Doctor Who – The Almost People – Belated episode review

The Almost People easily bested last week’s The Rebel Flesh episode – throwing in fanboy fodder in the shape of two Doctors, and delving a little deeper into the complexities of having sentient clones running around and what those clones’ rights might be.

But in the final five minutes, The Doctor himself turns a sonic screwdriver on one of the Flesh creatures and kills it. Completely negating his pacifist stance in the rest of the episode. Huh?

But let’s get spoilery, shall we? American viewers who haven’t naughtily torrented the episode look away now!

Ok. I know I’ve grumbled a fair bit this series, but The Almost People was a marked improvement on the rather vague first part. Giving us a clone Doctor was a real treat, especially for the long term fans of the show, especially with Jelly Babies and reversed polarities. And after the initial titilation of The Doctor enjoying his own company (“You know I’m starting to get a sense of how impressive it is to hang out with me.”), he pulls the old switcheroo on Amy (and us) to expose her prejudice against the inferior Flesh.

Of course, that’s not exactly why he brought them to the acid mining fortress: he admits at the end that he needed to find a way to break the connection between the flesh and the original. So many of you were right in your assumptions that he’d planned to go there. Which means that there was a lot going on behind the scenes that wasn’t covered in the episode.

The subplot featuring Rory getting duped by Jen into trapping The Doctor and the humans and blowing up the castle felt superfluous. Especially considering the more important issues at play in this episode. And again, if I were Amy, I’d be asking why Rory’s suddenly developed this weird bond with a rather creepy factory worker.

A couple of repeated themes came up in The Almost People that I wanted to bring up:

  1. The discarded flesh. Reminded me of Idris witnessing the graveyard of TARDISes in The Doctor’s Wife. Is there an ecological message in this about how things get used up and thrown away?
  2. At the eleventh hour, The Doctor arranges a holo-call from Jimmy’s child, which inspires compassionate behaviour in the clone Jimmy. We had something similar in The Curse Of The Black Spot, with Avery’s child showing up on board. It’s not like either child has a major role, but their presence seems to be pivotal to how the characters behave and how they see themselves.

Amy tells The Doctor he died. Without realising it.

I’m sure you lot picked up on this. Amy follows what she thinks is the Clone Doctor into the corridor and reveals to him that she saw him die. Except it’s the real Doctor.

After weeks of keeping his death a secret, she inadvertently blurts out:

I’m sorry. What I said about you being almost The Doctor. It’s just really hard, I’ve been through so much with him. I’ve even seen the moment of his…can you die? If you really are the same then you can die. Be killed. I might’ve seen that happen.

There’s plenty of weirdness at work in those scenes, especially because Amy’s just seen the strange eyepatch lady again. And this time, The Doctor seems to be aware that something strange is happening to her.

Later on, as The Doctor and his clone part company, there’s another bit of revealing dialogue. But before the clone Doctor meets his death, we discover that he might be able to survive it using his “molecular memory”. Hmmm. But here are the two Doctors saying farewell:

Clone Doctor: “Well, my death arrives, I suppose.”
The Doctor: “But this one we’re not invited to.”

Make of that what you will. Does The Doctor believe that it was his clone who died? And if so, doesn’t that seem a bit…obvious? It would be a tad disappointing if that shock death in The Impossible Astronaut was laboriously built up with something as obvious as this clone storyline.

Amy Pond Pregnant…And Cloned?

So let’s fast-forward to the end of the episode. Suddenly we understand why the TARDIS scanner had trouble working out if Amy was pregnant or not: the Amy we’ve been seeing for weeks now is a clone. Not only that, but a clone with a bizarre neurological connection to the real Amy, who’s been kidnapped and held in an isolation tank. And she’s pregnant. And in labour. Yikes.

The problem most people seem to have with the end of The Almost People is The Doctor levelling his sonic screwdriver at Clone Amy and wiping her out. Sure, he says he’s doing it humanely, but why’s it OK for him to have a clone running around, but not Amy?

There are bigger picture questions here as well: who’s got Amy? How did they arrange the swap (I’m guessing sometime between The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon)? Why do they want Amy’s baby? This all leads neatly into next week’s A Good Man Goes To War, as Rory and The Doctor try to find Amy and free her. 

It has to be said – all those dangling plot threads are being tied up nicely. Amy seeing the strange woman in the hatch, the indecisive TARDIS pregnancy test all dovetailing into this mid-season finale. And there’s a sense now that even the adult viewers are being kept guessing as the story throws up as many new questions as it resolves. And we’ve got River Song thrown into the mix – does that lend weight to the theory that River is Amy’s daughter? You tell me…

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19 Comments

  1. Glopp

    “Why’s it OK for him to have a clone running around, but not Amy?”

