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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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  1. Erik Elness says:

    I, too, was initially annoyed at Mels’ “Poochie-ness.” But it works much better upon second viewing. It’s actually quite a genius joke on Moffat’s part: We never saw Mels before because she wasn’t there before. She inserted herself into Amy and Rory’s lives, and while they don’t realize it, The Doctor does.

  2. Sparker says:

    @magnoliafan we know for a fact Mel is the girl from before. Simply because she states before she regenerates that the last time it happened she was in New York.

  3. Sara says:

    I agree with your first point that introducing Mels now abruptly seemed like a cop-out, but not your second point of why on earth does Mels want to kill Hitler. I think that’s one of those standard answers when asked “what would you do with a time machine?” people say “I want to go back in time and kill Hitler.” So I thought that was understandably in-character for most humans, even a psychotic one with a gun.

    With the hurricane knocking out most of the power in my area, I had to run around to Panera and Starbucks and finally my friend’s place to download the episode from Amazon and watch it! And it was so worth it! So many things to love, not the least of which is Rory being a BAMF. Sigh. If only my electricity can come back so I can rewatch the episode again!!!!!!!!!! (Still hasn’t seen Friday’s Torchwood yet… probably not missing much. Besides, of couse, people sitting around talking! doh!)

  4. It’s frustrating to me that nobody’s mentioned one of the biggest reveals in this episode–how River learned to pilot the TARDIS. Since, of course, she said before that she’d had the best teacher (or was it the best pilot?) teach her how to fly the TARDIS back in The Time of Angels and the Doctor had assumed it was him, River said it wasn’t, so you figured that it would be another Time Lord (or an older version of the Doctor)–but it was the TARDIS herself. Which explains why River is so much better at piloting it than the Doctor seems to be.

    Just saying.

  5. Alicia says:

    This whole series seems difficult to explain. I’m just going to sit back and wait for shit to get real. That’s just how I cope with this show. I think I trust Moffat. And if nothing else, we’ve got amazing acting, and Rory. I am really enjoying Rory.

  6. Gallifrey says:

    Also, I don’t think Moffat does anything just for a plot convenience, he thinks way too far ahead. Supposedly he wrote the end to the series ages ago, so he’s had all of this planned for a very long time, and River is such a huge part of it all, that there is much more to her story. Mark my words, we don’t know everything about River yet. There is soooo much more to her. Look at all the “Imagine the Doctor showing up and just knowing everything about you, you can’t imagine what that would do to a girl.” I have learned to pay attention to the tiny things in the moffat version, they always seem to be super important.

  7. Gallifrey says:

    The whole Mels thing is I think going to be the future people going back and messing with time lines, not just a plot convenience, that was hinted at with the whole Doctor having never heard of her. She was conveniently missing during the atraxi thing. I believe the suit was moving of it’s own volition as was hinted at in the Day Of The Moon. They talked about the suit being able to move on it’s own. It was however somehow tied in with River and thus it is somehow her fault he died. Otherwise River couldn’t have been at the death with the Doctor being a paradox. Timey Wimey right?

  8. JMKILB says:

    It was difficult to kind of keep track of all that was going on during this episode at first at least. Mels I figured would have to have been Melody. the one thing my girlfriend caught was that they did the sitcom cop-out when Amy asked the Doctor where he’s been all summer. Fun, but still kind of a weak bridge.
    And how the hell did they get back to Leadworth after “A Good Man Goes To War?” they were stuck so far into the future unless afterwards River used the time vortex manipulator to get them home.
    But I do love the comparison to Dawn to Buffy as that she was wedged in there thanks to the possibiltiy of re writing time. I think why they re-generated Mels so quickly as they didn’t want to already insult the audience dragging out the fact that she was indeed River. It was tragic knowing when the Doctor places the diary by her bed side, I was also briefly expecting the nurses to be the cats from New Earth.

    I would love to get a dvd compilation of all her adventures *if they don’t have anymore coming up* from “Let’s Kill Hitler” being the beginning everything in between IN THE CORRECT TIME LINE to “Silence In The Library/Forest of The Dead.”

  9. Lincoln says:

    Well said my friend. My complaints and compliments exactly. I wanted more of those Antibodies. Those were cool/old school mechanicals.

  10. rune says:

    1) I I liked that Moffat choose lets kill Hitler in an episode filled with Mels trying to the doctor. To the silence and to a brainwashed Mels the doctor is pretty much Hitler.

