Doctor Who Episode 5 Review: The Rebel Flesh

DOCTOR WHO: Saturday 21st May, BBC1, 6.45pm

There are many good things about Doctor Who, but if it has achieved nothing else of late (and it has..) it’s provided us with something decent to watch during the entertainment black hole that is regular Saturday night television. Let’s face it, if you don’t like Simon Cowell or Danish detectives, pickings have been pretty slim since world’s oldest sci-fi* finished last winter.

So what do we make of series six so far? Well the opening brace of episodes were Moffatgasmic and last week’s The Doctor’s Wife was another decent romp, but those two stories sandwiched a mysteriously dull Pirate yarn which was nearly as sketchy as the latest offering from Johnny Depp & Co. Hugh Bonneville was wonderfully reserved in Downton, but we have to admit that there were more convincing seadogs at this year’s OTB fancy dress party. Which brings us to The Rebel Flesh, the first episode of the second two-parter of the series (they’re really mixing it up this year aren’t they?)

We begin with the Doctor, Amy and Rory (sadly no River of course..) being blown off to the 22nd century by a Solar Tsunami. Ashes to Ashes writer Matthew Graham has clearly realised that when the TARDIS does visit Earth, more often than not it rocks up at some sort of World Heritage site, only to discover that something odd is afoot. This week the gang discover a acid-mining factory on a rocky island, at which the workers create doppelgangers to perform their hazardous work. Unfortunately for everyone involved, ‘the flesh’ has learned to replicate itself and when a second storm knocks everyone temporarily unconscious, we are left with a rather predictable mix-up.

Thankfully this is much more focused than the unnecessarily convoluted Black Spot, but like episode 3, references to the opening plot arcs are minimal. Once again we see the TARDIS’s in-built pregnancy test oscillating and there’s another ‘Eye-Patch Lady’ sighting for Amy, but that aside this is a simple ‘community under siege’ adventure from The Doctor. It may be sci-fi bread and butter – but it is entertaining.

The confusion between who is the human and who is engineered has been used time and again by more shows and movies than even the biggest geek could recount, as has the whole ‘but I have feelings too’ schlock from the ‘imposters’. Battlestar Gallactica, Blade Runner and Sixth Day are a few examples that come to mind. However the effects are once again very impressive and once again we have a lovely little cliffhanger to enjoy. Now where’s that Dusty Springfield CD?