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Recap: Doctor Who 6.05, “The Rebel Flesh”

TWO WEEKS? We have to wait TWO WEEKS? Mr. Moffat is trying to kill us, and BBC is in on the conspiracy.  This week we had shapeshifting goo-born doppelgangers, the TARDIS got an acid peel, Rory didn’t die, and (as predicted) Matt Smith was adorable.

Plus: Nanny Tighpatch dropped in and Timehead baby messed with the onboard TARDIS pregnancy test.  We’re no closer to the answer to the Big Mystery, but like last week, I’m okay with it.  By okay with it, I mean chewing my nails and spending my free time developing elaborate potential scenarios in my overactive imagination.

This episode opens in a factory on a rather creepy looking island, where three workers are dressed in protective suits.  We can deduce they’re working with a pretty corrosive acid from the hissing and bubbling said acid is doing.  While horsing around, one of the workers smacks another, sending him into a vat of the stuff.  They’re surprisingly calm, even as their fellow worker is starting to dissolve.  The surviving team members wander off, to be met by the fellow they just watched turn to nothing.  Clones? Evil twin? Whoever he is, he’s a bit miffed to have been left to be human flavored Kool-Aid powder back in the room with the vats.

Meanwhile, Rory and Amy are playing darts and listening to Muse (who I originally thought was Depeche Mode), and the Doctor is looking concerned.  He’s staring at the endlessly changing pregnancy indicator (we need a clever name for that) and tries to trick Rory and Amy into hopping off for some fish and chips in a nice safe location while he heads off for an adventure.  Amy wants no part of that plan, and demands to go where the interesting stuff is happening. An alarm sounds before the Doctor can send them away, and they have a rough landing.  When they emerge from the TARDIS, the Doctor first spots a weather vane with a rooster on it. (He calls it a cockerel, which is not what this Yank thought a cockerel was. Nevermind that.) He then points out the monastery the rooster is attached to, and identifies it as medieval.  Amy is excited to be in the 13th century, until Rory points out the Dusty Springfield song playing in the background.  Apparently, both Rory’s mom and the Doctor are big fans.  Hell yeah, Dusty Springfield.

An intruder alert sounds, which means people will be coming soon, as the Doctor smartly points out.  They wander into the monastery, where they find several people who seem to be asleep while strapped to large, industrial-looking racks.  As they’re looking them over, copies of those same rack people approach them from behind.

The apparent team leader, who we later learn is Miranda Cleeves, and two others, all of them in the protective suits we saw in the first scene, approach the Doctor and demand to know what he and the Ponds are doing there.  The Doctor whips out the psychic paper and tells her he’s with the meteorological association, and he’s here about the solar storm the island just encountered.  He tells her there is another storm on the way, and he thinks they should all evacuate as soon as they can.  The Doctor predicts they are part of an army-run factory, and Cleeves corrects him, telling him they are contractors.  The Doctor wants to investigate.

Doctor: I need to see your critical systems.

Cleeves: Which one?

Doctor: You know which one.

The Doctor is especially adorable when he’s pulling stuff out of thin air.

The Doctor and the Ponds are led to a room with a large, circular tub filled with goo.  It’s the government’s worst kept secret, the Flesh.  It’s fully programmable matter, which is able to imitate anything, from skin to hair to the clothing the original model is wearing.  When the Originals are attached to the harnesses, they control the Flesh versions of themselves. In the room with them, only Jennifer, the woman who sent the worker clone to his end in the opening scene, is in an Original body, the others are all Flesh.

Flesh Cleeves shrugs off any notion that the Flesh is any more alive than moss, telling the Doctor that before they used Flesh, they were losing a crew member every week to the acid. To her, the Flesh people are a means to an end, by which I mean a paycheck. The originals call the Flesh versions of themselves ‘gangers, short for doppelgangers.  The ‘gangers have all the memories, preferences and personalities of their original version, and the Doctor is disgusted to see Cleeves and the others treat “sacred life” with such disregard.  He scans the Flesh in the tub with the sonic, and it begins to scan him.  He’s shocked at the connection, and sensed the Flesh trying to understand and connect with him.  He sticks in his hand and jerks back, saying, “I understand” to the Flesh in the tub.  Then he pulls a snowglobe out of his pocket and predicts another solar storm.  I am endlessly delighted at how much the Doctor can do with a common toy.

Jennifer gets into her ‘ganger on Cleeve’s orders, and we see her program and enter her harness as the Flesh flows through a pipe into an oblong tub.  As we watch, a new Jennifer emerges from the white Flesh slowly, looking not unlike Cassandra the skin flap who tormented Rose, Nine and Ten.  From Cassandra, she cycles through a bit of Odo, then finally is 100% Jennifer-like.

