Let's Watch Doctor Who (oh, and Kill Hitler)

Being 10 and 1 Things about Doctor Who's "Let's Kill Hitler", but with a better title. Spoilers will abound, kids. You may feel a tingling sensation just before it happens.Hitler: The Subverted Celebrity Historical. New Who has given us a number of celebrity historicals, and treated each as a sort of love letter to the historical character featured. Even Nixon earlier this year was treated with respect and joviality. But you can't do that with Hitler. Nor can you really use him as a villain. To defeat him means changing history, and to use him at all threatens to trivialize the Holocaust. The solution here: Treat him as the butt of a joke and move him about like you would a coat rack. There is something incredibly funny and satisfying about having Rory punch him out, tell him to shut up and throw him in a cupboard (where I'd like to see him again later in the season). The show can't "kill Hitler", but humiliating him is the next best thing. Now, Whovians are a grumpy lot by nature, so there's been some criticism about the episode title's relevance. I don't agree with the grumps. "Let's Kill Hitler" is germane to the theme of the episode. You've got Mels actually saying the words probably with the psychopathic intent of going through with it. You've got the Justice Department's inhabited robot looking to kill Hitler. But more importantly, you've got Melody Pond trying to kill the Doctor, and in her brainwashed mind, the Silents have equated him with Hitler (or one of History's Most Wanted Criminals). The episode is all about Melody realizing that the Doctor ISN'T that, and in so doing, becoming River Song. And to the Justice Dept., Melody is a "Hitler", one that like every other "Hitler" in the story, escapes retribution.
Mels - Melody - River. Or Who is River Song Part 3... Moffat successfully foists a Whedonistic bunch of twists on us with the introduction of Mels. She arrives violently in a pink sports car which immediately makes you think it's River, but no, it's Amy's best mate from growing up. And just as you resign yourself to having been wrong, you're right again. It's the same trick he used in A Good Man Goes to War, showing you a reveal then making you forget the reveal until it is revealed again, and I keep falling for it. Of course, part of the trick is the casting. The Doctor may not have regenerated as Paterson Joseph last year, but it seems Time Lords can change their pigmentation along with the rest. Or at least River can. The human-Time Lord hybrid may be capable of tricks the Doctor isn't, or Moffat may be going with fan opinion that Time Ladies have more control over regeneration than does the male of the species. Our only evidence for years was Romana's jokey regeneration in Destiny of the Daleks, but here we have River using her regeneration energy as an attack and to heal the Doctor, focusing on a dress size, and making a sly comment about making herself younger over time. It's really not necessary to explain why Alex Kingston is younger in her last appearance than she is in her first (because it doesn't really show), but it does tie into how Mels aged along with Amy and Rory. If Melody Pond is a programmed weapon against the Doctor, part of that programming may have pushed her towards Leadworth and the infiltration of the Doctor's future companions. And to do that, she may have regenerated into a child their age on purpose (not HER purpose, but someone's, certainly). The clues are there, of course. Mels thinks the Doctor is "hot" and he promises to marry her if she survives her bullet wound. And the camera angles evoke ones used on River, in particular the one where she holds a gun on the Doctor. The character continues to be a walking paradox. She is named after herself. She helped get her own parents together. She'll take the River Song name because she was told that's who she would become. Even "Spoilers" and the TARDIS diary have their origins in a time loop.

Filling in the blanks of River's history. In addition to finding how the woman we know as River and the Doctor actually met from her perspective, Moffat manages to fill a few other blanks. Melody/River is taught to pilot the TARDIS by the TARDIS herself, not the Doctor, as predicted in The Time of Angels. In addition to "spoilers", Melody learns that "the Doctor lies", something she will repeat to Amy later/earlier, and gets her TARDIS diary. We learn how/why she became an archaeologist and how she wound up in the future. It needn't have been explained, but we now know why she didn't regenerate in Forest of the Dead, and get a(nother?) reason why the Doctor's number of regenerations won't be an issue in the future. And what do you think the Doctor whispers in her ear? It's rather obvious that it's about love (evoking a similar scene at the end of Journey's End), but might he also tell her his real name, so that she can say it back to him in Silence in the Library? We may or may not find out some day.

