Here thar be spoilers, for the second-half-season-premiere of Dr. Who, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read this. Of course, if you don’t know what’s happened yet, and you’re a Dr. Who fan…get on that. It’s been a week now and we’ve just had the second episode of this half of the series, so you should have had plenty of time.
Hey, look, I warned you…
So, we’ve had the big reveal that Melody is River, and we can piece together bits and pieces from there. And despite the title of the episode, nobody kills Hitler and he’s not in the episode for very long.
It’s a Moffat-penned episode, so you know the dialogue is going to be snappy (he’s always been great at that. Watch “Coupling” if you don’t believe me). Rory, in particular, gets some great lines, from “Shut up, Hitler!” to “I’m trapped in a giant robot copy of my wife. I’m trying not to see this as a metaphor.” Brilliant.
What wasn’t so brilliant was the manner in which much of the plot gets resolved.
Let me start out by saying that my opinion is predicated on two things I strongly dislike in modern sci-fi: the use of ontological paradoxes, and the deus ex alien resolution. They’re both storytelling shortcuts that border on laziness – while they may work in context, at the heart of all good scifi is a story, and if the audience can’t unravel the major plot points themselves or relate to the situations, then the author hasn’t done their job (Stanislaw Lem’s alien inscrutability notwithstanding).
So within the first 20 minutes of the episode we get a bucketload of ontological paradoxes – things being their own cause. Melody is named after their friend Mels, who is in fact Melody. So she’s named after herself. Not a huge deal. That could be a goofy tossed-off line.
(Although I’d argue it’d make more sense if their long-time-since-childhood best friend had ever actually been mentioned before, but maybe we’re supposed to believe that she changed history a bit so she could be with her parents…which screws up the ontology because she was named BEFORE she went back and caused them to name her…well, you get the idea. This is why I don’t like ontological paradoxes)
What’s more egregious is that she is the catalyst that causes her parents to meet. So she exists, because she got her parents to meet before she was born.
See? DO NOT LIKE. At least Marty McFly got a guitar solo out of the deal.
And then everything gets sorted out with a Deus Ex River where we discover that a) not only has her pseudo-time-lordiness given her the power to regenerate, but b) hey, what do you know, she can apparently use her unused regenerations to heal someone else. This raises more questions than it answers – can all Time Lords do this? Why haven’t we ever seen this before? Is this some crazy Keeper of Traken stuff here? I suppose the answer is “because it was a convenient way to keep from killing the main character” but I am really starting to get annoyed with the current series of Dr. Who ascribing more and more godlike powers to the Time Lords as methods of plot convenience. RTDavies did that a lot, giving us the Donna Noble Metacrisis, the Martha Jones Makes Everyone De-Age the Doctor With Their Mind Trick, and the Kiss Rose And Absorb The Time Vortex Manoeuver. The old series had moments like that, but they often felt a bit more organic in how they were built – “the Doctor’s really smart, here’s a machine, hey I bet the Doctor will use his smarts to make the machine defeat his enemies” even if we don’t necessarily understand why that worked or how, it still feels a little less pulled-from-a-showrunner’s-backside than “A wizard timelord did it.”
Another bit that bothered me was that, despite their desperation to find their daughter, Amy and Rory didn’t seem particularly despondent. In fact, they didn’t seem particularly different from the pre-Melody-Pond Amy and Rory. I mean, if you’d just met your grown daughter for the first time, and she was told to take you home from the future…wouldn’t you have some questions? Wouldn’t there be some major emotional charge there, knowing that you lost your child and yet there she is as a grown woman? That seems like it’d be pretty life-changing to me. And…not only did we flash-forward past all that, but there appears to have been little in the way of long-term consequences to that knowledge, other than the Doctor not answering his phone in the prequel clip.
Finally, the time-travelling tiny aliens travelling around in a robot shaped like a normal-sized person reminded me way too much of that terrible Eddie Murphy movie.
So yeah, “Let’s Kill Hitler” had its moments, but I think also missed the mark in a few key areas. Instead of character development we got some snappy dialogue and a convoluted plot twists that didn’t need to be so convoluted to be clever.