Like ‘Utopia’ this episode is going to be remembered for the big twist at the end which leads into next weeks episode. Unlike ‘Utopia’ there is still much to enjoy before that, along with the other twist that puts a new spin on everything that preceded it.
The big cliff hanger last episode was the appearance of a Doctor ganger, here forth refereed to as John Smith, which we were led to believe was a bad thing. This feeling of apprehension was continued throughout the episode and was the core of Amy’s personal character arc.
We’d already seen that Amy was in the anti-ganger camp from the beginning, to the extent that she had alienated Rory who knew what it was like not to be quite a person. With the introduction of John Smith she was afraid of him and viewed him as less than the real deal.
Even if the viewer at home didn’t have such an extreme reaction they couldn’t help but be wary of John Smith. When he was overwhelmed by the latent memories of gangers dying or physically stopping Rory from saving those trapped in the acid chamber didn’t we think he’d shown that he was monster?
Then we find out that John Smith had been the Doctor after all. Our belief that he was a ganger had coloured our view of him. John Smith was such a perfect copy that we’d taken him for the real thing.
With this knowledge any subsequent viewing of this episode is going to be very different. Not least of all because it answers the question of if the gangers were malfunctioning monsters who only thought they were human. We know now they are the same people as the original.
Last review I speculated that Jennifer’s ganger was so antagonistic because of her childhood trauma, where she’d imagined a double of herself who was stronger. I think this episode confirmed this, Jen-ganger boasting that she’d become stronger, just before dislocating her jaw like a hungry snake.
Her madness was part of her human psyche, rather than her ganger nature. Realising she was the ‘other’ Jennifer her mind broke, embracing the chance to be what she never was as a human. She was willing to do anything to survive.
In her speeches to the other gangers she spoke of their rights, of their persecution by the humans but that was just to hide her true motives. The truth was revealed when she was quite willing to kill another ganger to maintain her ruse of being human.
Did she truly remember the deaths of the gangers? The other gangers said they didn’t and as it turns out it was the real Doctor that had the strongest reaction to the repressed memories. John Smith barely felt it. Was Jen lying to give extra strength to her crusade?
Her manipulation of Rory seemed slightly too simplistic. There is a problem in the fact that he bonded with the Jen-ganger rather than the real person. During the ruse where Jen-ganger tried to persuade him she was human he should have stronger feelings for the duplicate.
At least Rory was still seeking a peaceful solution, not wanting either one to die and pleading for the Jen-ganger to just tell him the truth. When the chose was taken away from him he should have become suspicious when the anti-ganger Jen suddenly started talking about the suffering of the flesh.
Was Rory right to trick his wife and the Doctor into a trap? From his perspective he knew that Amy was both strong willed and held some resentment towards the gangers and that the Doctor did have a tendency not to listen to him. With this in mind forcing them into position where they had to listen to him does seem justified.
His complicity is also mitigated when we learn that it was the real Doctor, rather than John Smith, who was preventing him from rushing back to save them. The Doctor knew that the gangers had to have the change of heart towards the humans. If the choice was taken away from them they’d always hold that animosity.
The Doctor’s gamble did cost Jimmy his life and also led to the aforementioned terrible child actor. The idea of the scene is fine, Jimmy-ganger seeing ‘his’ son and realising he couldn’t let that boy’s father die. The long, lingering shots of a fidgeting child unable to act damaged the execution.
In general, unless a child actor is very talented, they should be older than the boy in this episode. Caitlin Blackwood’s portrayal of young Amelia is an example of when it works. A child of her age and talent would have worked just as well in the scene.
That aside the rest of the episode moved at a good pace. When the humans weren’t running for their lives there was time to explore whether they could trust John Smith. There were also some neat scenes taking advantage of the fact that both parties thought the same way, such as when Cleaves-ganger knew what password her double had given.
I’d been negative of the scene in the previous episode where Jen-ganger stretched her head out on a snake-like neck. It worked better this episode, where she transformed into an entirely inhuman form, perhaps reflecting her true monstrous nature.
The only negative of the beast was that they kept Jen’s long black hair, which looked rather odd. It was reminiscent of Sadako from the Japanese horror film ‘Ring’ of any other spooky terror from that genre.
This horror angle was also explored with the piles of de-commissioned gangers and the eyes stuck to walls. In this area we have to accept style over substance as if you think about it to hard you have to question why gangers aren’t melted back into flesh to be reused and why Jen-ganger was putting eye balls on walls when she had better things to do with her time.
The final act, in which gangers replace their fallen human counter-parts, reminded me of the Star Trek Voyager episode ‘Dead Lock’ where a duplicate of the ship is created and although one of the main characters dies his double is there to take his place.
So we reach the end with its big reveal about just why Amy has been seeing a patch wearing lady. It is done in a horribly nightmarish way, Amy finding the Doctor turning against her and even her husband leaving her side.
It turns out that the reason the pregnancy test has been switching between postive/negative is that the real Amy is somewhere else, her mind unknowingly linked to a Flesh copy. Presumably the scanner was confused by this link.
The big question now, aside from who has taken her and why, is when this happened. The first appearance of the patch lady was in ‘Day of the Moon’ so the obvious answer would be in the several months the group spent apart researching the Silence. After all, before they split up Amy said she was pregnant and the next time she saw the Doctor she said she wasn’t.
The Doctor does say she hasn’t been the real Amy for a long, long time and the Dr Who confidential showed clips of Amy getting off the bus in Utah when discussing how long the fake Amy had been travelling with the group so it could in fact be before this current season.
I still like my fluctuating time line theory and how good it would have been to have Amy choose between a time line in which the Doctor dies and one in which her child doesn’t exist. Still I’m satisfied with the answer they’ve given us, even if it wasn’t mine, and I shall keep the above idea to use for my own purposes.
Hard to believe that next week will be the last episode for quite some time. If this was the cliff hanger for episode 6 one can only imagine what we’ll get for the mid-season break.