Mea Culpa. I honestly thought that I could get away without recapping Episodes 5 and 6 “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” while I wrestled with the larger philosophical implications of the ‘Gangers.’ I was terribly wrong. You do need to know a bit about the Gangers before we can go on.
In a nutshell, in the future, people are using bio-engineered, sentient duplicates, made from a compound called The Flesh. These duplicates, called ‘Gangers’ (as in doppelganger,) are exact clones of the original person, right down to having the same heart, soul and mind. These clones are used to go into dangerous situations, where, if killed/destroyed, they are basically melted down and reused. Kind of like a silly putty. Although you would think these clones would be considered valuable, apparently the silly putty goo is unending. The clones are treated as replaceable – until one rebel leads the Gangers in a war against their masters. Things do work out, but, as I’m finding out this season, under Steven Moffat’s aegis, every episode is incredibly complicated and thought provoking, and requires a good deal of thought before I can reach a conclusion on my own feelings about the episode. Which makes recapping the Doctor quite a challenge. Anyway …
At the conclusion of the last two part-er, it was revealed that the Amy that had been travelling with the Doctor and Rory was, in fact, an imposter – a Ganger herself. The real Amy had been kidnapped and kept on another planet, twenty thousand light years away, apparently in some sort of coma. The Amy we’ve seen each episode had only glimpses of an ‘eye patch lady’ to indicate that all was not right. With the death of the Ganger, Amy finds herself in a sterile chamber, about to give birth. See what happens when I miss recapping? Everything goes to ‘Pond.’
Meet “Melody Pond”, the newest little Pond. (What IS Rory’s last name, anyway?) The proud mama is being guarded by a group of armed soldiers, several hooded monks, and the eye-patch lady, Madame Kovarian, We hear Amy reassuring the baby that she’ll have to be brave; someone is coming to rescue them.
Sure enough, as the baby is being placed into what seems to be an armoured traveling cot, that someone arrives. It’s Rory the Centurion. And he’s armed with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver as he faces a group of Cybermen. He warns them that the Doctor is coming, and he wants to know where they’re hiding Amy.
In a military enclave, several soldiers wait impatiently through a Yellow Alert. We see a young female soldier, last seen in the group holding Amy. Two of the soldiers note a passing duo of hooded monks, and wonder why the monks are called “The Headless Monks.” The female soldier, identified as “Lorna Bucket” explains it is because they believe the domain of faith is the heart and the domain of doubt is the head. The two male soldiers introduce themselves as the “Thin One” and the “Fat One” of the “Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines”. Lorna admits she’s had an encounter with the Doctor when she was young, but all she remembers is him saying ‘run.’ He said it a lot, she adds. She’s from the Gamma Forest, a neutral land where nothing ever happens. Meanwhile, “Fat One” has been brought to the Headless Monks’ quarters, where he’s informed he’s been chosen to be converted to their faith. Is he ready to make a donation? It rather looks like they want his head.
We’re swept away to London, England, 1888, where a horse drawn carriage has just deposited a female passenger. She tells Jenny, the maid, to let Scotland Yard know that Jack the Ripper has just claimed his last victim. She pulls back her cape’s hood to reveal that she is Madame Vastra, a Silurian. She tells Jenny, she found Jack the Ripper stringy – but tasty, so she won’t be needing dinner. Jenny indicates the presence of the TARDIS in the drawing room. Madame Vastra tells Jenny to pack the cases, and bring the swords.
Another sweep, and we’re at the Battle of Zaruthstra in the 41st century, laser guns blazing in all directions. Captain Harcourt’s family are trying to flee, but their sick son needs help. Enter a Sontaran, Commander Strax, a warrior/nurse. He heals the boy, and then says perhaps they’ll meet someday on the battlefield, where he will destroy the lad for the glory of the Sontaran Empire. The young boy thanks ‘Nurse.’ As Strax leaves, he explains to Captain Harcourt that he is working as a nurse as a penance. And the TARDIS appears.
We now see River Song, walking unsteadily, down a lighted corridor in StormCage, while sirens wail. Dressed in Edwardian finery, she picks up a wall phone and says, “Knock it off, I’m breaking in, not out. And I’ll take breakfast at the usual time.” She is confronted by Rory, in his Centurion outfit. She tells him it’s her birthday, and she’s just been ice skating with the Doctor on the Thames in 1814, while Stevie Wonder sang to her from the Bridge. He says he’s come from the Doctor as well, another time stream it seems. Rory tells River the Doctor needs her. She gasps “Demon’s Run.” Rory is shocked that she already knows that, but of course, she’s from the Doctor’s future. Rory says they need her help to rescue Amy and their baby, but River says she can’t – at least not yet. This is the battle of Demon’s Run, the Doctor’s darkest hour. “He’ll rise higher than ever before, and then fall so much further.” She can’t be with him until the very end because – this is it. This is the day he finds out who she is.