The Doctor and the Ponds head off to a control room, where the Doctor says he needs to disable the roof rooster, since that’s where the factory draws all of its solar energy.  The storm begins, causing sparks and  leaks all over the factory, and we see the TARDIS slowly sinking into the ground in a pool of acid.  As the Doctor is trying to climb to the weather vane, he gets a nasty shock which sends him to the ground.

He wakes after the commercial, when the storm is beginning to pass.  The Ponds are both sprawled on the floor after their own bout with unconsciousness. Rory says “Ow.”  At least they didn’t kill him this time, but it’s still early in the episode.

The Doctor finds Cleeves, who is standing outside the factory looking confused.  She passed out as well, and she’s upset because she abandoned her team.  The Doctor leads her back to them, after correcting her guess that everyone was passed out for a few minutes by telling her it was an hour.

The rest of the Originals crew is untangling themselves from their harnesses.  Jennifer is crying out, and Rory goes to her.

Jennifer: They hurt so much.

I’m not sure what she’s talking about here, but it sounds pretty foreboding to me.

Jennifer: I couldn’t get out of my harness. I thought I was going to die.

Rory: Welcome to my world.

Heh.

They hug, Amy spots them and gives Rory a great WTF? face.

Cleeves says that when the Originals are disconnected from the harnesses, the Flesh returns to its goo form, so she doesn’t think they are anything to worry about.  She says she’ll call to the mainland to have them send a rescue ship.

As she says this, Dusty Springfield begins playing again, freaking out the owner of the record, who we’re going to call Blondie for now.  He wants to know who’s playing DJ since all of the crew is right there in the room with him.

Doctor: Your ‘gangers have gone walkabout.

The Originals crew heads to the dining hall, where they find all of their belongings ransacked.  The Doctor tells him they were searching for proof the memories in their heads actually happened, and trying to make a connection with the lives the originals gave them when they transferred their Inner Stuff to the ‘gangers.  The male Original who isn’t Blondie tells a story of the last ship he was on, where a ‘ganger got a shock and killed his Original while he was in the harness.

Jennifer doesn’t feel well, so she darts off to the lav.  Rory follows, both worried and kind of happy to be around a woman who seems to need him a little.  She shoos him off so she can hack a Flesh glob into the sink, then runs into a stall when he tries to find out if she’s okay.  She punches a hole in the door of the stall and socks Rory one in the jaw with her very stretchy arm, giving herself away as a ‘ganger.  While Rory is looking terrified, she pops her head out of the door to the stall, and it’s on a giant snake body.  Rory runs like hell.

Commercial break.  Does anyone know why they played the same Doctor Who Insider clip twice?

The Doctor pulls a plate out of the microwave and hands it to Cleeves, who holds on to it until he tells her it’s hot, when she drops it and yanks her hand back.  Apparently Jennifer is not the only ‘ganger hiding amongst the Originals.  He’s figured out something about the ‘gangers and the Flesh, but he’s not telling us for at least another two weeks.

Amy is worried about Rory, so she, the Doctor and Blondie head out to find him.  He’s wandering the halls and overhears ‘ganger Jennifer calling out to him for help.  He’s not over the snake thing quite yet, so he continues to hide.  The search teams comes across the bathroom where the snaking happened and determine that Jennifer is not the Original. Blondie pushes the Doctor to tell him and Amy what he knows, and Amy agrees.  Instead, the Doctor looks at them with a combination of terror and something else, regret, maybe?  He says he can talk to the ‘gangers and that he thinks he can fix it.  He then runs off to find the TARDIS, telling Amy and Blondie to book it back to the dining hall where it’s relatively safe.

Amy doesn’t listen, she’s going to find Rory. Rory, meanwhile, finds ‘ganger Jen, sitting forlornly on a bench.  She tells him a story about a time she got lost in the Moors when she was a child, and she was so cold her feet felt like stone in her wellies.  She tells him she imagined another Jennifer then, one who was braver and tougher than she was, who would come and lead her home.  She feels real, she doesn’t want to be parts from a factory.  She had toast for breakfast and she wrote to her mom, she feels like Jennifer Lucas, she doesn’t want to be anyone else.  She begs Rory for help.

The Doctor is pointing the sonic at the goo again, and this time a pair of lips pop out of the tub and say “trust me.”  He runs outside and finds the TARDIS mostly buried in pool of acid, and burns his boots off in the process.

The Originals discover the ‘gangers have taken the acid suits, they panic a bit.

Cleeves the ‘ganger finds the other ‘gangers and plans to do a little evil, now that they have the advantage.

