“The Almost People” – Review: Redux

Rory “You’re going to have to start explaining some of this to me, Doctor.”
Doctor “What, the birds and the bees? She’s having a baby. I needed to see the Flesh in its early days. That’s why I scanned it, that’s why we were there in the first place. I was going to drop you off for fish and chips first but things happened and there was stuff and shenanigans. Beautiful word. Shenanigans”

The Almost People

When it finally arrived, the second episode, with the added frisson of a second Doctor and the knowledge (courtesy of some pre-broadcast publicity) that “something big” was about to happen, probably exceeded the first in the entertainment stakes. Right from the fan-delighting “Reverse the jelly baby of the neutron flow” in the pre-titles section, the plot tied all its threads together beautifully. However, it is the retrospective perspective that is fascinating here. The second viewing means that one can enjoy the irony of Amy looking down her nose at the “fake” Doctor, why all the while appreciating that it is Amy herself who is the fake one and that the Doctor who, by virtue of a subtle switcheroony, is the real McCoy, so to speak. The two Doctors also gives reign to Matt Smith to let loose his acting prowess and he gives a fine performance in what must have been a challenging pair of roles. It is also clearly an episode that Matt Smith could not have delivered with any kind of aplomb any earlier in his tenure. It is his maturity in the role that allows “The Almost People” to work

The location work at all the various castles in the bleakest of midwinters that were highlighted in the accompanying Doctor Who Confidentials were worth all the effort once the on-screen visuals came to life and, as is becoming wonderfully common in this series, the lighting and direction and overall production values combined to deliver another entirely submersive world to escape to for forty-five minutes, erm, twice. Michael Pickwoad deserves much credit for his work in this regard. However, it is the cast who deserve much credit. Despite the publicity revealing that there would be a big reveal at the end, and thus possibly resulting in the fact that all the pre-amble could be easily dismissed, most of the cast have to deliver twice the normal workload as the Ganger doubles go about their business. Most of the plaudits going to Raquel Cassidy as Cleaves who gives the role a depth and substance that echoes any moral dilemma that the viewer may care to ponder.

We then arrive, inevitably, at the final ten minutes. As the Doctor reveals his shoe-swapping double-cross, the viewer might still not be entirely sure why he did it. Then the Doctor / Ganger sacrifices himself along with Cleaves’ Ganger but not before “our” Doctor says that there is a chance he could survive this. I immediately thought that this could lead to resolve, in some way, the series’  biggest mystery of how the Doctor died on the beach in Utah. Soon disregarded by the fact that there was a clear comment out of the mouths of the production team (Steven Moffat lies!) that the Doctor on the Utah shorefront was definitely not a duplicate? My mind was soon brought straight back in to the action once the TARDIS had dropped off the survivors from the island, when Amy’s not quite phantom pregnancy began to enter its final stages. I think the word I was looking at this point was… “Wow”. I never saw it coming. Right there in the TARDIS a flick of the sonic screwdriver reduced Amy to a pile of goo, and we flashed over to Madame Kovarian’s infirmary where the real Amy was about to give birth. Birthshock! as Doctor Who Magazine so cleverly put it.

If I am to express any concern as to the direction that Steven Moffat’s DW is taking, it is that the complexity of the plots may be leaving some viewers a little alienated from it. However, I hope that this retrospective proves that thought wrong. The viewers are very used to following a story week-to-week, revelling in the wild magnificence of it all and starting to realise that this an infinitely more rewarding television experience than the abject glossy floor shows that are so frequently in opposition to Doctor Who over on ITV.

Highlight: The realisation that this is a more important story in the ongoing story than it initially looked.

Lowlight: Not quite enough story to warrant 90 minutes.

Talking Point: Too much arc story, or just enough?

Demon’s Run Rating: 15 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 28th May 2011

Marathon Status: 80 of these things done now!

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