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Published on May 24th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley

The Rebel Flesh Reaction Roundup!

Overnight figures for The Rebel Flesh were encouraging, but once again seem likely to be be the subject of considerable revision when time-shifted but non-iPlayer viewings are taken into account, it seems,with SFX reporting that the episode drew an audience of 5.7 million on the night, which equals an audience share of 29%, again, almost a third of people watching TV at that point.

Following our exhaustive and Neil Gaiman-endorsed roundup for The Doctor’s Wife last week, the Kasterborous news team have, uhh, teamed-up to bring you a collection of the most pertinent observations from around the web concerning The Rebel Flesh.

So to start, it’s over to Andy Reynolds…

Difficult situations call for daring, affirmative responses, dedicated and to the point so it comes as no surprise that the Doctor is rubbish at them. Afirmative? Well yes, he’s certainly does stand up and be counted but ‘to the point’ he practicaly dances round it with childish glee.

So it’s something of a surprise that we don’t get the manic dance in The Rebel Flesh. Flickfilosopher has noted his unusually subdued response to Amy’s direct questioning about the Gangers and the northern factor-stery :

“Whatever the Doctor knows about the Flesh, it is somehow connected to the big Everything that’s Going On… except it can’t be, because this Doctor is supposed to not know about the fact that he will arrange to be in front of the person in the spacesuit in 200 years of his subjective time so that he can be shot dead. Unless… could this Doctor already be a Flesh replica?

Could this Doctor have been a Flesh replica throughout his entire regeneration?

Has the Doctor been playing a really long game?”

Looking far ahead into the future too was Assignment X’s review (only rather impatiently):

“For those keeping score with this year’s story arc, we have another pregnancy test (how many times is the Doctor going to run the same inconclusive scan so the audience can be reminded on a weekly basis of the Big Mystery?) and another inexplicable fleeting appearance by the Eye Patch Lady (Frances Barber). I’m finding myself not caring all that much about these sledgehammer techniques; let’s just get on with adventures, please.”

Next, over to Mez Burdett, who has an overview of the episode from Buzz Focus:

“It’s hard to review the first of a two-part episode when most of it was mainly setup. Unlike the one-two punch of the Doctor Who Season Six premiere, The Rebel Flesh takes its time to introduce the guest starring characters The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) come into contact with, and put the wheels of the plot in motion. We get a sense of what’s going on but the real story doesn’t happen until the last act. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing. After all, we now have TWO DOCTORS!”

Big Shiny Robot summed up what made this opening episode worthy of being a two parter and also has ideas about future plot developments:

“Another great thing about this episode in particular is that it’s a slow burn that definitely merits a second part. We’re introduced to the concepts, given a great set up, The Doctor comes in and does his thing, and everything is about to wrapped up in a nice bow and everyone’s happy, and then… well. My only hope is that the next episode doesn’t devolve into an US vs. THEM all out war. This show has done that before, and it isn’t really one of its strong suits. The final scene, however makes me hope for the best. .. This episode also makes one wonder if the existence of easily created beings that look, act, and feel exactly the same as their counterparts gives the writers an “out” for the events of the season’s first episode. I’m kind of hoping that it’s much more elaborate than that though.”

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh

Elsewhere, Monsters & Critics point out the (for once) strong use of Rory as he starts to come out of his nervous shell in this episode:

“Rory, since he’s a nurse, really can be touched by the distress of others, and he grows attached to one of the Gangers who needs his protection…this is a good development because it gives every member of the “Who” Crew his or her own role and personality. That’s important now that there are three people travelling in the TARDIS instead of the usual duo. Rory needs a reason for being there, and this is a good one.”

And also points out:

“I was fascinated that the one thing that both the Gangers and the Originals had in common is the ease in which they both want to go to war with each other. Maybe there isn’t all that much different between the two groups after all.”

Yes, perhaps…

Finally, I’ve got some reaction from some of the larger sites, such as Digital Spy and SFX.

