The Almost People

DVD Box Set
NTSC Region 1
14-episode
box set

DVD Box Set
PAL Region 2
14-episode
box set

Ltd.
DVD
7-episode volume
See below for Blu-Ray options
(Doctor Who Story No. 222, starring Matt Smith)
  • written by Matthew Graham
  • directed by Julian Simpson
  • produced by Marcus Wilson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 2 episodes:
    1. The Rebel Flesh (43 min.)
    2. The Almost People (45 min.)
Story: A monastery turned 22nd century acid-mine-factory is the hazardous workplace setting for an early use of "doppelganger flesh" technology, until a series of solar flares cause things to go horribly wrong. Does the Doctor have an ulterior motive for coming here? Who is an original and who a duplicate? And are the duplicates people, or almost people? Do they not have all the same rights to life as their originals?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Episode One audio commentary by Mark Bonnar (Jimmy), Marshall Lancaster (Buzzer), and director Julian Simpson.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Double Trouble (14 min.) adding Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy),
    Arthur Darvill (Rory), Sarah Smart (Jennifer), Leon Vickers (Dicken), Sam Steeper (Dicken's Double), Robin Bower (Jimmy's Double),
    Raki Brown (Buzzer's Double), writer Matthew Graham, producer Marcus Wilson, and executive producer Steven Moffat.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Take Two (12 min.) with Smith, Gillan, Darvill, Smart, Moffat, Graham, executive producer Beth Willis,
    animation supervisor Neil Roche, visual effects supervisor Tim Barter, and ghost tour guide David Thompson.
  • Monster File featurette: The Gangers (13 min., also included in 7-episode volume) with Gillan, Darvill, Smart, Bonnar, Lancaster, Vickers,
    Simpson, Graham, Moffat, Wilson, Racquel Cassidy (Cleaves), prosthetics designer Neill Gorton, and sculptor Dave Boneywell.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.


YES! Another two parter, and a really good one at that.

This one spawns from a truly unique idea, so logical for sci-fi to do, and yet so rich in opportunity for social and moral comment, it's literally a wealth of springboards for tons of story ideas. In one sense, we have an exploration very close to that of the rights of clones, which will do us all some good, but this is different again in the sense of the unique way the original and the duplicate are meant to interact. "Avatar" can eat its heart out.


I do like the idea of ancient buildings from Earth's past being used in stories with futuristic time periods, and the island monastery is neat, resulting in a lot of cool imagery. Coupling that with the terrific visuals of the storm early on produces some very enjoyable sequences, and some of the story's best beats.

Early exploration of the ganger flesh itself is quite well done, giving the audience everything they need at a good pace, and doing a more natural job of introducing the guest cast than was managed back in "The Impossible Planet" (story no. 178). Even so, the women in the factory crew are much better defined than the men, while Dicken remains a little too undefined throughout, remaining mixed up in my mind with Buzzer and Jimmy during my initial viewing. And I have to say, I love the pre-title scene, as it gets the audience to ask themselves all the questions that the later early exposition will answer, mostly by replacing the fearful horror you'd expect from such events with playful workplace banter instead. A very nice touch on some super stuff.

I found the setting a bit undefined though. I'm always hoping for an alien planet, yet this script seems keen to rip right into its Island Monastery without acknowledging that it is meant to be on Earth. Yes, it becomes plain later on, but you'd think the Doctor and his companions would discuss location for the audience much earlier. In fact, dialogue is really weird concerning this point, as if the regulars shouldn't even have to consider it being anywhere but Earth. While still in the TARDIS, the Doctor does mention that the solar storm is coming from Amy and Rory's own sun - another bit of expositional detail that gets lost as Matt Smith rockets through his dialogue too quickly again - but even so, who's to say the effects of such a storm couldn't be felt elsewhere in the galaxy, especially if the time happens to be during the expansion of our sun as seen in "The End of the World" (story no. 162) or any of the other major turning points in its natural life span?

"Inoperable?"
"On Earth, yes."
"Well, seeing as Earth's all that's on... offer. Hmm."

Later, after establishing that this is the 22nd century, the Doctor makes a comment about other worlds, to which the guests seem flabbergasted that anything else should be in reach. Ah, hello?!? Why should we assume that 22nd century Earth people still have their heads in the sand regarding other worlds and cultures in the galaxy? Have the Daleks not invaded yet? (2150 or 2164 A.D., depending on which version of story no. 10 you prefer), not to mention the second look taken at what appears to be essentially the same invasion in "Day of the Daleks" (story no. 60).

This actually remains an interesting question - exactly when in the Doctor Who universe do Earth Humans gain a culturally ingrained acceptance of other life forms in the galaxy? Russell T. Davies loved to announce present day stories that contain such an event, only to have another Earth-bound story immediately after that conveniently forgets the whole encounter. Most U.N.I.T. encounters from the 1970's or 1980's were reportedly covered up by things like "The Official Secrets Act", or whatever. Other stories where advanced Humans readily acknowledge alien cultures often date themselves in the 2400's or later.

By comparison, Star Trek has placed first contact in the year 2063, and dates Captain Kirk's adventures in the 2200's somewhere. We'd actually be hard pressed to find too many stories set between 2012 and 2199 on Doctor Who. Determining Humanity's cultural view of aliens in that small collection might keep one digging for odd mention in a cast-off line or two of dialogue, like looking for a needle in a haystack.


