Doctor Who series 6 episode 6 review: The Almost People
Internet meltdown begins once again, as Doctor Who pulls out yet another game-changing cliffhanger. Here’s our spoiler-filled review of The Almost People…
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
6.6 The Almost People
"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."
It's probably best that we start at the end, given that, not for the first time, we've had a last few minutes of a Doctor Who episode that puts a whole new complexion on the series as we've seen it thus far. Because, going by what that cliffhanger has just told us, we've been seeing a fake Amy Pond. And if you start threading back through the series, we've had a fake Amy Pond for a good few episodes now. (We've been seeing the eyepatch woman in the hatch since episode two, after all.)
In fact, let's go further. At what point did The Flesh/ganger version of Amy swap places with the one we see now? Because who says it has to be this series that it happened? The logical moment for the switcheroo was when The Silence took Amy back in Day Of The Moon. But then, The Doctor says that he wanted to see The Flesh in its early days, back when he wanted to drop Amy and Rory off for fish and chips in The Rebel Flesh. So, it's fair to suggest that Amy's take on it is mature. After all, "you haven't been here for a long, long time," says the Doctor. Crikey.
The Doctor knows what's being going on (although for how long he's known isn't clear), and if you look back, he knew seconds before she had a contraction that she was about to. How did he know that? He wasn't even waving a screwdriver around at the time.
It figures that the signal to The Flesh was what was screwing around with the pregnancy test readings, but still further questions ensue. Whose baby actually is it? Is the real Amy alive? And where, actually, is she at the end of the episode? Is the eyepatch woman River Song?
And, heck, does this all point to a further clue regarding the identity of the regenerating girl at the end of Day Of The Moon? It'd be rude not to ask.
There's an enormous amount to ponder on there. We'll be fascinated to see what you make of it all in the comments section below.
To say that it was a dramatic end to an otherwise perfectly entertaining episode was no understatement. Because, up until that point, The Almost People had been a pretty traditional back-end to a pretty traditional two-parter. This is easily the most old-school Who story we've had in a while, after all, and I really quite enjoyed it, too.
It kicked off at the exact point The Rebel Flesh ended, with two versions of the Doctor. The Flesh version had a little trouble readjusting, which was a lovely excuse for some old Doctor throwbacks (a Jelly Baby, anyone?), but things settled in time for Matt Smith to join in the two-character club.
And that's what the cast had to battle with this episode, and to a point, director Julian Simpson, too. The fact that there were two versions of every character made for some deliberate confusion, which Matthew Graham's script played on nicely. It certainly left you never quite knowing exactly where you were, which was a mite frustrating once or twice, but it did help fuel the story. You certainly had to concentrate, though (although that's no bad thing).
Matt Smith was enjoying himself, too, convincingly conversing with himself while occasionally offering the odd hint of Christopher Reeve in Superman III. It was a tough ask for most of the cast to portray two characters for the price of one, but Mark Bonnar and Raquel Cassidy stood out for me. And let's not forget Sarah Smart, carrying more than her fair share of the work as Jennifer.
Taking Rory into her confidence, the two Jennifers meant Smart had her work cut out, and her job really wasn't helped by the worst effects work of the series. It didn't do the episode many favours, come the big denouement of this particular story itself, that the beast-like Jennifer ganger looked as unconvincing as she did. And I for one found that when she evolved into her more dangerous physical form, she was at her least sinister. Contrast that with the earlier appearances, and the effective make-up work, and the conclusion here is that real-life make-up effects work better, in this instance, at least, than CG.
And that's a pity, as it slightly undermined (although far from totally) some good build up work. The story, right throughout, was conscious of putting motivations and emotional junctures in place, and I thought the discovering of the discarded Flesh, and the impact it had on Rory, in particular, was really nicely done.
There were a lot of old Who and horror movie conventions employed here as well, with corridors being run down, doors being held shut, the impending filling of a room with something nasty and a healthy dose of sacrifice. All in, it was a good yarn, with an added subtext or two to it all to give things a little more depth.
Right from the start of The Rebel Flesh, this has felt like a traditional two part adventure, and that, ultimately, is what we got. It had enough in the tank to keep me on my toes for an hour and a half, and, in their early form, at least, some monsters who were rounded, yet suitably intimidating, too. I'm not sure everyone will have enjoyed it, but I certainly did.
But inevitably, given the significance of the cliffhanger and the fact that it leads into the last episode before the series takes a break of a few months, it's the ending that The Almost People is going to be remembered for. For, just when you think that Doctor Who has settled a little into a foreseeable path, it manages to utterly pull the proverbial rug once more, and set the Internet alight with an explosion of fresh speculation.
Heaven only knows what's in store for us come the end of next week's instalment, A Good Man Goes To War. Given the standard of Doctor Who series 6 to date, it's going to have its work cut out (and by the looks of the trailer, it's going to be something quite special). Let your speculation begin in the comments below...
Read our review of episode 5, The Rebel Flesh, here.