young Obi-Wan cradles a dying Qui-Gon. The fact that I'm actually finding similarities between a television series about time and space travel and a major motion picture franchise like Star Trek or Star Wars, shows that some, if not all of these modern Doctor Who episodes are well over done. 

Yet one other problem that the entire story touched on, was the fact that the gangers were in limbo between "real human" and "ganger" (hence the title of the episode). This issue is magically resolved after the gangers enter the TARDIS. Apparently, the TARDIS energy stabilized their molecular structure, so they were suddenly human. How convenient. 

It irritates me to my core when a writer is given the breathing room of two episodes, and yet the whole thing gets resolved in the final 10 minutes. It makes you wonder, "what the hell did we just spend the last hour doing?!"

The final sequence in the episode takes place in the TARDIS, and reveals the nature of the Eye Patch Lady that has been visiting Amy as a hallucination. Amy is revealed to be a ganger, which raises my next question. The ganger technology was unique to this time period, so assuming that Amy was copied during the time she was missing in "The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon," (which was in 1969) how did the Silents become aware of this technology? It was a clever twist, but some of these little convenient resolutions feel like they were dreamed up at the last minute - to the point of just seeming ridiculous. To me, the whole "Amy is actually a ganger- a element that we just conveniently introduced" felt more like "this here, for lack of a better idea." 

I wanted to score this episode high, because it had the core of a good Doctor Who story, but like so many others in the new series, it was presented in a fashion that simply does not work for  a show like this.

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