‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Rebel Flesh’: What is life?

Senior Television Writer
05.21.11 50 Comments

I figured that the upfront week time crunch was going to prevent me from doing a full-length “Doctor Who” review this week. As it turns out, I’m not sure I’d have had much to say about “The Rebel Flesh” even in a normal week, since A)It’s the first half of a two-parter, and B)It was a fairly flat episode. A few quick thoughts coming up just as soon as I tell you about my wide feet…

Though I liked Matthew Graham’s “Life on Mars,” I haven’t been crazy about either of his “Doctor Who” scripts to date (“Fear Her,” from the first David Tennant season, was the other one). “The Rebel Flesh” dealt with a familiar but always provocative sci-fi question – at what point do you consider a clone (or, in this case, a flesh-pod, or whatever you want to call it) to be its own living entity? – but didn’t do it in a memorable way, struggling to give distinctive personalities to any of the factory crewmembers (not even to “Life on Mars” alum Marshall Lancaster), when this kind of “Doctor Who” episode depends largely on making us quickly care about the people in jeopardy. (In that way, it reminded me of last season’s two-parter with the Silurians, where the humans in jeopardy were too sketchy for any of it to work.)

Maybe Graham can stick the landing next week, but I fear it’s another case of a modern “Doctor Who” season having a mediocre early-season two-parter. (The only one to avoid that pattern so far was last year’s stone angels/River Song two-parter, and Moffat wrote that one.)

What did everybody else think?

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