Monday, September 12, 2011

Countdown Doctor Who Season 6 part 2: "Let's Kill Hitler"

"You said she killed the doctor. The Doctor? 
Doctor Who?"

--The Doctor
"Let's Kill Hitler"

"You've got a time machine, I've got a gun. What the Hell? Let's kill Hitler."

The second half of season six has begun...well, it began. Three weeks ago. My apologies. As regular bloggers go, I'm sort of a wash. My recent re-location, search for employment and illness have caused lapses in my usual punctuality. But let's move on, shall we? Travel back in time, so to speak, to episode 8 of season 6.

This episode is one of Steven Moffat's emotional episodes following the River Song chronology. As we know from previous seasons and the first half of season 6, River Song is a time traveller, only her time line is going in the opposite direction of the Doctor's and his companions'. Recently we have discovered that River Song is also part Time Lord, as she was conceived by Amy and Rory aboard the Tardis.

Now we encounter a new character in Amy and Rory's lives: their best mate, Mels. Mels is Amy's oldest friend, whom she shared her stories and adventures of the Doctor with while they were growing up. Amy would go on to name her daughter after Mels. Mels meets up with Amy and Rory after they summon the Doctor, dramatically, with the headline "Leadworth's Crop Circle". Mels, needing to escape police custody (again), kidnaps the Doctor, Amy and Rory at gun point. When prompted with where she would like to go, she answers with the age answer to an age old question, "You've got a time machine, I've got a gun. What' the Hell? Let's kill Hitler." The Doctor sends them to 1938, where they accidentally crash into Hitler's office, stopping an assassination attempt by a robot carrying tiny people inside. Hitler attempts to shoot his attacker after thanking the Doctor for saving him. Since the robot is metal, essentially, the bullets ricochet off, one of them striking Mels. Astonishingly, Mels is mostly unhurt, and in an even stranger display, she begins to regenerate, which the Doctor quickly notices. He disables every single gun in the room, and Mels reappears as Melody Pond, or more specifically, River Song. Only River has no idea who she is, only that she is a buxom older woman with blond hair "that just doesn't stop, does it?" River jumps out the window and into 1938 Germany after she poisons the Doctor with her lipstick (an old trick). Amy and Rory follow, along with the Teselector, the robot with the tiny people. They catch her, and when the Teselector tries to apprehend River, the Doctor begs Rory and Amy to stop the little people and free River. River is non-plused, and the Doctor begs her to save her parents, as he lays dying and helpless on the floor. River extracts Rory and Amy with the Tardis. River gives all of her remaining lives and regenerations to save the Doctor. They leave her in the hospital and take off across the universe again.

In a nutshell, that's the episode.

Steven Moffat: The Writing and the Timeline

Steven Moffat has done it again. This episode, I would criticize as being slightly more confusing. It is not stand-alone, as episode 9 would be, but is part of the River Song chronology, which has been working backwards until now, when River Song has finally reached a point where she must begin again. At the end of "A Good Man Goes to War" we learn that Melody Pond, Amy and Rory's baby, is being turned into a weapon by The Silence to be used against the Doctor. Now that they have this foreknowledge, the team must leave River to discover herself. This means that even while the Doctor travels forward and River travels back, River must also travel forward in her search for herself, the River that Amy and Rory know in the future. Their contact with River must now be minimal, as they have too much foreknowledge. I don't like it, since Melody/River seems to be able to regenerate into different ages in different parts of her time stream. Its a bit confusing, and we lose precious moments of Amy's life, parts of her life that would have been spent raising a child. However, Melody/River is already an adult in their current part of the timeline. This is how Amy could name her child after her best friend and then her child be her best friend.

Mels regenerates as River Song
Though Moffat is a timeline genius, I wonder where we are exactly in Amy and Rory's lives. Their current time stream runs parallel to the Doctor's. The three of them are moving forward through their timeline. Along side their timeline is River Song, who is traveling backward in time. When they met her, she had an incredible amount of foreknowledge of the Doctor because she has seen his future. She is also in prison for a murder the group knows nothing about, but the audience is keenly aware of. As the Doctor gets to know River Song, he is also forgetting her. Things that River has become accustomed to over the years will one day be new to the Doctor. His first are her lasts. One day, the Doctor is going to meet her and have no idea who she is. However, this timeline is disrupted by a crossing on Demon's Run, when the Doctor discovers that the child he is setting out to search for is already known to him in adulthood as River Song. River Song can also alter her timeline. She can be both Mels and Melody Pond. She is River, yet she is not River. At the end of the episode, she begins to understand, but her past is unknown to her because of the brainwashing sustained by The Silence. The two River Song timelines begin to converge, as River becomes Melody and Melody becomes River.

