Doctor Who 6.08 – Let’s Kill Hitler

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Richard Senior

After summoning The Doctor to find out how goes his search for Melody Pond, Amy, Rory, and The Doctor find themselves hijacked by Mels, childhood friend of Amy and Rory.  The destination: Germany 1939. 

"Ah, but I knew you would replace the gun with a banana so I went back in time and had the man who GREW the banana genetically engineer a banana gun..."

 “And the penny drops.”

Oh, where to begin.  Let’s start with the positives.  I really, really wanted to love this.  Is it truly a positive if I’m appealing to my own good intentions?  Probably not.  Regardless, I don’t want to spend my reviews of Moffatt-Who talking about how the show isn’t as good as it once was or how we are now watching spectacle rather than actual drama.  I’m afraid that if I complain about the show too much that I will be forced to decide whether or not to keep reviewing it.  I’d certainly hate for people who read this blog  to say “why do you even watch the show if you don’t like it?”  But after Let’s Kill Hitler, I feel more excited that this block of episodes has more non-Moffat stories.

Sorry, let’s start again.  I loved seeing Amelia Pond again and thought the flashbacks were quite fun.  The scene where Amy accuses Rory of being gay was amusing.  Sure, the scenes screamed retcon and you knew that Mels would be important in some way, but they were fun enough to make me dismiss the obvious.  I liked the robot.  I liked the idea of a group of time travelers feeling some sort of temporal obligation to bring judgement upon war criminals.  It is an interesting idea that, on its own, could have created a compelling story that gave rise to questions about justice or vengeance, and whether or not punishing “dead people” (as the Doctor accused them) is entirely ethical, and where does The Doctor come off criticizing them anyway?  Yes, good idea and good potential.

But instead, we have River Song.  Instead we have a type of conclusion to the long-running River Song arc.  The first reaction to this episode was that it was quite abrupt.  Sure, in real-time, we have been waiting all summer to discover how The Doctor’s search for Melody Pond went.  But imagine the future, when people sit down to watch series six on DVD.  In this future scenario, the amount of time that passes between episodes  is only as long as it takes to switch your DVD.  Thus, you find out that River is Melody, then about three minutes later you get Melody Pond, super weapon, killing The Doctor and running amuck in Nazi Germany.  As much as I’ve been concerned about the story-arc’s affect on the pacing of series six, I think that this episode kills all the dramatic tension of the search and what happened to Melody between her time in the space suit and her time in this episode.  It is possible that Moffatt is planning more “timey-wimey” storytelling, but I’m not sure he is and, quite frankly, I think it is becoming increasingly unnecessary.  More often than not his scripts are less about telling a good story than they are about being clever and having funny dialogue.  They are about keeping the audience on their toes and tricking us, confusing us, pulling the rug out from under us.  Moffatt is obviously having a lot of fun, and that is great, but I’m starting to wonder if he is telling good stories, or just showing us cool set-pieces and giving us clever dialogue.

Melody Pond is supposed to have been raised as a super-weapon.  She is supposed to kill The Doctor.  And yet, all it takes is one meeting between the two of them for The Doctor to break her programming?  She kills him then saves his life just because he is interesting?  I suppose it is possible that we will revisit this idea, that perhaps she really will “kill” The Doctor and that her conditioning hasn’t quiet been broken yet.  But on the topic of death . . . .

My second realization was that regeneration is becoming a magic wand, and that regeneration itself is being completely neutered as a concept.  Sure, The Doctor can’t really die because practically: the show would end, and he can regenerate into a new body and have a new personality.  But that new body and personality mean that regeneration is a type of death and an old friend is gone.  But over the course of Cymru Who’s existence, we have found that wounds incurred during the first few hours of regeneration will heal, Time Lord body parts can absorb regeneration energy and thus negate the need for regeneration, regeneration energy can give someone super-powers which allow them to fly and shoot lightening from his or her hands, and, finally, that another Time Lord (or Time Lord-Human hybrid) can channel regeneration energy to heal the wounds of another Time Lord, possibly burning out remaining regenerations in the process.  This was the explanation for why River Song didn’t regenerate in Forest of The Dead, and I understand that.  But it also means that death in Doctor Who is even more meaningless.  I’m sorry, but where I’m concerned, Melody using her remaining regenerations to save The Doctor is a cheat.  I was half-expecting the revelation that The Doctor was a Ganger and, frankly, I would have found that more interesting.  How many Doctors are running around out there?  Why did The Doctor send a Ganger instead of arriving himself?  But no.  Magic wand.

