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Doctor Who: “Let’s Kill Hitler” Review (SO MANY SPOILERS)


You have to love a show that isn’t afraid to do something different, and Doctor Who in the Moffat era certainly does things differently.

Expositional episodes are a necessary evil of season-spanning arcs, but there are ways to do this in an unboring way. While some shows give you an info-dump of people talking in a room (*cough* Torchwood *cough*), others surround exposition with off-the-wall craziness. It’s pretty clear from watching “Let’s Kill Hitler” that the Moff sat down and said, “Okay, I want to answer a whole bunch of River Song-related questions; how can I do that in the most outlandish way possible? Hmm.” And it’s true; we get all kinds of answers about River Song and wrapped up a few mysteries from “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon,” but we also get shrink rays, shape-shifting robots, and Rory punching Hitler in the face. Oh, Doctor Who, I sure did miss you.

I usually like to save the things I didn’t like about the episode for the end of the review, but since it began the episode, I see no reason not to lead with it. The whole “Mels” idea is really, really stupid. Sorry, Moffat, good try, didn’t work for me. Felt like a cop out. She’s Melody Pond’s second (I’m assuming) iteration after we saw her regenerate at the end of “Day of the Moon,” and so we’re supposed to believe that Madame Kovarian & Co. spent huge amounts of time cultivating this plan, a human/Time Lord hybrid to kill their sworn enemy, the Doctor, but instead of waiting until she’s a grown up and sending her to kill him at some various point in his history, she’s just allowed to go grow up with her own parents on the off-chance that the Doctor might come back? They’re from the future, they would know exactly when he’d come back, which we saw in “The Eleventh Hour,” and she’d have been there waiting for him. But not only does she completely seem to miss the events of that episode, the one where giant EYEBALL THINGS come from the sky and say stuff about destroying the Earth, we’ve never even heard of Mels until just now, when we see a ridiculous set of flashbacks showing us she’s been there all the time, but just out of our frame of knowledge. And just because the Doctor comments on never having heard of her, it’s still not okay. Mentioning how it doesn’t make sense isn’t the same as it making sense.

And “Mels,” for some reason, wants to go kill Hitler… Why? Just so there can be the title line, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” End of. Explanation over. Just for the ever-loving fuck of it. It would have been much more likely, and less hokey, if they’d have just accidentally crash-landed in Berlin in 1938 because she shot the TARDIS (which I rolled my eyes at, but whatever, it’s fine) and then they could have gotten mixed up with the tiny pilots of the robot people and that, which is something I thought was a neat idea. I’m not just crapping on Moff’s parade to be contrary; it just seemed like a huge convenience to explain something he didn’t feel like thinking about anymore. I LOVE the idea of seeing Melody Pond in an earlier regeneration, and some crazy woman coming in and acting River-ish only to reveal she is, in fact, River Song herself earlier in life is fantastic. I just think the entire “Mels” thing was a way of making it so they can stop looking for baby Melody, because, oop, wouldn’t you know it, she’s been safe and sound with her parents the whole time.

Anyway, despite all that griping I just did, I actually, overall, quite enjoyed the episode. Once the regeneration happened, I was well on board. The idea of weird future vigilantes driving a shape-shifting robot is pretty brilliant, and going back in time to make war criminals experience “hell” is a very interesting notion, though I don’t think I’m crazy about River being a worse offender than Adolf Hitler, implying killing the Doctor is far worse than exterminating millions and millions of innocent people. Hitler and Berlin itself were completely superfluous, but I guess it was worth it for me simply to have Rory punching Nazis. No two ways about it, Rory is a badass.

And what about Matt Smith? He’s nothing short of great. How difficult must it be to play like you’re slowly dying in agony for half an episode? This episode expressed all that the Doctor represents, and it’s his compassion for his friends that allows Melody/River to begin to realize that he might not be such a bad guy after all. It also plays up the notion that the Eleventh Doctor, deep down, does not like himself, as evidenced by the scene in the TARDIS where the voice interface activates using a hologram of himself. This has been hinted at many times over the last season and a half, most notably in my favorite series 5 episode, “Amy’s Choice.” I also liked the going-through of previous companions as holograms and his response that he feels guilty about all of them. The joke maybe only needed to be made once, but you can’t show Rose and then not show Martha and Donna, to be fair. Also, he did the “Doctor Who?” joke. Cute.

The end of the episode featured River transferring all the rest of her regenerative energy (forever and ever it seems) to the Doctor to save him from the poison. That’s another big question answered: If River can regenerate, how come she didn’t regenerate at the end of “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead?” Cuz she ain’t a Time Lord no mo’. That’s definitely also a plot convenience, but one I can live with. Now, I really doubt her saving the Doctor will entirely undo the brainwashing done to her as a child, but now she has an inner conflict which is quite interesting. The sad thing is, though, River has now completely lost all of her mystery. We know everything about who she is, where she came from, how she knows the Doctor, and why she’s a criminal. The only thing we don’t know is if she is the person in the astronaut suit who kills him. My instincts say that’s still too easy. We’ll see.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” brought Doctor Who back with some continuity-thrashing revelations and some crazy-weird ideas, but for the most part, it was a solid 48 minutes of fun. Really glad Doctor Who is back on our telly screens and we can watch and talk about a show that consistently entertains. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have Friday’s Torchwood to watch…

-Kanderson is unauthorized and his death will now be implemented, please save him by following him on TWITTER

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71 comments

  • I thought the “Mels” bit was really weak at first. Her entrance made me laugh, but because I immediately thought, “Oh, there’s River”, because that’s a real River entrance. But the character was pretty annoying, first off. Second, I wasn’t fond of the whole “lifelong best friend” completely out of nowhere. I will admit it makes SENSE, though. If a timeline is changed, e.g. Melody is dumped back in Leadworth as a child, you WOULD think she’s been a lifelong friend, and the Doctor DID question her about not being at the wedding. So yes, Mels was annoying, but I think it was pretty well placed.

    I DID like that she grew up with Amy, though. I think it wasn’t in case the Doctor came back, but more so she could learn about him and Amy, and feed on that obsession. Why she didn’t warm up to him, I don’t know. Brainwashing vs life experience… but if she spent so many formative years with Pond I think it would have overcome the hatred she’s had instilled in her. Perhaps that’s why she switches sides so quickly. (Although I think with fanatics, once you crack their foundation, they usually switch sides pretty quick. I didn’t find her sudden change of heart odd at all).

    I completely disagree with the Silence in the Library analysis. I don’t even see how it’s a question. She tells the Doctor the electric force will blow out both of his hearts. Unless she is lying–which is possible because she has told us that she will lose the will to live once she goes far enough in his past that he doesn’t know her–she as a Time Lady will be killed as well. Let’s assume the shock blows out both of her hearts and her subsequent regenerations are moot. To me, it was a nice gesture, but as the audience we know she won’t need those regenerations anyway. She will die later in this incarnation regardless.

    Is anyone else really annoyed at the whole “the Doctor will die!” plot? I mean… he’s going to get out of it. There will be a season 6, and Matt Smith will be the Doctor. They will never give him a death date for real, never kill the franchise. Also… remember the DW movie, when the Master is trying to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations? If River gave up all of hers to the Doctor… does that mean he just got himself an extra 10 regenerations?

  • I had originally thought “what a nice way to not jump the shark by putting an actual Shark in the Xmas episode” apparently the Lil Red Corvette is a harbinger of Shark !!!

    I HATED this episode !! first can we please just stop killing or almost killing the core 3–I am BORED WITH IT !!!

    2nd “Mels” feels like the “OLIVER” of the series—(que Jaws theme here)

    It s WHO so I truly am hoping that the shark has just grazed us here and while I might have a bit of road rash it the storyline will navigate back on track ASAP

  • I’m going to quibble with just one thing in this review (which I’ve been waiting for all day, by the way… Love your reviews, Kyle!): the idea that we now know *everything* about River. We still don’t know who it is she kills that gets her sent to prison… We were certainly led to think it’s the Doctor, but as Rory points out at the end of this ep., she may have killed the Doctor, but she also brought him back to life, and no one came to arrest her. It’s not the Doctor. My money’s on Rory (and of course I’m not the first fan to come up with that idea). It will be the ultimate pay-off for the character who’s been killed so many times that it’s become a joke for the fans (and on the show too… Wasn’t he quipping in the preview for next week’s show about being killed yet again?) All the more guilt for the Doctor to feel once and however it finally happens. And it will be devastating too.

  • i dug the episode primarily for the fact that it continues to unwind the backward story of River and show the early stages of her relationship with the doctor (in the later stages?).

    also..didjall see the recent posts that moffat confirmed we’ll get a full season next season but just late? Woot!!!

  • “Mels” reminded me of Dawn from Buffy; we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief & accept that they’ve been there all along, because of how it’s integrated into the plot. I was amused at first, but still a bit wary, until she called Rory & Amy “mum & dad” & then I was completely on board (also, because unlike the rest of the internet; I knew nobody was ACTUALLY going to KILL Hitler. It’s called a red herring people; haven’t you ever watched an episode of the simpsons?)
    Besides finding out how the Doctor goes about avoiding that whole “fixed point in time” death he’s got waiting in Utah, most of my questions relate to the “silence” & this new “question” that needs asking.

    SPOILERS: The answer is 42

  • We didn’t hear of Mels before because she didn’t exist in the timeline, as shown, until after the Doctor set about having all of her babysitters killed on sight by every human on Earth with a television and thus ruining Madame K’s Plan A.

  • Despite this episode’s real title, I’ll forever refer to it as “The Doctor Meets Dave.”

    *for those who don’t get it, Meet Dave was the Eddie Murphy movie about mini people in a human sized robot.*

  • I had a lot of the same problems with this episode as I did with a good man goes to war, and that is that everything just seemed to happen all of a sudden…
    All of a sudden there is an army to fight the doctor and all of a sudden there are alien allies we have never seen…
    So now all of a sudden we have Amy anr rorerys childhood friend who is all of a sudden there child…
    This episode is the new low point of the season for me, behind Black Spot. Not because it is bad, but because it is such a let down.

  • Rory really is the best. He got some great one-liners this go round!

    One thing I didn’t like: The whole Hitchhikers Guide “What is the question?” mystery. Really blatant ripoff, and I wonder how they’ll get out of that comparison.

  • I thought it was ingenious that Moffatt made us think it was about the Doctor, Amy and Rory going after Hitler, but secretly was making him a plot device so it would be about dealing with a brainwashed River.

    Also, the episode had some surprise cameo appearances – sort of…

  • I think the the killing Hitler bit was because it’s such a metaphorical question when one has access to a time machine for the first time. Even Sarah Silverman’s show tackled it. I can forgive this because it was such a great episode. I totally called the character named Mels as River after A good man goes to war.

  • @Jillian – I was wondering the same thing! Ok, so she went to school with her mom and dad and grew up alongside them. Did noone ever think to ask where her parents were?

    Also, how the hell did she go from being a little girl during the Nixon administration to an elementary school student in the (presumably) eighties? On a different continent. After spending years in that freaky orphanage in Florida no less.

  • Agreed on all accounts. My big question was, who was raising Mels during her childhood? Stupid thing to focus on, but that’s the kind of minutiae that bugs me.

  • Good, so I wasn’t the only one who felt cheated by the whole “Mels” thing. I also felt Hitler was completely superfluous to the entire episode. They could have saved him for a seperate episode and made it so much more awesome.

  • Actually Rivers death in Forest of the Dead would have occured even if she had still been able to regenerate. As she is about to connect the switch she says that The Doctor would die completely, and not be able to regenerate, and she gives up her life for his, as they have too many times together still to come (in his timeline, that is)

  • “I just think the entire ‘Mels’ thing was a way of making it so they can stop looking for baby Melody.”
    Of course it was– thankfully.
    Now we can whisk about time and space for a while without fretting over her early life and Amy’s (undoubtedly) complex emotional state.