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.
“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.