The Almost People

Doctor WhoTrapped in the castle with a group of hostile Gangers imitating the physical forms and personalities of the humans of whom they’re copies, the Doctor is now faced with a copy of himself, though the Doctor’s Ganger seems benign and helpful no matter how much suspicion he receives from the humans. An evacuation flight is dispatched to the castle, and the race is on to greet it when it lands. The Gangers, fighting for their right to continued existence rather than the inhumane “decommissioning” that usually awaits them, are content simply to wipe out their former masters. Despite the humans harboring much the same sentiment toward the Gangers, the Doctor – and his duplicate – try to maintain the possibility of a peaceful solution. But as the humans – even Amy – continue to ostracize the surplus Doctor, he begins to wonder if he’s on the right side. And the Doctor and Rory make the horrifying discovery that there’s one more Ganger in their midst than they realized.

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Matthew Graham
directed by Julian Simpson
music by Murray Gold

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory), Mark Bonnar (Jimmy), Marshall Lancaster (Buzzer), Sarah Smart (Jennifer), Raquel Cassidy (Cleaves), Leon Vickers (Dicken), Frances Barber (Eye Patch Lady), Edmond Moulton (Adam)

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: For every thing that The Almost People does well in an interesting way – such as its shock cliff”ganger” ending, or its exploration of prejudice and ostracization by way of Amy’s less-than-pleasant interactions the Doctor’s double – it does another thing in an off-the-rails way (the sudden revelation that the Gangers can open their mouths and consume their victims, a la Diana wolfing down a guinea pig in the original V, comes out of nowhere and really adds nothing but a cheap-horror-flick shock to the story). The Gangers have already shown that they’re dangerous, and the clock’s already ticking in the form of the “extraction team” that will rescue one team or the other from the isolated compound – in that respect, The Almost People is classic enclosed-base-under-siege Doctor Who, a subgenre that the series has specialized in since the Doctor’s second incarnation was making bow ties cool.

Matt Smith steals the show handily here, portraying not only the Doctor we know but also a less certain creature who wants badly to be the Doctor, despite every human and Ganger around making it very clear that they expect him to fail to be the Doctor. That the story begins to make the audience wonder which one they’re watching at any given moment actually indicates that the Ganger Doctor is doing better than he thinks – so well, in fact, that the real Doctor entrusts him with his sonic screwdriver. Speaking of real vs. ersatz Doctors, this episode marks the first time that the new series has seen the current Doctor impersonating his predecessors, as the Ganger Doctor, assimilating the real Doctor’s memories of his past incarnations, briefly imitates Pertwee and Tom Baker. Though this is accomplished by quoting somewhat predictable cliched catchphrases – “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” and “would you like a jelly baby?”, but it’s really no better or worse than Peter Davison breaking into a Troughtonesque “When I say run, run!” in part 1 of Castrovalva.

The Almost PeopleThat ending, though, may be the biggest shock of the Steven Moffat era so far, and it’s certainly the biggest kick in the gut this season has given us since the Doctor’s apparent (future) death in The Impossible Astronaut. It’s also awfully strong stuff for family-hour viewing – basically, what we’ve got here is the real Amy, as somebody’s hostage, about to give birth in captivity. There’s no reassuring scene (as in the end of Bad Wolf) to let the kiddos know that the Doctor’s going to rush to her rescue, opting instead to save those scenes for the next episode. It’s pretty unsettling stuff, and may well be the most eyebrow-raising, “I-can’t-believe-they-did-that-on-TV” cliffhanger the show’s given us since the fourth Doctor’s head was held under water in The Deadly Assassin. (But if you think that’s bad, imagine how Rory feels – he’s been spending his free time with a slimy clone since before the season started…)