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Review: Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh (Episode 5 Season 6)

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Posted by: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
created 05/21/2011 - 11:59pm, updated 05/22/2011 - 12:02am

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“We want to live!” 

 

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After last week’s unique "stellar" episode, it’s a stellar event that acts as a catalyst - causing the Tardis and her crew to crash land on 22nd Century Earth – into a very traditional tale that's not just guaranteed to try and frighten you, but make you think hard about what “identity” actually is.  
 
As soon as you see the Gangers and the Flesh they’re made off  -- you’ll  recognize the Frankenstein concepts that writer Matthew Graham (Life on Mars) has utilized, especially the scene as a “ganger” is created from a vat of bio-genetic ooze, driven by electrical impulses by their ” human” Avatar's minds.  Gangers have been created to mine a very corrosive acid; they’re disposable workers who have no rights, no privileges... while their human counterparts reap the financial rewards.
 
However, as soon as the solar storm hits, the dividing line between the camps vanishes like the Tardis does, sinking down into the ground. The Gangers – just like Mary Shelley’s monstrous creation become self-aware. They want to live by their own rules - and even as the Doctor endeavors to parley a truce as tensions rise - any such peaceful outcome soon evaporates in one act of violence.
 
What helps this story move along is a small cast of actors who have to double up, including Matt Smith as we get to see a doppelganger of The Doctor crop up at the end, which sparks some electrical impulses regarding a solution to the “future death” arc – unless of course Moffat is playing with us!
 
As Ganger’s can alter their ghostly skin tone to human hues there are times,  just like in that other classic film, The Thing, where there are instances we can’t quite tell who is who. However, what The Thing didn’t do and "The Rebel Flesh" attempts to do is delve into the concept of identity typified by” Jennifer Ganger” as she clings onto memories of her childhood which deep down she knows aren’t hers. It’s a brave move and makes the story more rewarding -- even if there are times casual viewers might find some scenes confusing. 
 
The tension is also escalated by the use of location -- as the isolated darkening Monastery serves as an ideal substitute to the Arctic Base or Victor’s castle. And yes, in the vaults “Eye Patch Woman” makes her scheduled pop-up –- as we near the time when Madame Koravan reveals all at "Demon’s Run."
 
Compared to "The Doctor’s Wife," this is in fairness, several jumps down from the plateau -- but thankfully compared to Matthew Graham’s last effort "Fear Her," which I still have nightmares about, this is, so far, more rewarding with some satisfying performances and some very dark comedy thrown in. And we get to hear the Doctor say “Eee by gum!” And no I’m not going to explain what that means! Watching the trailer for next week’s second part, "The Almost People," (Editor's Note: For U.S. Audiences the episode is delayed) looks like it’s going to be another treat to a so far very rewarding season. 
 
Darren 

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