DOCTOR WHO 6.08
- Let's Kill Hitler Spoiler Zone

Let's Kill Hitler

Shh! Spoilers sweetie!

Well, the first thing to address is probably that title Let's Kill Hitler... Now contrary to expectations, this wasn't an episode exploring the age old time travel questions as the moral implications of killing a young Adolf before his rise to power or the consequences of messing about with historical time lines. Indeed, this story is actually rather Fuhrer-lite, and on reflection this is probably a good thing.

For while there's acres of decent potential material for stories here, Doctor Who perhaps isn't the right arena for them. Certainly it would be ideal for a Big Finish audio or the old Virgin/BBC novels, but on the box on a Saturday tea-time not so much. Being a family orientated show and having an eccentric and often funny lead character, it would be difficult to explore the material properly, doing justice to the moral complexities and the horrors of the Third Reich without either appearing to make light of the very serious historical events or being accused of getting too dark and intricate for the younger viewers.

So then, I think Moffat chose wisely to keep Hitler in the cupboard, and instead delivering a tale which nicely touches on the concepts of using time travel to right historical wrongs but mainly is about a very different time criminal, River Song. It's very much her origin story and surprisingly Moffat actually gives us a ton of answers. In the course of the episode we learn who the Silence actually are, why River doesn't regenerate when she died in Forest of the Dead, who taught her to fly the TARDIS and what may be truth about a very old fan bugbear temporal grace. And there's more tidbits revealed too but we'll get to them later.

So then alot of reveals here, tying up a great many dangling threads, which should please all those fretting that Series 6 has been getting rather continuity heavy. Now the second half looks to be clear to build up to concluding the question of what really happens with the Doctor's apparent death at Lake Silencio.

Of course, this being Doctor Who, a show whose format allows it tell many different sorts of stories in diverse tones, as always you're not going to please all of the people all of the time. For while some will applaud the batty cocktail of thrills, drama and comedy packed into Let's Kill Hitler, others will be left cold by the romping nature of the story.

Now personally, I tend to think that new Who has tended to over-egg the comedy pudding, something that Moffat has largely reined in a bit. However, not always and this episode is one of those occasions, hence some will love it as a return to the over the top shennigans of the RTD era, and other loathe it for precisely the same reasons.

And I must to confess to being slight conflicted on the matter myself. On one hand, if you're going to be a romp, you might as well really let rip and be outrageously daft as Let's Kill Hitler. For example, I loved the Teselecta which managed to be both a sly dig at the pompous moralising of some incarnations of Star Trek and also a homage to The Numbskulls a comedy comic strip about a man who was piloted by the titular little fellas living in his head, appearing first in The Beezer and later The Beano. And quick-fire quippage from all the regular cast was comedy gold. All in all, if you're going over the top, do it in style!

Now largely Moffat managed to keeps the balance pitched so that the fun didn't detract from the drama and keep the plotting tight. However on the downside, there was a few instances where I felt the writing was so hurried that key plot points weren't explained enough. Now after a second watch, I'm convinced this isn't a case of Moffat taking a soiled leaf out of RTD's books and papering over plot holes and logical gaps with some big shiny spectacle. I think it's more a case of shoving so much into the episode, a couple of issues didn't quite get enough dialogue or screen-time to give them the correct dramatic weight.

Firstly, I'm thinking specifically of the climax, where River decides to switch sides and/or break her Silence conditioning and the business of how she saves the Doctor. For although her change of heart was seeded, I don't think there was enough on screen for her change of heart to be properly convincing. Or alternatively, there was enough there but it was smothering by everything else the plot was doing.

As for her giving up her remaining regenerations to save our hero, I can buy that in her post regenerative state she could channel the energy into the Doctor to heal him. However I honestly think we needed a line or two more to make this seem at little less than a deus ex machina. Just having River say 'I'm still regenerating you know' after she says 'I'm trying to help' would have made everything clearer and more credible.

Now all of this did have me wondering whether it was wise to try and cram so much into the episode. However I can forgive these missteps as on the whole the story was just so much fun and so bold in it's storytelling. Highly enjoyable but the niggles do mean it misses the classic adventure mark.

But while we're on the subject of regeneration, there's been much speculation that just as River could shrug off the Nazi bullets, this is how Moffat will get the Doctor out of his death by Astronaut. Well, this theory doesn't actually work as this super healing only occurs AFTER a physical regeneration - it's a feature of the post regenerative cycle as The Christmas Invasion makes clear. Hence the Doctor would have had to transformed into his 12th body and the new incarnation be 'still cooking' to be able to negate damage in this way.

Furthermore, the crew of the Teselecta state that the Doctor's death at Lake Silencio is a fixed point in time - it cannot be changed and hence would suggest that there can be no contradiction of the death as we've seen it. In last week's Radio Times feature, Mr Moffat himself writes in the introduction to the coming batch of adventures -

We all saw it happen - his final moments, the failed regeneration, the body in the burning boat. No hope, no escape, no excuses: we have seen the future and the Doctor is not going to survive it.
And you know what, I think he means it!

Now obviously the Doctor is going to survive by some means... but how? Is that chap we saw die the Ganger Doctor? Unlikely as he didn't dissolve to white fleshy goo. Is it the Teselecta? Also unlikely as despite its powers of mimicry, this time traversing Numbskull vechicle wasn't exactly adept at acting naturally - this robot had trouble not moving in a jerky mechanical fashion, so it's hard to believe it could replace the Doctor convincingly enough to fool Amy, Rory and River... Hang on, could it be the Teselecta piloted by the Ganger Doctor?!?

Well that's a possibility! However considering this series is the second chapter in a story line that started in Moffat's first season, and what next year's series is going to be is shrouded in mystery but certainly appears that it will be building up to the big 50th anniversary in 2013, I suspect that there won't be a simple get-out to the Doctor's impending death.

So then we know that the Doctor will die as we've seen. And this episode tell us that River is indeed wanted for his murder. However is that why she's in prison in the Stormcage Facility? And is it her younger self in the space suit that rises from the Lake in Utah?

However as Moffat has shown in this outing, he's not adverse to giving out answers before the very end. And no doubt he's got more surprises still stuck up his capacious sleeves...

Click for for the review of the next episode Night Terrors!


JIM MOON, 5th September 2011


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