Sunday, 4 September 2011
Doctor Who - 'Let's Kill Hitler' - Series 6 Episode 8 - Review
What’s the Story?
Doctor Who roars back onto our screens when Amy, Rory and their childhood friend, Mels, crash land in 1938 Berlin and inadvertently save the life of one Adolf Hitler. They encounter the Teselecta, a shape shifting robot hunting down war criminals and are stunned to discover the truth about Mels…
What’s the Verdict?
Well, Doctor Who certainly came back with a bang and surprisingly more answers than any of us surely expected. We are so used to knowing nothing about River Song, it occasionally felt like we were learning too much too quickly in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, which admittedly does seem like a ridiculous complaint to have! So now we know, Amy and Rory did get to raise their daughter after all, in a typical timey-wimey fashion, as their childhood friend Mels, regenerated into River Song. I had my suspicions from the moment I heard the name ‘Mels’ and Nina Toussaint-White did an excellent job of capturing the reckless energy of River Song; but still it is quite the revelation. It nicely gets around the fact Amy and Rory would want to bring up their daughter without having the heartbreakingly sad sense of loss the short prequel to the episode suggested.
Of course, although it seemed that the pieces slotted together perfectly on first watch, there may well be some significant gaps of logic to this plot development if you start thinking about it too much. I can’t deny that Mels did feel that she came out of nowhere and it would have been better had she been mentioned before, her appearance in this episode does suggest River’s story was perhaps not as planned in advance as we thought. It appears that Mels deliberately sought out Amy and Rory, perhaps to get to know her parents, but more likely as she knew they would eventually bring her into contact with the Doctor. The man she was programmed to kill.
Despite taking this relatively dark idea, ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ was one of the outright silliest episodes for some time and was all the more enjoyable for that. The one-liners were coming so quickly that it was easy to miss a gem while still laughing at another. I personally loved that Hitler was reduced to such a small presence in the episode, with Rory shoving him in a cupboard for the duration (Go Rory!). The justice dispensing robot, the Teselecta, was a nice creation too, particularly the ‘antibodies’ with their polite welcome as they ‘implemented’ death.
This episode was really all about the characters though and Alex Kingston seemed to be having the absolute time of her life as the younger River Song, oozing with confidence but also a sense of callousness we had not seen before as her conditioning took over. It was quite sad to hear her describe herself as a ‘psychopath’ and good that Amy reacted to deny this. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill did a wonderful job of capturing the bewilderment of Amy and Rory throughout the episode; Rory is really stealing more and more scenes with every episode and it was lovely to see them as children again, with Amy’s realisation that Rory had been in love with her all along. That whole scene was particularly great, with Mels pushing her own parents together and the brilliant effect as she tossed the model Tardis back onto the bed.
Of course, as all of the best stories do, the episode abandoned the frivolity and came around to an emotional ending, as Mels realised that she was in fact, River and perhaps she had killed her one true love. Alex Kingston did a great job here, her expression as she realised she was River Song was heartbreaking and in that moment I totally believed that she would give up her regenerations to save the Doctor. Of course, by telling River the Doctor is ‘worth it’, Amy has inadvertently condemned her own daughter to die in the Library. The Doctor leaving River the blank book was a lovely touch, however I do wonder if Amy and Rory should have been a bit more reluctant to leave and give up the hunt for their baby, although I understand that they have to in order to continue with the series.
Overall, this was an excellent way to open the second half of the series, with some lovely character moments, more of River Song’s backstory and naturally the introduction of more questions. I don’t think there was anything confusing about it (I’m pre-empting the inevitable complaints), rather some areas that remain unexplained but ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ was a wonderfully energetic, fun and at times downright hilarious episode that set up the second half of Series 6 as we wait to see what Moffat has in store to explain the death of the Doctor.
We may know that Mels becomes River but there is still plenty of her backstory left unexplained…how did she get to Leadworth? What were her early years like? Presumably the poison was manufactured especially to kill a Time Lord and that is why his regenerations were ‘disabled’, or is there more to it than that? Does this get around the thorny 13 regeneration problem now he has River’s as well? Was there a particular reason why the Doctor was back in his wedding suit, was he just looking his best for death or had he been somewhere else between ‘fish fingers and custard’ and his reappearance in his top hat and tails? Doctor Who certainly makes you suspect everything! River killed the Doctor on the orders of the Silence and the Academy of the Question…We learned that the Silence is a religious order or movement that believe silence will fall when the question is asked? What is the question? Could it actually be ‘Doctor Who?’ We had another reference to that this episode, I would really love it if it was! Of course, the biggest question of all, who kills the Doctor in Utah and how is Moffat going to get out of this one?!
‘Welcome. You are unauthorised. Your death will now be implemented. Welcome. You will feel a tingling sensation and then death’. - such polite killers!
The Doctor - ‘That’s right Adolf. The British are coming.’
Rory - ‘Shut up Hitler!’
The Doctor - ‘You named your daughter…after your daughter’.
Mels - ‘Oh shut up Dad! I’m focusing on a dress size!’
Mels/River - ‘Oh that’s magnificent! I’m going to wear lots of jodhpurs!’
Amy- ‘Can you ride a motorbike?’
Rory - ‘I expect so. It’s been that sort of day.’
The Doctor - ‘Scotland’s never conquered anywhere you know. Not even a Shetland!’
The Doctor - ‘I’m going out in the first round, ringing any bells?’ - ah Scotland jokes, you can’t beat ‘em!
Rory - ‘Ok, I am trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.’
Amy - ‘How can we be in here? How do we fit?’
Rory - ‘Miniaturisation Ray’
Amy - ‘How would you know that?’
Rory - ‘Well there was a ray…and we were miniaturised.’
Amy - ‘Ah, right.’
River - ‘I might take the age down a little. Just gradually, to freak people out’ - explains how River can control her own ageing and so how she was able to grow up with Amy and Rory but also a great explanation for Alex Kingston’s real life ageing!
River - ‘Are you serious?’
The Doctor - ‘Never knowingly. Never knowingly be serious’
The Doctor - ‘Well at least I’m not a time travelling, shape-shifting robot operated by miniaturised cross people, which I have to admit, I didn’t see coming’.
Teselecta Amy - ‘The Silence is not a species, it is a religious order or movement. Their core belief is that silence will fall when the question is asked’.
The Doctor - ‘What question?’
Teselecta Amy - ‘The first question. The oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight.’
The Doctor - ‘Yes but what is the question?’
Teselecta Amy - *pause* ‘Unknown’
The Doctor - ‘Well fat lot of use that is you big ginge!’
And of course, the line of the episode…..
Mels/River - ‘Well I was on my way to this gay gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, ‘Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish, I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer’.