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