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New Who 6.8: Let's Kill Hitler

I think this qualifies as yet another Moffat-penned episode which I enjoyed at the time for its fun plot-twists, surprise reveals and in-jokes, but found myself more and more disappointed by in retrospect.

The cool stuff

The bits I enjoyed at the time included:
  • Clever playing around with the classic trope of wanting to use a time machine to kill Hitler (see also Stephen Fry's novel, Making History), and why that can't be allowed in the Doctor Who universe.
  • Flash-backs into Amy, Rory and Mels' childhood together... though young!Rory did seem a great deal younger than young!Amy, which was a bit disquieting.
  • Mels generally.
  • The dialogue about the interior of the TARDIS being in a state of temporal grace - yet another lovely "Yes, we know it's canon - don't take it so seriously" moment.
  • Action!Rory
  • The Doctor being all guilty about every single one of his (main) new-Who-era companions.
  • Finding the ultimate answer to the ultimate question before you find the question itself.
  • Hitler still being in the closet at the end of the episode.


Disappointments

And the bits which jolted me out of that state of enjoyment as I watched, and in retrospect have grown big enough to outweigh it entirely were:
  • Amy setting killer robots on an entire ship-full of people who really didn't deserve it, and whom she didn't know in advance had any kind of escape mechanism. I know she had to save River, but was there no other way?
  • Melody Pond / River Song giving up all of her remaining incarnations at once for the sake of a man. I get that the fact the programme revolves around a male hero-figure makes a bit of this sort of stuff inevitable, but the rules aren't immutable! Moffat gets to make them up. And he could so easily have achieved the same effect by, for example, just saying that the Doctor could be revived with nothing more than a kick-start from the last little remnant of River's regeneration energy. And then she could have helped the Doctor just the same, and still retained the possibility of her own awesome Time-Lordly future, complete with multiple further regenerations. But no. Because of the choice Moffat made, she doesn't get that now.
  • River Song being shown as taking up archaeology in order to find the Doctor, rather than because she's genuinely intellectually interested in the subject. Which, speaking as someone who chose much the same subject because it is fascinating and stimulating and offers me all sorts of opportunities to stretch and prove myself personally and intellectually, is FUCKING INSULTING.
  • Oh, and yet another fake death, still further reducing the chances of any meaningful emotional engagement when characters actually really do die at any point in any future episodes.


Unanswered questions

And of course there are the usual unanswered questions, too.

For a start, are we going to see or learn any more about the Teselecta (i.e. the doppelganger robots full of tiny people delivering 'justice' across time)? What mothership did they escape to, who passes the sentences which they execute, and according to what criteria? And most importantly, how did they acquire the art of time-travel? Very few races in the Doctor Who universe have the ability to do that - and still fewer to use it responsibly.

And obviously there are still many of the same unanswered questions about who River is going to kill, and what's up with the Doctor dying in Utah in 2011, etc. etc.. Except that I'm so sick of being strung along on those points that I'm afraid they only make me feel half-frustrated and half-indifferent now (as indeed they did at the end of episode 7), rather than excited as I assume Moffat intended.


Anyway, fun at face level, but I just wish I could concentrate better on the fun and the cleverness without having to keep on being distracted by the fail.

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Comments

( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
gylfinir
Aug. 27th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
I still think that River is going to kill the Doctor. She did say that she'd killed the best man she'd ever known (2. series back?).
strange_complex
Aug. 27th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
Probably - him or Rory. But I'm pretty sick of waiting to find out at this stage.
(no subject) - gylfinir - Aug. 27th, 2011 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - matgb - Aug. 27th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
andrewducker
Aug. 27th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
We know that River doesn't regenerate again after her current regeneration - because we've seen her in The Silence In The Library.
strange_complex
Aug. 27th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
Well yes, but that, too, was in Moffat's hands. He could have suggested that she already used up all but one of her regenerations on exciting and fulfilling lives before the start of this episode, or have said that the death which she underwent in the library was so severe that it burnt up all of her remaining regenerations in itself. Anything but that huge and unnecessary sacrifice.
(no subject) - andrewducker - Aug. 27th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - matgb - Aug. 27th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - parrot_knight - Aug. 27th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - matgb - Aug. 27th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - diffrentcolours - Aug. 28th, 2011 10:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Aug. 28th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - draxar - Aug. 28th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Aug. 28th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
steer
Aug. 27th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
He needed some excuse for getting rid of River Song's regenerations so it could be clear you've seen pretty much precisely her whole life (bar the adventures in final incarnation with last doctor). Stops fan whining about "she should have seven/many regenerations".
verlaine
Aug. 28th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
I thought it was a jolly entertaining hour of television. Time travel soap opera with plenty of babes and guns. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to that one show I used to like when I was growing up, what was it called again, Doctor Who? I guess Moffat might have seen that show at some point and cribbed a few ideas from it. I wish they'd bring that show back again one day though.
strange_complex
Aug. 28th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
Very well put.
wwhyte
Aug. 28th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm with Verlaine. I'm fed up with it all being about the Doctor, and everything else just being a backdrop for threats to four people in the whole big universe. And the cheap, dramatically deadening assumptions that Love and Family Ties conquer all -- as you say, Penny, the characters are robbed of all opportunity to grapple with moral ambiguity because you will save your daughter no matter what the consequences.

