Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E8 'Let's Kill Hitler'

Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E8

As a rule, when one is starved for something for a long time, one should sip it gently when given a chance to sample it again, for fear of overwhelming one's system.

So much for that. Doctor Who is back, and has been the policy, we're tossed in the deep end and left to fend for ourselves.  Grab your foam water-noodle and watch out for spoilers...


by Steven Moffat

Directed by Richard Senior


It's been months since Amy and Rory have heard from The Doctor, so they contact him via the traditional method of contacting aliens, the Crop Circle.  As he explains his progress, we are introduced to Mels, Amy's childhood friend, who arrives to the reunion in a stolen car, and quickly pulls a gun, trying to hijack the TARDIS.  She suggests a trip to WW II Germany with the titular motive.  Things go a bit wrong on the way, but they do arrive where she wanted to go, albeit a bit too precisely, landing in Hitler's study.  Hitler is a bit too loose with firearms, and while trying to defend himself, fatally shoots Mels.  Did I say "fatally"?  Well no, because as a very familiar looking energy surrounds her, we realize (at the same time as out three adventurers) that Mels, short for "Melody", is, in fact, Amy and Rory's daughter.  Before they can process this, Melody regenerates, into the form of River Song. 

She'd been taken by The Silence as a baby, and spent her first years of life being programmed like a wee Prydonian Candidate to kill The Doctor.  She proceeds to do so, with the help of poison lipstick, and sets off to run roughshod over pre-war Berlin. Being chased by Amy, Rory, and a time-traveling robot dedicated to punishing history's criminals, can she be stopped before The Doctor's time runs out?


Another episode that starts at high speed and never slows down, and still packs itself to bursting with comedy.  Stellar performances by Alex Kingston, with Arthur Darvill getting to show of some real heroics.  We're given a great catch-up to River's life, put her in a safe place, and given a good base to move forward with the rest of the season, without actually taking her or The Silence off the board.

It's an interesting parallel that the first episode of the season starts in Nixon's office at the beginning of his career, and this one starts with Hitler in pretty much the same position.  Or am I reading too much into things?


Nina Toussaint-White (Mels) had a brief run on EastEnders (As has, apparently, every actor in British history with the possible exception of Sir Richard Attenborough) and appeared on Primeval as the similarly-named Melanie. 

Karen Gillan's cousin Caitlin Blackwood is back playing young Amy.  It's amazing how fast kids grow - she's several inches taller than she was last series.  It's very interesting to watch the younger and older actors  play several discrete ages each of the characters with little more than a subtle changes in makeup and costume.


THE MONSTER FILES - This is one of those stories where, technically speaking, there's no bad guy.  River is clearly the antagonist, but not by choice. But we've gotta have a monster to scare the kiddies, by George, so we get The Antibodies, little floating metal jellyfish of death that patrol the body of the Teselecta.  It's got a few similarities to The Winders from The Beast Below, another episode with no real baddie to speak of. In both cases, the monsters are physical effects as opposed to CGI, and we never actually see them killing anyone on screen, because again, they're merely workers for the crew of the ship, who are there for virtuous purposes. 

We've seen a number of similar scary but relatively innocuous drones over the years like The Chumblies from Galaxy Four and The Angels of the Starship Titanic, who were at least temporarily used for ill but served to help The Doctor by the end.

The Teselecta itself is also an impressive piece of work, and clearly where the lion's share of this week's CGI budget went. British fans immediately thought of the classic Beano comic strip The Numskulls, while Americans were stuck thinking of the either Eddie Murphy fiasco Meet Dave or a certain more mature sequence of Woody Allen's "Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Skex (But Were Afraid to Ask)". All deal with the idea of little beings running the innards of a person who looks normal from the outside. The name of the ship derives from "tessellation" or a repeating pattern that fits together without gaps, which is how they describe he flipping panels as the ship transforms. The panels will remind (us) older viewers of old school notice boards in train stations and other transit hubs, the letters flipping around to display the words needed for the messages, usually dealing with the lateness of your conveyance. The gantryways of the ship were inspired by photos of the Large Hadron SuperCollider.

While they don't appear onscreen, we learn that The Silence is not the name of that race of Grey-looking aliens, but a religious cabal, part of The Academy of the Question.  So indeed, everyone we saw in Demon's Run were part of The Silence.  It's interesting that a relatively brief period of time (cosmically thinking), The Church would go from coveting the help of The Doctor to siding with those who wanted his death.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - (Trivia and production details)

SET PIECES - The restaurant of the Hotel Adlon was filmed in the same location as Karen Gillan's first work in Doctor Who, back when she was in The Fires of Pompeii. The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health is located in the civic center of Cardiff, and has also appeared in various guises in the episodes The End of the WorldGridlock, and Cold Blood.