    2) Someone pointed this out and i thought it was interesting:
    It’s shown at the end of LKH that the Doctor dies on 22/04/11 at 5.02pm
    In TIA the letters he sent to River/Amy&Rory/Canton/Himself asked them to be there on 22/04/11 at 4.30pm, 32 minutes before.

    In LKH, the voice interface of Amelia stated repeatedly that the Doctor had how long to live? 32 minutes exactly

  11. HK says:

    I really enjoyed the episode and found myself cheering when Rory punched Hitler.

    But, can I mention my favorite part of this episode? Little mopey Rory! So cute.

  12. atomicb says:

    The Mel scene that completely boggled my mind is one that hasn’t really been brought up here yet. When she invoked the Doctor to explain the Titanic, I seriously wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be brutally mocking Amelia or not. Then she did it again and I assumed that she was mentally damaged somehow. I suppose we can chalk this preoccupation up to the brainwashing, but at best she’s talking completely out of her ass about Amelia’s heavy, personal business and at worst is publicly dragging the whole thing into the dirt. Either way, I cannot imagine how young Amelia would be best friends with this person (or especially friends at all, for that matter). Poor writing, or did I completely misread something here?

  13. Dean says:

    There isn’t a “plot convencience” involved with River’s death. In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead it was pretty explicitly stated that if the Doctor sacrificed himself in her place it would have killed him outright, with no regeneration. So even if she could regenerate at that point she would have still died herself.

    Gripe aside, I think I more or less agree.

  14. Magnoliafan says:

    Kyle, you’re really doing a lot of assuming in this recap. And you’re drawing a lot of premature conclusions about events and characters even though we haven’t seen everything play out yet.

    You assume Mels is Melody Pond’s second regeneration? Really, and you’re just taking for granted that the little girl that regenerates at the end of “Day of the Moon” is actually Melody. Even if she is, why would you assume that she regenerated into Mels? We don’t see what happened. The only thing that you can say for certain is that girl is in New York around the year 1969.

    Let’s say that the little girl and Mels are one and the same. She escaped from her captors at the end of “Day of the Moon.” The space suit was designed to raise her and once she’s out of it that little girl is pretty much on her own in New York. Korvian is nothing more than an observer to what happens in 1969.

    If her captors have no way of controlling her once she escapes, then why not train her into taking a course that will positively lead her to the Doctor. And what’s the best way of accomplishing that? Have her grow up with her parents Amy and Rory.

    By the way, what the hell happened in between 1969 up to the present date? That’s a giant gap in the timeline that Moffat seems to be purposely keeping from us.

    Add to that an introduction of a “new” character in Mels, who the Doctor doesn’t remember ever meeting? The best friend who wasn’t even at the wedding?

    I mean does Moffat have to make it totally obvious as to what going on? Time can be rewritten. The only thing that can’t is the Doctor’s death at the lake. I think they made that plenty clear in this episode. So maybe, just maybe, instead of a cop out as you put it Mels is actually a recent addition to the Amy and Rory’s timeline.

  15. Chad H says:

    Ugh, so many negative Nancys, just enjoy the show for what it is, entertainment.

  16. Old Doctor says:

    I liked the wacky concepts introduced in this story but I can’t help but wonder if I were to work for a hyper diligent justice league that uses awesome tech would I install a security system that politely kills you if you fall of the authorization list. Come-on is employee fidelity that untrustworthy?

  17. Kevin* says:

    For a brief, brief instant I thought the Doctor could actually die, since River was a Time Lord piloting the TARDIS — River could have taken the name and been the Doctor. I mean, that wouldn’t have made sense since the actual Doctor was supposed to die in Utah, but it went through my head.

    While thinking about how the Doctor could retrieve River from the Library using the Flesh, I got a nice idea; the Doctor saved River’s consciousness in the screw driver he gave her, so perhaps this could be the case with dead Utah Doctor. He could be saved like a data ghost and put into a regenerating Flesh body, go back and do the same for River, and everybody has their regenerations back. Yay!
    Ok, so that doesn’t make sense for various reasons and was basically masturbatory theory that people have already thought of. Oh, well. Guess I’ll post anyway.

  18. Anita says:

    Loved the episode! Rory and River were great, Alex Kingston is fantastic! I honestly didn’t realize Mels was River before the reveal, pretty cool! Rory needs his own episode!

  19. joe anon says:

    shouldn’t Hitler have had a luger?

    @mike agreed, he was not even sure untill recently that river was going to be their child.

  20. kyle morgan says:

    Another fantastic review it should have been called throw hitler in the closet. Good luck with that torchwood review

  21. ryan says:


  22. ryan says:

    @pamela i wasnt disturbed by this the pre-river regeneration or lack of regeneration was superficial and childish so it was in character to act like that. When time lords regenerate they dont even know what kind of person they are, when the doctor turned into Tennet he said something about he doesnt know what kind of man he is and mentioned the planet “Barbados” , the planet rose and him were talking about before he regenerated. So if river was thinking about weight and dress size it makes seance she would do what ever she was thinking last

  23. Magnoliafan says:

    Why would you be disturbed? It’s an obvious take on Romana’s regeneration scene where we see her try different bodies as well as dresses.

    It points back to the fact Time Lords can influence or control how the new body looks like during the regeneration process.

  24. Pamela says:

    One of the first items on River’s agenda once she regenerates- run to a scale. And “I’m concentrating on a dress size.” Anyone else really disturbed by this? Moffat continues to disappoint this season.

  25. mechas8n says:

    More to the point. Did the doctor just get saved by the regeneration energy or was that him getting a whole new set of regenerations?

  26. Chris says:

    LETS KILL HITLER, comes from Melodies rational that WWII happened because The Doctor wasn’t around to stop it. It’s kind of childish, but that’s the point. Melody is a child. Raised for one purpose. I believe this episode confirms that Melody kills The Doctor in Utah.

    Can anyone coraborate that last idea?

  27. Mike says:

    I feel like the more traditional Doctor Who strategy would have been getting to know the “Mels” character over the course of several episodes, perhaps half a season while she assists in the search for the child. Then, after being lulled into a sense of security, we find out that she’s actually River. Even the Master was only revealed after spending an entire episode as a different character. I think River’s “wow” reveal deserved more than 5-10 throwaway minutes of setup.

  28. Sarah says:

    I think that “Mels” sends up with Rory and Amy fir 2 reasons. I think that deep down she wanted to be with her parents and she knew that she would need to get close to the Doctir to kill him. She kew that she would not be able to lie in wait and just pop out and kill the Doctor. It was a little convient but I thought of it like someone else stated, like Dawn from Buffy. Plus it is scfi, you learn to expect things popping up out of nowhere.

  29. Scott S says:

    The Doctor was killed by the astronaut because he was still regenerating when he gets shot again, but when River gets shot after she’s already regenerated she’s made invincible.

    Why didn’t they show Adric while they were showing companions that the Doctor feels guilty about? I wish they went beyond the current version of the show more often, they act like nothing happened before most of the time, but now and then they toss in something for the old-timers.

    The question thing made me think about Hitchhiker’s too, and while this episode had a more whimsical feel it didn’t strike me as good as the Douglas Adams episodes with Tom Baker.

    And not completely related to this episode, the specials were called “The Best of the Doctor, Monsters, an Companions,” but they only dealt with the current regeneration. I’m not totally sure what the point of such limited specials was, with seemingly all-encompassing titles. It was nice to see Whovians dressed as most of the doctors (I don’t think I saw Jon Pertwee or Sylvester McCoy,) but why does a channel that calls itself BBC have so goddamn many commercials?

  30. JOecuffe says:

    I want to be the first to say this…

    The Doctor killed in the Impossible Astronaut will turn out to be his ganger!

    For the record.

  31. Magnoliafan says:

    I love the fact they worked in another reference to The Graduate. Isn’t the last episode this season about the wedding of River Song? I think it would be pretty funny if they managed to do a variation of the finale to the film.

  32. whitemage says:

    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?

  33. redsonja1313 says:

    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

  34. Doug says:

    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.

  35. Three Toes of Fury says:

    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!!!

  36. Aj says:

    “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

  37. Evan says:

    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.

  38. Mike says:

    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.*

  39. 2WheelTimelord says:

    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.

  40. miriam says:

    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.

  41. CXRengel says:

    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…

  42. Chad H says:

    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.

  43. sandchigger says:

    @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.

  44. Mike says:

    This episode got out of control, not entirely in a good way. I’m starting to fear that Stephen Moffat is drifting more into shock value over substance.

  45. Moffat comes up with brilliant concepts, but his execution and exposition are generally weak, as are his character scenes/emotional depictions…RTD was just BETTER at that, sorry…

  46. Jillian says:

    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.

  47. Jennifer says:

    Thank you! Couldn’t agree more about the whole Mels dealy. Very weak. But that being said it was still awesome.

  48. Malvolti says:

    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.

  49. Sarsticus says:

    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)

  50. zygon37 says:

    “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.