Like Utopia way back in 2007, The Almost People is very much an episode of two halves. The first forty minutes do a pretty decent job of wrapping-up all of the plotlines developed in the previous instalment (Utopia was seemingly a stand-alone episode) and then that cliff-hanger suddenly spins us off in a new direction altogether, as the series arc reasserts itself to staggering, jolting effect.

Let’s take the first half first. The prospect of multiple Matt Smiths makes all sorts of delicious promises and thanks to some nifty effects work from director Julian Simpson and The Mill and some exceptional playing from Smith himselves, all of this promise was gloriously fulfilled. The Doctors spar, josh, finish each other’s sentences and generally make themselves deliriously obnoxious.

Amy’s reaction to the faux-Doctor is particularly powerful. She doesn’t remotely seem them as equals, and yet this is the very crux of the story – is a sentient ganger a moral agent? What about one which is still being safely “puppeteered”?

Meanwhile, the largely interchangeable crew get gradually bumped off (in a strict one-of them, another one of us formula which makes for a disappointingly neat ending, when something much more complicated was available) and The Mill gets to dust off that thing from The Lazarus Code and stick Sarah Smart’s face on it for a big running-down-corridors ending.

This is making it sound as if I didn’t really care for The Almost People, but actually I thought it was great. Spooky corners, big laugh lines, some ethical conundrums, impersonations of previous doctors and lots of good old fashioned scares. Two key emotional scenes didn’t quite come off for me, and they both involve Scottish Crew Member whose name escaped me. Bringing in his tousle-haired moppet of a son is a good narrative choice and an excellent way of confronting the question – what’s really important about the person standing in front of me: how they came to be, or how other people see them? However, the performance is not up to scratch and so the scene comes off as mawkish and manipulative.

Even worse is the death of Scottish Crew Member which is contrived in its construction and equally mawkish in its playing, although the narrative bounces back when the Ganger Scottish Crew Member has to take over as father, which is really the point of the whole episode after all.

The final ending is a little too neat and tidy with one of those irritating throw-away lines that papers over a gaping hole “The TARDIS has magically stabilised you all” – and which is then contradicted seconds later.

So let’s talk about that ending. Firstly – wow! Suddenly, the Doctor’s apparent fore-knowledge of the Flesh makes perfect sense as does Amy’s quantum pregnancy. Surely no-one could have seen that the Doctor’s plan to see the Gangers up close and personal, Amy’s womb, Frances Barber and early cryptic lines from the Ganger Doctor would all have the same solution. And don’t forget, it’s next week which supposedly has the “game-changing” cliffhanger!

But, I note that Matthew Graham in Confidential is very keen and quick to point out that The Doctor’s apparent extermination of the Ganger Amy is no different than cutting a telephone wire. A puppeteered ganger is not sentient at all – a mere device. And I’d like to believe that, I really would. I’d like to believe that The Doctor would splatter a living sentient creature all over the walls and the floor of the TARDIS just to test a theory. But it’s a little tricky to sustain that belief when most of the previous twenty minutes has been a passionate and detailed argument for the opposite point-of-view!

So, some lapses of judgement, some unfortunate casting and a little bit of moral muddle, but none of these can eclipse a rattling good adventure which hopefully will continue to shine from under the long “arc” shadow it will no doubt cast over what is turning out to be one hell of a season so far.

Four stars.