(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “A Good Man Goes to War”)
After a few days to digest this and multiple viewings to comfirm my feelings about this episode, I am sad to say that it treads dangerously close to a point at which I want to disavow it as “real” Doctor Who and start pretending that it doesn’t “count.”
Not because we were promised something that could fairly be construed as “Let’s Kill Hitler” and instead very quickly ends up “Let’s Put Hitler in the Cupboard” and then even more quickly still totally forgets about Hitler entirely. Though partly because I get the sense that this might have been Steven Moffat’s way of dispensing with the whole big thorny issue of Hitler entirely. There’s a good reason why Doctor Who hasn’t dared touch Nazi Germany before: This isn’t Daleks, this isn’t “fun”… this is real. Even the Doctor is stunned to find himself face to face with Adolf Hitler:
as if the thought of doing so deliberately had never even occurred to him. From the Doctor’s perspective, it shouldn’t be a big deal: Hitler is certainly far from the worst war criminal the Doctor has had to deal with. Hitler didn’t destroy entire planets. Hitler isn’t Davros.
Now that the Doctor has faced Hitler, however, he doesn’t need to do so again. Doctor Who has now dispensed with Hitler, as the punchline of a not-very-funny joke.
But that doesn’t bother me so much.
What bothers me much more is all the narrative to-ing and fro-ing with River Song. It’s not that what Moffat does here isn’t anything like what I would have done, and would have hoped to see. (I really liked the idea of her being “merely” a companion and lover for the Doctor. The idea of River Song had been impossibly romantic, in all senses of the word. Now, not so much.) It’s that there’s a lot of Big Idea stuff about River that gets dismissed as soon as it’s introduced: River can regenerate!
No, wait, now she can’t!
She hates the Doctor and is programmed to kill him! No, wait, now she isn’t! Mels’ life makes next to no sense at all. “The last time I did this,” Mels says as she’s regenerating into River Song, “I ended up a toddler in the middle of New York… it took me years to find you two,” meaning Amy and Rory. But she obviously not too many years, because she did find them while she was still a small child. How does that work? How does a young girl end up on her own in the middle of Leadworth, get herself enrolled in school, and generally just live in a way that doesn’t stand out? Did she have “parents”? Did she have some sort of pseudo-Time Lord trickery that managed to convince everyone around her that she does have parents? What. The. Hell?
It’s not so much timey-whimey as it is bullshit-woolshit.
I’d say Moffat wanted to be done with River Song entirely, but that’s obviously not the case. The tiny war-criminal hunters in the Meet Dave robot clearly believe that River is the one who killed/will kill the Doctor in Utah in 2011. (“Melody Pond, the woman who kills the Doctor.”) So it’s her in the spacesuit coming out of the lake, right? Or maybe the war-criminal hunters are mistaken about that. In any event, this season must close by returning to this, no? Which means more River. (Anyway, we already know that the final episode is entitled “The Wedding of River Song.”) And we know, as Amy and Rory point out, that River in the future does go to prison for murder… and we’re still presuming the Doctor’s murder. Though I’m still convinced it must be a Flesh duplicate that is killed in Utah. Whomever she kills, we still need to find that out.
In fact, this episode could redeem itself if we discover, as I’ve suspected all along, that something is seriously fucked up with Amy’s timeline, to the point where she doesn’t even really exist, or this is all happening in a weird bubble universe (which could have been hinted at in “The Doctor’s Wife”), or something that indicates that, actually, it doesn’t really “count.”
We also still have to find out why the Silence want the Doctor dead (and hence why they brainwashed River to kill him), and what it has to do with the first question, the oldest question in the universe. (The answer is 42, right?) If this is a bubble universe that exists only because the Doctor somehow invented it (as when, perhaps, his TARDIS exploded in, maybe, a mini Big Bang), then perhaps killing the Doctor is the only way to prevent the uncreation of this bubble universe. “Yes, but what is the question?” the Doctor asks. Perhaps the question is, What brought this universe into existence?
So a lot about this bothers me, that Moffat apparently simultaneously wants to get rid of River but can’t actually bring himself to do it. And also how cheaty it seems he’s being along the way.