    The Doctors were able to both enjoy consciousness at once, whereas Amy’s consciousness was trapped in her clone for as long as it was active (as with The Flesh before the solar flares broke them free). Against her will, on top of that.

    I’m sure there’s room for dispatching Fake Amy a little less dramatically, since someone-is-writing-all-of-this, but I’ve let worse stuff slide.

    1. sgreco1970

      well, I think the case is that Amy’s consciousness was driving the flesh like a car; just like the workers used their flesh bodies while in the harnesses. She hadn’t become an independent, individual entity like the flesh workers / flesh doctor had.

      Still, for whatever consciousness the flesh had of its own, he did say he was going to do this “as humanely as possible” after what they had learned but it needed to be done.

  2. silveredtears

    Wasn’t that someone’s description of the women with the eyepatch (Madame Korvarian)? 😀

    I’m still trying to figure out when she was swtiched out and replaced with the flesh, because in the first episode the doctor says “and you’ve put on a few pounds, wasn’t going to mention it” the only time she is ‘alone’ from that point is when she walks into the bathroom at the white house because she’s feeling ill, and when she comes out again, after her encounter with the silent(s), she’s not feeling sick anymore…

    However, this is back in 1969, and the doctor in the 22nd century is still talking about the flesh being old technology, so how would the silents replace Amy, even if they are pilching alien technology from anywhere possible.. could they have the means already?

    Who has Amy? The Silents? Why would they be helping her deliver her baby?

     

    Anyway, didn’t much like the run-around with Jennifer, but it was interesting to see so much of Sarah Smart, so it didn’t annoy me per se.

    1. sgreco1970

      the only time, I figure, that she couldve been switched out was during the time they split up and searched the country for silents, before being bodybagged by canton 3.

  3. Emperor Gregor

    I have a sneaky, and rather nasty, suspicion that this is Amy’s baby AND that the baby is River’s and the Doctor’s and that one or both are using Amy as a surrogate. The prequel does seem to hint, doesn’t it, that the child is a significant character’s child (and we know she is a time lord), and that the doctor would be livid (and dangerus) if he finds out what they are up to with the software to imprison the child.

    It explains why the doctor would refuse to help River and Father Octavian if he ever found out who and what River is. If River has used Amy as a surrogate without the Doctor’s knowledge, the temptation would be to return her to the storm case and throw away the key to make sure it never happens.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Are you saying that because we now know that until recently Amy and Rory slept on bunk beds in the TARDIS and couldn’t have conceived a child of their own? (Only joking – they were living together in The Impossible Astronaut).

      Which leads me to this poser: I wonder if Rory had “the nookie” with clone Amy? Does that count as cheating? 

      1. Emperor Gregor

        Mmm. If the clone Amy was Amy’s consciousness in a clone body then I reckon he’d have nookie with Amy. 

        I’m trying to second guess Moffat I suppose. He is adamant the truth is a) dark and b) a solution no-one has thought of yet. I;m taking from a starting point that the baby and the child are the same. Could be wrong. But if not …. We know the child is a Time Lord/has Time Lord characteristics. Therefore either a) there is another Time Lord out there the Doctor doesn’t know about; b) Amy has picked up some vibes from the Tardis – in which case the universe is not quite littered with little Time Lords but there’s a few of them about – not the least of which is Sarah Jane’s sprog; or c) the child is the Doctor’s child – either from Galifrey or with someone connected to the Tardis- and I don’t for one moment think that is Amy. More likely to be River, don’t you think.

        1. sgreco1970

          “He is adamant the truth is a) dark and b) a solution no-one has thought of yet.”

          well, I doubt he reads this forum.we just might have thought of it ;p

        2. silveredtears

          Not sure if anyone here actually watched the Sarah Jane adventures, it was more intended for kids, but Luke is a kind of living flech creation in himself. He was made in a factory, born as you see him, and not her biological child.. Similar to the Martha in the Sontaren Stratagem/The Poison Sky two parter…

      2. Emperor Gregor

        Mmm. If the clone Amy was Amy’s consciousness in a clone body then I reckon he’d have nookie with Amy. 

        I’m trying to second guess Moffat I suppose. He is adamant the truth is a) dark and b) a solution no-one has thought of yet. I;m taking from a starting point that the baby and the child are the same. Could be wrong. But if not …. We know the child is a Time Lord/has Time Lord characteristics. Therefore either a) there is another Time Lord out there the Doctor doesn’t know about; b) Amy has picked up some vibes from the Tardis – in which case the universe is not quite littered with little Time Lords but there’s a few of them about – not the least of which is Sarah Jane’s sprog; or c) the child is the Doctor’s child – either from Galifrey or with someone connected to the Tardis- and I don’t for one moment think that is Amy. More likely to be River, don’t you think.

