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Blog: Running Backwards, Writer: Dan

Running Backwards: Dr Who – The Rebel Flesh (Review)

Doctor who has now been on the box for nearly 50 years and barring a slight scrap in 1989 which ended in a couple hundred thousand fan boys crying for blood and a 16 year hiatus well…Barring a one night only appearance in which the Doctor rode a motorcycle and kissed a lady thus generating the biggest negative fan outcry since “BN’s” were taken off the market. It’s largely been a nationwide favourite, As English as Fish and Chips or Casual Football Violence, Doctor who is the kind of staple that Saturday night viewing was made for.

When the resurrection of the show happened in 2005 the fans were out in force proclaiming it to be the greatest thing to hit television since…well Doctor who. Five years on and a full change in the reins was imminent show runner Russell T. Davies, a man still considered today to be the closest human equivalent of Marmite we’ve ever had in the “Whoniverse” (Yes that’s “Whoniverse” with air quotes), handed the reins over to Stephen Moffat a man whose thought process is so unequivocally perplexing it may as well be a puzzle from one of the “SAW” movies. Also Jumping ship with Davies was David Tennant leaving new Doctor Matt Smith to be awkwardly welcome aboard by the public. the youngest Doctor we’ve ever had at 26 years old…well until they cast a 3 month old girl in the role in 2020…you know it’s coming. Matt didn’t so much change the pace of the Doctor more shove a spanner clean into the mechanics and rattle it about a bit. Personally I love Matt Smith, it should be said, after the dark melancholic tones of Christopher Eccleston and the running around coolness that was David Tennant, I think Matt Smith has reinvented the  sort of “gawky awkwardness” I’ve always loved about the character of the Doctor. He’s made the role his own and bought that aspect back to the show that I’d really missed.

Yes. I’m a fan, a long term fan (Like watching classic series before the new series was on kind of long term) if you haven’t caught on to that by now (And if you genuinely hadn’t Shame on you! No biscuit!) and  with that I sat down to watch The Rebel Flesh, and at this point I’m dropping down a mild spoiler warning I shan’t spoil the cliff-hanger at the end but I shall be discussing what goes on in the episode from here on in yee were warned!

The first thing that hit me was the sheer scale of the production for the episode, the opening shot of a monastery in the middle of the sea is simply breathtaking and a definitely refreshing experience compared to the previous two weeks’ worth of smoggy brown landscapes. We are pretty much immediately introduced to the “Gangers” a term that was no doubt thought up over several painstaking- oh its doppelganger shortened…wow that’s a little lame…well moving on  the Gangers are exact biological doubles of actual humans who are on at the Monastery mining for a precious acid. and no sooner as were introduced to the Gangers one of them falls into a vat of this precious acid Whether they’ll get their deposit back on both the acid that’s been tainted or the acid suit he was wearing at the time has yet to be seen though You can guarantee there’s going to be serious consequences in the health and safety department come part 2’s air date.

The action then cuts to the Tardis- what appears to be a time traveling pub as the age old question what do the Tardis crew get up to during the gaps in adventures?, is finally answered with “They sit about listening to Muse, Playing Darts and drinking lemonade”.  All is Jolly on board until a freak solar storm hits and the Tardis is forced to make an emergency landing, at this point it should be stated the CGI work of the past 2 seasons in Doctor who has been absolutely phenomenal and the Tardis being hit by Solar flares is no exception, a beautiful piece of work handled yet again by the absolutely brilliant company “The Mill” With the gang all fine they exit to find themselves at the Monastery.

YES! Its one of those “Base under Siege” type stories that have been a part of Doctor Who since the 60’s in which the Doctor lands at a base or secluded location…that’s under siege! Modern examples would be the absolutely splendid “Midnight” and last years Brilliant “Amy’s Choice” and “Cold Blood/ The Hungry Earth” The Doctor and co enter and are briefly made aware of how Gangers are created in a brilliantly terrifying scene that no doubt has scarred the nation’s youth. The Doctor also learns that the plant is at a great risk from the solar storms that have grounded our “Time Team”.

The Doctor springs to action attempting to shut off the machinery before the solar storms hit though apart from some muffled technological jargon relating to an overload its never explicitly made clear exactly why the machines should be stopped. The Doctor fails to stop the machine and a power surge leads to several of the Gangers becoming self supporting …and apparently very aggressive too. well you can’t win’em all can you?…With hatred stirring between the original crew of humans and the Gangers The Doctor and co are left with a serious dilemma of what exactly makes a human, a human and further probes the human rights issue that has cropped up in the series in this format since 1970’s “The Silurians

I for one genuinely loved this episode, it’s by no means my favorite episode of this season so far (A title that at the time of writing currently belongs to either “The Doctors Wife” or “The Day of the Moon”) but it holds nostalgia with me for those stories where it was just the Doctor his companions and whatever he could get his hands on vs the powerful monsters trying to take over. The way in which the writer Matthew Graham(Writer of the absolutely astonishingly brilliant “Life on Mars” and “Ashes To Ashes”) structures both the narrative and the characters is wonderfully handled especially considering his last contribution to the “Whoniverse” was the utterly Abysmal “Fear Her” a story that regularly tops the “Worst Doctor who episodes ever” list. The way he has written out any use of the Tardis (And its subsequent reappearance in part 2 “The Almost people”)  in itself was wonderfully played out.

Dr Who: The Rebel Flesh (Copyright BBC)

The full cast are on top form in this episode also with Matt (The Doctor), Karen (Amy)  and Arthur (Rory) all firing on full cylinders and even the supporting cast all pull together to make what really should be labelled “The second golden age” of Doctor Who shine brighter than ever.  Matthew Graham has in my eye’s redeemed himself with this episode for now. As I said above I shan’t spoil the cliff hanger but it left me with the craving to watch part 2 immediately after. This is what all good drama should try to do. The sets were wonderfully realised and Director Julian Simpson has a wonderful eye for  shots, I’d give this story an 8.5 our of 10 and I’d highly recommend you guys go check it out, its really worth it, if only to see a story where Rory Hasn’t died! *Yet*. If “The Almost People” lives up to the prelude that is “The Rebel Flesh” I think we may well be in for a brilliant two partner.

by Dan – Blogger: Running Backwards

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