Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Doctor Who 6.08: "Let's Kill Hitler"

“Okay. I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.”

“Let’s Kill Hitler,” the premiere of the second half of series 6 of “Doctor Who” was a typically overly complex Stephen Moffat-penned episode. Moffat tends to throw everything and the kitchen sink in to his episodes, much more so since he has become showrunner, and this episode was no exception. There were so many different beginnings of ideas milling about that the episode as a whole doesn’t really stand up when you think about it too much. That being said, it was an incredibly entertaining episode to watch as long as you don’t stop to analyze it too deeply. There was a lot of energy, and there were also a lot of fun references, both to the show’s past and to other classic British (and American, too) genre fiction. I greatly enjoyed all of that. I think I especially liked that because I don’t find that Moffat, in his tenure as head writer, has referenced events of the Russell T. Davies era of the show as much as I would like. Now, I’m not one of those who believes that a lack of references means there is a feud between the writers, and I do understand a potential desire to put one’s own stamp on a creative project. However, I’m a huge fan of the Russell T. Davies era of “Doctor Who” (minus a few questionable runs of episodes in series 3), and I like to see what I like respected and treasured as much as I treasure it. Because of that, I’m glad there were major references to that era in this episode. It made me feel appreciated as a fan.

The thing that really struck me from the get-go about this episode was the direction (or was it the cinematography? I really have to brush up on my film production terminology!). The visuals, especially in the beginning of the episode, were really lovely. We begin with the shot of a wheat field below a very blue sky, and it instantly made me think of my all-time favorite show, “Pushing Daisies,” and it’s similar beautiful, colorful visuals. This connection was reinforced for me with a flashback sequence we also got near the beginning of the episode, showing how Mels (who we’ll meet shortly) fit into the early lives of Amy and Rory. I half expected the Narrator to start counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds since Amy and Rory had last seen their friend. Alas, that never happened. Amy and Rory were driving through the field, trying to get the Doctor’s attention by writing out “Doctor” in crop circles. When they get back to the middle of the “o,” they see the TARDIS.

Just as they’re all catching up, a sports car roars towards them. I half expected it to be River because of the drama of the entrance (and I sort-of turned out to be right), but a young woman named Mels gets out of the car instead. Amy says she was her and Rory’s best friend when they were all growing up. And the police are after Mels. In a series of flashbacks (already alluded to), we see that this is nothing new for Mels. We see her getting in trouble at school, both elementary school and high school (or whatever the British equivalents are) for saying that certain events in history happened because the Doctor couldn’t prevent them. You see, Amy spent their childhood telling Mels her stories about her Raggedy Doctor. We also see Amy bailing her out of jail. And we see her getting Rory and Amy together by helping Amy realize that Rory isn’t gay. In her haste to have her friends help her escape the police using the TARDIS, Mel accidentally shoots the TARDIS console, and now the TARDIS is careening out of control. Mels and the Doctor arguing over this most definitely made me laugh.

In 1938 Germany, we’re introduced to this odd sort of robot that can change forms into different people. It’s operated by a crew of people who have been miniaturized, and they work from a control center that looks quite similar to the bridge of the original Enterprise from “Star Trek.” We see the robot impersonate a fairly high-ranking Nazi, and after the impersonation takes place, the actual Nazi is beamed inside the robot. There, “antibodies,” which actually look like creepy electronic jellyfish) kill the Nazi. The robot, using this form as a disguise, is then able to enter Hitler’s office. The robot freezes Hitler (with a freeze ray…tell your friends), and just as some torture is presumably about to start, the TARDIS crashes right into Hitler’s office and stops the robot. The Doctor hustles everyone out of the TARDIS because Mels’ shot has produced “deadly smoke.” They’re very confused by the robot, because at first it appears to be injured, then it’s fine. They’re also quite skeeved by meeting Hitler, and the Doctor assures Hitler that saving his life was most definitely an accident. Hitler starts trying to shoot the robot, but Rory punches him out. I’m loving this new, kickass Rory that we really started to see in “A Good Man Goes to War.” The Doctor has Rory put Hitler in a cupboard, which was also very amusing.

Turns out that Hitler is a bad shot, and instead of shooting the robot, he shot Mels. It turns out that Mels is actually Melody Pond, and as we’ve already seen, she can regenerate. And she regenerates into none other than Alex Kingston, which means we get the River Song we all know and love. Sort of. This version of her is brand new and doesn’t even know who “River” is. She still acts like a willful teenager, and a psychopath to boot. To make matters worse, the Justice robot is after her for killing the Doctor in Utah. In the future. She was raised to kill him, after all. She tries to fulfill her programing with guns a few times, but the Doctor is a step ahead of her. She kisses him before she leaves to go wreak havoc on Berlin, and the kiss turns out to be poisonous.

