6.06 – The Almost People

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Julian Simpson

Ganger Jennifer continues to rally the other Gangers to revolt against the humans.  The Doctor learns to work with his Ganger and must confront some prejudices from Amy.

“Reverse the jellybaby of the neutron flow.”

Sorry about the delay.  Living in North America, I was made to wait until BBC America aired The Almost People.  I understand their decision, although I must say that with the advent of TiVo and DVR, it may have not been the most ideal decision from the fan perspective.  But, I am now only a week behind the rest of the Who-viewing world.  Although, since the mid-series finale just aired in Britain, this means another week of avoiding most Doctor Who sites.

I almost feel as if I have less to say about this episode than the previous.  I liked The Rebel Flesh and I liked The Almost People.  However, I think that the conclusion of the incident at the mining facility (I can’t quite bring myself to say this episode was a conclusion of the story) is rather overshadowed by the revelation that Amy was a ganger.  Immediately the mind races to process what was just revealed and what it says about all the preceding episodes.  I am left with more question and find myself working hard to appreciate The Almost People for what it is.

Don't mind this. We just pile the story filler in the corner. Hey, wait until you get to the end of the episode!

My biggest fear when the announcement was made that the season would be split into two parts, a fear heightened when Moffat said this would help to eliminate ‘filler’, was that the arc would become more important than individual stories.  To me, the attitude Moffat expressed seemed to support the idea that the season arc is what Cymru Who is all about, and individual, stand-alone stories are the fugue between big ideas and revelations.   This attitude bothers me because I want to see each story succeed or fail on its own merits, not in how it is connected to the season arc.  I have been getting a long-time friend caught up on the Matt Smith era because he liked The Eleventh Hour and because a girl he knows loves Doctor Who.  This past week we watched Victory of The Daleks, and while I defended the episode in my review, I couldn’t deny how incredibly dull and uninteresting the story is.  I considered not subjecting my friend to the story because I rightly intuited that he wouldn’t care for it, but Churchill and Bracewell reappeared in The Pandorica Opens, and that would have been mildly confusing.  On top of that, it was the explanation for the Dalek redesign.  It is irritating that such a mediocre story is actually quite important to the mythology of the Moffat era.  I can only hope that Gatiss’ next contribution to The Eleventh Doctor, to air later this year, will be a vast improvement.  Gatiss can be rather hit or miss with me, and he seems to be stacking up the misses lately (at least where Who is concerned.  I’m loving most of his non-Who work.)  I’m a bit concerned for the future because I can’t be the only one who thinks Gatiss is the heir apparent to Moffat’s throne.

Apologies.  Back to the topic at hand.  I must say that the moral compass of this episode seems a bit off.  That and the pacing.  We spent much of this story being told that The Flesh were sentient, they were just as human as the humans.  They are important.  Then, The Doctor seems to kill Ganger Amy.  While perusing various review sites, it seems I may have missed a bit of dialogue about The Gangers being connected to their original subjects and if that connection was severed, then they would lose their form.  I’m assuming that was the gist of it.  If this was the case, then perhaps that line wasn’t made entirely clear.  My wife didn’t catch it either, and it seems other people missed it as well.  Especially when Ganger Jennifer continued to function quite well (and psychotically) when the real Jennifer died.  Are we to assume that the Ganger connection with the original continues after death?  And yet, we have every indication that Ganger Amy had a psychic connection with the original, so are these two separate connections?  We are also told that the TARDIS somehow stabilized the forms of the remaining Gangers.  So this works until the Sonic Screwdriver cancels out the effect, I suppose.

I guess I would say that the resolution was a bit too tidy for me, then grossly overshadowed by the cliffhanger.  The pace that I enjoyed so much in the previous episode was completely turned on its head in this one as it tried to get a lot of material in to the story.  Ultimately, I think I just come away from it thinking that it wasn’t bad and it certainly tried hard and came close to succeeding, but in the end I wish it had been better.  I suppose I’m blaming the cliffhanger.  And the more I think about it, the cliffhanger comes completely out of nowhere.  About the only “clue” I can find that Amy was a Ganger was in her complete prejudice against Gangers, sort of a “she doth protest too much” vibe.  But in reality, the reveal was sudden.  In that regard, it feels a bit like a trick, and while that works for some people, how much better if we were able to figure it out for ourselves?  The Doctor knew Amy was a Ganger and it seems Rory may have known as well.  This means the entire season had our characters knowing more than we do.  But in general, the audience likes to know more than the characters.  The audience likes to figure things out before the characters.  The best surprise reveal Cymru Who has done to this point was the revelation that Professor Yana was The Master.  This worked for two reasons.  First, the elements were introduced in a separate story, and that story was allowed to breathe and function on its own.  Human Nature / Family Blood was a good story and rather self-contained.  It had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.  The second reason the reveal worked was because it became apparent about half-way through Utopia that Yana had a secret.  Then we see the fob watch.  The audience figures out the reveal before it happens.  Neither of these things happened in The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People.  These two episodes were not allowed to really work on their own merits, submitting instead to the cliffhanger.  The cliffhanger was not something that had distinct clues to help the audience figure it out beforehand.  Instead, it was a trick played on the audience and the story serviced the reveal.  No wonder Moffat was so upset about spoilers.  If these reveals are the major points of his story, if we take away the lure of the spoiler, is there anything left?

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5 thoughts on “6.06 – The Almost People

  1. The gangers (not Amy Ganger) were brought to life by the lightning storm. It gave them sentience and thus the right to exist as independent beings. Amy Ganger was just a fancy Auton being controlled by real Amy back in the prison. The Doctor did not “kill” Amy Ganger, he just cut the connection, which caused Amy Ganger to revert to undifferentiated flesh. Matthew Graham explains this point in detail in Doctor Who Confidential but I pretty much thought this was the case before I watched it anyway.

    1. I didn’t see Confidential so I missed Graham’s explanation. It works well enough, but judging by the various reviews (both on blogs and podcasts) the script may not have made it clear enough. I think it would be easy to get very pedantic on the subject, however, so I’ll just accept Graham’s explanation and be ready for the next episode. I really don’t like being a week behind.

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