A solar storm brings the TARDIS down on 26th century Earth, at an isolated castle which is now the site of a small team overseeing a large vat of Flesh – an acidic, sentient liquid which can shape itself into Gangers, perfect copies of any of the team members, capable of performing dangerous tasks without endangering the original human technician. The violent solar flare that forced the TARDIS to land will soon impact Earth, and the Doctor tries to offer his help to the castle’s crew. When it arrives, however, the solar storm front impacts Earth more violently than expected, and everyone including the Doctor is knocked out cold before his plan can be put into action. When everyone comes around, something has changed: the Gangers have become aggressive, demanding that their existence is at least as valid and precious as the lives of the humans of whom they are copies. Worse yet, by coming into physical contact with the Flesh, the Doctor has inadvertently provided the template for a new Ganger, one with his intellect and instincts.
written by Matthew Graham
directed by Julian Simpson
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Mark Bonnar (Jimmy), Marshall Lancaster (Buzzer), Sarah Smart (Jennifer), Raquel Cassidy (Cleaves), Leon Vickers (Dicken), Frances Barber (Eye Patch Lady)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Here’s something I never thought I’d say about an episode of Doctor Who, old or new: I remember this plotline when it was on Star Trek: Voyager, and it was about holograms instead of fleshy clones.
Sadly, there is something awfully familiar about The Rebel Flesh, but to be fair, the general plot outline wasn’t new when it was done in Voyager’s last season either: humans have created a form of artificial life to serve in their stead in situations that are simply too dangerous for flesh-and-blood people. Only in this case, the twist is that the clones have human “operators” who can control their clones from a safe location. When the inevitable uprising happens, not only do the creators have to look in the eyes of their creations, but there’s an equally inevitable game of “is this the real person or is it a clone that’s going to kill one of our heroes?”
Likely setting up the perhaps-less-shocking-than-we-thought explanation of the Doctor’s apparent death in the season opener, the Doctor himself somes into contact with the fleshy goo that can replicate both his physical form and elements of his personality and intelligence. The setup for this, however, is more than a little strange – it’s not terribly clear what draws the Doctor into contact with the Flesh. Even the Doctor’s natural curiosity has to run into some common-sense limits now and then.
Rory gets a larger-than-usual share of the action, again using the nurse/caretaker angle to put him in harm’s way; at least this time we get to see him operating independently of Amy. Now, this also means that Rory get clobbered by a clone who reverts to a vaguely Odo-esque face, but that goes with the job description.
So the windup is familiar, right down to the not-even-remotely-unexpected appearance of the Doctor’s duplicate. What about the pitch?