It’s often the case that the second part of a modern day Doctor Who is not quite as impressive as the scene setting first but `The Almost People` is more rounded than its predecessor even if you could argue that some of the character beats here might have bolstered last week’s narrative. As it is, the events of this episode sometimes feel a tad cursory because of the pace. The atmosphere and scope of the monastery set can sometimes be to its disadvantage too giving the impression people are running about aimlessly but unlike last week there is real tension in these scenes.
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This episode is in some ways very traditional Doctor Who with a small band of people trapped and having to think their way out. Yet Matthew Graham manages to wring enough new twists out of the scenario to make it seem fresh. The `real or ganger? ‘gambit requires our full attention though perhaps through editing this is not always as hard to spot as the writer probably hoped. Certainly I had the Jennifer one right off but in the case of the Doctor, things are much better hidden. Also, the way the gangers aims alter seems to reflect that they are becoming more human as they go along.
It would perhaps be far too dull for the show to have explored the differences between humans and gangers further though Graham’s strengths as a writer show more fully this week. He manages to make us confused as to whom we should be rooting for, especially as the Doctor’s motives (both Doctor’s motives in fact) remain shrouded. If the editing becomes more crooked as matters progress it seems to serve the evolving way the gangers are thinking. Not sure though how Jenny gains the ability to morph into her bendy monster shape but it adds a conventional climax that is welcome after all the guessing games.
There are some excellent performances on show; Mark Bonnar in particular interprets Graham’s paternal dialogue without going too over the top while Raquel Cassidy makes Cleaves an intriguing character. Matt Smith finally finds his motor mouth equal even if turns out to be himself! Adding levity yet underscored by a darker undertone, the dual Doctor scenes are intriguing as you wonder whether the real Doctor is more duplicitous than the ganger one.
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For me though, Sarah Smart was a little too manic though you could say it reflected Jenny’s confused state of mind but she seemed to be over doing the villainy.
There’s lots of little fan things including what sounded distinctly like a sample of Tom Baker dropped into the scene where Matt Smith is doing his past Doctors. As for that ending, well who knows what is going on? It’s a shocker and would have made an excellent mid season break suggesting that there’s something even more jaw dropping awaiting us this week. However it did occur to me that if the gangers who got back are not all they seem perhaps this story’s ideas may yet be revisited as human history is dangerously altered.