|In this scene, Clara is cleverly disguised as a duplicate of|
Amy Pond’s infant daughter made out of synthetic flesh that
is sentient and has an identity but that is going to be callously
murdered in Amy’s arms just to hammer home the horrific
abuse that she has suffered and that the Doctor fails to understand
until River shows him how he has been blind.
It’s August 27th, 2011. Wretch 32 is at number one with “Don’t Go,” with Emelie Sand, Maroon 5, and Christina Perri also charting. In news since a good man went to war, the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, fled to Saudi Arabia to receive medical treatment for injuries sustained during an attack by protesters upon the Presidential Palace. The Arab Spring also progressively heated up into the Syrian Civil War, and South Sudan becames a country. In tremendously symbolic news, the Space Shuttle program ended with STS-135, commanded by Christopher Ferguson. Anders Breivik did unimaginably terrible things. And Muammar Gaddafi’s government effectively falls in Libya the week this story airs.
While on television, Doctor Who is back after its summer break with the provocatively titled Let’s Kill Hitler. It is, unfortunately, here that we must abandon any pretense that Doctor Who under Steven Moffat can be said to consistently work. By any measure, this is clearly where it goes off the rails. The reasons for this are, on the whole, complex. First and foremost, the series seems to have turned into a production nightmare at this point. Moffat, as has been well documented at this point, simply turned out not to be as fast a writer as Russell T Davies was, and found overseeing fourteen episodes of Doctor Who and three double-length episodes of Sherlock while writing six of the Doctor Whos and a Sherlock (or two) to be more than he could manage while actually ever seeing his children or breathing. It’s an understandable problem – the schedule Davies maintained was inhuman, as The Writer’s Tale amply demonstrates, and the solution come to after the botched production of this season – slowing down and not trying to maintain quite as mad a production schedule for Moffat’s two hit shows – was a sound one.
And so Let’s Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song were the last two episodes shot for Season Six, and even still the scripts were appallingly late – to the point where they had to start preproduction without scripts in hand. What was shot were in effect Moffat’s first drafts. This introduces a degree of sloppiness to proceedings – a word that is a problematic bedfellow for Moffat’s puzzle box complexity. Last season Moffat made an entire reveal out of a fake production gaffe. This season, even if there are no howling continuity errors, there’s a constant sense that Moffat is making it up as he goes along.
This is exacerbated by the basic twist implicit in Let’s Kill Hitler. There is a basic grammar to a season of Doctor Who that had, by this point, been well-established. Season Five pushes against that grammar, but it does so from the inside. Season Six, however, detonates that grammar completely in favor of the split season – an approach we already saw proudly displayed when the first half opened with what is by any reasonable measure a season finale, and then end with what is also, by any reasonable measure, a season finale. So it was, paradoxically, thoroughly unexpected when the second half of Season Six opened with a story that is structured exactly how you’d expect a season premiere of Doctor Who to be if you, like the entirety of the United Kingdom, had been watching it since 2005, namely a fairly silly romp.
This is exacerbated by the fact that Moffat, by this point, is playing a hugely high stakes game. This is the resolution to the averted rape-revenge plot of A Good Man Goes to War. The transition from that to a comic tone is one that calls for considerable subtlety, to say the least, such that “let’s do a romantic comedy” is, on the face of it, dangerous. So this is all terribly poorly served by the feeling that Let’s Kill Hitler was a rush job. It’s painfully bad timing – in many ways the worst possible moment for Moffat to lose the plot. But this is not a new problem. One can find many instances of “when bad executions happen to good stories” across the history of Doctor Who. Let us then engage in the usual archeology and attempt to imagine a version of Let’s Kill Hitler that had the balance right.
Let’s first acknowledge the single biggest problem with the A Good Man Goes to War/Let’s Kill Hitler transition, which is immediate plot-based rationale for getting around Amy’s trauma. A Good Man Goes to War ends with the Doctor setting out to address that trauma and repair it. Then, in Let’s Kill Hitler, we are told that he has repaired it. The result is a storyline in which Amy spends very little time actually visibly traumatized by the awful things that have happened to her, to the point where accusations that Moffat is depicting her as not suffering from any trauma. This is troublesome. For one thing, it’s simply not true. Amy is clearly traumatized in A Good Man Goes to War. There’s not a ton of screentime devoted to it, and it’s overshadowed by the Melody/River reveal, but it’s there.
For another, though, there’s a real can of worms here. The entire point of this plot, as we saw last episode, is to subvert the standard rape-revenge plot. Which means, in part, eschewing the trauma porn that makes up so much of that narrative. Fetishizing the adversity and pain that Amy overcomes is still a deeply flawed narrative, and beyond that, one that’s at best questionably appropriate for children. All of which said, this is a good time to talk about the prequel shorts that were released online for several of the episodes this season. The bulk of them are, truth be told, inessential at best and are basically coextensive with trailers. But the prequel for Let’s Kill Hitler is absolutely vital – a slow pan around a seemingly empty TARDIS as Amy leaves an upset message begging to know if the Doctor found Melody and pleading, “I know she’s going to be OK, I know she’ll grow up to be River, but that’s not the point. I don’t want to miss all those years,” before finally revealing the Doctor, standing and listening to the message, haggard and crying. It is in many ways a terribly important scene – one that probably ought not have been relegated to “prequel” status and thus missed by people watching on Netflix and the like. True, there’s no obvious place in the episode to put the scene, but equally, it’s such an important scene in terms of Amy’s emotional arc.
It also helpfully sets up what the story intends to use as the ground on which Amy’s healing is negotiated – the issue of missing her daughter’s childhood. This is what is supposed to be solved via the Mels reveal – that Amy had actually already had all of those moments without knowing it. There are, of course, objections to be had here, up to and including whether the introduction of Mels actually works within the episode, although it’s clear from the way in which the Mels regeneration is played as a comedic beat that it’s meant to be as out of left field as it comes off. (Not to digress too far in this direction, as it ultimately comes down to the crassest sort of reviewing, but I would speculate that the underlying logic of having Mels come out of nowhere is meant to be that time is being rewritten and that it’s not actually until after Demon’s Run that Mels existed in Amy and Rory’s past. This is, however, certainly one of the points where the episode’s lack of precision is in practice a problem.) On the whole, this is a reasonable splitting of the difference, at least in theory. For a show that is increasingly about rewriting time and non-linear storytelling, a flagrant retcon is a perfectly valid act of healing, and more to the point, a sensible one that extends out of what the show is. This is exactly how Doctor Who in particular would be expected to answer the challenge posed by A Good Man Goes to War.
And so what happens is that the story shifts to be something subtly different. What at first appeared to be a story about Amy’s healing instead becomes one about River’s healing, given that we now recognize what happened to her (including all the way back in The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) as a violation in exactly the same way that Amy’s ordeal was, and that it is thus necessary to heal that damage as well. And that damage proves altogether more immediate, since it consists of Melody being a psychotic killer determined to murder the Doctor and then cause random destruction throughout Germany.
It is at this point that we should turn to an oft-stated and completely wrong assertion about River Song, which is that she is a character defined entirely in terms of the Doctor. It’s easy to see how one could get this impression, especially given the muddiness of Let’s Kill Hitler, which does after all conclude with River becoming an archeologist for the sole purpose of finding the Doctor, thus seemingly defining her entire life in terms of him, but let’s look closer, shall we? For one thing, there’s a basic note of caution to sound here, which is that we are after all talking about a show called Doctor Who, which means that essentially everything is defined in terms of the Doctor. Some amount of that is inevitable. Indeed, it’s a puzzling artifact of the peculiar reception of the Moffat era that nobody ever complains about how Martha’s entire career as a doctor is marginalized in favor of her crush on the Doctor, or about how Donna or, hell, Sarah Jane are defined entirely in terms of the Doctor.
