REVIEW: Doctor Who – Let’s Kill Hitler

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I have to learn to trust the creators behind BBC’s Doctor Who. At this point, they’ve more than earned it. Once again, I had my doubts about the show’s return from the Summer break with an episode titled Let’s Kill Hitler. In my mind, it had the potential for terrible things all over it. On the screen, it was brilliant. Again.

While this has arguably been the “Summer of Hitler,” I was dreading seeing that name drawn into Doctor Who, particularly in its highly anticipated return last Saturday. Thankfully, the episode couldn’t have much less to do with Hitler and his role in this episode was reduced to little more than a means of bringing all of the action together. He wasn’t on screen much, said less and was almost immediately locked in a cupboard. His finest moment came when Rory punched him square in the jaw, which was more than Captain America managed to do this Summer.

Where this episode really shines is in the incredible number of plotlines it resolves and secrets it reveals while the cast is running around the streets of 1938 Berlin. We now know so much more about what happened to Melody Pond after regenerating in an alley at the end of Day of the Moon. In fact, this is the first confirmation that the little girl in the spacesuit is in fact Melody. Not only do we see her history as Amy and Rory’s lifelong friend, Mels, but also her first steps toward becoming River Song. I have to admit that I was particularly thankful that we didn’t have to wait long to see that Mels was a different incarnation of Melody, and re-watching the episode with that knowledge makes her sudden introduction and over the top behavior far more tolerable. Retconning her into Amy’s history and life marks a second time that approach (considering how the Alliance used her childhood memories of Pandora’s box, the Romans, etc. last season) has been used to attack the Doctor. I can’t imagine that’s coincidence.

Along with all of the great moments here for Mels/Melody/River, which peaked in her amazingly orchestrated fight scene with the Doctor, I just was not crazy about the regeneration energy exploits. Melody’s level of control over her change and her use of the energy as both a form of protection and as a weapon may have just been too much for me. These stunts are redeemed to an extent when she uses it to save the Doctor in the end, particularly in that she poured what were by my math her ten remaining regenerations into a Doctor who has regenerated ten times. It balances the universe for me.

The Teselecta machine and the Justice Department agents piloting it drive much of the action in Let’s Kill Hitler. The idea of time travelers hunting down unpunished war criminals to “give them hell” is just fun science fiction even if The Doctor rightly points out that they’re using time travel to go back and punish dead people. Their mandate is a compelling means to push Melody Pond as the worst war criminal in history, and their transforming machine raises a number of questions and possibilities regarding the rest of the season. Who exactly do the people inside the Teselecta work for and what is their “mother ship?” Is it possible they’re related to the Time Agents Captain Jack Harness was part of? Their machine can copy the appearance of humanoid creatures (and beyond) and as we don’t see exactly what happens to it, I can’t help but wonder if this, along with the Flesh, is another possible way to explain the Doctor’s death we saw at Lake Silencio in The Impossible Astronaut. Although I can’t imagine no one would have heard its noisy movements.

Regardless of whom they’re working for, they provide new information about The Silence by revealing that they’re not simply the alien race we’ve seen before. According to their records, The Silence is a religious order dedicated to answering an unknown question that will cause “silence to fall.” We know they’re connected to the TARDIS exploding last season and that the “vampires” in Vampires of Venice were fleeing them when they came to Earth. Did they also build the Pandorica to eliminate the Doctor? It’s easy to speculate that this question, described as the first and oldest in the universe and “hidden in plain sight,” is connected to the show’s title, “doctor who?” It would tie in well with the mystery surrounding the Doctor’s name. We know the Doctor gave up something meaningful to lock the Timelords and Daleks in the Time War. Could he have sealed them with his name somehow?

The episode concludes by returning to one of the major questions remaining about River Song: who was she imprisoned for killing? I still think it will be Rory, but his dying again would almost be a joke at that point even if he dies a true death at the hands of his daughter. One of my wilder theories involves an explanation that the people of the Gamma Forests not only have no word for “pond,” but no word for “woman”; opening up the possibility of River killing Amy. It also occurred to me that if the Justice Department is responsible for imprisoning River, they might be operating on incorrect information that The Doctor died at her hands. They left before he was saved by River and might be attributing his murder to what they saw in Berlin. They might even be behind his death at Lake Silencio in an effort to keep the timeline in order. Imprisoning her doesn’t seem like their style based on this episode, but they know who she is and they come right out and say that killing the Doctor is her great crime.

This was simply a fantastic episode for the show’s return. I even tried to check my enthusiasm to make sure the hiatus hadn’t just left me poised to love whatever was put in front of me, but this was truly great. I say that fully acknowledging that it was at times an insane combination of Meet DaveInnerspace, and Valkyrie with a healthy dose of Terminator 2. Next week moves on to what I’m assuming will be a handful of one-off adventures fighting animated dolls, minotaurs and other new baddies. As I write that, part of me cringes and assumes there’s no way I’ll enjoy them. I’ll be wrong. Again.

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A Good Man Goes to War / Night Terrors

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