Published on June 2nd, 2011 | by Christian Cawley
The Almost People Reviews Roundup
You might think we’re a little late with our reviews roundup this week, but The Almost People has proved to be a massive success around the web, with the final few minutes of the episode going down as one of the most stunning cliff-hangers ever!
While the audience was just 5 million viewers we would expect that to almost double when the full delayed views and word of mouth are factored in, so if you’re concerned about these things, don’t be – Doctor Who fans are young and au fait with technology. Plus it would be entirely surprising to find that lots of people watch the show when it’s dark outside, the way we used to back in the day…
We’ll start with The Telegraph, whose “reviewer” Gavin Fuller once won Mastermind. This is not mark of quality, however. Before his review, the paper offered this preview:
Starring a small cast, set in a spooky gothic building with futuristic trappings and featuring much running down corridors in boiler suits, the story has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel. It could almost be a classic tale from the Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee eras.
Fuller, meanwhile, offered a surprisingly positive review, but one not without pretension:
The question of identity, which was forming such a strong facet of the initial episode, was if anything writ even larger here, and pulled off with alacrity as revelation upon revelation was given as to who was what and how the different personalities reacted and interacted, adding a fascinating extra layer to just about all the characters.
Over at SFX, the episode was given a surprising 3 stars – surprising because they’re been dealing them out left right and centre this year. Their reviewer felt that The Almost People used too many familiar themes.
Unfortunately it isn’t quite as adept at making well-worn tropes feel fresh. Although the threat of the island blowing up (very Aliens) adds a sense of urgency, you rarely feel there’s any genuine threat, while it turns out the gangers aren’t particularly interesting as bad guys. Their character development is just too simplistic – it’s great that they’re not moustache twirling villains, but they switch from “kill the humans” to “don’t kill the humans” too quickly to be convincing.
Elsewhere, BlogCritic’s Scott Varnham makes an interesting observation with regard to the number of cliffhangers we’ve had recently.
One thing that could also be troubling for newer viewers is following from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, as we go from “The Rebel Flesh” to “The Almost People”, which leads into “A Good Man Goes To War”, which in itself is said to contain a “game changing” cliffhanger to keep us guessing over the summer hiatus. This is possibly the longest stream of consecutive cliffhangers we’ve had in the revived series.
IGN, who you might be more familiar with for finding video game walkthroughs, offered this nice observation.
As a traditional two-parter, Matthew Graham wrote a tight and coherent but not entirely scintillating script that managed to ‘flesh’ out the themes of morality and humanity with a couple of interesting touches. The abuse that Doctor Two suffered at the hands of his closest companion allowed for some unpredictably fiery flashes from Matt Smith…
Hasn’t Matt Smith been doing well this season? There has been a good range of different situations for him to really get his acting chops around, and while David Tennant continues to loom large in other roles, we reckon that Smith has been exceptional.
Someone elsewho certainly made a mark in The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People was Sarah Smart, although Den of Geek note that her hard work was undermined by some questionable CGI.
It didn’t do the episode many favours, come the big denouement of this particular story itself, that the beast-like Jennifer ganger looked as unconvincing as she did. And I for one found that when she evolved into her more dangerous physical form, she was at her least sinister. Contrast that with the earlier appearances, and the effective make-up work, and the conclusion here is that real-life make-up effects work better, in this instance, at least, than CG.
One aspect of the two-part adventure that has surprised many fans is that it was by Matthew Graham, whose previous work for the show was Fear Her, aired in 2006. Voted the least favourite of the post-2005 episodes in Doctor Who Magazine a couple of years ago, the episode has a bad reputation. As The Appalling Strangeness points out, Graham himself can prove to be a “mixed bag”.
In a sense, it was a bit of a gamble to use Matthew Graham, if only because he has a track record of turning in both outstanding and utterly disappointing endings to his stories. Anyone who has seen the superb final episode to Ashes to Ashes will know just what a genius he can be; anyone who has sat through the largely nonsense conclusion to otherwise really rather good The Last Train. So The Almost People, based on Graham’s track record, was either going to be very good or really rather poor. Which was it?
Somewhere in the middle, really.
Fair or unfair? Certainly The Almost People will be remembered for its remarkable cliff-hanger and the web went into fangasmic melt-down following broadcast. You can find out the Kasterborous view on all of this and more in our own review.