But what is missed by focusing entirely on River’s career choice (and it is worth pointing out the larger systems of oppression involved in the way in which treating “River is defined entirely in terms of the Doctor” and “River’s career is motivated entirely by the Doctor” as equivalent statements, thus equating people with the labor they do in a way with profound and disturbing ideological implications) is that this is a story about how Melody Pond becomes River Song. Which is a process that comes in two steps, neither of which are instigated by the Doctor.
The second of these steps comes when Amy orders the Tesselecta to show River who River is. This is fitting and appropriate – a moment where Amy acts as a mother and, in doing so, both finishes her task of raising River and provides the healing necessary to undo the scars that Madame Kovarian has inflicted. It’s a strong moment that brings a nice symmetry to proceedings given the scene in A Good Man Goes to War in which River provides the same healing for Amy. It’s also notable that Amy, in her child form, serves a crucial function in rescuing the Doctor as the TARDIS voice interface finally concedes the point and declines to be just a voice interface, but instead breaks the fundamental rule set out a few stories earlier and talks to the Doctor, invoking fish fingers and custard to motivate him to try to save people.
This brings us to the first of the steps – the one that effects the most dramatic shift in character for River. Once Amy has successfully shut down the Tesselecta torture ray thing, the Doctor begs River to save her parents, which is, on the whole, a reasonable thing to do, and it’s not a huge shock that she actually does so – a mild softening, perhaps. No, the real change is once the TARDIS materializes inside the Tesselecta and Amy and Rory see River operating it, at which point she says, “I seem to be able to fly her. She showed me how. She taught me. The Doctor says I’m the child of the Tardis. What does he mean?” From this point on, River is a fundamentally different character.
It is worth observing that all of these crucial interactions are ones between women (the TARDIS being very specifically gendered post-Doctor’s Wife). Specifically, they are both maternal interactions – Amy and the TARDIS both step in to heal their child. But the interaction between River and the TARDIS is a stranger thing, especially given that both River and the TARDIS have previously been shown to be extremely libidinous figures. It would be going just a bit too far to suggest that this interaction is sexual, but equally, it’s visibly for femslash what David Tennant and John Simm are for traditional slash. Certainly there is a profound interest in the notion of female spaces here, and in their importance. Everything important that happens in this episode is a product of female spaces, with the male characters repeatedly and pointedly pushed to the margins. Ultimately the best that can be said of the Doctor in this context is that he’s “worth it,” leaving the TARDIS to do the actual work.
This is a powerful statement, especially coming off of the averted rape-revenge story that precedes it. And in many ways this explains the odd turn towards romantic comedy. Because the response to sexualized trauma proposed here is, in effect, joy. And, more to the point, a joy utterly disconnected from the systems of power in which sexualized trauma exists. All joy, pleasure, and healing within this story exists within the spaces of motherhood, of sisterhood, and, if only by trailing implication, in a sapphic space in which masculinity is utterly unnecessary. Look at how Rory is pushed out of Amelia and Mels’s space early in the episode, to the point of it being actually and troublingly bullying in spots, although the story seems to intend that to be light humor. Or, for that matter, Amelia’s wonderfully telling declaration that she “counts as a boy,” a statement that renders actual men delightfully irrelevant.
It is, of course, imperfect, and not just in its haphazard execution, but in its basic conception. As much as this story tries to establish the primacy of female spaces, it is still stuck doing so within the context of a story called Doctor Who. This is a classic case of the carnivalesque – a temporary upending of the normal social conventions that is permissible precisely because it is eventually going to be brought to an end and normal service will be restored. This is an incremental step at best, when what is really needed is the aggressive demolition of the “male lead/female supporting character” model that Doctor Who inherited from The Avengers in 1971 and has stubbornly refused to let go of for any real length of time since.
But equally, it’s a step, and brings us closer to some ineffable still unearned triumph than we’ve ever been before. It’s heartbreakingly frustrating that it comes in such a muddled story. But even here, when the ball is dropped, the underlying alchemy is evident.
June 23, 2014 @ 12:38 am
When the TARDIS arrives on the corn field, and the Doctor shows Amy and Rory the newspaper photograph with the additional line on it, I was certainly expecting the car that showed up to contain River. So that the later revelation that the car did indeed contain River was not I think as out of left field as it appeared. The left fieldness is indeed Moffat showing us he has nothing up his slieves while hiding the card in his shirt pocket.
Is your statement that nobody complains about Martha's crush on the Doctor supposed to be ironic? Because the following statements about Donna and Sarah Jane must be meant straight for the argument to work. Lots of people complain that Martha comes to be defined largely in terms of her crush on the Doctor. (Me for one.)
November 30, 2015 @ 11:13 pm
Too true. Every Davies defender claims he’s a “master of characterization”, while Moffat couldn’t care less about anyone but the Doctor, but he dropped the ball with both Rose and Martha. I mean, I love his Who, but Moffat is burned unfairly. Also, I think the episode worked a bit better than Philip gave it credit for. All I think it needed was for the prequel to be integrated into the story, and a glimpse of Amy’s pain. The way I would have done would be having the Doctor dying, and when he sees the hologram of Amy, it zooms to his face and we cut to the prequel scene. Also, when Amy sees River fully formed, we could see Amy smile, then have a montage of Amy getting over the pain with Rory. I just imagine that happening before I watch it over, and it’s really a ton of fun.
June 23, 2014 @ 12:49 am
Me for two. Phillip's assertion raised my eyebrow in Spock-like manner.
What Happened To Robbie?
June 23, 2014 @ 12:50 am
"since it consists of Melody being a psychotic killer determined to murder the Doctor and then cause random destruction throughout Germany."
I'm getting really sick of that association with psychotic and killer. It probably seems like a minor thing to people but as someone who has experienced psychosis for many years and having worked with people with mental health problems for a lot of years too it's very damaging.
There's a lot of stigma due to the fact that people's default assumption is that people with mental health problems are violent and dangerous. In actual fact somebody experiencing psychosis is far more likely to be a victim of violence. The frequent and casual use of a term like "psychotic killer" only serves to reinforce this negative stereotype.
I hope this doesn't sound like an over-reaction but as I know you're a writer who tries hard not to reinforce negative stereotypes I hope you might take it on board. Experiencing psychosis is often pretty terrifying and traumatic and on top of that having people assume you are violent impacts on your perception of yourself and especially how others treat you, whether in friendships, in the workplace, in social situations.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:25 am
"just to hammer home the horrific abuse that she has suffered"
No. Repeat no.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:51 am
I don't know that it's really so much that no one noticed the problem with Davies' characterization of Martha at all. It's that there was never a Tumblr called stfuDavies, and never a hugely vocal firestorm of people in the online fan community (fans of both Doctor Who and popular sci-fi more generally) calling Russell T Davies a sexist misogynist pig perpetuating rape culture and everything else horrible about patriarchal society through his stewardship of Doctor Who. This is a situation that no creative producer of Doctor Who (or the creative producer of any other show, to my immediate, writing-first-thing-in-the-morning knowledge) has really faced.
