With no new episode airing this Memorial Day Weekend, we get an extra week to think about the events of last week’s The Rebel Flesh. There’s a lot to speculate about and since the episode ended with a thrilling cliffhanger it’s going to be a tough wait.
The Rebel Flesh is the first of a two-part story in the vein of last year’s The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood, and I’m hoping that it turns out to be as important a story for Rory as those were. Solar flares bring The Doctor and his companions to a world being mined for it’s acid resources and to aid in the dangerous work, the miners are using automatons composed of polymer flesh. These doppelgangers (or “gangers”) are controlled remotely and take on the form of their operators. We learn pretty early that they’re treated with callous disregard as one pushes another into a vat of acid knowing they can just grow another body.
After a major solar flare, the gangers become disconnected from their controllers and we see that they have a consciousness of their own even believing they are the originals. The story raises a number of ethical questions about the nature of sentience and cloning, but more relevant to the show it raises questions about Rory. He returned at the end of last season as an Auton (a plastic automaton controlled by the Nestene Consciousness) that overcame his programming and helped save the day. When the universe reset itself, it was never explicitly stated that he was human again. He definitely remembers everything he went through, but it’s unclear what that means for his future. He has stepped up in a big way here and is particularly defensive of one of the first gangers that becomes aware of her true condition. Sadly, she seems to be the most vicious in the preview for part two.
That won’t air for another week as BBC America takes a break from new episodes until after Memorial Day. This is common practice for the US airings, but that doesn’t make the wait any easier particularly on a cliffhanger. Rory’s condition has been avoided since the show’s return and that leads me to believe we’ll learn a lot more about it next time. It’s been an elephant in the room a few times already this season and this seems like the perfect spot to address it.
We also saw The Doctor make physical and possibly telepathic contact with unformed “flesh” and seemed to come away with unspoken knowledge about its true nature. This could have simply been him acknowledging its consciousness, but it seemed more like recognition. It could be that The Doctor realizes this is the birth of the Autons which, would fit right into Rory’s story. Even if that’s not the case, their nature is akin to his and through them we can further empathize with him.
To add to the suspense, the TARDIS has sunken into the ground as the acid mining equipment fails and all are in danger of being melted into puddles. Making matters worse, the last scene features the emergence of a Doctor doppelganger that could have major implications for what happened at the lake in the season opener when we saw the Doctor die. Is this creature truly a Timelord? Will it help to save the day or seek to destroy its original with the others? We’ll find out June 5th in The Almost People, which is a fantastic title.
While we wait, BBC America is offering a chance to catch up with the Eleventh Doctor through a 24-hour marathon kicking off at 6AM EST this Saturday, May 28th and running through Sunday, May 29th. Most of the new series is streaming on Netflix, but this is the only way to see the scheduled episodes as they aren’t streaming yet. Get up early and enjoy.