If you watched The Rebel Flesh last Saturday, you may have noticed a very strong connection to James Cameron’s Avatar, with humans plugging themselves into a machine and operating via disposable pre-grown bodies.
Writer Matthew Graham (seen here with his Life on Mars stars John Simm and Philip Glenister) recently confirmed that the link to the late-2009 blockbuster film was somewhat intentional and came from the Grand Moff himself. In an interview at Den of Geek, Graham explained how the concept for this two-parter came about:
“…all the stories in Doctor Who start with a basic idea from Steven. And I went and spent a day with him in his kitchen, and he said, ‘I want to do something about avatars.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Steven, are you sure?’ I mean, the film was still playing at the time in cinemas. And he said, ‘No, no, no, this will be good. This will be like The Thing.’”
So apparently most of the similarities to other sci-fi classics that we’ve been able to discover (our own Neil Clarke pointed out the relation to The Thing in his review) were on purpose right from the initial pitch, though we’re still waiting for someone on the production team to admit additional inspiration from the 2009 Duncan Jones film Moon.
As most Kasterborous readers know by now, The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People is not Graham’s first go at TV Doctor Who; he was also the mind behind one of the many Series 2 one-parters that ignited an overwhelming “meh” throughout the fandom: Fear Her. In the Den of Geek interview, he had a chance to respond to all his premiere story’s naysayers.
It was aimed at the kids, because Army Of Ghosts and Doomsday were coming up, and they were going to be very big, very dark and very traumatic. And Russell wanted a playground adventure. He said, ‘How old is your son?’ At the time he was seven. So, he said, ‘Write this one for your son.’ That’s what I did. I did something that was in primary colours, that had a scary voice in the cupboard. I always say that other people got cybermen, I got two blokes with a red lamp rattling a wardrobe!
But, to be honest with you, I didn’t go online particularly and read the responses. From my side of it, the response was brilliant. I had loads of kids write to me and say how much they enjoyed it. And it was only later I realised that the older fans had reacted badly to it. So, I went, ‘Well, it’s a shame that they have, but it wasn’t meant for them.’
Sounds like a reasonable argument. Besides, what is meant for them (that is to say, you, assuming you’re an older fan), according to Graham, is The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People:
“I really hope that those who maybe thought that Fear Her was too childish and too silly, I’m hoping that that will silence them. This is my response!”
UK fans can witness the rest of Graham’s response by watching The Almost People this Saturday at 6:45 PM on BBC One. In the meantime, they (again meaning you) can read the rest of this excellent interview at Den of Geek.