Steven Moffat, despite his general brilliance as a writer and having presided over an absolutely unprecedented international expansion of Doctor Who as a cultural icon, is vocally and viscerally hated by fans of the show he produces. Not even JNT suffered from this kind of mass-organized popular hatred to the same degree of intensity. JNT was well-hated after the Colin Baker era and the show's subsequent cancellation, but the Doctor Who fan community at the time simply didn't have the same size, scope, and vocal power in media as stfuMoffat did, and still does.
Even a couple of years after the initial explosion of stfuMoffat died down, I've seen comments on this very blog expressing disappointment in Phil for having even a slightly positive view of the Moffat era, and calling him a hypocrite for doing so. That's how powerful stfuMoffat is as a cultural force in contemporary fan culture. Honestly, it's going to be an egregious oversight if there isn't a Pop Between Realities post about stfuMoffat. Its influence has already been acknowledged simply through Phil having felt obligated to invite Jack Graham to write the Case for the Prosecution post. No other Doctor Who producer ever merited that.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:57 am
First up, I have to say I love this episode and it's actually one of my favourites. I just find the whole episode in both concept and execution incredibly ballsy in an extremely pleasing way. As Phil says above, it was nothing like what people were expecting at the time and the bits that could have been in slightly bad taste (i.e. Hitler) are dealt with in such a knowing way that it never comes across as crass.
I wasn't reading comment sections etc. at the time and so it was only fairly recently that I discovered this episode was generally disliked by 'fandom' whereas I’d previously presumed that the majority had responded in the way I had. So I actually find it very hard to see what's supposedly “wrong” with Let's Kill Hitler. Unlike The Wedding of River Song say, an episode I also like but can still definitely see its flaws, I fail to see what’s so intrinsically wrong with Let’s Kill Hitler, and I still don’t feel particularly clearer after reading the entry above. I understand the arguments about Amy not being traumatised enough and dismiss them for much the same reasons as Phil does, but beyond that I struggle. I would never have guessed it was a first draft from Moffat or had suffered from production problems – I just see it as a hell of a lot of fun, perhaps Moffat’s best execution of Doctor Who-as-farce and in many ways as funny as the show’s ever been.
June 23, 2014 @ 2:10 am
For me this is the episode that finally shows what Doctor Who, a tv programme about Time Travel, actually can do when the gloves are off. Moffat's tenure is cited as when Doctor Who stories finally embrace the concept of travel in time and what you can do with, from the weird and wonderful time loops of The Big Bang, as far back as Moffat's first stories within RTD's tenure – "Silence in the Library" and "Blink".
But for all their timey-wimeyness, those previous stories are still at their heart fairly linear, with the action and characterisation still following a standard plot around the time travel moebius strip. However with "Hitler" the plot is fairly minimal, compared to the implications for the characters. Amy has recently given birth to and lost, her only daughter. She has slowly come to terms with the fact that not only does she already know the person her daughter will grow into, in fact she has known her as a friend for some time. Presumably she has then accepted the realisation that she has also met (and fired a gun at) the same daughter aged approximately 9 years old and wearing a spacesuit.
Now she has to get her head around the fact that one of her best friends, whom she has known and grown up with through her childhood and beyond…was also her daughter.
This is time travel taken to it's logical and most extreme conclusion, and is probably why so many people have difficulty with Amy & Rory's behaviour throughout this story. Where is the trauma? Where is the upset promised by the agonised phone call in the prequel? Amy and Rory aren't behaving as we expect them to in such a situation.
That's just it though. This situation is so out of our experience (and therefore Amy and Rory's) that normal human behaviour rules don't apply. In our lives if our child is taken away (think the McCanns) then we know that we will never get those years back and if we ever meet our child again, they will be older by an amount equal to the time they're not with us. We know how that works, how it would affect us and therefore people in a drama story that we are watching should follow the same template.
But how would it affect us if we found out that we had actually only missed a relatively small amount of our child's life (presumably in Melody's case the first 7 years or so), and we'd had all the rest, from year 7 through school, to teenage and beyond…while we were the same age?
We can't know how we would feel in this situation, although there are slight parallels that could possibly give us an inkling. I didn't know my daughter for the first 16 years of her life, but from 16 to 30 I've had a strong friendship with her, and this has to a great extent resolved my feeling of loss for those first 16 years.
Now imagine we knew that we had a younger sibling who had been given away at birth, when we were, say, only 2 years old ourselves. We might have a sense of loss and regret over the years that we didn't have with them. Then imagine we found out that they had actually been adopted by our uncle and aunt, and that not only did we think of them as our cousin, but we had lived and played with them for most of our life. How would we feel then?
Amy and Rory's attitudes do seem to jar with how we feel they should behave, but the story surrounding them is so completely out of our experience that it should also be completely out of theirs. And if we're not sure how we would behave in such circumstances, can we be sure that how they are behaving is any less realistic?
June 23, 2014 @ 2:42 am
I think this episode suffers from a variety of factors and still manages to be on balance pretty good. FIrst of all, it has too much to do – Doctor Who at this point is straining against the episodic "every episode is something different" formula, which causes significant problems with Amy and River's relationship. As nice as the scene at the end of TWoRS is with Amy and River in the garden, it would have been nice to have something like that at the end of this episode (although there's no way to have that and make the episode run on time). Next, it definitely suffers from First Draft Syndrome – here, Moffat seems to have not done any honing of his dialogue and instead panickedly thrown in a bunch of fairly terrible gender jokes (including the inexcusable "plus, she's a woman"). There are also the problems Phil mentions in the post. However, even with all these problems, the episode is satisfying – the totally insane structure works very well, all the scenes with young Mels and Amy are great, the fact that it's a shaggy dog story that's not really about Hitler at all is definitely to its benefit. In fact, speaking of that, I recently read Interference by Lawrence Miles (it was great), and when rewatching this episode I came to the conclusion that this story is a refutation of Miles' criticisms of the Doctor's inability to overthrow corrupt and despotic regimes on Earth in the same way he can in space. This is Steven Moffat saying "Doctor Who doesn't need to do a story about killing Hitler because that's boring," so he throws Hitler in a cupboard and moves on to more interesting things.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:03 am
…and then there's the whole problem of using Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular, for comedic purposes.
Admittedly this has been going on since 1924 and there are several occassions when it has produced either penetrating critiques of these horrible gits – To Be or Not to Be ( the Jack Benny one anyway), The Great Dictator – or amusing farce – Der Fuhrer's Face or the stormtroopers marching to The Lambeth Walk,say.
most of the amusing and successful lampooning dates from the period before the Allies discovered Belsen and Auschwitz. You don't see much "ha ha, look !!! It's Hitler, innee a silly bloke ?" post 1945, which is regrettably what Moffat seems to be going for here.
What I suspect he's riffing off is that terrific scene where Harrison Ford comes face to face with the great Michael Sheard. But that scene is an example of what a master craftsman Spielberg is when assembling his films when he puts the effort in. The hideousness of the Nazis has been put firmly put in place right from the off – it's set at a book burning rally, Indy's just horrified by both this and the discovery that his lover is right in it up to her elbows, and he's in genuine danger. Then he's face to face with the most wicked man in the world, who takes the very book he's got his thugs hunting for…
…and robotically signs his name and then wanders off, blissfully dreaming of his New Order, when every night will be like this. For everyone. Forever.
But Moffat fails to achieve a similar effect, because for his comedy to succeed we, the audience, have to accept the Nazi iconography detached from its context, so that our chums can romp through Berlin with no need to worry about danger from what is just about the most dangerous place on the planet. So the costume designers can deck out Alex Kingston in stormtrooper kit and concentrate on how hot she looks, rather than how hideous this all is. Hitler gets stuck in a cupboard and we're supposed to laugh our ass off at the incongruity of it as he starts another of his funny old rants rather than, say, start shooting with the pistol he was never without when in uniform.
