Don’t read this until you’ve seen “The Almost People.” I’m so not kidding.
We’ve had a few days to think about “The Almost People” now — read my blogging on the episode and the interesting discussion in comments following here — and one thing continues to haunt me. One thing bothers me no matter how I turn it over, no matter how many sides I look at it from.
Here’s the thing: I cannot see how the Doctor does not commit murder at the end of the epiode, when he destroys the Flesh Amy.
The entirety of the previous 90 minutes — encompassing as well, of course, “The Rebel Flesh” — are about the Doctor establishing that the Flesh is a living being, “sacred life,” a “miracle,” independent consciousness apart from the human minds that drive around the Flesh bodies. He makes a connection with the Flesh when he puts his hand in the tank — this is Flesh that is not being used by any human consciousness at the time. Both the real Doctor (if he is real and not also Flesh) and the Flesh copy we see created in this episode experience a psychic connection to the discarded Flesh as it asks Why? it has been treated so well. And if there were any doubt that what the Doctor(s) experience is real, there is also the matter of the discarded Flesh bodies that Jennifer shows Rory: we see that even when severed from their human drivers, the Flesh remains conscious and suffering.
So, Flesh Amy is being “driven” by real Amy, from her place of captivity, and it may well be that the only way to sever that connection is to destroy the Flesh Amy. But perhaps not. We’ve seen the Doctor, in other instances, go to extraordinary lengths to avoid doing violence to sentient beings, yet he doesn’t try that here. There doesn’t appear to have been any urgent reason for the Doctor to have destroyed Flesh Amy and severed that connection at this very moment: indeed, it may have been kinder to real Amy to let her continue to remain ignorant of her predicament. Why not continue to let Flesh Amy walk around, even help rescue herself? Perhaps the time might have come when the Doctor, having run out of all other options, would have no choice but to destroy Flesh Amy.
And yet, even then, wouldn’t he agonize over it? Why is he so cavalier about destroying Flesh Amy, particularly after he had himself experienced their pain?
The Doctor seems disappointed in Amy/Flesh Amy after she renders the decision that the Flesh copies are not as worthy of life/respect/love as the real people they’re based on. It almost seems as if the Doctor is punishing Amy/Flesh Amy for that attitude… but that sort of vindictiveness is not like the Doctor at all. Not even the Doctor who has told us, point blank, that he used to have so much mercy but doesn’t anymore. Not even the Doctor who has reminded us he’s so much older and so much less forgiving than he once was.
Now, I’m not entirely convinced that the Doctor who was presented to us as the real one in this episode isn’t himself a Flesh copy — for one thing, I don’t see where there would have been time for the two Doctors to switch shoes, as they claim to have done, which would mean that it is indeed the Doctor who is meant to be real whom we see dissolve into Flesh at the end of “The Almost People.” Which would mean the Doctor now on the TARDIS, the one who destroys Flesh Amy, is himself Flesh. If this were the case, he would have to be Flesh created by a future version of the technology than we’ve seen here, because he made multiple references to the fact that he’s here to check out the early stages of the Flesh. It could well be that a more advanced Flesh Doctor holds less advanced Flesh in some sort of contempt, irrespective of the fact that it is sentient and in pain. I don’t know yet what would account for that, but right now, it seems like the “best” explanation — if still a very disturbing one — for the Doctor’s behavior here.
Or am I missing something?