All this said, I’m glad that we seem to be filling in the gaps of the arcs that have been with us since Moffatt took over the show (well, since series four, technically).  While this episode failed to excite me to Doctor Who’s return, I am happy that Moffatt’s name will not be appearing on very many episodes in the next few weeks.  As The Doctor said near the end of Day of the Moon, I’m ready for adventures.  I’m ready for something not so arc-driven.  I’m ready to see something new and different, anywhere in time and space.  I want to see something imaginative.  I certainly hope I’m not asking too much.

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10 thoughts on “Doctor Who 6.08 – Let’s Kill Hitler

  1. I agree, regeneration does seem to work like a magic wand lately. And they seem to make use of it all the time. Doctor loses an arm, the ability to hold of regenerating and now this. Though, to be fair the ability to transfer the remaining regenerations has been used before. I.E. Mawdryn, the Master & the Valeyard (the Master and Valeyard both attempted this). I thought the use of Amy’s one time friend turning out to be her daughter very clever. Though the misdirection of who people are, is getting a bit tiresome. As for River being able to kill the Doctor with a kiss, agreed – very unlikely. Why didn’t the Doctor dispel the toxin as he’s show the ability to do before? (See the Agatha Christie story).

    Also, I’m rather glad the story didn’t focus more on Hitler as the title might have suggested, surely a better title for that episode could have been devised. Over all I liked the episode and look forward to watching it again, though I completely agree the story arc within the season should be much softer than it really is. This isn’t Lost and I’m hoping we see more ‘stand alone’ stories. When the entire series is so intertwined, it’s so much harder to try and get anyone interested in the program invested without making them watch hours of back stories. At least the older series you could jump in almost anywhere.

    • Having recently re-watched The Tenth Planet, I find it amusing that regeneration was such an amazing, mind-bending, unexpected thing. This year, however, it is all becoming a bit run-of-the-mill. I almost imagine fans who grew up with Hartnell chastising fans who are growing up with Tennant and Smith. “Back in my day, The Doctor couldn’t regenerate willy-nilly. We didn’t know what regeneration was and we were fine!”

  2. “This was the explanation for why River Song didn’t regenerate in Forest of The Dead”

    No, even if she’d had regenerations left she would still have died there. Because she said this was something the Doctor couldn’t regenerate from either.

  3. I also agree regarding the point about regeneration. It was a bit shaky when Romana did it and could change shape, but now it does seem to be a big way out for many plots.

    You could almost say that this magic whuffle dust Time Lord/TARDIS easy way out of a terrible situation has really been around since the ’96 movie. And that’s no excuse!

    Watching it a second time is better, but it was a little rushed. While story arcs can be satisfying, I too am looking forwrd to some great standalone stories, especially if they have a slightly more sinister touch.

    • Definitely rushed. There are still some moments that I love, despite my criticisms. So many of the scenes with young Amelia Pond (both real and voice interface) are great. The scene where Amy realizes Rory is not gay was fun as well.

      Looking forward to the next episode. Mark Gatiss can be hit or miss with me and I’m hoping this one is a hit. Honestly, so long as it is arc-lite, I think I’ll be happy.

  4. ‘We have been here before…’

    An interesting fact, often overlooked, is that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

    For those of us who remember the real series, back in the 1980’s ‘Dr Who’ faced this problem before, when John Nathan-Turner was appointed as producer of the show. Storylines became increasingly absurd, because of his burning desire to be a light entertainment producer, rather than a drama producer. And because no one else wanted to produce the show, he was allowed a free reign by his bosses, and he ran the show off the rails.

    Back then, we were asking why we bothered to watch rubbish like ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘The Happiness Patrol’, and we were embarrassed by the horrors of dreadfully fake-looking monsters, fresh from pantoland, in ‘Warriors of the Deep’.

    We were asking why we kept watching the show, when we didn’t really like it, for most of the Colin Baker era.

    The best writers and directors had retired; some had even died over the 26 years that the show was on the air. Great writers such as Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, Dennis Spooner, Terry Nation, Robert Holmes, Malcolm Hulke, Bob Baker and Dave Martin – and terrific directors such as Duggie Camfield and David Maloney – proved too hard an act to follow.

    JNT was an object lesson in the dangers of allowing one man to run the show for too long, 9 years in his case – between 1980 and 1989. He did his best work with Peter Davison, the first actor he cast in the part, and ran out of fresh ideas after that.

    A show can survive the occasional turkey such as ‘The Dominators’ or ‘Horms of Nimon’; but you can’t re-make ‘Vengeance on Varos’ week-after-week without losing your audience.

    This problem with Steve Moffatt may seem like a new phenomenon to you; but, believe me, ‘Dr Who’ has been there before.

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