Comedy Nazis are rarely a good idea – one slip and you've got Heil Honey, I'm Home or The Day the Clown Cried. Nazis in Dr Who are a really, really bad idea – the programme didn't touch them in its first 26 years except through substitutes, and only Terrance Dicks and Lance Parkin used them in the novels, with mixed results. I can't help think Moffat indulged in a bit of hubris here, seduced by his high reputation into believing he would be the one writer who could pull it off. He failed utterly, and I can't help but notice that in order to produce a redemptive reading of this episode this particular aspect is left out.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:46 am
I think he really meant "psychopathic killer." Per River's own self-definition.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:50 am
That's a very nice interpretation of the refutation of Miles's criticism, I like that a lot. Yea, stick him in the cupboard, there's more interesting things going on over here!
In fact I never really bought the Miles criticism in Interference anyway. So the Doctor can't cope when he bumps up against something like the Saudi regime. Ok. That's true but… so what? It's essentially a meaningless criticism. Do we think the solders of the Saudi regime would do any better facing off against a Dalek? No of course not, because they exist in "real space" and not the science-fantasy world of Doctor Who. I love Interference a lot (though just a little less than Alien Bodies) but that criticism always felt like it was missing the point.
Sorry, I don't have a lot to contribute to the LKH debate that hasn't already been said but I've been silent of late (thanks, work!) so wanted to at least post something. Still reading and loving everything though Phil!
June 23, 2014 @ 3:58 am
Lawrence Miles himself would probably fare quite badly against both a platoon of Daleks and a Saudi state security force.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:02 am
I've kind of learned that one should be wary of accepting fandom's "dislike" for anything. Even a few short months after the event, you can never seem to find examples of fandom's original objections…we're just told about it second and third hand, until we have no proof any more that fans did actually object to something…only the continually perpetuated (and vaguely half-remembered) idea that they did. This is why eras of Doctor Who (and Star Trek as well) appear to slide in and out of favour with no real evidence other than after the fact justification.
The Pertwee era is a perfect example of this. Lauded while it was on, and achieving pretty good viewing figures and appreciation by its audience (a far cry from the previous Doctor's final season), now in the 21st Century it appears to be going through it's second "re-evaluation" in fan circles.
As far as "Hitler's" viewing audience went, it was actually 2nd highest for the series and fairly well appreciated, while the few but very vocal objections on forums at the time seemed (if I recall correctly) to revolve mainly around how cheated fans felt at the minimal use of Hitler, and how the story wasn't a Nazi runaround with the Doctor and his pals attempting (and failing) to dispose of the Dictator.
Some commentators also felt that it resolved the whole "Melody eventually becoming River" plot far too quickly, with a lot of prior speculation being that we might see some of River's earlier life played by a different and younger actress.
But I'm with Ombund here. I enjoyed every minute of it, particularly in the way that it confounded and wrong-footed me at every turn. I didn't expect Hitler to be dealt with so suddenly, I didn't expect to be seeing Alex Kingston so quickly, I didn't see Mels being Melody coming, and I found the Tesselecta a totally original and unexpected addition. The story does feel quite "full", and perhaps that's why characterisation suffers – because there's simply not enough room for it. But I'll always maintain that first and foremost Doctor Who is there to entertain, and this did in spades (at least for me).
June 23, 2014 @ 4:04 am
Adam: Philip never needed to hire a prosecutor for John Nathan-Turner or Barry Letts or John Wiles or whichever of Innes or Bryant spawned Troughton's "base under seige" year, because Philip was entirely willing to prosecute for himself. The Jack Graham guest post made sense not because Moffatt's detractors are necessarily unique in power, but because Philip disagrees with them, and would (quite understandably) rather use his own posts to discuss his own theories.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:19 am
Personally I thought Spielberg dropped the ball with the Nazis in Raiders, from the "I hate those guys" line which established that they were no more than 2-dimensional bad guys, and onward. I associate it with the line I have often heard in conversations and read online: 'I don't understand how anyone could [fill in specific Nazi atrocity or acceptance of such]', which I can't help feeling suggests a little more self-reflection is needed.
The Nazis were not some kind of incomprehensible 'exception' and shouldn't be treated as such. They were an extrapolation of trends and ways of thought that we see around us every day.
For all its faults, I think Let's Kill Hitler succeeds at portraying this 'ordinariness' of the Nazis more successfully than Spielberg did.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:20 am
I'm not a total expert in this or anything but I'd say The Producers was a successful post-1945 comedic take on the Nazis. You could, I guess, say that it's about a production rather than the regime itself but still it's clearly mocking the Nazis in a very upfront manner. Even 'Allo 'Allo manages to (more or less) pull off the trick of laughing at the Nazis but by dint of laughing at everyone (in fact at least the first season of 'Allo 'Allo has more bite than it's given credit for, what with Helga possibly revealing herself as Jewish, an appearance from the Hitler Youth and two German officers whose only survive the episode thanks to the work of two Jewish tailors in London).
Indeed there's an argument to be made that one of the best defenses against a regime as titanically evil as the Nazis is to point and laugh at them – humour can cut through almost anything and the one thing a regime like that cannot stomach is being laughed at. Because they demand to be taken seriously the strongest possible way to refute them is to laugh at them and it is something for which they simply have no defense
June 23, 2014 @ 4:42 am
I think stfuMoffat is uniquely powerful in the history of Doctor Who. This was a group of people so violent in their verbal assaults on Steven Moffat, so convinced to the point of dogma in his evil and retrograde nature, that they hounded him off Twitter. People were constantly tweeting insults and abuse at him such that he deactivated his account. As soon as you type a space after entering "steven moffat' into a google field, the first suggested completion is "steve moffat sexist." No producer of Doctor Who has ever been so vilified in real life before.
And this stands in stark contrast to how Phil actually interprets what Moffat does and what he stands for: the most thoroughly feminist leading creative figure that Doctor Who has had in its entire history so far.
What's more, Phil's account, as the above redemptive reading of LKH demonstrates clearly, is incredibly subtle and complex. The view that Moffat is an unrepentant sexist is based on a series of far more crude evaluations: how often his episodes fail the Bechdel Test, interpreting River Song as the Doctor's MPDG, his predominantly (and for Capaldi's first season) exclusively white male writers' stable, his tendency to write bloke-ish jokes, and interpreting all his displays of strong women as dominatrices with weapons.
The extremely popular conception of Steven Moffat as a misogynist has never been a problem Doctor Who has ever faced. It goes beyond Phil simply disagreeing with the interpretation; the interpretation is a genuinely culturally powerful force in popular culture. Even cultural studies academics are discussing it at their conferences. When even academics notice something, you know it's become prominent.
The motivation of my original comment was the suggestion that Davies faced similar criticism over the characterization of Martha Jones as Moffat does with River Song. In fact, while they made similar mistakes in how the character is expressed in the narrative, Davies did not face nearly the scale and intensity of vitriol that Steven Moffat did and continues to today.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:47 am
That was, in fact, Mel Brooks' argument about how effective humour is against dictators and why authoritarians fear comedians so much. You can never compete with a dictator by trying to outscream him on a soapbox, or in any other venue where he's larger than life, but you can make him look stupid, ordinary, and human.
