BBC iPlayer: Doctor Who - The Rebel Flesh [TV Review]

on Sunday, May 22, 2011
'Doctor Who' Series Six, Episode Five: 'The Rebel Flesh' // Words: Saam Das

SYNOPSIS: "Science fiction drama. A solar tsunami liberates doppelgangers from their human 'originals' in a futuristic factory. Can the Doctor prevent all-out civil war?" (

One of the more popular sci-fi tropes of late has been the examination of humanity and identity, perhaps most notably in Duncan Jones' debut feature, 'Moon'. Indeed, last year's 'Doctor Who' episodes, 'The Victory Of The Daleks' and 'The Pandorica Opens', also explored such themes. 'The Rebel Flesh' continues along such lines before abruptly ending - with the conclusion to follow next week.

Bearing in mind how popular those philosophical concerns have been lately, writer Matthew Graham does a fairly impressive job of engaging the viewer. We find ourselves trapped with the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) in a unique setting of a monastery that juxtaposes the picturesque with the industrial.

To some extent, 'The Rebel Flesh' posits the question of whether humanity is actually its own worst enemy. Unless you're like the factory workers in the episode who consider their doppelgangers to be "monsters". But these doppelgangers share many traits with their human counterparts - particularly apparent with doppelganger Jennifer's (Sarah Smart) infatuation with the caring Rory - a refreshing change from the romantic dynamic centred around Amy.

The dynamic between Rory and Jennifer's doppelganger metamorphosed toward the end of the episode after a surprisingly ill-advised move from factory foreman, Cleaves (Raquel Cassidy). The dynamic within the doppelganger group also unexpectedly changes, a change in hierarchy which didn't seem to make sense in the context of the episode. Similarly, another random appearance from the sliding panel woman feels pointless and such casual reminders of the dominant plot points of the series have been a continued disappointment.

Anyway, the foundations have been laid for a strong follow up episode. However, the opening two-parter in the series ended somewhat damply with 'Day Of The Moon' - I fear similar consequences for next week's 'The Almost People'. Its title certainly doesn't instill a great deal of hope. But underestimate the Doctor at your peril.

Watch 'The Rebel Flesh' on BBC iPlayer until 19:29, Saturday 11 June 2011.

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