Rory tells ‘ganger Jen that the Doctor wants to help her and the other ‘gangers, and that they need to trust him.  Jennifer kisses Rory on the cheek and tells him Amy is a lucky girl.

Rory: Yeah she is.

Rory is like the British Joey Tribiani, without the meat sweats.

Amy is running through some dark archways and corridors, when a slot opens in one of the doors and our old friend Nanny Tighpatch gives Amy the side-eye.  Just as she’s about the scream, she hears Rory calling out to her.  Amy is instantly suspicious of ‘ganger Jen.  Rory says Jen needs protecting, and Amy gives a little side-eye of her own.

The Doctor finds the rest of the ‘gangers and tries to talk them into letting him help, they aren’t listening.  Back in the other camp, the Originals are grilling ‘ganger Jen, and Amy is still pretty suspicious.  Rory continues to defend her until Amy says they should wait for the Doctor to come back, right as the Doctor comes back.  He’s with ‘gangers, and he needs shoes.

Original Cleeves is not happy at all about this development.  The Doctor tells them the storm is making the ‘gangers into people, just like the Originals.  Both of the Blondies want to see their son, and the ‘ganger talks about what Original did on the day he was born.  They both miss home.  The Doctor wants to get everyone safe, then get everyone off the island to safety before the next storm hits.  The group notes that Orginal Cleeves and Original Jennifer are still missing, at which point the former comes in with a fancy taser, threatening to zap all the ‘gangers back into Flesh blobs.  Her ‘ganger shakes her head and frets that Original Cleeve’s behavior is “so very me.”  Original thinks it’s time to decommission the ‘gangers, and zaps Not Blondie before turning her taser on Jennifer, whom Rory dives to save.  All of a sudden it’s us versus them, with ‘gangers aligning against originals and vice versa.  Everyone falls into line, as they do.

‘ganger Jen is ready to smash some heads, first up, her Original. Original Jen is wandering in the tub room when she spots a mystery ‘ganger who scares the shit out of her.

The Doctor wants to know where the safest place on the island is, Original Cleeves tells him it’s the chapel, which has two-foot thick walls.  (We Americans do have a basic grasp of the metric system, no need to dumb it down for us.  Usually.)  The Orginals run to find the chapel, crossed with a shot of the ‘gangers ready to do a little killin’.  Original Jen is in the corridor, running from the mystery ‘ganger, when we see ‘ganger Jen braced above her on the ceiling.  We don’t see her drop, but we here Original Jen scream.  So does Rory, so he runs off to save her, getting himself locked out of the chapel where the Doctor, Amy and all the originals except Jen are barricading themselves.   The Doctor warns them all it’s about to get a lot weirder, before calling out to the mystery ‘ganger to reveal themselves.  We learn who it is when the Doctor starts speaking, but the Doctor’s mouth isn’t moving.  The mystery ‘ganger is (dun dun DUN!) the Doctor himself, looking every bit like a Changeling from Deep Space Nine.

That’s it.  We’ve got to wait until June to learn what’s going to happen, and the trailer for the episode isn’t telling me anything.

Do you suppose the Doctor’s ‘ganger might be the one who gets shot in 200 years a few episodes ago?  Or maybe his ‘ganger survives?  As always, I have more questions than when I started, which is probably why I love this show so much.   Thanks, Mr. Moffat, for not spoonfeeding me.   Also, curse you, b/c something tells me I’m not going to know if I’m right about the timehead baby until sometime around Halloween.

We’re taking Monday off next week for Memorial Day, but count on me being back here on the following Monday to recap part two of this episode “The Almost People.”

Images from BBC America’s Doctor Who page. Go there, they add new things every week and they’re always delightful.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

7 replies on “Recap: Doctor Who 6.05, “The Rebel Flesh””

I never enjoy the ‘group of strangers being picked off in an industrial setting’ conceit. They’ve done this so many times on Who and to me it feels tired- contrast Rose and the Satan Pit, Martha and the living sun/’Burn with me’ craziness, the entirety of Waters of Mars. Just not into it.

That being said, I enjoyed seeing Rory be badass and not die this week!

Someone thought people couldn’t read backwards and spoilered majorly in backwards typing. Of course I can read backwards and I’m so frustrated. With some shows you simply shouldn’t know spoilered.

Besides that: I didn’t like this episode much. Too.. I don’t know, easy sci-fi.

No not in the show, on another website. She wrote like siht and clearly thought people would have trouble with that. I stopped half way but was so frustrated.

But I could send you the half spoiler? We have a pm-system here, don’t we? (o freckle, so up to date)

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