6.8 – “Let’s Kill Hitler”
Amy and Rory build a crop circle of The Doctor’s name (it takes a lot to get his attention) in hopes of getting an update on his search for their baby daughter. Amy’s BFF Mels, turns up in a stolen car and with the police in hot pursuit. Mels has also got a gun and The Doctor has a time machine, so she forces them to head back to 1938 in order to kill Hitler. But there’s more to Mels than anyone realises and there’s more than one bunch of time travellers in Nazi Berlin.
I’ll say this; it starts well. Mels (Nina Toussant-White) is sparky and mental and gets a killer line: “I’ve got a gun, you’ve got a time machine. What the hell, let’s kill Hitler!” I’d have liked to see more of this version of Mels, The Doctor’s “bespoke psychopath”, but like so much of series 6, the character is a tease and not followed up on. The flashbacks are fun; it’s always good to see young Amy and this time we get the young Rory mooning around after her. Then, thanks to a mere bullet sending the TARDIS into a tailspin (really, it only takes a bullet to the console?), our chums come crashing into Berlin in 1938, face to face with Hitler himself. The real story starts here…well…sort of.
Mels is swiftly shot and regenerates into the more familiar form of Alex Kingston. Rory gives Hitler a solid punch to the jaw and shoves him in a cupboard. Here again is the kind of material that could make for a great story – The Doctor and co having to save Hitler? However, Hitler is just a contrivance to introduce the Teselecta, which reminds me of the Numbskulls from the Beano only meaner. The Teselecta’s motives are just plain sadistic, travelling through time and space to torture bad people. Yes, we’d all like to have seen Hitler suffer for his many many crimes but this is Doctor Who and I’m pretty sure that while defeating evil is encouraged, torture is not. The Doctor even tried to save Davros a few seasons ago!
Considering this is an episode about how Amy and Rory’s little girl grew up and how their best childhood friend turned out to be said little girl, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill don’t really get much more to do than run around. They get sucked into the Teselecta and meet a bunch of monosyllabic robot antibodies with a catchphrase (a favourite of Moffat’s) but get wristbands to hold them off. This proves to be a handy plot device, allowing them to set the antibodies onto the crew when the plot calls for it. Alex Kingston as the freshly regenerated Mels has much more to play with, more mature than her previous incarnation but still on a mission to kill The Doctor with as much flirting as she can muster. Smith is superb, bringing a splendid dose of physicality to the role. He never got the chance for it in the first half of the season. As he thwarts Mels’s repeated attempts to kill him at first, the scene almost degenerates into “The Curse Of The Fatal Death” with its I-expected-you-to-do-that-so-I-did-this gag, but Smith and Kingston have chemistry in spades so the scene crackles with energy. It’s a highlight among the rest of the forced excitement.
Eventually though The Doctor sort of dies, but in doing so inspires Mels to rescue Amy and Rory from the Teselecta (after the TARDIS teaches her how to fly it – clearing up another mystery of continuity on the way). She also gives up her remaining regenerations to save The Doctor which all indicates that Madame Kovarian’s devious plan to train someone from birth to kill The Doctor really was a complete and utter failure. How does seeing The Doctor trying to save his friends reprogram her brain just like that? I guess it just does. This is not a story – this is a backstory. It’s just exposition; a bunch of scenes to explain what happened to Amy’s baby and how she grew up to be River Song and how The Doctor cured her of being the manipulated psycho assassin who was meant to kill him. There’s nothing clever going on; Mels becomes River because The Doctor asks her to. All of these plot points that were raised up and up in the first half of the series amount to very little in the end, especially The Doctor’s promise to bring Amy’s baby back.
This is one particular point that I simply can’t get past. Amy gave birth under traumatic conditions, had her newly born child snatched away from her but because the baby grows up to be her childhood friend who regenerates into River Song we’re supposed to sit back and think that everything is OK now. In the normal course of his adventures, The Doctor frequently saves whole planet-loads of people, or on occasion the entirety of time and space, so the fate of one baby could be seen as small beans by comparison. Except it’s not. It’s Amy’s baby. Amy, supposedly the Eleventh Doctor’s best friend, the first face that Eleven’s face saw, the “Girl Who Waited” (I’ll use capitals there because. these days, a companion can’t be just along for the ride – they have to be a figure of DESTINY). AND IT’S HER BABY! The loss of a child is one of the worst traumas that can be visited upon anyone and it’s dealt with by a frivolous story about not killing Hitler and the Numbskulls driving around in an android. Either The Doctor saves Melody and delivers her back to her parents or surely the devastated Ponds would be walking away from The Doctor. Tegan walked away when it stopped being fun – are the Ponds still having fun at this point?
This episode is an exercise in bottling out. If you’re going to up the emotional ante to 11 (because a mid-season break demands a fuck-off cliffhanger), then you should have the balls to follow through. And herein lies the problem with series 6; it’s all ramped up emotions and cliff-hangers with little to no pay-off. A complete and total let down and a sorry 3/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes