29
Aug
2011
Doctor Who: Season 6, Episode 8
Let's Kill Hitler
Michael
Tonight's episode of Doctor Who suffers from any comparison to the first of it's two parts, but the elements it introduces might lift it's reputation in time. But more on that in a second. First, let's catch up from the end of the first half of the season and the first part of the two-parter completed tonight, the sublime episode "A Good Man Goes to War":

Amy Pond has been kidnapped alongside her new baby girl, named Melody Pond (important!), by a one-eyed space women, forcing the Doctor and her husband Rory to collect a ramshackle group of warriors previously helped by the Doctor, including a pair of crime-fighting lesbians (one of whom is reptilian) from the 1800s, a fat blue money grubber, a Sontoran nurse, and a pirate, all of whom take over the military base to rescue Amy and the baby, only to find out that the one-eyed woman has absconded with the real baby, leaving a fake one in it's place. Ahem. Oh, and Melody Pond apparently grows up to be River Song, fellow time traveller and the Doctor's lover. If that revelation didn't make you yell some variation on "Holy Shit!" you obviously don't watch the show and stopped reading when I used the phrase "crime-fighting lesbians" because you assumed I was talking about "Rizzoli and Isles" (allegedly!).

The last episode explored that great Shakespearean question, what's in a name? The Doctor is a figure so beloved by wide swaths of the universe that his name now means healer in every language (a concept that makes no sense if you think about it too hard, but it's a small detail that can be overlooked). But as the Doctor has changed from a happy-go-lucky intergalactic helper to the lone survivor of a genocidal war and a man who brings utter devastation to his enemies, so does the meaning of his name. River explains to him that among one planet, "doctor" means "Great Warrior," and instead of instilling hope among the populace he only represents fear. This episode abandons that concept for the most part, except for one instance. It introduces the name that almost everyone on this planet uses as a synonym for evil and fear.

Which brings us to tonight's episode with the deliciously campy title "Let's Kill Hitler." It's a bit of a red herring of course - Hitler is locked in a broom closet until the Doctor and gang can figure out what to do with him after inadvertently saving his life. From who? Maybe the least impressive monster of the week Moffat has ever contributed to the series.

This weeks "villain" is a crack team of troopers who shrink themselves to live in a robot human body that can shape-shift, travelling though time to kill infamous or evil characters. They do this by shrinking their targets, beaming them on board, and letting them be dispatched by robot jellyfish. It is exactly as silly on screen as it is on paper. How lame it is, however, pales in comparison to how utterly unnecessary this element of the story is. The commandos are introduced as enemies of the "Silence," the main enemy of the 6th season. They explain that the Silence is a religious cult dedicated to the Doctor's destruction, and that their tool to complete this mission is the only villain they contend is worse than Hitler: River Song.

The episode reveals River Song's ultimate crime: she is the one who kills the Doctor, presumably at the shores of Lake Silencio (Get it?! Spanish for silence!). Most fans had sussed this out already, but it is apparently enough to secure River's place on the short list of history's greatest monsters. When she is finally brought into the episode (through an utterly preposterous twist that carries as little dramatic weight as it does sense) the Doctor and her go through a small dance of death in which River comes out on top by kissing him with poisoned lips. Then the race is on to save the Doctor from poison and River from her own brainwashed self.

If this is a bit heavy on plot summary, I have to apologize, but this episode leaves little else to look at. It is a supremely disjointed episode; compared to "A Good Man" the plot is as slow as the poison killing the doctor. The parts are so wholly separate that they should be rated separately. The exuberant scenes of River's regeneration: awesome (bonus points for involving a room full of Nazis in their knickers running out of a building). Rory punching Nazis in the face: awesome. Robot time travellers and their metal jellyfish: Terrible. The Doctor getting poisoned then having a conversation with young Amelia Pond via the TARDIS' voice interface: entertaining, though ultimately irrelevant. It is as if someone made a script for an hour and a half show and then haphazardly cut what couldn't fit. Disappointing.

It doesn't work as a continuation of the first part of the season, but it is not a complete failure. The series-long plotline is moved forward a bit, as River is forced to confront her own conditioning with what she ultimately becomes. And the Doctor is fine, as we know he must be at the end of any given episode. The mystery of what happens at Lake Silencio is uncovered a bit while revealing a few more questions. The Doctor's death is apparently a set point in history, impossible to prevent or circumvent. So how do we change it? That's for Moffat to figure out by the end of the season, but I assume there's a plan.

As for this episode, well, at the end Hitler is still locked in the closet. What a perfect metaphor for a story that desperately needs wrapping up.
Tags: Doctor Who
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