Friday, December 15, 2017

A Simple Sequel Until The End: "The Almost People"

The Good: Performances are good, Final moments of the episode
The Bad: Inconsistent characterization, Dull plot, Predictable reversals, Wonky special effects
The Basics: "The Almost People" belabors the process of finally revealing just what is going on with Amy Pond, even if the episodic aspects are something of a mess.

When it comes to doppelganger episodes where a main character has been duplicated, it is tough to imagine that there is a permutation in the plot that has not already been done. The negative aspect of being a genre fan is that there is, ultimately, surprisingly little left that can surprise one. "The Almost People" in Doctor Who makes a fairly good attempt at surprising viewers, even if the ultimate reversal that connects the episode to the larger season's arc only occurs within the final moments of the otherwise mundane episode.

"The Almost People" picks up where "The Rebel Flesh" (reviewed here!) left off and it is virtually impossible to discuss the second part without some references as to where the first part left off. After all, "The Rebel Flesh" climaxed with a ganger version of The Doctor appearing, as the dopplegangers prepared to go to war with their source humans.

The ganger Doctor is reacting poorly to the way he was created and struggles to maintain his form. The Doctor and his team are smoked out by the three gangers led by ganger Cleaves using acid on the monastery's stone structure. The ganger Jennifer suddenly recalls being melted down repeatedly and tries to inspire the other gangers to contact the gangers off-site who are toiling for humans in dangerous situations and inspire them to revolt. With the humans trying to escape the monastery, they call for extraction.

As Rory tracks down the two Jennifers, The Doctor leads a team to rescue him. When Jennifer turns off the thermostatic controls, the boiling acid begins to rise and undermine the monastery's superstructure. Rory and Jennifer find a pile of discarded Flesh after the ganger Cleaves reroutes the rescue shuttle by accurately figuring out the code word from her source human. The Doctor appeals to one of the gangers's core human emotions to get him to turn as the situation reaches its peak.

Cleaves almost entirely redefined for "The Almost People." In "The Rebel Flesh," Cleaves was the clear leader who was happily organizing the aggression against the humans. In "The Almost People," ganger Cleaves just wants to survive and be left alone until Jennifer talks her into being aggressive against the humans.

Matt Smith plays off himself at the outset of "The Almost People" very well. There is something charming about watching Smith act against himself and that fits The Doctor's character. After all, The Doctor frequently talks to himself, so seeing him literally talking to himself is an organic transition and Matt Smith performs it nicely with a good balance of humor and realism. When The Doctor taps into The Flesh and freaks out, Matt Smith portrays the anger and frustration he has to convincingly.

Amy Pond is characterized as surprisingly prejudiced in "The Almost People" as she expresses a subtle disdain for the ganger Doctor. It is odd to see Pond prejudiced, as opposed to actually being thrilled to have two Doctors in her life.

The special effects in "The Almost People" are mediocre. The wall of eyeballs is appropriately creepy, but it is nonsense for any sense of reality. Similarly, when Jennifer elongates her mouth, the viewer is supposed to think, what? That ganger Jennifer consumes Buzzer?!

The whole point of "The Almost People" is to lead into the next episode and finally explain what it is that Amy Pond has been seeing the prior few episodes. The result is a dull, winding episode that gels poorly with the first part that climaxes in a must-see scene.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!

For other episodes with duplicated main characters, please check out my reviews of:
"The Poison Sky" - Doctor Who
"By Inferno's Light" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"I Will Face My Enemy" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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