Doctor Who Review, Series 6, Episode 8: “Let’s Kill Hitler”
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Richard Senior
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on BBC America
This week, on Doctor Who: We met Mels, Melody, and River. Oh, and Hitler gets shoved in a closet.
After a long wait, Doctor Who is back with the misleadingly titled “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Rather than ease everyone back in with a historical romp, Moffat throws his characters right back in it, giving the audience a companion piece to his Series 4 two-parter “Silence in the Library”/“Forest of the Dead”. This time, it’s River’s, make that Melody’s, turn to be in the dark while the Doctor looks on in confusion and pain. Other than giving Rory the enviable opportunity to punch Hitler in the face, the setting of the episode is perfunctory, serving as more of a distraction to the rest of the action than anything else. The time travelling War Crimes Tribunal is an interesting and fairly well-executed bit of phlebotnom (aka plotonium, aka MacGuffin, aka something-science-fictiony-to-get-the-plot-going) and the jellyfish-like antibodies were surprisingly creepy, in an entertaining Classic Who kind of way. However, this episode is all about Melody Pond and her transformation into River Song.
Perhaps the early montage introducing Mels, Amy’s best friend, is intended to be an example of history being rewritten due to Melody’s time travelling, but even if this is the case, it still feels like a cheat. An examination of Amy and Rory’s friends and family, who must exist, would be interesting, but this comes off as a get-out-of-jail-free card allowing Amy and Rory to not be angry over having missed their daughter’s childhood. Alex Kingston, who has been fantastic in this role for years now, doesn’t quite convince with her take on a newly regenerated Melody. The disconnect felt could be something as simple as our not knowing Melody yet, and these scenes may replay with more success after some gaps are filled in, but the kernel of River’s personality that should have been within Melody, particularly given how quickly she comes around, doesn’t come through.
The revelation that Melody has spent the past 20 years hanging out with her parents, presumably getting to know them and waiting to run in to the Doctor, makes her reluctance to help them particularly confusing and off-putting. The question of her brainwashing is also strange- if she was somehow activated into killing him, and didn’t do so of her own volition, why does she not seem to care about this a moment later? If not, why mention the Benjamin thing? If she’s always been a psychopath, Amy must be the worst judge of character ever. Karen Gillan usually delivers, but Amy feels a bit underwritten here. It feels very strange for the Doctor to need to remind her that a giant robotic torturer “giv[ing] her [daughter] hell” is a bad thing. Another nitpick, but the string quartet is playing Pachabel’s Cannon? At a dinner party? Really?
These complaints aside, there was a lot to like in this episode. Kingston, though less convincing earlier on, is fantastic in the latter part of the episode, imbuing Melody with compassion and warmth, while making it feel like a new and possibly terrifying experience for the character. Though it’s disappointing that we seemingly won’t get to see much of Kingston as an antagonist to the TARDIS crew, it is nice to have something to hold on to in this timey-wimey sea of confusion Moffat so enjoys playing in. Matt Smith is great, as ever, and manages to give us a second memorable death scene- perhaps he’s the new Rory! Speaking of, Arthur Darville continues Rory’s growth and the difference between the character we met in “The Eleventh Hour” and here is staggering. Also very welcome is the brief callback to the previous NuWho Companions. Can we hope there is more reason for this than just a brief reminder of the Doctor’s baggage? Perhaps a reappearance is coming, especially with the 50th anniversary only a few years away?
Information is handed out by the scoopful- not only is it confirmed that River can in fact regenerate, we find out how River learned to fly the TARDIS, that, if nothing else, she’s believed to be responsible for the Doctor’s death (the one we saw in “The Impossible Astronaut”, that is), what The Silence is, and, perhaps most intriguingly of all, that there is indeed still a regeneration limit for Time Lords. With Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor (and a regeneration limit of 13 from the Classic Series never officially confirmed in NuWho), this is definitely of interest. It could be that this is a misinterpretation of the dialog, that rather than using up the remainder of her lives, Melody sacrificed her ability to regenerate somehow, but with the Dream Lord still fresh in many viewers’ minds, one can’t help but wonder if the Valyard, and the end of the Doctor’s regeneration cycle, is now only a few years away.
It’s not as strong an episode as one might hope, and it certainly doesn’t compare to the premiere of either series 5 or part one of series 6, but this is a solid entry that may very well improve upon rewatch once all of the pieces of the puzzle are in place.
What did you think of “Let’s Kill Hitler”? What did you think of Melody? Did anyone else notice Pachabel’s Canon? Post your thoughts below!
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