Sunday, April 12, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Rebel Flesh

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 5 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Rebel Flesh*.  My 'translations' are in red.

I think we’ve been spoiled by Moffat two-parters lately.

Moffat spoils his two-parters, and 'we' is too many people, Kyle.  Your tone suggests Moffat's two-parters are know, good.

He has a way of making each episode feel like a separate story, with its own ebbs and flows, while still contributing to the greater narrative.

They never hold up as a cohesive whole but are more interested in being part of a larger story that like the two-parters, never really holds up.  It is simply not in Moffat's nature to try to have individual stories just to have individual stories.  Instead, he seems stubbornly determined to make them part of a larger, grander scheme which almost always never makes sense and robs us of good solid sci-fi.

Part one of this year’s non-Moffat two parter, Matthew Graham’s “The Rebel Flesh,” suffered from what I like to call “setup-itis.” The central ideas and performances were quite strong, and the creepiness factor was way up there, but it felt like they were just setting the board for the next episode. Is that a bad thing? Or is the Moffat way not the way it should be done?

Someone managed to actually outdo Steven Moffat in making two-part stories even more clunky and inept.  The Rebel Flesh was nothing but set-up for The Almost People, like an extended trailer on steroids.  It's a bad thing, and proof that no one should take writing cues from Steven Moffat.  The Moffat Way is NOT the way it should be done.

“The Rebel Flesh” begins the way a lot of Doctor Who stories do, with a small group of workers doing some strange task we’ve never heard of in a familiar yet alien location.

We just jump in and have to figure it out for ourselves.

This show’s been doing blue-collar-in-space long before Ridley Scott.

Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that, to misquote Jeeves, "Kyle Anderson and the working masses have barely a nodding acquaintance"?

In this case, the small crew is working in a factory housed in a castle on a remote island wherein they have to pump a valuable but highly corrosive acid to the mainland. Valuable acid? How valuable can acid be?

I'm having a little trouble accepting the premise.

It’s so corrosive, in fact, that they’ve been forced to create disposable clones of themselves out of a self-replicating fluid called Flesh, which they control mentally through an external matrix-thing. We’re shown at the beginning that these doppelgangers, or gangers, are so disposable that they can push each other into vats of acid and not really bat an eye.

As one has grown to expect from years of science fiction reading/viewing, clones are not a good thing.

We're not coming up with anything really original here.

Before too long a “solar tsunami” causes havoc on the island, and the gangers become infused with the workers’ memories and emotions. They believe they are the workers, while the workers believe that the gangers are merely copies. This speaks to one of sci-fi’s oldest tropes, which is questioning what it means to be human. It also brings up a very real fear, which is loss of identity. It’s easy to see why each side is so fearful and quick to attack the other; they each want to be validated as real. Imagine having decades of memories and feelings but knowing that you aren’t actually the one who had them, then imagine having an artificial being that looks like you claiming to be you. Both are fairly terrifying.

Because Blade Runner couldn't do this well enough already...

This episode set up quite a lot of interesting ideas, but that’s just how it felt, like a setup.

We're all wondering whether this could have been a one-parter too.

I felt the same way last year with the Chris Chibnall two-parter, “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood.” The first episode put all the characters in place, but nothing really happened until the second (though in the case of “Cold Blood,” nothing really happened there either).

Well, on this point I disagree: I liked Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2, but I'm not going to go to the mat for it.  I am however, genuinely shocked that Anderson would voice a negative opinion on any NuWho.

Typically, I suppose, this is the way two-part stories have existed in television drama forever, with the second part just continuing and wrapping up the tension introduced in the first part. Shows like “Law & Order” often treat “to-be-continued”s in this way and I usually never think anything about it, save going “Aw, man, now I have to wait a week.”

While it's been a while since I've seen Law & Order or any of their spin-offs, don't they usually just have a 'case of the week' style that rarely venture to two-part stories?  I don't know.

We Whovians, however, have been spoiled (if that’s the right word) with the two-part stories written by Steven Moffat.

HAVE WE? And just for the record, this is the second time he uses the term 'spoiled' to describe Steven Moffat.  It's clear Anderson sees Moffat as an unimpeachable genius...or he hasn't received his latest payola check...

Each episode of the three two-parters he’s written since taking over the show has felt like a separate story, merely heading toward a common goal. So much happens in each episode and there are large tonal shifts between them that they can almost be considered separate stories. “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” was the most straight forward of his lot and even they were quite different, even down to the setting and pace.

Two-part stories in NuWho don't hold up.  They veer so wildly from one episode to another that they never cohesive.  We might as well just admit that they aren't two part-stories, just two separate stories tied together because they have the same characters.

Regardless, about the episode at hand: For the most part, I enjoyed “The Rebel Flesh.”

