Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's Kill Hitler

27/08/11 “Let’s Kill Hitler”
Melody Pond/River Song: Are you serious?
The Doctor: Never knowingly.

If you subscribe to the idea that successful drama confirms and subverts expectations, as I do, then your opinion of “Let’s Kill Hitler” might have been as mixed as mine. Very few of my expectations were confirmed and instead most were wildly subverted—sometimes in a way that dazzled me with the audacity of it, but mostly in a way that left me shaking my head with the thought of lost opportunities. Let’s look at the most obvious element: the title. Plenty of Doctor Who has dealt even superficially with this theme, and in a less obvious but quite thematically-linked way, so has the short story “Categorical Imperative,” in which successive versions of the Doctor kept coming to a coronation to kill a child he knew would grow up to be a monster, but each time he couldn’t do it. So if you were expecting some kind of moral dilemma for the Doctor along the lines of “Genesis of the Daleks,” you were proved wrong. Or if you were expecting some kind of 1930s caper of supernatural dimensions, à la The Scarifyers, you were proved wrong, too. The setting was more or less incidental; there was one scene of terrified Berliners fleeing in their underwear from a café (which for some reason was playing Pachebel?!) which very much reminded me of The Master and Margarita. If you like that kind of history-lite, then you’ll have been satisfied. Certainly “The Girl in the Fireplace” was rather of that genre, and while I thought it held together much better than this did, it introduced a historical setting without making that setting the be-all and end-all in the way many Doctor Who pseudo-historicals do. (“The Empty Child” / “The Doctor Dances” I would certainly argue was much more connected to its setting.) I have mixed feelings about “The Girl in the Fireplace,” as you won’t be surprised to learn. But you certainly have to admire Moffatt circumventing the constraints of the genre (ie budget). (I have to confess to being quite distracted by the use of the Brangwyn Hall and Temple of Peace as filming locations again.)

On to the futuristic tessellating doppelgangers, the Justice Department vehicles. As I said to Jamie, the Master must be really pissed off that someone has stolen his tissue compression gun; equally, the idea owes much to the comic strip “The Deep Hereafter,” and “The Invisible Enemy” (again, I’m sorry to say, not one of my favorite Doctor Who stories). But, let’s be fair: it’s another one of Moffatt’s solid ideas, because it takes something that fascinates kids. At first, I was quite excited: I thought these might be Time Agents. When it was revealed they were in fact searching out war criminals throughout time and space I quite liked the idea of the Doctor being equated with Hitler, just as Davros brought to light the Doctor’s less savory achievements. I may not have liked “Waters of Mars” very much, but it did take that comparison one step further, which is significant. I liked the idea that the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and “Mels” saved Hitler’s life by accident, and you have to admire a show that locks Hitler away in a cupboard to transact its business, rather than physically or even verbally assaulting him: triumph but taking away his arena and literally sidelining him. Jamie made the interesting suggestion that since I had written a fan fic about Donna in the toilets for nine hours during “Partners in Crime,” I could do the same for this situation. I honestly thought it was going to become a plot point: Hitler was going to overhear something crucial and upon his escape, alter the course of history (though perhaps he did, if you look at the concurrent plot lines in Torchwood though that was set in 1928 (1) ). This may yet be another trick up the Vast Toffee’s sleeve; I hope it is, otherwise it does make rather an anti-climax.

You know, I was honestly thinking that Mels was another Captain Jack character resurrected out of the ether to fulfill the gun-wielding purpose, and how lazy, but I really should have realized what was going on. Let’s just say that River Song is irritating in any incarnation (except perhaps as Jefferson Adams Hamilton little girl)—I have moments when I like her, but my first assessment still perhaps accurately registers my mood. Okay, perhaps her excuse is, as she herself says, “I’m a psychopath, I’m not rude.” I was enraged when suddenly this Mels character was introduced into the narrative, stitched in like some convenient revision who was supposed to be Amy and Rory’s “best mate,” and I’m still not happy with its introduction, unless she has only existed in the rewritten post-Crack timeline. Ouch, my head hurts already. The only enjoyment derived out of those flashbacks was Rory’s insistence that he wasn’t gay. I loved the precedent Mels/Melody/River’s regeneration set; perhaps Paterson Joseph will be the next Doctor.

I guess River/Melody’s behavior upon regeneration wasn’t that dissimilar from Romana II’s, who wanted to try on not only outfit in the house, but try out every species and body type. Nevertheless, when River was enjoying being more “mature” in her body, I was thinking she was becoming completely the opposite. Quite frankly, with her poisonous lipstick (Judas tree? Is that related to Janus thorn?) she felt like a larger-than-life comics villain, Poison Ivy for example, which is fine if you’re in the mood for that. I couldn’t get behind it 100%, I’m afraid. I’m guessing post-Time War regeneration has given Time Lords (well, just the Doctor and the Master) interesting new powers during their “regenerational cycle,” which used to be characterized by stress and mood swings, now full of hand-growing and vortex energy.

The Doctor, who for some unexplained reason was not wearing his normal tweed but a slightly more 1930s-type frock coat of brown leather, crawled into the TARDIS, dying, and proceeded to have a rather repetitive argument with the TARDIS-generated ghost of Young Amelia (a voice interface). The Doctor had to get guilt piled upon him with the successive images of Rose, Martha, and Donna (“there must be someone in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet”). (It would have been interesting if the TARDIS—ie Idris from before—had appeared!) I can’t keep buying this “regeneration disabled” bit. For me personally, this just have the Doctor the excuse to appear in his snazzy ‘20s tails, tie, and top hat. We at last get some insight into what River Song might have whispered to the Doctor in “Silence in the Library,” things get a bit “Parting of the Ways,” and River/Melody imparts her remaining regenerations to the Doctor to save him (though strictly speaking shouldn’t he regenerate?). In 5123 we get some insight into why River took up archaeology, the Doctor leaves her a present in the form of a TARDIS diary, and I’d like to think (and am fairly sure) that Moffatt has this all worked out in a timeline meticulously. But . . . eh.

The revelation of the Silence as a religious cult rather than a species reminded me more than ever of the language used thus far into Torchwood regarding who “they” are who knew enough to pre-empt PhiCorp, “they” who persuaded world governments to build ovens, etc. It would be interesting if they all knitted together, but frankly I can’t see how they could do so without some overlap which might confuse and/or alienate viewers of one show or the other.

1 comment:

Aya Vandenbussche said...


First I'd like to say, that though I disagree in parts, I really enjoyed reading this it was quite enlightening.

It seems to me that your main complaint is regarding the lack of use of the historical time they were in. I understand why you wouldn't like it, but I think the time and place were not the main issue but rather serving a point there was to make. Considering where we were left before the break, I thought it was fair enough.

As for River, the way you describe her in this episode sits very well, for me, with the fact that that is her after her regeneration. I think the mixed feelings come from the fact that unlike the Doctor who is new to us as well as to himself when he regenerates, we already know at least to a certain extant, River, we know about her more than she knows about herself. It was very natural to me that she would be quite childish, it is what I liked about her, in this episode, she is still Mels, not yet River. I think this is why people may get mixed feelings about her or get annoyed. Maybe I'm wrong, but for me it was fun to watch.

I agree however that Mels was somewhat neglected, and I like the way she suddenly appears in Amy's life. It fits my general feelings that her life are constantly being rewritten and I enjoy watching that, it lessens my dislike for her very problematic character. I do, however, agree that there wasn't enough of Mels and her introduction was a bit neglectful. But I'd like to believe, that just like the little girl in the astronaut suit, this is not yet the last we've seen of Mels. I hope so anyway.