Doctor Who Series 6

Doctor Who S6, Ep 5: “The Rebel Flesh”

OMG, it’s so strange. I meant to download this week’s episode of Doctor Who, but I accidentally downloaded an episode of Battlestar Galactica instead. What’s weird is that it was an episode I’d never seen before, when I thought I’d watched the entire series!

It must have been some kind of weird standalone episode, because Boomer kept calling herself Jennifer, and Helo kept calling himself Rory. All I know is that Boomer came out of the resurrection tub, and Admiral Adama (who, for some reason, kept calling himself the Doctor) was suddenly supportive of the Cylons and wanting to help them.

Which is totally why I saw the fact that Adama wasn’t really Adama at all coming! After all, the real Adama would never try to ally himself with skin-jobs!

OK, so maybe I saw the Doctor Who episode, “The Rebel Flesh,” after all. But you must admit, the similarities between this episode and BSG are striking.

In any case, the actual story involves Team TARDIS crash landing on a planet that’s home to a monastery that’s actually a factory that contains a concoction called the Flesh, a compound that can copy any living organism. As a harsh solar storm approaches that could destroy the planet, the Doctor discovers that the contractors they find walking around in the factory are actually copies of the original people, who are harnessed into racks, seemingly asleep and supposedly controlling the copies “like a forklift.” Things get complicated fast when the solar storm hits and suddenly, originals are missing and “gangers” (short for doppelgangers) are revolting against their creators in a fight for survival. The human originals fight back, Rory fights for one of the gangers to Amy’s confusion, and all the while, the Doctor seems to know more about this technology than he lets on.

“The Rebel Flesh” was a solid episode, though the similarities to BSG kind of lessened it for me; not because I don’t like BSG, but because it’s been done. However, the theme of whether artificial life/intelligence is actually human is addressed here a bit differently than in BSG. It’s actually more Caprica. Usually, the discussion is about the artificial life being human—“they’re just like us.” Here, the Doctor brings up the point that, “We are all…jellyeggs, sitting in goo.” It’s not about them being like us, it’s about us being like them. Humanity is a miracle, yes, but at its foundation it’s nothing but “goo,” much in the same way as Zoe Graystone reduced human consciousness to things compiled from computer databases, like receipts, medical records, and favorite books. To me, this is a very interesting stance for the Doctor to take. He doesn’t play favorites when it comes to solving problems, even with his beloved human race, and he is willing to see things from the ganger point of view.

However, this could have more to do with the fact that the Doctor seemed to know something about this technology from the get-go. He keeps mentioning the fact that the Flesh technology is still “early,” and after touching the Flesh in the vat and feeling it scan him, he returns to the vat on his own, sonic-ing it with his screwdriver, and it forms a mouth that says “Trust me” much like the Doctor does. Trying to figure out what the Doctor is up to is going to be the most fun thing about this two-parter, because he’s clearly setting all of this up to accomplish something.

My question is, does it have anything to do with the Doctor who dies in “The Impossible Astronaut?” Is the Doctor we see die the actual Doctor, or is it Ganger Doctor? Hmmm…

This episode’s other strong suit is its handling of Rory. For the first time, we have an episode that truly allows him to shine, independent of Amy. Rory has swiftly become my favorite companion, but this episode was the first time I actually thought that if anything happened to Amy, and she were no longer on the show….I wouldn’t really mind. His bond with Jennifer was wonderful to watch, because it allowed Rory to be the emotional heart of the episode, and also allowed him to act in his capacity as a nurse without announcing “I’m a nurse!” Also, Ganger Jennifer’s crush on Rory allows us to see him in a different light—as someone who might be *gasp* desirable to other people! For so long, Rory’s been treated as the schlub who “lucked out” when he landed Amy. Ganger Jennifer’s declaration that “Amy is a lucky girl” (and Rory’s un-self-conscious “Yeah, she is.”) speaks for all of us. Rory is just as much of a catch as Amy is. Depending on who you ask, he’s more of one. It was thrilling to watch him shush Amy when she tried to second-guess his support of Jennifer. We get to see the other side of their relationship. It isn’t all about Amy leading Rory around by the nose. He is, and always has been, his own man. If he lets Amy take the lead sometimes, it’s when he genuinely believes, deep down, that she’s right, even if he’s too afraid to act. He is also someone who knows that choosing one’s battles is more important than winning for its own sake. Amy doesn’t make that distinction, and it’s one of the many reasons why she needs Rory.

Lastly, I just want to shout out the opening scene, which made the TARDIS feel like a home. Having music playing and having Amy and Rory playing darts was a wonderful addition that made the control room of the TARDIS feel like a warm, liveable place.

Sadly, the US won’t be getting Part 2 of this arc for two weeks due to Memorial Day weekend. For those of you in the UK who’ll now be an episode ahead for the rest of the series, enjoy! I’m sure plenty of U.S. Whovians will be watching Part 2 by any means necessary. I won’t be (because I actually have patience and can wait a week, despite my geeky enthusiasm), so there will be no review of Doctor Who next Monday. However, there might be a Me-penned article about Doctor Who to take its place. It might be a new Moffat’s Women column. It might be an article about Doctor Who and gender/transgender issues. It might be both! Come back next week and find out!

Doctor Who resumes broadcasting on BBC America in the US on Saturday, June 4th at 9PM ET. “It’s insane. And it’s about to get insanerer.”


Teresa Jusino believes that Amy is a lucky girl. She can be seen as the teen geek in the current Bordertown book trailer. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

41 Comments

Subscribe to this thread