wealhtheow: Sam Winchester "does not approve" (judgementalSam)
wealhtheow ([personal profile] wealhtheow) wrote2011-06-02 05:39 pm
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Doctor Who 6x05 and 6x06, The Rebel Flesh andThe Almost People

Sometime in the future, a maleable form of artificial material called "Flesh" is animated into physical avatars of humans, who use them to do dangerous jobs. The Doctor, Rory and Amy drop into one of these factories just as a solar storm disconnects the avatars from the humans' control.

One of the most interesting things about "The Rebel Flesh" was Rory's role.  Years of old and new Who have trained me to think of the Companion as the one who empathizes with or is the object of fascination of the alien monster of the week.  And yet, instead of Jo seeing the good in the Mutants, or Sharaz Jek being obsessed with Peri, we get Rory talking to Flesh!Jennifer, empathizing with her, arguing for her, running into danger for her...it was a nice switch, to see a man take on the "feminine" parts of the usual Companion role.  And meanwhile, the roles of hard-ass corporate overseer and fire-brand rebel are both taken by women.

A moment I liked was when the Doctor gets a little overwrought in detailing the pain the Flesh has gone through.  Amy is horrified and frightened, and refuses to have anything to do with him--which I think is a great demonstration of the way tone is read and given weight.  The (ostensibly Flesh) Doctor has a perfectly understandable emotional reaction to suffering, but because he's Other and supposed to be in a subservient position, his emotional response is used to invalidate the point he was trying to make and his own trustworthiness.  This is such a classic component of systems of oppression, seen so often in regards to women, the colonized, people of color--any group that's treated badly and supposed to remain submissive and never confront anyone about it.  Flesh!Jennifer starts a revolution against being used as slaves and then killed--and we the audience are supposed to think her a monster who deserves to die?  I found it hard to swallow.

To me, the plots of "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People" are all about identity and humanity, particularly the question of who gets to lay claim to what.  If someone consents to make a clone that has all their same memories and characteristics, should they share their money with them? Custody of their children?  Does the clone get to have the doctorate they remember earning, even though their physical body was not the one who did all the work?  And then, when cloning or copying gets less consensual, the questions don't get easier.  After all, the copies should have the same rights regardless of how they got there.  But how can a society both protect a person's rights to their own property and life without simultaneously damaging the rights of the copy?   And of course there's the question of how to define humanity.  It's a question that's been popping up in New Who since the second episode.  It is, additionally, something those interested in reproductive rights get confronted with.  What determines a human?  A genetic code?  A type of intelligence?  Length of time alive, type of organs, consciousness, being a citizen of Earth...?  I love it when sf grapples with this stuff!  So I really wanted to like these episodes. 

Alas!

Instead we got lip-service about the sanctity of all life, and a little talking about how both the Flesh and the originals are real and have their own identities...and then all the doubles coincidentally get killed, the remaining gangers get made "real" (ie, human form, so their actual physicality is removed, making them less scary, more easily controlled by other humans).  So in the end, nobody had to share an identity, and no one had to deal with sentient Flesh walking amongst humanity.  All of this is just lazy.  But the last moments were the worst of all.  The physical body of Amy walking around is revealed as a ganger controlled by Amy, who is in some sterile pod somewhere. When I first watched "The Almost People," I thought the Doctor killed the ganger in order to free Amy's mind.  Rewatching, I'm not sure what he does.  When the other gangers died, they retained their human form (hence the pile of dead Flesh!Jennifers), so maybe the Doctor just released the Flesh from being controlled, and it immediately lost all coherence?  But even when the piloting human's signal was removed, the gangers were still at least marginally aware (or at least that's what I got from all the talk about the eyes).  So basically the most forgiving explanation for this scene still sees the Doctor putting no effort into keeping a sentient being alive.  Pretty creepy--and seemingly against everything the last two episodes were about.

Regardless of whether the Doctor killed Flesh!Amy or just didn't put any effort into keeping her alive, we're then stuck with the most terrifying image of this entire season--Amy realizing she's pregnant, 9 months along, and about to give birth.  Pregnant without one's will or knowledge?  Sounds like fun!



Or, y'know, my worst nightmare ever. 

This better be dealt with as the horrifying violation it is, or there will be hell to pay.