Realizing he’s in big trouble, the Doctor runs into the TARDIS, despite the deadly smoke, and Rory and Amy decide to follow Mels. It’s a good thing her parents are following her, because she’s causing a lot of trouble. She uses her regeneration energy to knock out a bunch of soldiers and steal their motorcycle and guns. Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose, Rory steals another motorcycle to follow her. I love that Rory acts very Arthur Dent from “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” in this scene. Amy asks him if he can actually ride a motorcycle, and he replies “I expect so. It’s that sort of day.” I can just picture Arthur Dent saying something like that with the same tone of voice. If the entertainment Powers that Be ever decide to remake H2G2 again (keep in mind, I love the Martin Freeman movie, too), Arthur Davrill should definitely be at the top of the casting list. Anyway, the Justice Robot crew of “tiny cross people” as the Doctor puts it decides to follow too, and they make their own motorcycle to do it. Two of the crew members look at the doctors file and discover that his death in Utah is a confirmed fixed point. As Ten explained in the series 4 episode “Fires of Pompeii,” there are certain events in time that cannot be rewritten. Something tells me Moffat and company are going to get around that rule by the time this arc is done.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor asks for a verbal interface. The first attempt at an interface looks like himself, and in a very insightful moment, the Doctor asks the TARDIS to change it to someone he likes. He then cycles through images of Rose, Martha, and Donna, but they all give him too much guilt to be comforting while he’s dying. I found it fitting that seeing Donna gave him the most guilt, considering he had to take away everything she had become to save her life. Finally, the Doctor settles on an image of young Amelia Pond before he messed up her life by keeping her waiting for so long. The interface says that the Doctor is going to die in 32 minutes, regeneration has been disabled, and there is no cure for the poison. Clearly, the situation is dire. The Doctor can’t even seem to stand up anymore, and he begs the interface for something to keep him going. In a brief second of humanity, it says “fish fingers and custard,” and that is enough to get him up and moving again.

Amy and Rory are still looking for Mels, and when they see people screaming as they run out of a fancy dress party in their underwear, they think they have a pretty good idea of where to find her. That got a little chuckle out of me, I’ll admit. The Justice Robot pulls up beside them, and they see that she has turned into Amy. Which is kinda creepy. Inside the reception hall, Mels is admiring herself in the mirror as she tries on clothes the party guests left behind. It reminds me of when the Lady Cassandra possessed the Tenth Doctor in the early series 2 episode “New Earth.” I think Alex was definitely channeling David Tennant’s performance there. Mels is greeted only by Justice Robot Amy, though, because the actual Rory and Amy have been miniaturized and brought inside the robot to speak with the crew. The antibodies start to go after them, but they’re saved in the nick of time by a Justice department worker putting privileges bracelets on them.

The robot shoots the freeze ray at Mels and, as one would expect, she freezes. Then the Doctor stumbles of out the TARDIS and demands information. Because Amy is Mels’ mother, she has privileges that will let her access the information. The robot then explains that Mels was turned into a killing machine by the Silence, which is an order that believes that when the Ultimate Question is discovered, silence will fall. Of course, when the Doctor asks the robot what the question is, the reply is “Unknown.” Any good Douglas Adams/H2G2 fan can tell you that! But the answer to the question is 42, of course. The Silence are essentially kind of like the mice in H2G2, but a little more homicidal. The Justice crew explains that they find really bad people near the end of their natural timelines and “give them Hell.” They start to do so to Mels, and she’s in horrible pain. The Doctor tells Amy to put a stop to it, and using some quick thinking, Amy does so by disabling everyone’s privileges. This leads the crew to shut down the robot (which stops the torture), but it also leads them to request an emergency beam-out. Amy and Rory are the only people left, and the antibodies want them dead. The Doctor desperately tries to help them, but he can’t really move.

Mels is impressed that the Doctor still wants to help his friends, and she ends up saving her parents using the TARDIS. The TARDIS taught Mels to fly because Mels is a “Child of the TARDIS,” which I thought was a pretty cool way of putting it. Now that everyone is back outside the Amy Justice Robot, the Doctor asks to speak to Mels. He gives her a message for River, which completely changes her demeanor. Mels asks Rory and Amy who River is, and Amy uses the robot to show River. As she looks back at her own image, Mels realizes that she’s River. She then makes the decision to use her regeneration energy to save the Doctor. She wakes up later in hospital, and Amy says she used up all her regenerations. I think this is a little unfortunate, because it cuts off a lot of potential ways in which River’s story could go. What I like better is that the Doctor gives her the TARDIS journal as a sort of get well gift. Amy and Rory seem strangely okay with leaving their daughter to become River and find her way back to them again someday. I think this is my biggest problem with the episode, really. I can’t imagine a new parent (or any parent) being okay with that.

Meanwhile, the Doctor downloaded data from the Justice Robot, and he now knows his death will take place in Utah, and he also knows the circumstances of that death. He hides that knowledge from Amy and Rory, though. So they know about the death, but they don’t know he knows. This could get really freaking complicated. The final scene of the episode is Mels enrolling in archaeology school, presumably to give her a way to find the Doctor again. She’s now fully on the path towards becoming River Song, and she’s looking for “a good man.”

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