  4. Emperor Gregor

    I looked up Rory Williams on wikipedia – he does have a page. It notes how Rory dies over and over again and that Moffat has been asked if Rory will stop dying, to which he answered ‘no’. 

    I think Rory is the good man who goes to war, and he dies – possibly at River’s hand – after becoming a hero to many. Moffat on utube also said that we need to wonder why Amy and Rory, a young married couple, are still with him when he would normally have returned them home long ago. I think it has to do with that baby.

  5. redblu

    …get confused by that. It was made pretty clear that Amy was controlling her ganger, she was “dreaming” through it’s eyes (reference to episode 2), rather than it being an independent life form. The instant the Doctor destroys her ganger she wakes up in that cell, it’s also why she kept seeing the eyepatch lady, because her actual body was seeing her.

    That said we know that the gangers can feel pain on their death, that they almost develop an awareness as their host leaves the body and they die, so there is an ethical argument to be had, but the manner in which the Doctor does it certainly doesn’t undermine the entire episodes ethics as the reviewer would claim, it’s just a bit prickly.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Did I claim that? I hope it didn’t come across that way. What I was trying to do was note that some people seemed to have a problem with it. Yes, it made me scratch my head a bit, but in the end if the ganger was blocking their access to Amy, of course it had to be taken out. And with no obvious “off switch”, a blast from the sonic did the trick.

      Just reading back over my post – actually I think I’ve mostly said that this episode tied up the loose ends nicely and explained why The Doctor couldn’t establish if Amy was pregnant or not. I know we sometimes tend to disagree on matters of Who, but I just wanted to assure you I wasn’t trying to be deliberately inflamatory!

      1. redblu

        Didn’t mean to insinuate that you were, mostly agreed in fact. I just  picked on the line “But in the final five minutes, The Doctor himself turns a sonic screwdriver on one of the Flesh creatures and kills it. Completely negating his pacifist stance in the rest of the episode. Huh?”, it’s a criticism I’ve seen in a few forums, from people assuming flesh amy was a clone rather than an avatar.

        Would have commented on more but am still recovering from 80 miles of hiking so might take me a while to collect myself.

          1. redblu

            Well it was over the course of 5 days so it’s not particularly impressive, I’m just out of practice. Given the choice in the lakes or switzerland, but in this case Yorkshire Wolds way.

            Interesting point about the importance of children in this series (and last for that matter), I know Moffat writes with his children in mind. 

            The Doctor got violent at the point that she started talking about his death, was he intentionally trying to prevent her telling him too much about his future, or were there questions she didn’t want her asking?

            The obvious point for the swap to have been done was whilst Amy was in the hands of the silents, however that would imply that the eye patch lady and the silents were allies. That said I don’t get that impression from the next week trailer (but could be wrong).

            Judging by the confidential clip the BBC released we also find out River Songs true identity next week, so by the only two big questions that haven’t been already/ aren’t to be unveiled to the best of my knowledge are the true nature of the silents and how the Doctor is going to cheat death (and although my initial theory leaned towards some kind of clone I also hope it turns out to be smarter than that).

          2. sgreco1970

            well, i definitely think the switch had to come before Amy said she was no longer pregnant, which happened before the Silents took her.

            I’ll have to rewatch the scene, but maybe the Doctor’s anger at Amy in the hallway was because he knew she was not the real Amy?

            As far as River’s identity, we’ve had years of buildup over this so it had better be eyepopping. To find out she is a Silent, a ganger or anything mundane will only be a let down after all this anticipation. “who and what” she is had simply better be astonishing. unless we’ve never ever seen the real Amy, a possibility that I’m not ruling out, she just couldn’t turn out to be Amy because the Doctor has met Amy and River keeps saying they haven’t met yet -tho it sure would fit all the facts. I suppose it could be that Amy was a ganger all along but that would make all of season 5 really weird.

          3. jefft

            Eleventh Hour:

            Dont look at Prisoner Zero, Amy.. bad things will happen if you do!

            And then she turns around and they are face to face.

            And… then she just leaves the room and says not a word about seeing it.

            Lucky escape? Or the longest game you’ve ever seen?

          4. sgreco1970

            Maybe Amy was prisoner zero and not the shapeshifter worm.

            after all, that was the only time a crack led somewhere, in that case the prison. Every other time it led to the exploding tardis…

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