Recap: Doctor Who S32 E5 "The Rebel Flesh"

The show decides to take another crack at a clone story...

"I've to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose!


...I never thought I'd have to say that again."
The Doctor

Written by Matthew Graham.
A solar tsunami sends the TARDIS hurtling towards a 22nd Century factory on Earth, where human Doppelgängers ("Gangers") are used to mine dangerous acid. They use the white clone goo to create avatars, which can safely mine while the actual people are controlling them with their thoughts.

The Doctor would much rather have this adventure alone, but Amy and Rory insist on coming along. The factory is dangerous. Dangerous enough, in fact, to dissolve the ground around the TARDIS with acid and cause her to sink into the earth. It also dissolved the Doctor's shoes, so he has to borrow a pair of boots.

The second wave of the solar tsunami, however, causes the Gangers to separate from the people they're being controlled by. The clones are now separate, independent people, retaining all of their original memories and horrified by the fact that they're not "real". They can remember every second of their "original's" life and feel every emotion they've ever experienced. The white Flesh rebels against the change, and causes their faces to distort.

The Gangers quickly feel threatened enough to start a rebel faction against the real humans. This escalates into an all-out battle, cut off only when it turns out that the Flesh has also made a copy of the Doctor.


  • Acting for Two: Most of the characters in this episode have a corresponding Ganger, and share scenes with them. Including the Doctor.
  • Agony of the Feet: The Doctor loses his shoes to acid.
  • Alien Sky: The sky turns bright orange during the solar storm.
  • Arc Words: Or Arc Person — Eye-Patch lady is seen again.
  • Buffy Speak: "Yes, it's insane, and it's about to get more insanerer. Is that a word?"
  • Insistent Terminology: Cleaves objects to the statement that the Flesh can "grow".
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "Trust me, I'm the Doctor."
    • "It's us and them."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing:
    The Doctor: It's interesting you refer to [the Gangers] as "it", but you call a glorified cattle prod a "she".
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "A lot can go wrong in an hour."
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Usually timid Rory pounces on Cleaves when she kills Ganger Buzzer.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Although causing a power surge is hardly the silliest thing it's ever accomplished in fiction.
  • Meaningful Name: "Ganger" comes from both "doppelgänger" (a duplicate of a person) and "ganger" (a menial labourer assigned to a large work gang, i.e. on old-fashioned railroads).
  • Never Say "Die": Gangers, being considered implements, are not killed but "decommissioned". Justified, ish in that the originals don't consider them alive to begin with.
  • Nice Guy: Rory is seen this way by the Jennifer-Ganger, who says he has "kind eyes".
  • Nightmare Face: An incomplete Ganger.
  • Noodle Implements: The Doctor somehow uses a snow-globe to track the progress of the solar storm.
  • Noodle Incident:
    The Doctor: I have to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose. I never thought I'd get to say that again!
  • No OSHA Compliance: Partially justified in that military facilities and their contractors are usually exempt from many environmental laws. Not to mention that using the Gangers is a safety procedure. They are considered mere tools by the humans, so if one is destroyed it's no different to them from a pair of rubber gloves getting damaged.
  • Oop North: The monastery seems to be on an island off the Yorkshire coast.
  • Percussive Maintenance: A weird example. Ganger!Jennifer at one point emphatically beats her fist against her chest; with each hit she instantly shifts between looking normal and look semi-Ganger.
  • Planar Shockwave: The solar tsunami.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    The Doctor: I have to get to that cockerel before all hell breaks loose! [...] I never thought I'd get to say that again.
  • Remote Body: What the Gangers are supposed to be. Until they wake up.
  • Rubber Man: The Gangers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Blade Runner: Humanoids, created for work, which become more human, and one of the workers "decommissions" a Ganger just as Deckard "retires" replicants.
    • To The Thing (1982): The flesh can mimic anyone or anything, and can stretch body parts. Buzzer even refers to a ganger as "you thing".
    • To Avatar: The workers control clones of themselves from harnesses, and the clones (supposedly) become inactive when not being controlled.
    • To Full Metal Jacket: One of the workers calls Jennifer "Twinkletoes" for making a mistake.
    • To Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): the early shots of Ganger!Jennifer slowly taking on definition are rather... familiar. There's also the general idea of exact duplicates killing and replacing their originals.
    • The Gangers' Voldemort-esque appearance seems to be lampshaded when Ganger!Jenny says she'll take care of "the spare one".
    • Along with Voldemort, the design (and abilities) of the Gangers is likely a shout out to Odo and the other Changelings.
  • Skintone Sclerae: Inverted — the Gangers' skin resembles the white of a human eye.
  • Sleep Cute: Rory and Amy wake up on the floor next to each other after the tsunami hits.
  • Space Is an Ocean: "Solar tsunami."
  • Steam Vent Obstacle: The lower levels of the factory suffer from this. For bonus points, it's Hollywood acidic steam to boot.
  • Title Drop: For next episode: Both the Doctor and Rory refer to the Gangers as "almost people".
  • Used Future: It is the 22nd century, and the acid mine in the monastery is very dark and battered.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Gangers are designed to be expendable — their purpose is to mine the acid, a horribly dangerous job, without putting humans at risk. Naturally, they aren't happy about this.
    The Doctor: We're not talking about an accident that needs to be mopped up. We're talking about sacred life. Is everyone clear on that? Everyone clear? Good.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Despite the Doctor starting a peaceful dialogue between the humans and gangers, human Cleaves kills Ganger Buzzer, starting a war between the two factions.