Dear Steven Moffat: The Almost People

Dear Steven,

A very small measure of apologies, with ice, for the delay in writing with regards to last night’s episode; I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt, I was unrecognisable to myself; what happened to our ‘hands off Amy’ accord?

You’ll recall that a year ago, as Peel’s Bobbies were pulling me back from your landing, across the threshold and into the street, when my sincere but with hindsight, over zealous attempt at seeking restitution for the loss of goodwill incurred at the Pandorica resolution, failed, and they started to beat me while your children watched and laughed, we m- sorry, I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.

Oh yes, we made a pact, didn’t we?

Amy had been killed during the previous week’s shenanigans, (the Doctor’s right, that is a wonderful word), and all I sought was a guarantee that lovely Amy, beautiful Amy, glowing, sarcastic, sexually unavailable Amy, would never again be harmed on my drool box. You made me believe this would stand and I trusted you, because I’m a real trusting person. Well, almost.

I know what you’re going to say; two things, first, ‘not me gov’, you didn’t write the offending scene did you? Oh no, that was Matthew Graham, but who is Graham if not your representative on Earth? You primed him alright, and you told him what had to happen. The two of you are up to your necks in it and don’t think I don’t know that.

Second, you’ll argue that the Amy reduced to a puddle was not the apple of my eye but one of those plastic apples that you get in the fake fruit baskets that populate the homes of the tasteless. I might have agreed with you, as technically you’d be correct, it’s just that the episode in question made this problematic. You did watch it before writing that final scene, didn’t you?

It’s for you and Graham to argue over of course, I don’t wish to intrude upon private grief, but it seems to me that the episode centred on whether or not Gangers, though they be servile, could be regarded as people in their own right.

The title of the episode suggests not; Amy’s ganger, unaware of its own artifice, thought not. In fact, this was, with hindsight, the fiendishly clever thread that ran through the story, namely that Amy, whom we all dote upon and consider as the centre of our philosophical universe, inadvertently, in response to the Doctor’s double, made the case for her own destruction, positing the notion that Gangers, though they be sentient organisms, don’t quite hold the same status as their parent beings when it comes to individuality.

My problem is that The Doctor’s position and therefore, one presumes, the writer’s position, was that the opposite was true; Gangers were people and they had the right to life. The ganglinoid’s declaration, in respect of his occasionally unhinged twin, was “I am him and he is me”; not a view that I shared but I understand that The Doctor was making a philosophical case that was supposed to overwrite our understandable feelings of suspicion and disgust.

It seems to me that there’s an argument, though it would take a better man than I to make it, that the episode’s climax underwrote the noble intent of the episode, making a mockery of the previous 90 minutes. One can understand The Doctor’s double melting down Jennifer’s Ganger, after all, she was psychotic, monstrous and a threat, so I’d have done the same, and we can forgive the alt-Doctor because he did himself in at the same time and for the good of the show, not to mention your arc which would have been undermined were it resolved with a cheap trick like a convenient Doctor body double. The real Doctor however, with malice of forethought and seemingly little conscience, murdered Amy’s Ganger, though it was, in its own mind, a real person.

Now, Amy’s double, physically perfect in every way, and I know because I was really looking, wasn’t like the ones in the Industrial Zone of the Crystal Maze; she wasn’t independent, I understand that. The link between her and our Amy, up the stick in a space asylum, still functioned, but the Gangers that were melted down in the opening part of last week’s show were also servile, as were the mound left to rot while fully conscious, and we were supposed to feel sorry for them. I mean, I didn’t, but…

Am I to infer that we were supposed to regard Amy’s Ganger as superfluous, therefore unnecessary, and once revealed, thereby solving the mystery of the intermittent pregnancy and signalling that our Amy related attentions should be focused elsewhere, she could be disposed of like a used condom?

The Doctor melted her down without so much as a flinch, despite telling us just 45 seconds earlier than the flesh retained memory at the microcellular level. He didn’t seem to care that he was depriving Rory of possibly the greatest threesome in the history of human sexuality. He didn’t pause at the possibility that Amy’s double, which had enjoyed experiences independent of its parent, may have obtained some small measure of autonomy and therefore have earned the right to life. Not that we’ve earned it, you understand.

It would curious if this didn’t disturb us; after all, these were the arguments advanced over the last two weeks. Still, I understand that you didn’t write those arguments and that you’re a busy man, so may not have had the time to read them prior to attaching your final page of script in Word, then PDFing for immediate print and dissemination to cast members.

That moral maze question aside, this was an interesting episode; an important instalment disguised as an entertaining but essentially inconsequential bridge between last week and next. I wish I’d known how important this two-parter was, because perhaps I’d have paid greater attention to what people were saying, rather than wasting my viewing experience fixating on Amy’s lovely face or that Eye Wall, which Steve Jobs must have viewed with barely concealed envy.

Technically I thought it was rather good in places. I enjoyed The Alt-Doctor’s identity crisis. It was odd to hear Tom Baker’s sultry tones leaking out of Matt Smith; his weedy frame could hardly contain that voice; it was like watching a kitten try to swallow a Mini and somehow succeed. I’m told Tennant’s voice was also there, but I regret that his Englishman impression is so close to Smith’s real voice, not least when Smith is being hyperactive, that I couldn’t tell them apart. Was it done using samples from previous episodes, Steven? If so, couldn’t you have sampled John Pertwee’s voice too? Perhaps the sound engineers couldn’t be bothered, after all it must be incredibly difficult to find a clip of Pertwee’s catchphrase in the Doctor Who archive.

