‘Doctor Who’: 10 Things You May Not Know About ‘The Rebel Flesh’

“The Rebel Flesh” is a story that places the Doctor in a strange position. He finds himself having to champion the creatures that are attacking humans, while attempting to protect those humans, and at the same time trying to work out what’s going on with Amy Pond and her positive/negative pregnancy test.

And to make matters more complicated, just as Rory has gone off with one side of a toxic conflict, leaving Amy on the other, another Doctor pops up to try and help out.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for, the next time you watch:

(The episode is available on iTunes and Amazon.)

Scriptwriter Matthew Graham had originally been lined up to write a story for Season Five of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat’s first as show-runner. But Graham’s own hit show Ashes to Ashes dragged at his attention to such a degree he had to withdraw, as he told Den of Geek: “I just panicked and thought I wouldn’t have enough time. So, I contacted Steven and said I’ve got to bow out, regretfully. And then after the series went out, I got an e-mail from Steven, a typical Steven e-mail in capital letters, that read “thanks for abandoning me to do the series on my own. So what about series 2?” I couldn’t say no, really!”

Steven Moffat’s advice was that Matthew should start with the remote-controlled creatures in the 2009 movie Avatar, and use them to recreate some of the paranoid menace of the 1982 horror The Thing. Matthew brought in the setting, wanting to use a monastery, similar to The Name of the Rose, from 1986, so that the story’s factory setting has a spiritual core, underlining what is, after all, an extended metaphor for workers’ rights, and by extension, civil rights.

Much is made of the fact that Buzzer is a fan of Dusty Springfield’s song “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” (also a favorite of Rory’s mum’s). As befits a story about doppelgängers, Dusty’s is not the original version. Her song is a painstakingly recreated Anglophone reworking of the Italian song “Io che non vivo (senza te)” or “I, who can’t live) without you,” by Pino Donaggio.

When the Doctor says “a lot of things can happen in an hour. An entire planet can be turned inside out in an hour…” it’s a reference to the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, in which his Eighth incarnation prevents the world from being pulled inside itself, thanks to the plotting of the Master.

In the opening seconds of the story, Jennifer responds to a comment from Buzz with “give over,” the fine northern English expression that means “that’s enough,” in the same spirit as “can it” or “knock it off.”

The name Gangers is derived from the term doppelgänger, a well-established word taken from the German doppel (meaning double) and gang (the verb to go). It was originally coined by Jean Paul in the 1796 novel Siebenkäs, or, Flower, Fruit, and Thorn Pieces; or, the Married Life, Death, and Wedding of Siebenkäs, Poor Man’s Lawyer, to give it its full title. In a footnote to explain his new word, Paul said it was “the name for the people who see themselves,” meaning they can look into the eyes of their double. But the interesting thing is that he also used the term to describe a meal in which two courses arrive at the same time.

Matthew Graham’s original script called for a much bigger cast, all of whom were to be replicated by Gangers. He later admitted this was a bad idea as it made everything extremely bewildering: “The early drafts of the script were unintelligible. There were so many copies of people running around the place. We were sitting there with magic markers saying, ‘Is this a Ganger person?’ It got confusing, so we had to do a lot of rationalizing of the script. And I’m thrilled.

One of the plot devices that didn’t make it from the script to the screen was a chef computer that would talk to the humans in a broad Yorkshire accent.

Another was the Doctor suddenly revealing there’s a little hatch in the bottom of the TARDIS.

When Rory and Amy are seen having fun in the TARDIS and playing darts, it’s to the soundtrack of the song “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse:

Now go back and read the entire 10 Things You May Not Know About Doctor Who archive.

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