In this story, other less-than-credible anachronisms include the favourite phonograph record playing during part one. I've got nothing against one of our guests being an audiophile who likes the old vinyl record format - but this would probably be a rare, ancient, very precious, very expensive artifact by then - so would you really take it with you on an extended tour of duty in an ACID FACTORY, or would you make do with sampling a digital copy for yourself and downloading it to your media chip, while the actual record stayed at home? I know what I'd be doing.

Indeed, there seems to be a bit of polarization in this story between concepts that get good dialogue and concepts that don't. Anything to do with human emotion and thematic content gets strong dialogue, and rightly so. Anything to do with the nuts and bolts of plot logic seems to get a bit shortchanged, as though such things actually do make sense, but the characters just can't articulate decent explanations of it to help the audience along. In fact, you have to wonder why they continually call this place a factory, when its function is more like a mine or drill rig.

Here's one area for serious plot holes: Normally, there can only be a ganger flesh person walking around if the original is plugged into an operator terminal, or whatever you call it. The episode kicks off with a short-lived storm that allows ganger flesh doubles of the base crew to walk around. Good. So how do we get more doubles later on....? On first viewing, I was prepared to include the Doctor's double in this problem, although on subsequent viewing it becomes plain that his double is slowly forming and warming up between the storm and his big reveal. But we also see Jennifer's double want to make an extra duplicate of herself. So, how does she get the new ganger of herself to stay alive without keeping herself plugged in, again with no storm to trigger the effect? Perhaps the writer has these things figured out, but failed to get any of the characters to pass the information on to the audience in a scene that didn't get cut.


Bringing out Character for Mr. Williams

With this being a two-parter, Rory finally has opportunity to stretch and get absorbed in his own little subplot with one of the guest characters, the kind of thing that no one finds time for in single-episode stories. This is particularly well done this time, with most of his efforts seemingly going into a good non-violent stance, something that audiences should find easy to get on board with. There are some very nicely written, heartfelt speeches in this one too, which the actors do really well with, one of which has to flip Rory's loyalties and sense of trust around 180 degrees, and it happens very believably. I really like Rory in this one, a proper bona-fide Doctor Who companion doing his best to do the right thing. Writer Matthew Graham has done some fine work here, much much better than his previous effort in "Fear Her" (story no. 180).

This story also definitely has the best cliffhangers of the season. Obvious extra points, as these pack such nice powerful punches. Excellent.

The sci-fi ideas employed here seem to have created more layers for rich exploration than the writers could touch on in 90 minutes. One of the ones that they miss comes about as borrowed memories combine with the cruelty that humans subject the flesh to.... Indeed if your ganger takes on so much of your memory and personality that it can't believe it isn't you, how does it not remember being the human who "decommissioned" ganger flesh and threw it away countless times? Those very memories would force the creatures to be both perpetrator and victim all at the same time - which is perhaps one more reason why most of them can't sustain the revenge attack for long.

Nearly every Doctor gets a chance to encounter a double of himself at some point, and Matt Smith's Doctor is thoroughly enjoyable as he takes advantage of his opportunity here. I especially like the very hands-on way it allows him to exemplify the way he thinks a person and his ganger double should ideally appreciate and support one another, while at the same time making him vulnerable to all the associated problems and challenges. Two eleventh Doctors are inspiring indeed. Nice!

Amy doesn't have too much to do in the first episode, but really comes into her own when dealing with two Doctors, as well as having her own little subplot to deal with. In the end, her role is nicely rounded in this story.

Music by Murray Gold
A full suite of music from the story
is available on the 2-disc audio CD album:
Doctor Who: Original Music from
Season 32 (aka "Series 6", 2011)

More info & buying options

Concluding action is pretty decent, up to a point. I like the Doctor's ploy, as it manages to bring most of the gangers and humans over to the peaceful side of the force. The concept of rushing to escape the destruction of the setting also works well. But there's a bit of copping out of the issue by making sure, conveniently, that no more than one version of each person survives - and the least believable of these all surround the final door challenges. The lengthy, revealing scene beats here work against the idea that there is some urgency to the situation. It's also a stretch that the flesh recreates its owner's clothing as well - and in the Doctor's case this apparently goes far enough to create a fully functioning sonic screwdriver, as there are clearly two in play at the end here. That's probably going too far. We also have to wonder if Amy's ganger never actually changed her clothes since swapping places with her months ago (and Rory never noticed), or if she just happened to go back to the same outfit she was originally created with before embarking on this adventure. And if travel in the TARDIS fuses the acid factory gangers into real humans, does it not do the same or better for Amy's more technologically advanced version?

In the end, the only one of these niggles really worth complaining about is that we don't have both versions of someone surviving the adventure, to really let the central issue not get copped out on. After all, it's one thing to say that your ganger is a fully sentient life form with rights. It's another to let it take your place in your life, in your house, owning your stuff, and participating in all your relationships as if it were you. So what if both version exist, and violence is not an option, and you actually have to work something out? There are a ton of stories there. Perhaps we'll see one or two of them in future.


Well, this story is definitely one of the great winners of season 32, using one simple idea to trigger an avalanche of thought and philosophy, and making two highly entertaining and satisfying episodes out of it. It's big thumbs up from me on this one. And the icing on the cake is the compelling way it leads directly into yet another super story....



This story has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.:

(Limited Edition)
DVD 7-episode volume

Blu-Ray NTSC Region 1
14-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada

Blu-Ray PAL Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.:

(Limited Edition)

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes feature little more than the plain episodes.


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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: The One at Demon's Run



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