BEFORE HITLER KILLS US - The title of the film is reminiscent of the William Castle comedy thriller Let's Kill Uncle (Before Uncle Kills Us), in which a young boy who's inherited a fortune must defend himself from his guardian Uncle's attempts to get him out of the way, and chooses to defend with a strong offense.  Like this story, a number of failed attempts are made, thought going with poison mushrooms rather than lipstick.

FRESH SOULS IN THE CORNFIELD...ANTHONY PUT THEM THERE - The first scene of the episode was the last to be filmed for the whole series.  The cornfield needed time to grow to size, and that didn't happen until July, only a few weeks before the show was to be broadcast.

There was a similar problem when filming the original Planet of the Apes.  There's a scene where the humans are escaping through a cornfield.  They wanted to have the corn six foot high, so you could just barely see the tops of the fleeing humans' heads.  The production team planted the field, watered it like mad, had sunlamps on it...and it shot up to SEVEN feet high.  When this was reported to the producer, he ordered, "Mow it down to six feet".

GERMANY WAS HAVING TROUBLE, WHAT A SAD SAD STORY - Steven Moffat has confirmed that barely using Hitler in the episode was deliberate, an attempt to "take the piss" (a delightful Limey phrase) out of one of the most hated men on the planet.  One of the most efficient ways to take away the power of an enemy is to make them look ridiculous.


TALKING 'BOUT MY (RE)GENERATION - We've gotten a great deal of new information about the process of regeneration in the new series - the fifteen hour period of additional recuperative ability, the ability to shift the energy into a compatible container, and now the ability to transfer one's regenerative energy into another Timelord.  We saw K'anpo Rimpoche do something similar for the third Doctor in Planet of the Spiders - The Doctor was unable to start his regenerative cycle, so K'anpo used his energy to give him "a little push."

Also, note that Melody/River seemed to have a bit more control over her regeneration, as Romana did in the conversion from Mary Tamm to Lalla Ward.  It was always assumed that this was because Romana had more training; in River's case, it's likely just cause she's That Damn Good.

This also may help address the question of how many regenerations The Doctor has left.  Ever since the idea of twelve regenerations / thirteen bodies was made canon in the Baker years, more and more discussion has been spent on it now that we're on body eleven.  In Sarah Jane Adventures, he offhandedly mentions that he has an infinite number of regenerations now; something that some has seen as just a quick comment (lie) intended to keep Clyde from worrying, some have posited the theory that with no other Time Lords around, there's no limit on his number.  This jumpstart might also allow him to break the limit down the road as well.


"DEATH IS THE ONLY ANSWER" -  The BBC ran a competition to give British school kids a chance to write a mini-episode of Doctor Who. The winning episode, "Death is the Only Answer", will be broadcast right before the season finale, which is titled, "The Wedding of River Song".  With this and the design of the "junk TARDIS" from The Doctor's Wife, the BBC has been making a great effort in getting the fans of the show involved in its creation in a very real way.  Considering how many members of the current creative team grew up on the original run of the series, this can only serve as a way to keep the next generation excited about writing and creativity.

"Who steals a bus?" - The Lady Christina deSouza, for one, with the help of The Doctor, back in Planet of the Dead.

"That was a clever lie!" - The "State of Temporal Grace" line was dropped in the Tom Baker episode The Hand of Fear, claiming that inside the TARDIS, weapons don't work, "So you can't hurt us, and we can't hurt you". But there have been numerous weapons fired in the control since, including the Cybermen's blasters in Earthshock.  While people claimed that K-9's nose-laser could have been calibrated to fire in the TARDIS, the whole "Temporal grace" thing lost ground season after season.  Good on The Moff for explaining it away in a perfectly logical way...

"The last time I did this I ended up a toddler, in the middle of New York" There's clearly a great deal of Melody's early life we've yet to hear about.  We saw the birth, we know she spent some time inside a spacesuit, made her way to New York City, regenerated into (presumably) the toddler form of Mels, and then...? 

I envision a Baby Herman-type fully aware and adult toddler somehow making her way to England, hiring (building? Who the hell knows?) surrogate parents, moving to Leadworth, all for the purpose of being near Rory and Amy. Now that's someone who wants to keep the family together.


Let's see...she was born in the future on Demon's run, brought back to the late 60's and raised to the age of a young girl, regenerated back to a toddler, made it to England and grew up with Amy and Rory.  So she's likely about ten years or so older than Amy (in terms of relative personal timelines) at the time we meet her here, though they appear about the same age. She the regenerates into the body of River Song, who physically appears several years OLDER than Amy, a bit closer to her personal age. 

Those various River/Doctor timelines are going to need some serious revising...

"Hello, Benjamin" - Another bookend, this being the (pre-)response to The Doctor's calling her "Mrs. Robinson" in the first episode of the series — Benjamin was Dustin Hoffman's character's name in The Graduate, and is in reference to River's new "mature" look.

Alex Kingston's post-regeneration sequence is a delightful send-up of The Doctor's regenerations in the new series.  In the old series they usually resulted in a period of incapacity or mental instability.  He's gotten much better at it in the new series, usually spending time looking himself over and liking or not liking his look.  Even the bit about the teeth is a reference to one of David Tennant's first lines.  Alex plays it like Cinderella after getting Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Booed into her evening gown, and it's hilarious.

