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24 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 813: The Rebel Flesh

Dear diary,

The other day, I was banging on about the Eleventh Doctor, as I think of him, as finding ‘glee in the threat of the adventure. [Getting] things wrong. He quips. He twirls, and dances, and is generally quite frenetic.’ When I think back on the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, that’s specifically the image of him I have in mind. From time to time, I find myself moving in ways that tele entirely ‘Eleventh Doctor’, without even really thinking about it. It’s always interesting, then, when we get to see a different side to the man. There’s plenty of the twirling and dancing in this episode, but we really get to see just how much of an act it all is. When the Doctor slips off on his own to investigate the Flesh and to gather the information that he’s after, he’s almost completely different. He’s cool, and collected. He’s on a mission, and he’s simply focussed on getting it done. At times, there’s something almost scary about the Eleventh Doctor we see creeping to the surface here, and it’s all because that facade we’ve been so used to has started to chip away. I’d forgotten that he came to this spot specifically to investigate the Flesh, but it adds another interesting dimension to the proceedings.

First time around, this story made very little impact on me. I can recall both episodes ending, and then wandering off afterwards and more-or-less completely forgetting everything about them (well, mostly. A few months later I attended a wedding held in the main castle location for this story - several of the rooms were used for the reception - and found myself telling anyone who’d listen that the Bride was probably a flesh duplicate. It didn’t go down all that well, if I’m honest.

Actually, though, there’s quite a lot to like about this one. Very quickly, you get a sense of the world this story is set in, and I’m buying into the characters very quickly. Matthew Graham isn’t always considered the strongest Doctor Who writer ever, but he’s done a very good job here of setting up the world and the characters largely via the dialogue and leaving me with a sense that it’s all fully formed.

The real beauty of the situation is that you can see both sides of the argument. I can appreciate why it’s so troubling to the humans to have their Ganger duplicates suddenly up and running around (and trying to kill them), but at the same time I can see how the Gangers are technically just as ‘real’ as the humans that spawned them, and why they have to fight for their lives. It also ties in quite nicely to another aspect of the Eleventh Doctor - he’s the negotiator. A bringer of peace. He set up negotiations between humanity and the Silurians last season, and he’s trying to find inroads to doing a similar thing between humans and Gangers here, too. I’m not sure entirely why, but it suits this Doctor to be the man who’s trying to unite different species… 


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