Confused yet?

Alongside this timeline is the normal flow of history. This is how Amy, Rory and the Doctor can go back in time from their current position in history and change it. According to an operator on the Teselector, history can be re-written, yet there remain fixed points in time that cannot be altered. One of them is the Doctor's death. Anything else is fair game. The team and the Justice Department, who runs the Teselector, are moving along the same timeline, which is how they can both end up in Hitler's office. Moffat uses three different and distinct timelines to move the plot, each time stream interfering and interacting with the other. Episodes inside the River chronology have to do with Melody Pond and River Song. Episodes outside that chronology effect the present or near future (and sometimes the past) that Amy and Rory currently operate, though I understand that history and space seem to hold a sense of fascination for the companions. Chronology is useful for mapping out plots, and was used in The X:Files to develop the characters outside of the "Black Oil" chronology, which involves all of the extraterrestrial and conspiracy episodes, while the rest of the episodes involve other X:Files, moving character while not running out the timeline too quickly.

"I would ask you who you think you are, but I think the answer is pretty obvious,"
The Justice Department

A view of the Doctor from inside
the Teselector
Throughout history, mankind has wished whole-heartedly to be able to go back in time and erase its greatest mistakes. Contemporary opinion often maintains that Hitler should never have been allowed to happen, nor the holocaust and war he started. This is where the Justice Department comes in. The Justice Department is mankind's wish come true. Centuries in the future, mankind has been able to time travel and design robots that can morph into insignificant (or significant as the case may be) people in order to infiltrate and assassinate. The Teselector is one of those robots. The people inside the robot are in miniature, kept that way by a form of compression (the scientific mumbo-jumbo is not necessary to the concept). However, their goal is not just to assassinate, but to extract human lives near the end of their established timeline and, "Give em Hell" in exchange for all the suffering those people have caused to their timelines. The Doctor does a pretty bang up job of explaining to them why that's stupid with, "What, you got yourselves time travel, so you go back in time and punish dead people?" Not only does it render the Department itself useless, but also disables that age-old question, "If you had a time machine and a gun, would you kill Hitler?"

Our past and our mistakes define who we are in the present. This applies to the futility of killing Hitler in the past. How could we prevent anything like Hitler in the future if we have never dealt with him before? The concept also applies to River Song. Her past, whatever it was, is nothing to her future. She was born to be a weapon, a weapon that the Doctor disabled and turned into a person of extraordinary potential. If he allows the Teselector to destroy River in the past, she will never be able to experience her amazing future.

 Best Lines

Moffat's lines are by far the best. While Matthew Grahame has some good moments, Moffat's episodes are rife with one-liners. Several take place in the beginning, Mels' line being the first on my list, "You've got a time machine, I've got a gun. What the Hell, let's kill Hitler." Mels also refers to some of the Doctor's "clever lines" in the opening scenes, "You said guns wouldn't work in here. You said we were in a state of temporal grace."

Amy and Rory have several good lines in this episode. This after Mels' regeneration and emergence as River Song.

Rory: "Is anybody else finding this day just a bit difficult. I'm getting this sort of bagin' in my head."
Amy: "Yeah, I think that's Hitler in the cupboard."
Rory: "That's not helping."

And this after Rory and Amy are shrunk into the Teselector:

Doctor Who?
Rory: "Okay, I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor."

The antibodies get a really good one, "You will experience a tingling sensation and then death."

And, of course, the Doctor his finest, "Never knowingly be serious."


The Doctor and his companions are content to let River find herself. They decide to move on, but not before the Doctor gets a peek at one big spoiler, one he was never supposed to know about. We have not heard the last of River Song, nor do I think The Silence have run to ground in the wake of their failure. However, life does go on on-board the Tardis. At least for now.

The Doctor is a Time Lord of Gallifrey, travelling the universe forwards and backwards with his chosen companions. With their daughter in the hospital, and the rest of the universe waiting for them, what new adventures will the team embark upon? Check back at The Squealing Nerd for episode 9, "Night Terrors."

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