But then there’s a ton of stuff, too, that is inexcusable no matter whether we’re in the “real” universe, a bubble offshoot, or whatever. There’s a not-so-subtle thread of unpleasant misogyny running through this episode that stuns me. Since when does the Doctor treat people like property? Cuz that’s what he’s doing when he asks Rory’s permission to hug Amy. Rory may well experience a sense of proprietary jealousy when he sees other men hug his wife, but why would it even occur to the Doctor to ask such a question? Mels’ “I’m focusing on a dress size” and Amelia’s “I count as a boy” are just about excusable, since these characters are products of the late 20th-, early 21st-century Western world, where such attitudes are easily explainable… even if they’re not very nice. But the Doctor responding “She’s a woman” to Amy’s “One minute she’s gonna marry you, then she’s gonna kill you?” That’s not just unforgiveable. It’s not the Doctor. Since when is he all battle of the sexes?
What’s the point of Antibodies in the robot body? Is that really the best way to deal with an occasional intruder versus 423 crewmembers who need to not be killed on a regular basis? Bonus points for a Fantastic Voyage ref… but then they come right back off again for sheer nonsensicalness.
“You’re dying… and you stopped to change?” River has a point there. What the hell is that all about? Perhaps if the episode actually used the 1938 Berlin setting to some actual, you know, effect, it could make some sort of sense. But it doesn’t. There’s no reason for the Doctor to be in top hat and tails. Why does he take the time to bother with changing?
This really bugs me: River has a complete 180 change of heart, from “the Doctor must die” to “I’ll give up all my future lives for him”? I don’t buy that at all. And what the hell is this giving up her future regenerations for him, anyway? Since when can Time Lords give up regenerations like this? Okay, she’s not quite a Time Lord, but still: “He said no one could save him,” River says, “but he must have known I could”… which implies this has been A Thing all along. *gaaahhh*
Why couldn’t he just regenerate, anyway? I mean, yeah, it’s cuz Matt Smith is still the Doctor for who knows how many more episodes, but that’s not a reason within the narrative. Why could he just regenerate here?
But I think the very worst thing of all is this: So that’s it, no more looking for baby Melody? Amy and Rory are just going to have to be content to know that their infant was raised by Eye Patch Lady and the Silence, and then raised by someone else — or no one else at all — as Mels? What the fuck? How is Amy not screaming her head off with grief at the end of this episode? How is she not insisting that the Doctor do anything and everything to change things… as he’s done before?
Not timey-whimey. Bullshit-woolshit.
Random thoughts on “Let’s Kill Hitler”:
• So, the miniature robot people can replicate clothing, but not eyeglasses?
Is Doctor Who turning into Monty Python’s Flying Circus? There’s always been a bit of silliness to the show, but this may be getting too deep into actively logic-defying absurdity. And if this isn’t, this is:
Yeah, Jack Harkness did something similar to this once… but he only handled the banana-he-thought-was-a-gun very briefly, and only once. This joke requires that River mistake the banana for a gun not once but twice. Since when does anyone mistake a piece of fruit for a piece of steel at all?
• River really isn’t Jack, so how does she survive a jump out a window from several stories up?
Or are we meant to infer that the soldiers down on the street waited for her ongoing regeneration cycle to heal her injuries from the fall before they confronted her with their guns?
• Oh, so the TARDIS taught River to fly itself? *groan*
• I will reiterate my earlier contention: Amelia Pond would be/would have been a great companion:
• The Doctor himself says “Doctor who?”? *groan* Like much else in the episode, it doesn’t even make sense.
• Hands up, who thinks the Doctor tell River his real name here:
If not, what does he tell her that makes her willing to give up her remaining regenerations for him?
• Ah, so the Doctor has TARDIS diaries just lying around in the TARDIS, ready for gifting at a moment’s notice:
Or did he have this specially made at some point so it would ready to give to River when the correct moment presented itself?
• Great quotes:
“You’ve got a time machine. I’ve got a gun. What the hell. Let’s kill Hitler.” –Mels
“Shut up, Hitler.” –Rory
“Welcome. You will experience a tingling sensation and then death.” –Antibody
“There must be someone left in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet.” –the Doctor
(next: “Night Terrors”)