I remember the director of Downfall making that case as well. When the parody videos of Bruno Ganz's freaking out in the bunker started appearing, the film's distribution company had them taken down for infringement. But the director himself had his company restore them for fair use and parody. He said they were of the same stripe as his film, humanizing Hitler and showing us that he was no exception from the human race.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:53 am
Anyone wanting to hear more about the production of Let's Kill Hitler should give a listen to the interview director Richard Senior gave on Radio Free Skaro #296 (starting at the five minute mark).
Though nothing extraordinary can be gleaned from it, it does cover several interesting points such as the timing of the production, Senior's background, and location finagling (including a disheartening what-might-have-been regarding the Doctor's death scene).
June 23, 2014 @ 4:56 am
Dad's Army is a successful comic treatment of the Second World War, with occasional actual Nazis.
My feeling is that Let's Kill Hitler is playing with the fact that we know upfront that any treatment of Hitler will be unsatisfactory, and also that time travellers fight Nazis/ alternative history with Nazis are well-worn sf premises.
(There have been Nazis in Big Finish – A Thousand Tiny Wings uses one well. Architects of History is good too, but Nazi stands in for any undesirable regime.)
June 23, 2014 @ 5:00 am
Isn't the comedy Nazi actually a pretty common figure dating back from before 1945 and right through to the present day in both UK and US comedy? Other commenters have already mentioned The Great Dictator, The Producers and 'Allo, 'Allo and I'm sure it's easy to come up with many other examples (Spike Milligan did it, Seinfeld has done it, Itchy and Scratchy etc, etc). I think it's a little odd to beat Steven Moffat with this particular stick.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:01 am
No mention of the Tesselecta people blundering through time and space, executing long dead people, who are so bad at their job that they can't even get the year right? And the Doctor is entirely okay with them doing it. It's like sticking an orbital laser on the wall and then only ever using it as a night light.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:18 am
One problem with the argument from po-faced totalitarian humourlessness is that I don't think it's actually true. People who can laugh at themselves are hardly defenceless against humour, and Stalin, for one, found the grotesqueries of his own regime piss-funny.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:30 am
"And the Doctor is entirely okay with them doing it."
No he isn't. It's fair to say that he's not as hard on them as they deserve (especially given his readiness to go to them for help in The Wedding), but he does get a bit shirty with them, as in the "I was going to say 'Who do you think you are?', but I think it's pretty obvious who you think you are" bit.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:33 am
Stalin may well have found them funny but he would never have tolerated his generals or the public laughing at him in the same way, and that's the crucial difference. That is why, after all, the State controlled all media outlets and why dissent was punished. Criticism of any kind, humourous, satiritcal or otherwise was simply not permitted. Any ridicule of the regime itself was intolerable, regardless of whether the person at the top of it had a sense of humour or not. There's plenty of home-movie footage of Hitler in his mountain retreat laughing, joking away and appearing personable and for all the world like a normal human being – that is very distinct from allowing people within Nazi Germany to mock the regime.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:35 am
"This was a group of people so violent in their verbal assaults on Steven Moffat, so convinced to the point of dogma in his evil and retrograde nature, that they hounded him off Twitter."
I feel I need to point out that his own account is that he stopped going on Twitter because it was sucking time away from his work, and that if he believed everything people on Twitter said about him he'd have an even bigger head because most of it's been lovely. I mean, yes, Rule 0, but still.
Incidentally, if you type "john nathan turner " into Google, the first two suggestions are "john nathan turner ruined doctor who" and "john nathan turner killed doctor who".
June 23, 2014 @ 5:38 am
Working my way through it; I agree the prequel was vital, and should've been part of the episode. Should've been pre-titles, in my view.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:01 am
Actually, the only really funny examples of direct Nazi lampooning I can think of are in post-1945 sketch shows, as in Monty Python (the skit with "Mr Hilter" and his henchmen plotting their comeback in a Minehead B&B, or the one about the funniest joke in history), or Mitchell and Webb (the Donitz sketch, or the "Are we the baddies?" one).
While I do find the comedy-Nazi business in this episode somewhat distasteful (partly because Doctor Who is not a comedy show, which makes it more significant when it gives something a light and jokey treatment than it is in productions that are explicitly not there to take anything seriously), the really jaw-droppingly misjudged bit is that line about River being a bigger war-criminal than Hitler. First draft or not, I have no idea what Moffat can have been thinking when he put that one down.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:06 am
1) Has anyone here read I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason?
2) I feel that this episode sums up why Doctor Who is one of the greatest things ever: it's an episode called “Let’s Kill Hitler” in which the cast goes to 1938 Berlin with the express purpose of killing Hitler before saying “Bugger this, we’ve got more important things to do than do what everyone else with a time machine does. Let’s just put him in the cupboard and do something more interesting.”
June 23, 2014 @ 6:29 am
Yes, the River Song line is the major misfire in this regard, isn't it? And precisely the thing that the comedy-romp approach is supposed to avoid.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:29 am
Hitler never threatened the fabric of reality. That should count for something.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:44 am
Terrance Dicks might take issue with you there…
June 23, 2014 @ 6:48 am
You kinda lost me after the fifth paragraph. I'm not sure I got a clear sense of the balance-right version of "Let's Kill Hitler" you said you'd be imagining. It looks more like you're defending the episode as it stands.
Which is fine with me, because I actually enjoyed it. There are all sorts of things to call out, and I did at the time, but as others have mentioned it really is a lot of fun, and the audaciousness/ill-advisedness of some of the choices only adds to that.
I wonder if there really is anyone who "femslashed" River and the TARDIS? It's a pretty one-sided and brief conversation, and she is described not as "a friend of the TARDIS" or "a soulmate of the TARDIS" but as "a child of the TARDIS," which I suppose wouldn't stop a determined slasher.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:51 am
Of course he would, but he's not a Time Lord who specializes in toppling oppressive regimes. Raising the question of why a man who could liberate Pluto and Terra Alpha never does the same thing with human regimes on Earth seems quite reasonable to me, whether I agree with Miles's answer or not.
June 23, 2014 @ 7:23 am
"[T]he really jaw-droppingly misjudged bit is that line about River being a bigger war-criminal than Hitler"
Yeah, that was the point I just gave up even trying to engage with this story. I was already quite nervous about the line it was towing (quite apart from anything else, there's a big difference between "We can shove Hitler aside to tell a more interesting story" and "We can shove Hitler aside to tell a more interesting story using the iconography of Nazi Germany" – the problem isn't that they go to '38 Berlin, it's that they stay there) but once that lines arrives every other misstep seems almost besides the point.
I will say though that I like the idea of handling Amy's trauma as being something we should counter through joy rather than wallow in "trauma porn" (though I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference between such a thing and honest attempts to work through a character's difficulties in surmounting terrible experiences). I can't help but wish though that the actual process of combatting horror through life-affirming fun didn't take place against the backdrop of industrial-level horror perpetrated against an entire people that gets pushed to the margins. If your starting principle is "What's the opposite of lingering on someone being kidnapped and held prisoner whilst subjected to the most horrendous treatment?", I'm struggling to see how the answer becomes "post-Nuremberg Law Nazi Germany".
June 23, 2014 @ 8:05 am
Last season Moffat made an entire reveal out of a fake production gaffe.
Unfortunately, the fake production gaffe contained a real production gaffe (no vortex manipulator).
