Copy Rights

rebellogo The main revelation of this rather bleak and confined episode is not that the previously servile, artificially-created duplicates: the ‘Gangers,’ have somehow gained independent thought, but that the equally puppeteered Rory Pond has.  As I’m never slow to point out, he has never been my favourite character, but his devotion to ‘Jennifer’s (other) Body’ and emergent streak of wilfulness has suddenly made him a much more interesting character.  It’s a far more meaningful manning-up than that ‘20-centuries Centurion’ business last year.

Instead of striving to be an ‘other of significance’ to a hugely independent woman (I feel your pain, Rory) he has found a vulnerable and trusting girl who seems to like and even need him.  The catch is, of course that she’s not actually real, but this is a situation that may not be that new to some, either.

But whether Jennifer’s, or anyone else’s, Ganger is actually any less real than their original templates is the crux of this episode.  If it were Star Trek this concept would be blasted home with the subtlety of a phaser set on ‘moralise’.  Instead, we are forced to ponder the dilemma when Jimmy’s wistful recollections of his young son back on Earth are hijacked by his duplicates equally heart-felt sentiments for the same child.  “He’s my son too” says the Ganger simply, without a trace of defensiveness or challenge in his voice.

The opening sequence featuring a man nonchalantly left to die in an acid bath as the result of some playful jostling, loses its horror as we realise that we’ve actually witnessed the death of a manufactured avatar, but then gradually regains it again as these same facsimiles begin to think and feel.

If I may point to another contrast with science fiction television produced on the other side of the Atlantic, a laudable aspect of this episode is that the cast are refreshingly ordinary looking.  With the exception of the radiant Ms Gillan I’d surmise that none of them have been near a catwalk, or are likely to, and this makes them both real and easy to identify with, in both their forms.  Pallid, noseless Ganger-Jennifer may look horrifying as she tries to find the hiding Rory, but the desperation and regret in her eyes are heartbreakingly human.

This series has been an odd beast, so far.  The opening episodes flattered our intelligence and patience, whereas the climax to this episode had been clearly telegraphed from the moment the Doctor first saw the flesh vat.  Despite this, it’s a chilling moment and a violation of the Doctor’s appearance which hasn’t been seen since he got copied by a cactus all those years ago.

Inevitably, the ‘us and them’ situation boils over into Ganger warfare which inexplicably also boils over into a second episode.  It’s good stuff, but I’m not convinced there is really enough mileage left to justify another 45 minutes. But I look forward to being proved wrong.


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