Amelia & Rory. Well, it was great to see young Amelia Pond again, and as the actress gets older, we can fill in the blanks of Amy's childhood in her company. Even better was the appearance of Li'l Rory. Hilarious. Childhood gives way to teens and more Rory funny business as he becomes her "gay friend". This contrasts with the contemporary sequences that paint Rory as a suffering action hero. I could watch him punch Nazis every week! There's a fun meta-exchange when Amy asks him if he can drive a war bike. "I expect so. It's been that kind of a day." Action heroes have whatever skills are required at any given time to win the day, so when the plot pushes him, meek and bumbling Rory manages to step up. And he knows the score. Best of all, it's believable thanks to an untold number of experiences as a plastic centurion in Universe-1.
Justice Department Man-Sized Mech. The thing the Doctor "did not see coming" is the craziest idea in a while and I love it. I thought they might be Time Patrol personnel for a while, but it's weirder than that. Tiny miniaturized people piloting a shape-changing robot mech that also acts as a prison for history's greatest criminals. And for some reason, it's filled with electrified "antibody" drones that have a tendency not to recognize their masters. In every batshit insane idea, there is a measure of dumb. But buy the premise, buy the bit, dumbness and all.

The Curse of Fatal Death. Moffat plays a riff on his own 90s Doctor Who spoof with the chess match between the Doctor and Melody where guns are hidden and emptied and moved (with a wink to The Doctor Dances' banana). If you've never seen The Curse of Fatal Death, there is a more extreme version of this sequence in Part I that has the Doctor and the Master do the same thing, but using time travel to build traps and bribe contractors before they can build those traps.

Companion guilt. As the Doctor dies inside the TARDIS, the machine's voice interface gives a few somewhat disappointing cameos to former companions. Disappointing because 1) they're clearly publicity shots with none of the filled out 3D of the Amelia interface he finally chooses, and 2) because no companion goes back further than Rose. The Doctor dismisses Rose, Martha and Donna as interfaces because they make him feel guilty. It's a fun sequence, but really, how guilty does he feel about what he's "done" to Martha? Having Adric in her spot would have been AWESOME. Ah well.
The Doctor's new coat. What do you think of the long coat? I prefer the tweeds myself, and the Doctor was back in his usual clothes in the final sequence. Was it a one-off? A sometimes-off? Maybe it was the hair I wasn't liking. Seemed flatter than usual. But you're welcome to say you liked the new look. You can even vote for the black hat and tails.

The Temple of Peace. I am now officially tired of seeing this location on Doctor Who and its spin-offs. It's been disguised relatively well in the past (say, in The Fires of Pompeii), but it stands over-exposed now. It's been a reception hall in orbit, New Earth's senate, a Silurian meeting place, and now a Nazi restaurant (among other things). How about giving it a rest?

Temporal grace. The joke du jour for Classic Who nerds. Let me explain for the rest of you. Back in The Hand of Fear, it is established that you can't fire a weapon inside the TARDIS because it exists in "a state of temporal grace". Of course, plenty of stories actively disprove that. Finally, the Doctor admits it's a "clever lie".

Unanswered questions. Some questions have been answered, but of course, many remain or are brought up by the episode. What is the oldest question in the universe which, when asked, will have Silence fall? How did Amy and Rory get back from Demon's Run, and if via the Doctor, where did he go before returning to get them? How did Mels end up in Leadworth? What did she do before the 90s? She probably had a life after we saw her regenerate at the end of Day of the Moon (I don't think this is the time she regenerated as a toddler in New York). How does a toddler go the England anyway? Why couldn't the Doctor find her, or is he lying about that? What happened between his rallying cry of "fish fingers and custard" (and note how Amelia's voice is untreated during that line, like he's hallucinating it, not hearing it) and his appearance in the restaurant dressed to the nines? Is there missing time there that explains less glibly why he changed? Is he dressed for his wedding, by any chance? Is Melody still on the warpath? What good man DOES she kill to get herself into Stormgate? And of course, how does the Doctor get out of the fixed point that is his assassination?