June 23, 2014 @ 8:21 am
I didn't see any of the "prequels" for these stories until the DVD releases and I admit to thinking that none of them felt essential, not even this one, although this was perhaps the closest. If anything, it felt weirdly like Moffat was indulging in a little timey-wimey manipulation of his own by sort of pre-empting the critics of the "why doesn't Amy seem to show any emotion?" approach but putting it in a place where it wouldn't matter…
June 23, 2014 @ 9:07 am
Encyclops, surely its just because Doctor Who has to be set in at least a close approximation of our world. If the programme does a series where the doctor flits through time fixing all the terrible regimes and empires in our history, it becomes a different show altogether.
It reminds of some criticism of Night Terrors I read on here a while ago, where the episode was slated because Doctor focused on fixing the child's relationship with his parents rather than doing something to resolve the economic deprivation of the estate they lived in. It's just something the show can't do without becoming a show about alternative reality wish fulfilment.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:03 am
Er…The line about River being a bigger war criminal than Hitler, well, you're not meant to agree with it. In fact I dare say Moffat should have stressed this harder in the script as it gets at something often overlooked within this episode.
The Doctor decides to start deleting himself from recorded history after the events of this series.
The fact that River is viewed by the Teselecta (and whatever authority they work for) as a bigger war criminal than Hitler – for the crime of killing the Doctor, one man – is a very large, whopping fat red flag about the universe's perception of the Doctor. Quite a savage one actually. It's completely absurd, deliberately so.
The church in A Good Man Goes To War are an example of how the Doctor has come to be feared for his reputation. The Teselecta in LKH offers the other side of the same coin; how he has been hyped up and mythologised to such an extent as a heroic figure upon which the cosmos depends, that similarly awful consequences ensue.
In both cases the Doctor's closest friends suffer the worst consequences. These two episodes are what prompt him to start deleting all evidence of himself, and to start going 'back into the shadows' i.e. a move towards stories in which the Doctor is simply the Doctor rather than someone whose reputation precedes him.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:29 am
That fake production gaffe, man. That had me going. In fact, looking at fan backlash against Steven Moffat's Doctor Who, I'd say it had everyone going. Blink set the stage, Series 5 set the expectation, and then when those seeming moments of connection came up afterwards, they were instead disappointments. Foreshadowings of nothing. Fauxshadowings.
This episode has one of my favorites. The events are as follows: the Doctor is poisoned and dying. He's in extreme pain. He collapses inside the TARDIS and gets help from the emergency cameo interface. After cycling through a cavalcade of women he's disappointed (my favorite moment in the ongoing Moffat Metaplot is when the Tardis gives him himself and he says "No, give me someone I like." The ongoing Moffat Metaplot then takes something of a hit when the Doctor considers regenerating, but considering that the War Doctor probably didn't exist at this point in authorial intent, and that even if he did regeneration not being mentioned would have spoiled the twist, it's excusable either way) the interface appears as Amelia Pond, and then through the old Moffat standby of repeated dialogue, hammers home exactly how the interface works, how it sounds, what it can do, and what it cannot. The Doctor seems to pass out from the pain. He hears the voice of Amelia Pond, this time without the characteristic distorted effect the interface has, saying "fish fingers and custard". The Doctor is revivified. He looks to the interface, and it remains stoic and inactive. The scene changes. He appears an uncertain amount of time later dressed as he was when he attended the Ponds' wedding. He is still dying at this point.
Now, given the precedent of Flesh and Stone, and still believing at this point that the Moffat Masterplan was in full swing and every single scene was perfectly planned out years in advance, I fully expected that voice to actually be Amelia Pond, somehow speaking directly to the Doctor. It seemed like the only reasonable interpretation of that scene. It failed to happen that way.
There's other moments like that throughout series six and seven. One that I keep thinking they're going to come back to, any day now, comes from the missing Melody years between New York, 1970, and Leadworth, 1996. It's not just that she improbably only ages seven years in that timespan, she canonically and explicitly has the ability to change her age, it's that we happen to know for a fact that Amy and Rory Pond were living in New York in 1970, and would have cherished the opportunity to raise their daughter. Moreover, River was visiting them in this period, and would obviously be able to tell them exactly where and when Melody Pond regenerated in that alley. I really expected that to be resolved at the end of the Angels Take Manhattan, but it wasn't meant to be.
Some day in the future, when today is fashionably retro, I'm gonna have a lot of fun listening to Big Finish's Companion Chronicles starring Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston, which of course will be the only option ever since Aurthur Darvill cut off all ties to the franchise because of "what Barrowman did", and Matt Smith's tragic football-made-of-cocaine accident. Maybe then the continuity obsessive side of me will finally be happy.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:03 am
I'm never okay with comedy Nazis or Nazis portrayed as generic 'bad guys' and I'm especially disgusted by any appropriation of 'Sexy Nazi Chic' or that old chestnut the 'SS memorabilia Rock n Roll rebel look'
(See Keith Richards and countless bozo metal bands) I suppose, to declare an interest, me being of European Jewish descent is a factor here but it's not all of it. I think there's a danger that the tragedy and seriousness of a crime against humanity may be diminished and need to be learned again if we collaborate with perpetuating the idea that Nazis = evil cosplay fun for your next 'bad taste' theme party.
I have no problem with Let's Kill Hitler in that respect. Clearly the story has its problems as Phil and other commenters here have detailed but using Nazi imagery for cheap effect isn't one of them. It's obvious from the 'slutty title' (© Steven Moffat) onwards that what is being parodied here is not Nazis or even Hitler but an irritating Sci-Fi cliche. Just try pitching a treatment involving any kind of time travel element to a film or TV production company and sooner rather than later you'll get some idiot saying "Oh yeah great! And maybe we could have the hero go back in time and kill Hitler!" (I'm speaking from experience here). This is Moffat' s attempt to lampshade that stupidity and he does so pretty effectively (particularly following last season's disastrous WWII set Victory of the Daleks and its cartoon Churchill). The idea of killing Hitler is posited by Mels (a young person of colour at this point it should be noted) and is meant to illustrate, yes her recklessness, lack of planning and excitement at being able to travel in time, but also the absolute rightness of the idea. I mean if you had a TARDIS isn't killing Hitler (apart from being a sci-fi cliche) exactly what you would attempt to do? I would. Moffat even compounds the felony by having the Tesselector Crew arrive with exactly the same idea. Turning the episode into a timey wimey farce worthy of an Alan Moore penned Tharg's Future Shocks from an 80s issue of 2000AD.
So far so meta. The mistake I think, as Space Squid says above, is that after despatching Hitler and the joke to the cupboard they stay in Nazi Berlin and Moffat can't resist living dangerously and rehearsing some quite dodgy old tropes. Chief amongst them being Alex Kingston in 'Sexy Nazi' drag. And no the 'Gay Barmitzvah' gag doesn't make it okay.
All in all I agree with Phil on this one. It needed just one or two rewrites and it could have Been a classic.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:15 am
Nice. I think the top hat and tails is supposed to.indicate the Eleventh Doctor's childish concept of dressing for the occasion (© Eric Roberts' Master) and I think there was some effort at linking it with River's description of 'Now my Doctor' with 'a haircut and a new suit' to the Tenth Doctor in the Library.
If we're talking lost continuity opportunities look no further than River donating all her regeneration energy to save the Doctor in the very scene you mention. I thought that was Moffat solving the 13 limit but no, we had to have pixie dust blown out of Amy's crack on Trenzalore. (Sorry).
June 23, 2014 @ 11:21 am
So, as you might expect, I really loved this episode.
First and foremost, I love how the Tesselector is used as a mirror to Amy and River. There's one shot where River is primping in front of an actual full-length mirror, and Tess!Amy shoves the mirror to the side, taking its place, and then delivers a mouthful of "light" to hold River in place. "Amelia Pond, Judgment Death Machine," the Doctor announces; "I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor," Rory says.