So, now we know – we know now. Amy is pregnant and not only that, she’s been snatched. Soon we’ll know who River is, perhaps what that regenerating child was all about and the poor Doctor is about to be forever changed. That sounds like a big episode Steven, an important one. I pity the poor bastard who’s got to make that fucker sing.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

The story so far:

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A couple of observations:

    Amy – it will be very interesting to find out exactly when she became Dolly Parton’s…ahem…baggage. I’ve gone back and watched all the episodes and can only conclude it must have been while she was on her honeymoon. I know Rory’s a bit dim (my personal nickname for him is 10 watt) but surely he’d have noticed if his wife was replaced by an upgraded version of the mannequins from “Rose”?

    Rory – I get the feeling Steven has read your recent blogs and has decided not to kill Rory every episode. This week it was faux-Amy. Next week who knows? At this rate modern media will have the warning round the world in no time – “Don’t become a companion, you won’t be able to get the travel insurance”.

    The Doctor – teaches Amy a lesson about humanity when he reveals the two Doctors (not two) have swapped shoes. Could we be expecting more literal versions of well-known quotations in future episodes? Maybe one where – to save Earth, naturellement – The Doctor spends an episode trying to guide a pony to a lake but the damn thing just isn’t thirsty?

    • ps – apologies for the crap html coding in the last sentence. the second line should read “reveals the two Doctors (not those two)…” with the link confined to the word those. Damn me and my inability to do anything correctly.

  2. Heheheh, yeah, there was an element of literal proverbs in that shoe swapping. I’m concerned, because a clip from next week’s show has The Doctor trading a couple of Minackian Owls, perched within a space bush, for a Delthusian Parrot that’s been taught a crptic epigram of apparent importance.

    I think the swap must have occured between Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. Amy knew she was pregnant at the end of the first episode, by the end of the second she’d put it down to a false alarm, so there’s your switch. The Amy of the end of Day… was the Ganger. In any event, thanks to the very wise decision by Moffat, in contrast to his predecessor, to have story time between episodes, the gap between episode 1 and 5 has been many months, with plenty of events between episodes that we won’t have seen, so the fact that Amy’s as pregnant as she is works fine. I suppose it might be an alien baby too, so perhaps it cooks at twice speed.

    In defence of Rory, bless ‘im, it’s not so far fetched that he wouldn’t notice. I mean, we didn’t. Amy’s Ganger was a more sophisticated version of the flesh seen in that two parter, don’t forget, that’s why the Doctor was there, to study it in its infancy, so its, er, mimetic qualities might be a significant improvement on those drones. Also, Amy didn’t know she was a double and had a duplicate conscicousness to the real deal so she wouldn’t slip, would she? I suppose it’s much the same with the lights off anyway. The more interesting question is when did The Doctor know and what, by knowing, has he been doing these past few months? I hope, searching for clues as to the real Amy’s whereabouts, but maybe he just couldn’t be bothered.

  3. As the gangers at the factory had been seperated because of the solar storm, they were a different case altogether. GangerAmy on the other hand were a working ganger – like they were supposed to work. When RealAmy were in stasis (and breeding) while GangerAmy fooled everyone around her. The Doctor had to destroy GangerAmy to wake RealAmy up. Ganger and Real had a psychic link which is why GangerAmy saw the one eyed woman several times…

    • I thought someone might argue this, so I have an instant response ready to go (just add water).

      Essentially you’re quite right; I think you read the episode exactly as it was supposed to be read and consequently feel no discomfort at Ganger Amy’s destruction. The Gangers are biological Avatars, that’s quite right, but it’s their biological component, and the fact they are fully conscious, that makes the conclusion problematic.

      The story explored the ethical dimension to having, in effect, space slaves. Once the Gangers had been “freed”, i.e. the link with the user was severed; they were able to reflect on their treatment by their human controllers as well as the plight of their fellow Gangers (10m in India, etc). This was only possible because they were biological in nature, sentient and inseminated with the memories and personalities of their sponsors. So this is your basic common or garden device to allow a discussion of whether or not it’s right to breed an army of “almost people” to do dangerous tasks, etc. The opening scene of The Rebel Flesh was supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, as was the part where Jennifer Ganger shows Rory the pile of decomposing and fully conscious clones. If they’re just tools then that scene was just like looking at a junk pile, wasn’t it?

      The thing is, they were conceived as fleshy beings for this reason. If they’d been robots or hard light holopeople or dumb animals, then you’d have a very different story. Also, the titles of the episodes draw attention to the problem; if the flesh rebels then it must first be servile and controlled, musn’t it? You can’t enslave a coffee machine. Only a living thing can be servile.

      That’s the thing. They’re ‘almost people’, but you’re being invited to reflect on how close to us they really are and whether they have a right to any sort of independent existence. Amy’s Ganger may have been controlled by a psychic link, that’s true, but it was within The Doctor’s gift to free her, rather than melt her down. After all, a minute earlier he’d told us that the TARDIS could stablise them and make their self-regulation permanent. He didn’t have to sever the tie there and then, he could have taken an hour, worked out how to replicate the accident that freed the others and then sent Amy 2 to a new guest bedroom, perhaps to change into something more comfortable, but no. He treated her in the same disposable, utilitarian manner as the humans at the instillation. Poor Ganger Amy was just a spare part in the end. She thought she was real, she felt like a real person, maybe if she’d been freed she could have been a real person but we only had 18 seconds of the episode left and stuff to do, so, Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Gloop.

      I suppose all I’m really saying is that the dilemma that informed the story was junked for convenience at the end. If Amy’s Ganger was a more sophisticated version of the ones we saw, and we were supposed to feel sorry for them as a sort of species, then that’s an additional argument for preserving Alt-Amy, not reducing her to a puddle of still conscious, memory retaining cum, surely?

      Am I making too much of this? You decide.


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