I really enjoyed Doctor Who’s mid-season return, “Let’s Kill Hitler”. I absolutely loved Doctor Who’s two part season opener with “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”, yet following that I found the season to be a bit uneven, a mix of excellent episodes with some that weren’t bad, but quite match up to the season opener and episodes like “The Doctor’s Wife” penned by Neil Gaiman.
I know H & J also have mixed feelings about the newer, more convoluted stories put forth by Moffet-Who and don’t share the same kind of dedicated optimism that I have towards the series. Perhaps they’ll chime in on the subject when they get around to catching up with this episode.
I think what made this episode of Doctor Who fantastic was the balance between the characters, the many moving pieces that all worked together (and not scattered apart) to tell the story, and that the questions left hanging by “A Good Man Goes to War” were answered in a way that made sense for the story and provided a jumping off point for the rest of the season.
Now the review after the jump, beware sweeties, spoilers!
The moment a funny, crazy, rule breaking girl named Melly is inserted into Amy and Rory’s history (with the aid of an absolutely wonderful flashback sequence of trouble) it’s immediately obvious that this girl is Melody Pond/River Song in another generation.
When Amy and Rory are doing circles in the corn maze signaling the Doctor, and worrying at home while the Doctor is out searching for their daughter I’m sure they had no idea that their lifelong trouble making friend was actually their Melody. But who could blame them, different body.
Amy spent her life telling Melly stories about the Doctor, not knowing how much she really knew. Melly spent her life believing in the Doctor, causing trouble and having Amy bail her out with Rory in tow. This was the gutsy, crazy girl who throws caution to the wind speeding through a cornfield in a stolen car and pulling a gun on the Doctor. Where to? She’s got a gun and he’s got a time machine.
Let’s Kill Hitler
We’re introduced to a crew of tiny (miniaturized) justice officials who reside inside a robot chameleon type vessel we later learn is called a tesselector. It can disguise itself as any person they want as long as they copy the design properly (the magic is in the details). They’re mission is to capture war criminals at the end of their designated time lines and ensure a proper punishment; they give ‘em hell. It seems as though Mels isn’t the only time traveler with her heart set on war criminal assassination today.
Crash landings are often my favourite kind for the TARDIS, and this one was fabulous. Out of control since the ever curious and quick with a gun Mels!River shot the console because as it turns out, the Doctor’s clever lie that guns don’t work inside the Tardis was more of an invitation to try than a deterrent. Their landing inside Hitler’s office in 1938 knocking the robot vessel assassin out of the way turned out to be a good thing; if you mean to preserve history rather than prevent it, they were a few years too early for their designated capture time.
The looks on the faces of the Doctor & friends when Hitler proclaims he saved his life is priceless. The Doctor promises it was purely by accident.
Here’s how everything ties in together making “Let’s Kill Hitler” such a compelling and enjoyable hour of television. The Justice Department are set to capture war criminals, originally on a mission to extract Hitler run into the most wanted criminal in history. We almost believe they mean the Doctor, it’s a reasonable misdirection given his history in the last war of the Time Lords and Daleks and the recent revelation that there is an entire legion of people rising against him as something to fear and protect against. It is Melody Pond they’re after; the woman who kills the Doctor.
So we’ve got Justice Department after Hitler and Melody who is not yet River, Amy & Rory just meeting their daughter, again, sort of; Melody trying to kill the Doctor, for that’s what she’s been conditioned to do by The Silence & Academy of the Question. The Doctor is simultaneously trying to survive being poisoned and save Melody from the wrath of the Justice Department, she can’t have killed him if he isn’t dead. Amy & Rory are trying to save the Doctor, process River!Mels!Melody being their sociopath daughter, save the Doctor and themselves. Have we got that straight?
Something I love very much about this episode is that there really is no villain, strange to say in an episode with Hitler in the title but (thankfully) he turns out to be inconsequential to the story. The big bad is looming, but to too heavily yet. The Silence and Academy of the Question, that’s who has been trying to kill the Doctor, and who indoctrinated and sent Melody to kill him.
Melody is not our usual Who monster. We know her, and some have had ideas for some time that she’s not only the Doctor’s lover but also the one to ultimately kill him. Melody is not misunderstood, she is not evil, she was taught to be a sociopath with one goal in her life. This wasn’t really the story of Melody’s redemption so much as her first step into becoming River Song. This is an origin story.
The lovely young actress Nina Toussaint-White doesn’t last long as Mels as she is hit by a stray bullet fired by Hitler before Rory knocked him out (He just keeps getting badder!), before she regenerates she tells the Doctor she always wanted to marry him, and he promises her that if she lives he will. Then Mels reveals her identity as Amy & Rory’s daughter. This regeneration gives her the outward appearance of the River Song we know, but she’s only just begun, she’s still Melody Pond, the woman who is on a mission to kill the Doctor.
One of the fantastic things about Doctor Who is its ability to do timey-whimy and do it well. In a blindingly quick back and forth and flash back and forward between Melody and the Doctor beginning with “Hello Benjamin” they fight to outwit and outthink each other, figuring out who grabbed the gun from whom, removed the bullets and grabbed them back again, who replaced the gun with a banana and so on. But what the Doctor didn’t see coming was the kiss.