So there's at least two aspects to Amy's psychology that's revealed by the Tesselector. On the one hand, and I find it quite ironic, the robot's emotionless visage perfectly describes the issues so many critics had with Amy's characterization in this story vis-a-vis her apparent lack of response to her trauma. I think it's perfectly clear that the story itself is fully aware of this, and I think it's a very interesting and clever way of depicting the fact that she's burying these difficult emotions, which is something Rita will highlight pretty soon in The God Complex.
But there's also the business of Amy's judgment being repressed, specifically her judgment of River regarding her assassination of the Doctor. Note how early in the story, teenaged Amy takes on the role of the stern parent with Mels after the incident of stealing a bus (which also evokes Lady Christina from Planet of the Dead). This harkens back to Amy's initial response to witnessing the Doctor's death, namely her attempt to shoot the Apollo astronaut, who, of course, is actually her daughter.
Amy, by the way, almost completely takes over the Tesselector. She gets it to relinquish information, she clears it out of its personnel, and then, after her escape, commands it to show everyone who exactly is "River Song." The unfolding of that picture is accompanied with a golden halo; the picture Melody sees of herself isn't just herself, but a self who is no longer seen as an assassin and war criminal, but a beloved friend and, indeed, a savior.
As I've been saying for some time now, the wheelhouse of the show is to use the "monster" as a way of exploring the identities of our characters, and hence holding up a mirror, at least in potentia, to ourselves.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Okay, I knew Arthur Darvill was kind of blowing off Doctor Who with that whole 'Let It Go' parody video he did, but what exactly are you talking about with Barrowman and Matt Smith? I don't know anything about that. And since I'm in the curious, gossipy mood…someone told me that apparently Matt Smith quit Doctor Who because his old football injury was serious enough and acting up with all of the running-around he was doing that he couldn't handle the strain anymore. Is there any truth to that rumor as well?
June 23, 2014 @ 1:19 pm
Double checked…leg injury during filming of Christmas special, probably not actual reason why he left.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:35 pm
I was positing amusing changes to the cast of now-current Doctor Who that might ensue in the next 20-30 years.
For what it's worth, I have heard rumors from multiple people I have no trust in nor any reason to trust that Matt Smith's got a pretty healthy coke habit, hence the particular amusing hypothesis I chose there.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
My goodness, I kicked off some interesting discussion. Thanks so much to everyone who responded. Much food for thought here.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:54 pm
But let me put it this way. How positive towards an episode entitled "Let's Kill Eichmann" would you be ?
June 23, 2014 @ 2:19 pm
Doctor Who has to be set in at least a close approximation of our world
I'll accept "is easiest to write when it is," but I'm not sold on "has to be." Nor am I sold on the idea that there would be anything at all harmful or "alternative reality wish fulfillment" about the Doctor addressing the estate's conditions — to my mind it would be on the same scale as saving one family from Pompeii, or to giving Donna a winning lottery ticket.
That said, I'm not the one who decided it would be good to have the Doctor tortured close to death in a Middle Eastern prison, nor do I think it's the most interesting direction to take the (what do we call it? is "show" even the right word when we're talking about books?). I'm just saying it's a reasonable question to ask about a show where the main character can go anywhere in time and space and specializes in toppling oppressive regimes. I'm not sure it would be a "different show" so much as a more morally consistent version of the same one.
The easiest way to get around this, and perhaps even a way to reconcile with "The Aztecs," would be to posit something special about Earth history where it's important to buttress it against (hostile) alien interference, but to make sure the mainstream flow of history proceeds unimpeded, horrible tragedies and all. Miles would not be the guy to write that. Maybe Paul Cornell would. Or Moffat, on the theory that the Doctor poisoned himself against changing Earth history early on by knowing too much of it.
June 23, 2014 @ 2:53 pm
I don't really think it's much of a question, honestly – the Doctor always fights metaphors. The Daleks, for example, are pretty clear-cut Nazi metaphors, the Sun Makers are evil corporate bureaucrats, the 60s Cybermen are mostly Soviets, etc. That's why there's no point to have The Doctor vs. The Nazis: he already fights the Nazi/fascist ideology when he fights the Daleks.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:37 pm
Moffat even compounds the felony by having the Tesselector Crew arrive with exactly the same idea
Importantly not the same idea, though. The Teselecta have no interest in preventing any of Hitler's crimes; otherwise they'd be complaining about arriving too late, not too early. They want to wait until he's committed all his historically recorded crimes, and then punish him for them. It's all retribution and no prevention — a fundamentally screwed-up set of priorities.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:44 pm
Well, if you're going to have a coke habit, it's surely best to have a healthy one.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:48 pm
This harkens back to Amy's initial response to witnessing the Doctor's death, namely her attempt to shoot the Apollo astronaut
Isn't it River who shoots at the astronaut? Amy shoots at it later, in Florida; but at the time her initial response is to try to revive the doctor.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:31 pm
At Lake Silencio, yes. River shoots at herself, which is interesting right off the bat. And, of course, after Amy comes to believe that the Doctor is dead, and she's done crying her cries, she starts to shut down emotionally — she's almost a walking zombie by the time they get back to the diner, shades of what drove people crazy about her in Let's Kill Hitler.
But after she finds the younger Doctor alive and well, she tries to rewrite time in 1969, when she shoots at the Apollo astronaut in Florida. And her very young daughter is inside. This is her "solution" to the problem of the Doctor's death — not her initial reaction, but how she "responds" to the situation: with violence.
From that moment on, it's like Amy's inner monster is released — be it fighting pirates, attacking wooden dolls, decapitating handbots, popping the Doctor in the head with a stun gun, wielding a pipette at Demon's Run, pointing a gun at River (again) at Demon's Run, or mowing down Silents in an Egyptian pyramid in an alternate universe.
June 23, 2014 @ 7:45 pm
Successful young actor in London playing Patrick Bateman may take cocaine? Lawks-a-mercy.
June 23, 2014 @ 8:08 pm
I loved this episode, even if I wished it had an extended ten minutes or so, it was fantastic in any case.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:13 pm
Yes good point. The Tessies motive is different even if their intention is identical which only enhances Moffat's (rather more subtle than "let's have some fun with Nazis") examination of the 'time travel as revenge fantasy' trope.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:47 pm
Of course the Pertwee era got there first with Let's Kill Sir Reginald Styles – Time Travelling Historical Revenge Assassins. With Daleks!
June 24, 2014 @ 12:08 am
the line it was towing
What could that even possibly mean?
June 24, 2014 @ 1:25 am
To be perfectly honest, I doubt Moffat has ever even heard of, or gives a brass farthing about, 'stfuMoffat'. He's around the same age as me, and I didn't even know what Tumblr was until a few months ago 🙂
By the same token, there were and are plenty of old-school fans on sites like GB who hate all New Who because it's Not Like Proper Dr Who From When Tom Baker Was In It, and I'm sure neither RTD nor Moffat has ever paid the slightest bit of attention to them either…
June 24, 2014 @ 4:19 am
While I am all in favour of laughing at Nazis, I can't help thinking that in terms of actually defending against the Nazi regime, the T-34 tank was rather more effective.
June 24, 2014 @ 4:33 am
The dodginess of using Nazis in DW calls to mind the fact that the only time they appeared in Classic Who was in Silver Nemesis, a story that was widely considered to be the worst McCoy episode not to feature Richard Briers.
