After the amazing, outstanding and superlative previous episode of Doctor Who – The Doctors Wife – it would be very difficult for anything that followed to measure up. Thankfully, The Rebel Flesh does not try to recreate the wheel or give us any life shattering moments (well, there are a couple of life altering moments …), but simply gives us a good, solid Doctor Who storyline that helps to advance the underlying story along.
In the Rebel Flesh, The Doctor and crew crash-land on the shores of a monastery in a future time. Here some workers are utilizing a new technology called “flesh” to assist them in the performance of difficult, dangerous and arduous tasks. With the flesh, you simply step into the alcove, strap yourself into the harness, and the Flesh can take your form. You can control the cloned drone like a puppet, performing dangerous tasks without putting yourself in danger.
While “flesh” is meant to be inanimate and essentially an unfeeling tool, as we see in the first introduction sequence when one of the workers falls into a pool of bubbling acid – the “eyes” of the flesh Avatar are the last to dissolve and perhaps these unfeeling tools are not as unfeeling as we would like to believe!
The Doctor upon his arrival quickly surmises that the flesh is actually alive and learning from its human drivers – while the workers continue to think of their doppelgangers (“Gangers“) as nothing more than machines, The Doctor informs them that there is a lot more to the picture and that they need to be significantly more careful in how they react and interact with the flesh going forward. The Doctor is once again prove prophetic when an electric strike from a storm animates the flesh avatars and enables them to move and react on their own (very “Frankenstein-esque” with the reanimation by lightning element!).
The Avatars – while knowing they are not the originals, still have all the memories, hopes and fears of the originals and wish to have a life of their own also, unbound by the strictures of serving as nothing more than sacrificial lambs.
One of the issues I had with this episode was in its similarity to other episodes. While it is a good one and does somewhat drive the story along a little bit further there are just too many things that we have seen before.
- Indeed, as the gangers and the humans split into “us and them”, there were so many commonalities with last year’s The Hungry Earth it was getting a bit silly! In that episode humans again seemed to have a problem “sharing” (in that case our planet whereas here it is ourselves).
- The appearance of the “monsters” themselves was very reminiscent of the monsters in the Waters of Mars. While they were not an exact match, they definitely did look quite a bit alike.