Probably no answers tomorrow, but by the end of this series, I'm sure will have at least SOME of the answers.


snell said...

At the end of AGMGTW, The Doctor tells River to "get everyone home" as he leaves, presumably by the same ride she used to get to Demon's Run.

Unasked question: did Mels have a home or family in Leadworth, fake or otherwise? Where did she live? Did she somehow get herself adopted/fostered?

Dear Teselecta: most naff Justice Robot construction ever. Seriously, was your robot so prone to invasion that you needed instant attack "anti-bodies," even on the bridge?? Also, pretty crappy time navigation, as twice in 5 minutes they end up at the wrong point in the perps' lifespans. Still, with everyone escaping to the "mother ship," one suspects we might not have seen the last of them...

De said...

I rather liked the coat.

Scott Norwood said...

I continue to watch DR. Who even though I find myself disliking it more and more.
It's too wrapped around Amy Pond. Why didn't DR. Who regenerate instead of River having to repair him? I find it's losing it's cleverness. I have watched Dr.Who reruns on PBS for most of my life,I'm familiar with BETTER DR. Who. Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker story lines are infinitely better than this dribble. Ripping off that dreadful Eddie Murphy Movie Meet Dave. Lose the love interest triangle,give him some new regenerations if he needs it. It can be written in. Anything can be. Remember the other DR. Who companions before Rose. There's only about 20 of them.Have him meet up with his Grand Daughter Again.

F. Douglas Wall said...

River Song spending all of her regenerations to save the Doctor wasn't necessary to justify why she doesn't regenerate in the Library. Doc10 did state several times that there were some circumstances that would kill him so quickly he couldn't regenerate. Being eaten alive in an instant probably counts as that.

LiamKav said...

That's two complains I've seen that say the show is too obsessed with Amy. The other one had the person blaming Midday for loving his version too much, saying that RTD never did that.

I'm fairly certain that person was crazy.

Anonymous said...

Is there a definitive list of people who have punched Hitler in the chops? Captain America and Rory are the only two that come to mind.

A general Western cultural gripe: I get really tired of Hitler being used as our one and only symbol of all that is evil. There are just too many real evils out there to act like Evil Incarnate died in a bunker in 1945; that's a blind spot that is, at its most benign, lazy. Here in the US, we sometimes refer to our WWII soldiers as "the greatest generation"; but among those young men who went to stop Nazi oppression were any number who, upon returning home, donned KKK robes or at the very least supported the institutional oppression of blacks. Hitler may have been worse, but what many Americans were doing was certainly bad enough.

Rory has become my favorite companion, I think.

Siskoid said...

Scott: I can't agree. I love what Moffat is doing and find negative comparisons to past Doctor eras counter-productive. For many fans, it seems, a certain era has captured their imagination and affection and no other can match it. Any differences are seen as negative. I don't see it that way. Doctor Who's premise is infinitely mutable, so there is never a definitive Who. I like Amy and Rory and River, so I see no reason to go back to the past. Let's not get mired in it. Sorry but that's just the way I feel.

Doug: Agreed. There's dialog in Forest about how even the Doctor wouldn't survive the shock, so there's no reason River would.

Liam: Amy is an important character, but there's far less fetishism about her than RTD did with Rose!

Anon: Might I suggest a blog based on that very subject? http://hitlergettingpunched.blogspot.com/

Toby'c said...

One thing I love about this is that, despite the buildup in the last episode to the River Song/Melody Pond mistranslation reveal, it's now been implied to be completely coincidental, thanks to two predestination paradoxes.

Maki P said...

The answer of how Mels ended up in Leadworth is actually pretty obvious. The Doctor took her there

Siskoid said...

Entirely probable.


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