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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. BoBo says:

    Well if Melody is a rudimentary time lord thing then she probably just went back in time to when Rory and Amy were kids, she did say she had been searching for them, and implanted herself there after the big eye in the sky shebang happened, also it is clear Mels also is often on the run or in prision for her adventures so it is possible she just missed all of what happened

  2. AmandaJade says:

    *Her not regenerating never bothered me

  3. AmandaJade says:

    Her not regenerating in Silence/Forest because she even told the Doctor that he wouldn’t have time to regenerate if he sacrificed himself.

  4. Stef says:

    I just have to point out that everyone is saying river using up all her regenerations explains why she doesn’t regenerate when she dies in the episode with tennant. When that didn’t need to be explained. She even tells tennant that he wouldn’t be able to survive if he sacrificed himself. So even if she still had regenerations she wouldn’t have lived.

  5. Poetic Moustache says:

    It didn’t really answer everything about River. She’s already had the change of heart, right? She gave up her time-lordy-ness to save him. And we know that she’s the one who kills him. So…what happened in between?
    Also, I’ve got a theory on how they’ll bring back the Doctor. He hinted in “The Rebel Flesh” that the Flesh Doctor could survive. I hope he does, ‘cos the TARDIS wavy thingies will make him into a real person.
    *fangirl spasm*

  6. J.P. says:

    “How difficult must it be to play like you’re slowly dying in agony for half an episode?”

    Simple, really. Just imitate any fan of the original Doctor Who forced to watch an episode with Matt Smith.

  7. Ryan says:

    Dudesky. Night Terrors Review. I mean, who else is going to support exactly what I think about an episode?

  8. Sam Sackett says:

    If you have to love a show that isn’t afraid to do something different, how about loving a novel with the same courage? I’m referring to my ADOLF HITLER IN OZ, a comic fantasy satire.

  9. rachelkoa says:

    Great review. Thanks! Still have questions:
    1. How did a child get from NY to England? AND who did she live with growing up? That kind of made no sense to me.
    2. As pointed out on another blog, the Doctor is wearing the clothes from their wedding. How does their wedding tie into this episode? For example, river’s diary is blank when Amy has it at the wedding and then is full at the end of that episode. Are we seeing River shortly after she gets the diary? Could the doctor have read about the poisoning and met up with himself?
    3. What does he whisper to River?
    4.If it is River in the astronaut suit, why doesn’t she remember it or even recognize the suit.
    5.Just a comment that the Mrs. Robinson joke in the impossible astronaut episode makes sense now. “Hello Benjamin”
    6. I loved how Rory’s head was about to explode. He looks like he’s a man on the edge and has had about enough. I thought he was great in this episode.

    Love the episodes and how Moffat is crafting the series.. I enjoy re watching older episodes as we get new information to see what was right before my eyes but it is starting to be a bit much to follow…although that is half the fun.

    Any thoughts?

  10. Layna Crandell says:

    What I’m wondering is how the Silence got Melody. Why wasn’t she with her parents when she was a baby? How did the Silence get her?

  11. Henrik says:

    I think you may be underestimating the magnitude of murdering the Doctor. It may seem crude to compare a fictional assassin with one of actual history’s most awful mass murderers but in the fictional universe of Who both are equally real and while Hitler is, even in that context, a monster the assassin responsible for the death of the Doctor would be, albeit perhaps more indirectly, responsible for countless Hitlers and worse (yes, worse, he fought the literal Devil several times and Davros is basically a space Hitler caricature) freely roaming the universe without a Doctor to stop them.

    There is a real argument to be made that it’s still worse to order the deaths of millions than to kill one person and in so doing prevent that person from saving the universe on a regular basis, but it’s not an obvious slam dunk of an argument.

    So while I might not personally think it necessarily worse (or for that matter less bad) to kill the savior of billions of billions of peoples than the murderer of millions I do find it perfectly reasonable that a group of time traveling punishers from the far future in a universe where this question isn’t at all hypothetical might come to that conclusion.

    It’s an interesting moral conundrum regardless.

  12. Kelly says:

    Did the robot man and “Silence will fall when the question is asked” remind anyone else of the Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy?

    If I remember correctly, Earth is actually a giant computer (often mistaken for a planet because of its size) built to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The faux-human and the unknown question in Let’s Kill Hitler really reminded me of the Hitchiker series. And if it was done intentionally then I am once again reminded why I am a Whovian and why I love Moffat.

  13. Loved Rory punching Hitler in the jaw so much I had to draw a version of it:

    Moffat once said of Russel T. Davies’ episode “Last of the Time Lords” that it was mad and brilliant and “does thing only Doctor Who would do. And Doctor Who should never waste it’s time doing anything else.”

    That’s how I feel about Moffat’s work here.

  14. J. says:

    I guess it was an either you loved it or you hated it moment. But I was beaming when Mels said “I have a gun. You have a time machine. Let’s kill Hitler.” I thought it was a fun commentary on a tried and true time travel discussion cliche. Also I didn’t mind that the episode didn’t have much to do with the Nazi’s besides them getting their asses handed to them, because if you really want to see some stories with Nazi in them you have a lot of choices. More interesting to me is what’s going on with the Doctor, Rory, Amy, and River. I did kind of cringe at the shoehorned introduction of Mels, but I can’t believe Moffat got me again with the same trick of Mels = River Song after the previous (half) season ender with the baby. All in all it was a fun episode for an info dump as you thoughtfully put it and I’m looking forward to the rest of this season.

  15. mathew duhamel says:

    I don’t like how she gave all her regenerations to save the doctor. You just find out she was part time lord in the episode before and bam its all gone I love doctor who more than any other show but I didn’t like that. I did like the episode though

  16. Brad says:

    I don’t think it answers all the River Song questions. We still have to find out who she killed to wind up in jail. And while its stated that she was the killer of the Doctor that might not be the person thats shes in prison for.

    Also it wasn’t quite the cop out that she ended up growing up with her parents. At the end of Episode two of this year it looks like Melody is alone by herself in NY as a child and regenerates into what we assume is Mels. She knew though that she could do that so that might have been her second or more regen by that point.

    Its possible that she has somehow escaped eyepatch lady and company but still wants to kill the Doctor at that point. So she looks up her parents and waits to find him. She couldn’t have killed him the moment he met Amy since it would cause a time paradox so she waits until its after she has been born in their timelines to strike.

    Overall I think it was a great episode and while it did finally answer some questions it also raised just as many.

  17. Cbot says:

    It wasn’t until this year that I became a massive Whovian. Since I am trying to catch up with all of the other seasons I haven’t had a chance to see any episodes with with Matt Smith. Though I am really excited to see how he does I can’t imagine another Who other than David Tennant. He was the only saving grace in Fright Night. Keep up the awesome with the Nerdist Network and if you get the chance check out my site

  18. Stephen Perry says:

    I honestly love this episode a lot, I think it was super fun. I like the Mels thing Moffat did and seeing River acting weird like the Doctor does after he regenerates. But what I really really liked was that we get an answer (sort of) and a new question in regards to The Silence. I want to know what the question is…”Silence will fall when the question is asked.”