If you happened to catch Matt Smith looking super-dapper on the One Show sofa earlier this week (I swear I only braved it to watch him), you’ll have seen him leaning forward, mouth open, breathing “No!” in response to the “whopper” of a cliffhanger that would conclude The Almost People.
It wasn’t until Hat Jr was tucked up in bed, that I realised that was exactly what I was doing as the last few moments of tonight’s Doctor Who unfurled themselves.
It gets seriously spoilery below the line – you have been warned…
In the question-to-answer ratio, the viewers did quite well this week. We know that it most definitely wasn’t an accident that brought our time-travellers to meet the Flesh, we know why the TARDIS was showing Amy’s pregnancy to be in a state of flux and we know that our guesses about the eye-patch lady were right (though it would be stretching things to say we know who she is).
Yes, we still have to work out who the Good Man who goes to war is – could be Rory, the Doctor or someone else entirely (presumably the same Good Man that River Song is going to kill, which even allowing for timey-wimey should rule out the Doctor) – and we don’t know when Amy was replaced by a Ganger in the TARDIS (though it’s reasonable to guess sometime around the time she was abducted by the Silence) or why her baby is significant (it has to be Rory’s, or at least it can’t be the Doctor’s. Steven Moffat is very clear on this being a show for children and there’s a huge difference between adult jokes that go straight over the heads of primary school children and having the Doctor impregnate his companion.).
But now I’m feeling bad for the wonderful Matthew Graham who wrote a lovely little two-parter about human monsters and their fleshy doppelgangers, only to have the show totally stolen by the cliffhanger to next week’s mid-season climax.
Let’s go back to the start and enjoy finding out what happens when you have an extra Doctor hanging around the place.
For a start you get twice as much super-dooper Doctor dialogue as the double-Doctors get to bounce their jokes and compliments off each other. We also get a good reason for the Doctor losing his shoes last week – now they’re the only way to tell the Doctor and his Ganger apart. Unless you’re the Doctor, in which case you can use the sonic to distinguish between human and Flesh.
At its most basic, the story is humans try to escape, Gangers try to escape, the Doctor intervenes to help both sides find their humanity and some of the characters make it out safely – others (and there’s nothing like saying ‘it’s my wee boy’s birthday today’ to mark you as a Red Shirt – well there is, you can also get a picture of your fiancee out and explain your future plans for happiness, but we’re digressing) don’t. (Be warned, both those links will take you to TV Tropes – a dangerous and wonderful place to be unless you have a couple of hours to spare.)
Along the way there are plenty of chances for almost everyone to show their monstrous side off, especially the humans who’ve left a conscious mound of broken Gangers to moulder in one of the monastery’s many dark, forgotten corners.
But among the Gangers there is really only one monster – Jen and poor old Rory is scammed good and proper by her. I confess to feeling slightly smug at knowing the two fighting Jens would both be Flesh, and also to cottoning on to the importance of the Doctor’s shoes. Which left me chewing my fist when Amy told the ‘Ganger’ about the Doctor’s death (though I’m sure he’s known for a few episodes to be honest).
If only she hadn’t misread the sadness and disappointment on the Doctor’s face at the way she treats the Ganger she’s mistaking for the Doctor compared to the way she treats him (because she’s mistaking him for the Ganger). To be fair to Amy, I don’t think she’s being species-ist, it’s just that she’s more attached to the one she’s known longest. Or at least, the one she thinks she’s know longest. Blimey, it’s complicated.
And Matt Smith gets to stretch his acting limbs here too – he is utterly terrifying as he channels the rage of the Flesh, pinning Amy against the wall and ranting like a madman. And brave as can be facing down the final actual monster with a ‘Geronimo’ and self-destruction (probably) at the hands of the sonic screwdriver. A little joke for all the people who hate the modern ubiquity of the sonic, I think.
All of which brings us back to that whopper of a cliffhanger. So terrifying and moving. And, as is so often the case with Moffat (for it’s his cliffhanger afterall) so bloody obvious after the event. How could things be otherwise?
I have to say I’m quite looking forward to a boys-only dynamic next week (for however long it lasts) and to getting a few more answers at last. See you then.
Finally the best bits that don’t fit into paragraph-led writing:
- Tom Baker’s voice offering us a jellybaby.
- One of the Doctors: “Yowza! An escape tunnel.” Other Doctor: “Do you intend to say ‘yowza’?”. First Doctor: “That’s enough, let it go, okay? We’re under stress…”
- Cleaves’ realisation that she’s “no healthy spring chicken and [the Doctor's] no weatherman.”
- Buzzer channelling DC Chris Skelton as he knocks out the Doctor.
- The Doctor running like Michael Palin’s ex-leper in The Life of Brian.
- The Doctor/Ganger shouting through the locked door at Rory: “Roranicus Pondicus!”
- The Doctor/Ganger: “If you have a better plan, I’m all ears. In fact, if you have a better plan I’ll take you to a planet where EVERYONE is all ears.”
- The doctor’s idea of what makes a good birthday and Adam’s ‘over-excited’ dance.
- Jimmy, lying on the floor dying and looking up at his Ganger: “I’m quite handsome from this angle.”
- The TARDIS making quite an entrance!
- The Doctor saying farewell (or perhaps au revoir – damn you Steven Moffat!) to his Ganger and vice versa “If I turn up to nick all your biscuits, you’ll know you were right.”
- The Doctor/Ganger arguing with Cleaves: “This is not the time for grand gestures.” Cleaves: “Says the king of grand gestures!”
- That the Doctor just happens to have the cure for parietal clots (small, red, tastes like burnt onions) sitting in the TARDIS control room… Not to mention spare birthday balloons.
Posted by Jo the Hat
(P.S. You really should catch Alex Kingston on the Graham Norton Show. I love her a little bit more than before – and I didn’t think that was possible…)