Sunday, August 28, 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler


Welcome to the second half of Season 6! And wow did Steven Moffat and Co. kick things off with an absolutely gonzo adventure in 1930s Berlin. When Moffat's name shows up in the credits as writer, you know to expect a few things: (a) several imaginative, unrelated ideas tossed into a blender with results that are both brilliant and uneven, (b) nonlinear storytelling, (c) a whole bunch of running around and yelling, and (d) a healthy dose of what-the-(blank)-is-going-on. "Let's Kill Hitler" delivers on all those points.

Spoilers ahead.

Stop now if you don't want to know.

Still here?

OK, let's go.

We open with Amy and Rory making crop circles to get the Doctor's attention because, after an entire summer of no "Who," they're as antsy as we are to find out what happens next. The Doctor gets the message. Also showing up for the party like she's been there all along (which takes a page from Nikki and Paolo on "Lost") is Mels, a sassy troublemaker childhood friend of Amy's and Rory's. She hijacks everyone along with the TARDIS and lands them in 1938 Berlin because, as she says, "What the hell. Let's kill Hitler."

Hitler doesn't do much but get punched by Rory, shoot Mels and get thrown into a cupboard, again by Rory (who is Super Action Man for much of this episode). Then the story takes an abrupt turn when Mels, who is really Melody Pond, regenerates into ... River Song. Except she doesn't know she's River. She has been brainwashed by the Silents her whole life with one purpose: to kill the Doctor. So she kisses him with poison lipstick and leaves him to die a slow death while she cavorts around Berlin.

So we've seen the death of River Song and the birth of Melody Pond. Now here is the beginning of River Song. Alex Kingston puts in a fantastic performance. This is, I hope, finally the start of the love affair between her and the Doctor. The tables are turning, in that the Doctor knows things about their time together that young River does not. But in a bit of Moffat-ness, their timelines are now hopelessly muddled. It's always been assumed they were moving in opposite directions, but now the Doctor has seen River's beginning and end but is missing most of the stuff in the middle. No wonder they need the diaries. So will the audience, before long. But I suspect this season will end with Amy and Rory checking out of the TARDIS and River moving in.

Speaking of Amy and Rory, I thought they got the short shaft this week. They've been waiting all summer for the Doctor to find their Melody so that the happy Pond family could settle down in domestic bliss. Or something like that. But when Mels regenerates into River, that scenario became impossible. Actually, the scenario became impossible from the moment Melody wormed her way into Amy's and Rory's lives during their childhood, before she was even born. What is past cannot be changed, including everything that happened to Melody before she crossed paths with her parents. What that time did not include was them rescuing her. Yet, in all the running and chasing all over Berlin, this fact does not seem to dawn on the Ponds. At no point does Amy or Rory stop and say, "We can never get our little girl back." That was a gaping hole in the episode, in my opinion.

I have probably said enough now and I haven't even gotten into the craziness of the humanoid, shape-changing spaceship full of miniaturized people. Or the explanation of who the Silents are and what they want. I really did love this episode, despite its holes. But I'm hoping that next week, the writers might work in a few moments in which the action slows down enough that we the audience can process what the heck is going on.

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