"As soon as I knew you were coming I tidied up a bit" - Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the oft-mentioned short Steven Moffat did for Comic Relief, was likely the only chance he ever thought he'd get to write a Doctor Who story, so he put everything he had into it.  So when he got the the chance to do it again, properly, he set about cherry-picking his best bits from it.  This whole "I know you knew" sequence is a thematic lift of the sequence between The Doctor and The Master alternately revealing that they went further back in time to foil the other's prepared traps and plans.  Bill and Ted did it as well, but so have so many sci-fi writers, nobody could really be called the guy who did it first.

The swap of a gun for a banana was done to Captain Jack in The Doctor Dances. Moffat writes scripts the way Jim Steinman writes songs - he's not above re-using a motif or a riff if the moment calls for it.  And if you knew what high regard I hold Jim Steinman, you would grasp that was a very high compliment indeed.

"There must be someone in the universe I haven't screwed up yet" - For all the fun The Doctor has with his friends, he has a very poor opinion of what he's done to them. As a rule, though he sometimes leaves them in different places (and in Rose's case, different universes) they end up better people than before they joined him. 


"Fish fingers and custard" - Another bookend; it's a reference to the first time they met, but it's also how Amy swore she was being honest with him in The Impossible Astronaut.  Also, note that we don't see who or what said those words. Also, those words did not have the mechanical buzz that the interface did. Might we be seeing the reverse of The Doctor popping back in from later that we saw in Flesh and Stone?

"Take off your clothes" - Now, the idea of a person asking for new duds after a time trip is not new, and neither is the idea of a time-traveling robot come to punish those it sees as guilty. But this is a children's show, so they likely didn't want to go to the degree we saw it in the Terminator movies.  Tho if a butt shot of John Barrowman was okay...

"But what is The Question?" -  Everybody's made the Douglas Adams jokes by now.  There are a lot of questions about The Doctor; his name seems an obvious one.  There's every possibility that this is what he told River when he whispered in her ear, in the same way she whispered it in his in Forest of the Dead.

But note, the belief is that "Silence will fall when the question is asked"; not answered, asked.  That may be deliberate. Perhaps that means when asked to the right person, one who could answer it.

Also, this very episode showed there was someone else hiding in plain sight - Rory Williams.

"The Kidneys are always the first to go" - Idris noticed the same thing in The Doctor's Wife.

"I seem to be able to fly her...she taught me" - So there's another mystery solved - she said she'd had "lessons from the very best" back in Time of the Angels - and now we know who.

"Rule one: The Doctor Lies" - Nice that here as he first meets River Song in her "proper" form, he starts glibly spouting off the "rules" for dealing with him, rules that she parrots back as gospel in later (read - "previous") adventures. 

"Sisters of the Infinite Schism - greatest hospital in the universe" - Looks like they had so little money left in the budget they couldn't even afford the cat makeup of the Sisters of Plenitude, the nurses seen in New Earth, and at least one of which, Novice Hame, in Gridlock. Surely the crimes committed by the nurses in New New York didn't affect the work of the rest of the order?


One last mirroring concept between the first half of the season and the second, that of information The Doctor has and isn't sharing.  Last time it was Amy's...condition; in this case it's the date of his own death, the event we saw back in the first season.  But the difference here is that he doesn't know that Amy and Rory already know that, as they were there. Also more strangely, they've been trying to keep that information from him all along, and  they don't know that now he knows. So we'll likely see a bit of Three's Company moments where each  will try to keep a secret that the others already know, and only at the end when they discover they all know the same thing, and start working together.

Also, while we already knew the date, we now know the name of the place - Lake Silencio.  I won't even bother to translate that.

One more point - look at the shape of the energy column as River transfers her energy into him - doesn't it rather resemble the TARDIS console?

SHALL WE PLAY A GAME? - The BBC Doctor Who website has continued the alternate reality game it started earlier in the year.  If you go to the episode details page and select the "Fourth Dimension" tab, note the words that are in italics.  Last semi-season they led to a mystery clip, this time they seem even more obscure.  The puzzle words for this episode read:

When reason slept, when mothers wept, when soldiers crept the monsters came

Hints for the rest of the season, or just a teaser for next week's episode?  We shall see...


Steven Moffat loves making little things we're all wary of into things that we bloody well SHOULD be afraid of.  Next week, Mark Gatiss brings us Night Terrors, a story all about the things that go bump in the night.  Seven days from now - try and catch up on your sleep till then.

Vinnie Bartilucci had a birthday just two days before the broadcast of this season opener, and thanks Mr. Moffat and the BBC for the present. His increasingly-inaccurately-named blog The Forty Year-Old Fanboy is yet another attempt to give people of the world an opportunity to show they are at all interested in what he says.

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