On yet another planet, a blue skinned alien named Dorium, a Moldovarian, is preparing to leave his nightclub when he is stopped by Madame Kovarian and her guards. He says he admires her courage for provoking the ‘mighty beast’, but he has no intention of sticking around. He thinks that the Doctor has been gathering an army of friends and those who owe him favours, and they had better be prepared for the worst. He also names the asteroid on which they’ve been hiding as ‘Demon’s Run.’ It was named after a very old saying. ‘Demon’s run when a good man goes to war.’ He chuckles nastily as his uninvited guests’ leave, only to hear and see the TARDIS appear in his own shop.
Back on Demon’s Run, Colonel Manton holds a pep rally for his troops, saying that the Doctor is just a living breathing man, and they sure as hell are going to fix that. Amy, in her white isolation room, is visited by Lorna, who’s brought her a green piece of material, embroidered with the baby’s name in the language of her people. It’s a prayer leaf, and the belief is that if Amy keeps it with her, her child will always be with her. Amy’s response is to ask to borrow Lorna’s gun. Amy and Lorna talk about having met the doctor when they were young, and Lorna says Amy must be special for the Doctor to have come back for her. Amy warns Lorna to be on the right side when the Doctor arrives.
As Amy watches through a port hole, Lorna slips into the pep rally. The Colonel explains that they have aligned themselves with the Headless Monks because the Monks can never be persuaded, or afraid. He draws back the Monks’ hoods to reveal that they are indeed headless. All but one monk, that is, who turns out to be --- the Doctor! As the soldiers and Monks point lasers and guns at the Doctor, his cohorts overpower two guards who control the lights, and he cries “Amelia Pond! Get your coat!”
The lights go out, and the Doctor vanishes. As his voice rings through the room, the soldiers and monks turn on each other. Madame Kovarian leaves Colonel Manton, in an attempt to control the situation, disarms himself, and commands all of his men to do the same. They do, chanting, “We are not fools.” Lorna runs after the Doctor. With the Monks and Soldiers now completely disarmed, they are dismayed to discover that they are surrounded by hundreds of the Doctor’s friends; Silaurians, Judoons, and other creatures. It appears they were fools, after all.
The Colonel warns the intruders that if anything happens to the asteroid, many fleets will be sent to fight the intruders. But the Doctor, now seen on a high ledge, taunts him that his people have deactivated the alarms, and signals to some ships to begin firing. They’ve got incoming!
Madame Kovarian and two of her guards prepare to flee with the baby. She tells the guards that the Doctor must think he’s winning, right up until the trap closes. But before she can board her ship, Rory stops her, along with a gang of people we’ve seen from other episodes, including Captain Avery and son Toby of ‘The Black Spot.’ As the Doctor sits at the command center, the Colonel is brought in. The Doctor tells the Colonel that he wants him to command his troops to ‘run away,’ using those exact words. He wants the Colonel to become known as Colonel RunAway. The Doctor is furious that the Colonel dared to put the people that he loves in danger to try and reach him. Madame Kovarian is brought in, and she says that the anger of a good man is not a problem – good men have too many rules. He tells her today is not a good day to find out how many rules he has. She tells ‘Colonel RunaWay’ to give the order.
Someone is banging on Amy’s chamber. She grabs a handy tool, warning whoever it is that she is armed and dangerous – and really cross. It’s Rory, and he’s having some trouble getting her door open. She tells him that they took their baby away. The door opens, and Rory enters, carrying the baby, saying “Mrs. Williams, that is never, ever going to happen.” His last name is Williams! The little family is tearfully reunited.
The Doctor is introduced to Melody Pond, (‘Melody Williams’ says Rory, but Amy says Melody Williams is a Geography teacher, while Melody Pond is a superhero.) They all have a good sniff of that wonderful baby smell. Apparently the Doctor speaks Baby as well, and he and Melody have a wee chat.
Madame Vastra enters, and tells them to look – the army is leaving. As indeed they are, in submissive mode. She then adds, “My friend, you have never risen higher.” Rory looks alarmed, remembering River Song’s warning. With the enemy in full retreat.
Amy and Rory contend with the reality of a fussy baby. Strax offers to change, or indeed feed, the baby, but the Doctor arrives with a cot, saying Melody’s just tired. Amy notices that the cot is very old, and asks the Doctor is he has, or has ever had, children. The Doctor busies himself talking to the baby rather than answer the question. They are interrupted with a request for the Doctor to come to the command station. They still don’t know what the reasoning was behind Amy’s kidnapping. Amy also can’t comprehend where exactly she’s been all this time. The Doctor explains she was physically on the asteroid, but her heart, soul and mind were on the TARDIS. He thinks she was taken quite a while back, probably before America. So her Flesh avatar was with them all that time. They were likely being tracked wherever they went. The enemy is very clever. The question is – why did they want the baby? Is there anything the Doctor is not telling them? While Amy and Rory beg to know one little thing about what’s been going on, the Doctor deflects, admitting that the cot is his, from when he was a baby.