June 24, 2014 @ 4:33 am
Best photo caption yet, by the way. Didn't see it until a second reading, but had me in stitches.
June 24, 2014 @ 5:52 am
Don't underestimate the damage online fandom can do. RTD & Moffat steer clear, not because it's beneath their attention, but because it makes them angry. You only have to look at the effect the posters of Outpost Gallifrey had on Helen Raynor after her Daleks in Manhattan 2-parter aired.
Pen Name Pending
June 24, 2014 @ 7:13 am
There are the sexism declarers, sure, but there are also others who think it's too complicated, or not emotional enough, etc. Personally I just hate how everyone assumes the last 2 seasons or whatever are not as good.
As a female child of the Moffat era (although I wasn't a child), I never understood because the show made me feel more imaginative and just altogether stronger and inspired. I always put how it made me feel over viewing it critically…originally I decided which episodes I liked and didn't like as much, but then I saw how some people liked those too (like "Amy's Choice") and I wanted to like all of Doctor Who. But because of the Internet's scrutiny, I somehow ended up feeling like I should defend every single thing about Moffat and that's ridiculous of course, so I've mostly just quieted down about it. There are of course episodes that I found I loved on second viewing, and episodes that didn't hold up as much on second viewing, but I'm so scared to say anything about it. And in some ways I shouldn't, since I don't tackle aspects like "sexism" or whether the long plots worked (they did for me), which I suppose is only being half-critical. But I don't want to be, because I at least want to preserve that childhood bliss.
I suppose that's what the defenders of Talons of Weng-Chiang are doing too, but it would be different if they were Chinese. I'm female and I don't think the episodes are demeaning to me. There's an odd line here or there, but some of the criticism is way overblown because they read the sexism into everything and blame it on Moffat…where in fact some things like costume and improvised lines were more in the hands of the actors, etc. There's also the troubling thing of simplifying characters like Amy, River, and Clara which ignores other details that have been said about them in the scripts.
And I am so glad Donna was mentioned, because I have been forever annoyed how she gets a good reception because she "didn't have a romantic relationship with the Doctor." Talk about defining in terms of the Doctor!
This ended up longer than expected, sorry. The Internet has just caused me bizarre pain over a show that I didn't even create.
Pen Name Pending
June 24, 2014 @ 7:37 am
I love this a lot, since I've always been a big fan of the time travel theory Moffat subscribes to (at least on Earth) and he really knows how to craft the narrative, although that's encumbered by how Doctor Who has never been very consistent with its time travel rules (it does seem that Earth remains unchanged, while other planets are more flexible, for the obvious reasons). I think "The Big Bang" showcases it all the best for me, though.
Your comments about judging characters struck a chord with me, too…I've been looking into books recently that deal with real circumstances (like rape or suicide), and there are always some people who feel like the characters who endured these traumas should have acted differently, or they as readers would have acted differently, but it's so hard to say that without knowing what it's like.
June 24, 2014 @ 10:22 am
Noticing the title of this essay was drawn from an episode whose title was drawn from this episode had me panicked for a moment thinking that every other article-and-episode matchup was symmetrical, but that was just momentary madness.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:43 pm
I have! Genius. Much, much, much better than this episode, not that that's hard to do.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:51 pm
I have not watched this episode since initial airing, because I hated it.
I recall my dislike of it could be pretty much entirely summed up as "squandered opportunities and shaggy dogs." To wit:
River can regenerate! Wait, no she can't.
River actually grew up WITH Rory and Amy! But you'll never see any of it.
River was programmed to kill the Doctor! Wait, no, now she wasn't.
Amy and Rory have had their child torn away from them! They will never bat an eye over this.
I get that, like the title "Let's Kill Hitler," the whole thing is supposed to be building to a series of payoffs that never happen, and that's a structure which can work (I stole the phrase from Brian Clevinger's description of his own 8-Bit Theater), it pretty much is only entertaining if the content supported by that structure is very, very funny or the characters who keep getting robbed of their payoff are profoundly unsympathetic (ideally, both). Neither applies to this episode.
June 24, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
@Adam Riggio: You are aware of the "JNT Must Die!" headline, right? Because it seems like after that, nobody ever gets the coveted title of "Most Villified Doctor Who Producer" through any means short of an actual assassination attempt on their person, and God willing we'll never see that.
@Spacewarp: The two aren't mutually exclusive. Moffat and Davies have been pretty open about their belief that the most vitriolic people on the Internet are also the ones whose opinions are worth the least. 🙂
June 24, 2014 @ 5:02 pm
Something I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere is the fact that this is yet another time that police-like figures come in for criticism on new-Who. From the Judoon to the Atraxi to the Tesselecta, any of the intergalactic police force characters have complete overreactions and misplaced priorities. The Judoon and Atraxi are willing to sacrifice many, many people to capture one criminal. As someone mentions above, the Tesselecta seems more interested in revenge than justice. It's a really interesting pattern that definitely speaks to the uneasy relationship the Doctor and the show have with authority figures, especially those with the ability to use lethal force.
In comparison to those, River is actually the opposite match. While the Doctor is non-violent chaos, River is violent chaos. The show is clearly on her side, showing that its allegiance is with chaos, even when it can occasionally be violent.
June 24, 2014 @ 5:55 pm
For further reading the the reaction to 'Comedy Nazis' look up the initial press and response to Hogan's Heros on its first broadcast. Also covered in the brilliant movie about Bob Crane, 'Auto Focus'. Even as late as 2002 the TV guide (USA) listed Hogan's Heros as the fifth worst TV show of all time due to its trivializing of the Nazis and POWs, etc.
June 24, 2014 @ 10:49 pm
And of course dressing up as a pirate, a handbot, and ultimately one of Kovarian's Kohorts.
June 25, 2014 @ 2:59 pm
I also mostly enjoyed this episode, though I felt that so much was left unsaid — to be communicated only by meaningful looks — that I wasn't quite sure I heard the music that Phil described.
One aspect of Moffat's structures and plotting that I really noticed was how long the quartet had that dance hall to themselves — no police, no Nazis coming to investigate the crowds of nearly naked people fleeing the scene. As in the ending of TWoRS, there's no sense of urgency that bad guys are going to bust down the doors any second so let's hurry things along!
July 6, 2014 @ 5:45 am
A bit late here. But I do think that part of the point of having Hitler in the show has been missed.
The point of killing Hitler is that Mels is testing the Doctor.
What's practically the first thing she says? "Why did Hitler gain power?" "Because the Doctor didn't stop him."
And then the moment she sees the Doctor, she challenges him to correct this oversight. "You've got a time machine, I've got a gun. What the hell, let's kill Hitler."
Mels has had two sources of information about the Doctor. Kovarian's brainwashing, and Amy's fairy tales. And she's not sure which is true. So she sets up a test.
And the Doctor fails. Spectacularly. Not only does he (accidentally) save Hitler, he also gets Mels shot in the process. And it is only then that Mels (now River) turns on the Doctor.
This part of the "Hitler" subplot is played straight, for drama.
And it is only once it has been established that the Doctor has failed Mels's test that they quickly turn to comedy, having Rory punch Hitler and then get him out of the way by putting him in the closet.
They don't need Hitler around to clutter up the story. Because he's there to be a shorthand for evil that the Doctor fails to stop.
October 11, 2015 @ 12:23 pm
Since when has the TARDIS been shown as “extremely libidinous”? Sorry, The Doctor’s Wife doesn’t count there.
Also, my real beef with this episode is that it cements River’s transformation from engaging Benny Summerfield variant to tedious superhuman Ab Fab reject.