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

Maybe this should be a motif of Anderson.  He seems to enjoy just about every NuWho episode even when he appears on the verge of saying something negative.  This has been my continuous arguement: that no matter how horrible or illogical a NuWho episode is, Kyle Anderson will end up liking/enjoying it.  I think that every time I find that Anderson, despite protests to the contrary, ends up giving a Doctor Who episode a positive review, we might get good old Captain Louis Renault to give us a more accurate description of Anderson's viewpoint.   

The idea is intriguing, and the execution of that idea was handled well. The direction by Julian Simpson was a little flat for my liking;

The direction was just flat and uninspired. 

you have this inherently creepy location, a castle-factory, and the whole thing is lit with like shaky work lights. When the power goes out in the story, there was a chance to have some eerie mood lighting, but it was just kind of dim and grey. That’s my preference, of course, being the huge fan of Film Noir and 50s sci-fi/horror that I am.

The sets were nice, but it was terribly dark and I think they wasted a great opportunity to make the moody setting work.  Did I mention how flat and uninspired the direction was?  I wonder what his idea of film noir is...Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, perhaps?

The supporting characters were just okay, though the performances were strong.

The characters were boring but at least the actors did what they could with them.

The opening scene was nice, because we started to get to know the workers a little bit, but pretty much, once the Doctor showed up, it was only Cleaves and Jen we got to know at all. There was even a crew member who showed up, “Dicken,” I’m told his name is, who I didn’t even know existed and then, suddenly, there he is. So one episode has a character disappear without explanation and another has one appear without explanation.

Oh look...another similarity to Curse of the Black Spot.  Didn't I end up liking that too even though I thought it was (crap)?  We don't care about character development or plot continuity (especially in a two-parter). 

Can we blame the Time War for that, too?

What Time War?  Don't you know it never happened?  It was all a dream...

Also, why is it always the leader in these situations who goes ape and overreacts? Flying off the handle is not generally considered a worthwhile skill for leading a parade let alone a highly dangerous and expensive operation.

Why do we ALWAYS have to have a leader who is an idiot?  Oh, wait...The Eleventh Doctor...never mind. 

And I don’t mean to bring this up again, but why would ANYONE need a highly corrosive acid? That don’t make no sense.

Then again, I'm not particular about things making sense.  I work for The Nerdist, a de facto promotional arm of major studios and the Moff.

Probably my favorite bit of the episode was Rory. He’s broken ranks of being just Amy’s lapdog/protector and branched out to help artificial women.

That's not much of a break, given how artificial Amy is...

Rory would be compassionate, given he has 2000 years of plastic memories floating around his brain.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kyle Anderson Theme Song.  No wonder he identifies with Rory What's-His-Name...

It’s also nice to see him not just heel when Amy tells him to.

I identify with Rory, so yes I'll favor him (though Karen Gillan is still super-hot).  It's nice to see Arthur Darvill not play the wimp we've all come to know and loath.

He’s a good character and a good companion,

WRONG on TWO points. 

and for me has kind of outshone Amy since “Pandorica Opens.” Also, he didn’t die or almost die or appear to have died this week at all, though I was scared when he lunged at a taser-happy Cleaves.

WOW!  An episode where Rory Pond, Williams, whatever, DIDN'T die?  Paging Captain Renault...

The episode ends with a ganger version of the Doctor, which is a pretty cool idea, though one I saw coming from early on.

Even the simplest viewer, of which I am despite my 'analytical critic's mind' (even I don't believe that) knew we'd end up with a Ganger Doctor.  Whether they DO anything with the idea or just leave it as a nice cliffhanger remains to be seen.

The Doctor also seemed to know what was happening with the Flesh, but didn’t have time to explain.

Explanations are not Doctor Who's forte.  After all, it's not suppose to make sense.  It's British.

I bet this has something to do with the Sontarans, given that they are a clone race and the anti-acid suits the gangers wear look an awful lot like Sontaran outfits. I’d be surprised if they aren’t at least name checked in the next episode.

Kyle Anderson, prepare to be surprised...

Also next time, we’re supposedly going to get a lot more knowledge about Eye-Patch Lady, which is good because I’m kind of tired of seeing her for a second at a time.

I HATE this running thread through the season, so "Crack in the Wall" from last season.  I just want this storyline to end.

I think, much like Amy is apparently in a state of being pregnant and not pregnant, I think she is also both in a hospital and not in a hospital somewhere. Schrodinger’s Amy.

I wish I had gotten Amy preggers!  Gives new meaning to the term "a little bit pregnant".  She's here, she's not here.  She's all around us...

I think my incoherent rambling about this episode speaks for itself:

Sometimes, these spoofs write themselves. 

I need to see part two before I make my full decision.

And have it written out by Moffat.  Despite his 'analytical critic's mind', most people tend to judge a two-part story after watching...two-parts.

I am, however, quite excited for it.


Here’s the next time trailer and accompanying clips for “The Almost People.”


Next Time: Aragon vs. Anderson: The Almost People

*As I consider The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People one story with the overall title of The Gangers, I wrote one review.

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