To begin, however, let’s pay a visit to so-called “Doctor Who expert” Gavin Fuller. A word of warning before we go on: knowing a lot about a particular subject doesn’t make you an expert. Expertise comes from understanding, something that Mr Fuller clearly does not do when it comes to modern Doctor Who.

In the paltry 259 word review (which we assume he was paid for) Fuller was surprisingly on the money, which clearly betrays his ineptitude for reviewing modern Doctor Who. Sadly, his opinions are only constructive when there are echoes of the classic series.

Matthew Graham’s script enabled intriguing meditations on the nature of life and what it is to be human to arise from this absorbing, atmospheric drama. Matt Smith was at his most professorial here, giving a more restrained performance which chimed in with the feel of the episode and in his caring for the existence of the doppelgangers showing the regard for the sanctity of life that we come to expect from the Doctor.

Elsewhere, some agreement has to be given to IGN’s summary of the story’s setting. Everyone find monastries creepy, after all…

The setting also allowed for a refreshing spin on the conventionally budget-strapped Who environment; sure, it was yet another pipe-strewn corridor-fest, but by housing it within a beautifully evocative Monastery against a futuristic solar tsunami backdrop, there was a refreshing and creative juxtaposition between the original story idea and the production values-restricted execution.

Meanwhile, Digital Spy’s Morgan Jeffrey clearly doesn’t have, or indeed know, any young children.

After an impressive preceding 45 minutes, it’s a pity that this episode ends on a damp squib of a cliffhanger. The main problem with the Ganger-Doctor reveal is that it’s too clearly telegraphed throughout the episode. Savvy viewers might guess what’s going to happen as soon as The Doctor first touches the flesh ten minutes in, but with the twist being obviously signposted at least twice more before episode’s end (“Trust me”), it’s hard to believe that any viewer wouldn’t see this ‘shock’ ending coming a mile off.

For the record, Mr Jeffrey, my young nieces were absolutely dumbstruck by the GangerDoctor, not to mention horrified by his appearance; I’d call that a “shock”, wouldn’t you?

Over at SFX, the review is pretty simplistic, preferring as is their want to head for cheap gags rather than actual, you know, dissection of the episode. Still, at least they managed to offer this insightful observation:

Meanwhile, the fact that the gangers have all the memories of the “parent” means they’re not just mindless (though they are occasionally faceless) clones , and raises intriguing moral questions about whether they have as much right to exist as the originals, or how you might cope with the idea that there are suddenly two of you. You certainly won’t have encountered quandaries like these earlier this evening on Don’t Scare The Hare.

A nice new source that was introduced to us this week is Hobo Trashcan, where you will find a very good review of The Rebel Flesh. Here’s a snippet:

The one part of this episode that I did think worked was the Rory-Jennifer storyline. For one thing, I love that Rory dying every week has now become a joke on the show. It was fun hearing him acknowledge that fact this week. But beyond that, this storyline was a fascinating way to shake up the Rory-Amy dynamic on the show.

However, if you do click that link, take some time to mull over the section titled “Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff”, where you’ll find some interesting thoughts about Amy Pond and the cause of everything that is a bit bizarre in Doctor Who right now.

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




One Response to The Rebel Flesh Reaction Roundup!

  1. avatar 23skidoo says:

    Of the possible scenarios, the one indicated by Flickfilosopher is the one that, frankly, worries me the most. There is of course the very real possibility they’re telegraphing the solution to the events of Impossible Astronaut, but to say that the Doctor has been a Ganger for his entire regeneration? (Or, at least, from early on since we saw the change, so presumably the “switch” happened later.) That would be the ultimate cop out and would ruin all the great episodes we’ve had to date, not to least of which it would utterly invalidate the events of The Doctor’s Wife. I’ve been a fan for 20 years, and have found good things to say even about The Twin Dilemma and Fear Her, but I’d walk away if we found that the Doctor who underwent such a transformation in The Doctor’s Wife was a copy.

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