He leaves, as Strax brings in Lorna, who’s been listening at the door. She says that she only joined the army to meet the great warrior, the Doctor. She needs to warn them that the surrender was a trick. Suddenly, the lights dim. The Doctor joins Dorium on the bridge. It seems Dorium is able to understand the enemy’s software, because he sold it to them. So what have we learned, says the Doctor. That anger is always a mistake, says Madame Vastra. She wants to know if Melody is completely human. They’ve been scanning her since before she was born, and it appears the baby’s DNA is both human and Time Lord. The Doctor says that’s not possible, but Madame Vastra reminds the Doctor that he told her the Time Lords evolved through long exposure to the time vortex, the untempered schism. He says it happened over billions of years. But – how close to a Time Lord is the baby? Could she regenerate? The Doctor doesn’t think so, but he’s not sure, since he doesn’t understand how or when this happened. Madame Vastra persists – could the child have ‘begun’ while in flight, in the vortex? The Doctor has no idea, as that is private between Rory and Amy. He realizes that the first time Rory and Amy were together on the TARDIS was on their wedding night, when he scooped them up, and took them on a honeymoon.
Strax confirms that there are no other life forms on the base except for their people, but Lorna tells him that the Headless Monks aren’t alive, so don’t register as life forms. And of course, from the shadows, the Monks appear. On deck, the Doctor is still wrestling with the DNA problem. Madame Vastra says the enemy has been working very hard to get the baby. And yet they gave in so easily, says Dorium, does this not bother anyone else? The Doctor wonders why they would want a Time Lord baby anyway. Vastra responds, ‘As a weapon?’ The Doctor remembers River Song examining the astronaut suit during their American adventure, and mentioning that the child inside must have been incredibly strong.
A monitor comes to life, and Madame Kovarian appears, asking the Doctor if he understands yet. She’s keeping tabs on him. He asks what the child is to her. She responds, “Hope. Hope, in this endless, bitter war … against the Doctor.” He tells her she will never have the child. She responds that fooling him once was a joy, fooling him twice is a privilege.
The monks have somehow put a force field around those near the TARDIS, with the TARDIS outside of the field. Rory hides Amy and the baby, then leaves to join the battle. Dorium thinks the Monks will recognize him as a friend, but they swiftly kill him, and then advance on the rest. The Doctor, realizing that Amy is alone, races to save her. Madame Kovarian, watching Amy and the baby from another monitor, calls ‘Wakey wakey,’ and the baby slips through Amy’s arms into a puddle of silly putty Flesh.
The Doctor arrives at the battle site to find few survivors from either side. Strax, as he dies, says he thought he’d enjoy the experience of dying more. Amy is shattered at her loss, and can’t bear to look at the Doctor. The Doctor also discovers that Lorna is dying. Lorna thinks the Doctor doesn’t remember her, but he does, saying “Didn’t we run, Lorna?” and she dies peacefully. The Doctor seems to have given up, saying the baby has likely been taken to Earth to be raised, and it’s too late now.
In a puff of light and smoke, River Song appears. The Doctor berates her for not being there when he needed her. River says that in fact, he could have prevented it all, if he’d thought about what his actions had come to mean as he swanned about time and the universe. “Doctor” should mean ‘healer’ or ‘wise man,’ but to the people of the Gamma Forest, ‘Doctor’ meant ‘Mighty Warrior.’ The enemy has taken the child of his best friends, to turn her into a weapon, just to turn her against him, in fear of him.
“Who are you?” he asks her. “Oh look, your cot! I haven’t seen that in a very long while!” she responds. He asks again, and she says, “I am telling you. Can’t you read?” On the side of the cot are circles, which apparently mean something to him, as he becomes stunned, and then giggly. It would seem that he and River have an interesting past/future. With renewed energy, he says he’s off to find the child. River, get them all home.
As he enters the TARDIS, Amy tries to stop him, but he’s too quick. Amy aims a gun at River, demanding to know where the Doctor is going, and what River told him. Rory disarms Amy, and River explains that the answer is written in the cloth that Lorna gave her. In the language of the Gamma Forest, there is no word for Pond, because the only water in the forest is the river. The Doctor will find Amy’s daughter, and care for her, whatever it takes. As Amy holds the cloth, one side forms the word ‘River’ and the other side says ‘Song.’ River reveals herself as Amy and Rory’s child, Melody.
And that’s the end of this series, until Autumn 2011! As always, the Doctor leaves behind more questions than answers. The next episode will be called “Let’s Kill Hitler.” I’ll just leave you with that to ponder. Allons-y!