Melody, always such a flirt kissed the Doctor with poisoned lips and calls him sweetie, she tells him it was never meant to be a gun for him before making her swift exit.
Only River Song gets to call me that
Who’s River Song?
Of course the Doctor has a plan, apparently it mainly consists of not dying, not really an easy feat when you’ve just been poisoned with something for which there is no cure. Amy and Rory fly out after Melody who is high on regeneration and flies off into Berlin. Leaving Rory to continue his totally bad ass day punching one of the Nazi officers (who is Justice Dept tesselector in disguise) and takes off on the motorbike with Amy.
Can you ride a motorbike?
I expect so; it’s that sort of day.
Amy & Rory are chasing down Melody, the Justice Dept follow close behind in their tesselector which has now taken the form of Amy riding a motorbike. Solving the doubles problem the crew quickly catch up & min miniaturize Amy and Rory beaming them aboard. Rory tries not to imagine being shrunk and placed inside a giant robot version of his wife as a metaphor. I kind of like this one, mostly if we do chose to stop on it for a moment and not continue on with the whole threat of death by creepy tentacled robots, Amy started out as the strong one in the relationship, willful and Rory will follow her everywhere.
Since the start of this season Rory has continued to grow, prove his power and find himself more on equal ground with Amy. Although I do think that Amy did seem to fade into the background too much in the last half-season to compensate for Rory’s toughness I think this episode found them quite equal and working well as a pair.
I can’t die now
You aren’t going to die now. You will die in 32 minutes
Meanwhile the dying Doctor is left in his Tardis dealing with death and his guilt. He asks the TARDIS for a voice interface. The Doctor has always been a lonely man, even when in good company because he knows it will never last, and the tragedy that befalls so many who he becomes involved with. His friends so quickly become former and he is left alone with guilt. This was a perfect “death” scene for the Doctor. She gives him an image of himself who he quickly dismisses for someone he likes, she gives him Rose, Martha and Donna, all tainted with guilt. He’s dying, he needs hope. She gives him little Amelia Pond, someone he didn’t ruin yet. Insisting on giving him data, 32 minutes to live, 31 to go, she finally relents, fish fingers & custard give him the strength.
Did you say she killed the Doctor?” he asks. “Doctor… who?
This is a clever Doctor. He arrives in the TARDIS meeting Melody, Amy, Rory & the Justice Department armed with a sonic cane and his finest top hat and tails to match. As the Doctor always does, and especially because he is in love with River, he finds a loop hole. She can’t have killed the Doctor because the Doctor is not dead.
Fishing for information despite the danger of foreknowledge, or as we call them, spoilers, Amy discovers that she can access the Doctor’s records. She learns that The Silence is a religious order determined to kill the Doctor, “Their core belief is that silence will fall when the Question is asked. The first Question, the oldest Question in the universe, hidden in plain sight”, they do not however, know what the question is.
While this is happening the Justice Department doesn’t appear to be much for the sappy stuff and continue to zap Melody with a painful looking light, the Doctor protests loudly whist flopping about on the floor pretending to not be dying until Amy figures out how to stop them. She uses the sonic screwdriver slipped to her by the Doctor earlier to disable everyone’s bracelet that keeps them safe from the murderous antibodies. They all beam the heck out of there to the mothership leaving Amy and Rory at the helm of the Amy ship, and also in mortal danger.
Luckily, Melody is the child of the TARDIS without really knowing what it means. The first bit of River appears at this moment when she comes to the aid of the Doctor & her parents flying the TARDIS into the tesselector saving them from the evil metal jellyfish.
They escape the giant creepy robot in the TARDIS and reconvene with the Doctor dying on the floor, he asks Melody to find River Song, his old friend and tell her something. He whispers something in her ear that we can only hope to find out later.
She’ll be fine
No she won’t – She’ll be Amazing
The Doctor has always had a way with words, he prefers to fight with those instead of guns and it seems that in most cases they are far more effective. Melody appears quite shaken and with teary eyes asks her parents if this man she was raised and trained to murder is worth it. Amy cries out that he is, Melody swoops down to the Doctor and with her magnificent regenerative glow calls the Doctor Sweetie and kisses him transferring her life to him. This is River Song’s origin story, this is the moment River is born, she just hasn’t entirely figured it out quite yet.
When River who is still Melody awakes she is in a hospital room, Sisters of the Infinite Schism, the best in the galaxy the Doctor promises. Melody!River says the Doctor must have known she could save him, it took all of her remaining generations to bring him back. He tells us “Rule #1, The Doctor Lies”, this seems an ominous start for the rest of the season.
Amy, Rory & The Doctor take off in the TARDIS leaving the soon to be River behind. Amy & Rory worry the brainwashing hasn’t worn off; she is still in jail for murder in the future. It must be weird and confusing to leave their grown up time lord daughter off in a hospital somewhere.
Despite the uneven first half of this season “Let’s Kill Hitler” was a solid return that hit the ground running. I’ve been pretty wowed by the trailers for the rest of the season and look forward to seeing how the story of the Silence and the Question and the discovery of River Song play out.
What did you think of “Let’s Kill Hitler”? What are you most interested to find out in the rest of Season 6B?
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 8pm on Space Channel.