There were a lot of good touches but I'm finding it easy to talk myself out of liking it at all.
strange_complex
Aug. 28th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC)
Yes, it was actually Amy's action in setting the killer jelly-fish things on the people inside the Teselecta that disquieted me most of all - and the fact that nobody expressed any anguish over this or tried to challenge it at all. I'm pretty sure the woman with short hair died as a direct consequence of her actions, but this was just skipped over in the quest to save River.

Would any past companions have behaved like that - or past Doctors not even have thought to enquire into how they had stopped the Teselecta? The show's history is so long that there probably are similar examples in it somewhere, but nonetheless it still felt 'off' to me.
(no subject) - wwhyte - Aug. 28th, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - parrot_knight - Aug. 28th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chrisvenus - Aug. 28th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Aug. 28th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chrisvenus - Aug. 28th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - djm4 - Aug. 29th, 2011 07:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - strange_complex - Aug. 29th, 2011 08:57 am (UTC) - Expand
mswyrr
Aug. 28th, 2011 07:31 am (UTC)
Excellent points about Moffat choosing to make it so River had to give up all her Time Lady powers *and* not choosing her discipline because of her own intellectual pleasure in it, but because everything must be All About Her Man.
strange_complex
Aug. 28th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
In fairness, because I was focusing on the outrage over the "All About Her Man"-ness last night, I should probably also acknowledge that she does say it with a bit of a twinkle in her eye, which perhaps suggests that she's knowingly playing on the trope of women taking up intellectual pursuits just in order to bag a man, and is in reality looking on it as a route to the excitement and adventure that comes along with the Doctor, rather than a straightforward route to the Doctor as a romantic conquest. But still, I would really have preferred her not have said that line at all, and coming on top of the completely unnecessary sacrifice of all her regenerations, it does all start to look rather disempowering. :-(
(no subject) - wwhyte - Aug. 28th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
ms_siobhan
Aug. 28th, 2011 09:26 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I've lost all patience with it as Amy and Rory get on my nerves too much - bring back Christopher Eccleston half naked being tortured to get info about daleks :-)

I do feel sad that I've lost all patience with it though as I feel very old and miserable as a result. Will just have to watch some equally improbable Hammer nonsense but twith the ever delectable Peter Cushing in to restore my equilibrium.
strange_complex
Aug. 28th, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
I still love Rory, but yeah - Eccleston's gravitas and moral weight seems a rather distant memory now, doesn't it? You can, of course, enjoy Peter Cushing in a suitably nonsensical Whovian context via his two mid-'60s spin-off movies. They're about as much in line with the contemporary TV series as last night's episode was, but they're still fun in their own technicolor way.
(no subject) - wwhyte - Aug. 28th, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ms_siobhan - Aug. 28th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
rich_r
Aug. 29th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)
You missed out the banana incident. That was fun :)

I think that as a 'second half of the series after the summer break' opener it was good - enough comedy and mild peril to entertain children, and just enough story to revive adult's interest in the programme.
Weeping Cross
Aug. 29th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
The bottom line for me is that there was simply far too much going on for any reflection or development, which might have sorted out a lot of the problems. The common problem the old series had was not enough ideas to fill four or six episodes, whereas there are now often far too many stuffed into the available time. This isn't the first occasion I'd've preferred at least twice the amount of airtime to allow me to catch breath and the characters to reflect. Not a single person was given space to do any actual acting in those 45 minutes, were they?
(no subject) - strange_complex - Aug. 29th, 2011 12:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 36 comments — Leave a comment )

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