It’s official. Alex Kingston is my idol, and River Song is one of the most fascinating characters on television. Doctor Who has returned for the second half of its sixth series with “Let’s Kill Hitler,” an episode that manages to be the best, most solid and fun episode of Series Six so far.
Spoiler alert: Hitler remained alive. Oh, well. No episode is perfect.
The episode begins with Amy and Rory create crop circles spelling out the word “Doctor” in Leadworth. When the Doctor responds to their message, they are joined by an old friend of the couple’s named Mels. We get to know Mels through a series of flashbacks that reveal that she’s known Amy since grade school and was obsessed with Amy’s relationship with the Doctor. She even went further than Amy in insisting on the Doctor’s existence, bringing him up in school history lessons and getting in trouble. She continued getting in trouble through adulthood, and when she speeds back into their lives in a “borrowed” sports car it’s clear that she is someone to whom rules don’t matter. When she sees the Doctor, her childhood crush on him seems to have grown right along with her, and she hits on him. Not before encouraging him to take her for a ride in the TARDIS at gunpoint. “I have a gun,” she says. “What the hell? Let’s kill Hitler!”
The idea of going back in time in the name of justice to kill someone who has committed an atrocity is the theme of the entire episode. When Team TARDIS and Mels go to 1930s Berlin to kill Hitler, a group of humans who have miniaturized themselves and live in a person-sized robot that can take any form represent the Department of Justice (it isn’t specified whose department it is) and have tracked down Hitler to punish him for his crimes. (A mistake, as they’re ahead of schedule.) But when the TARDIS crashes into Hitler’s office, they change they’re focus; they must punish Mels for her war crimes. Now, she has been a juvenile delinquent, and doesn’t seem to care much for rules and laws, but war crimes?
Yes, because in the future she will be guilty of killing the Doctor.
Mels is River Song. She has also regenerated from the girl in “The Impossible Astronaut,” meaning that she is the child of not only Amy and Rory, but of the TARDIS, making her part Time Lady, and she was responsible for her parents getting together in the first place all Marty McFly-style. In this episode we learn these things and the answers to many other questions about River Song: Why does she look younger further in her future? To “freak people out” she decided to get slightly younger every year. Can she regenerate? No, because she transferred all of her regeneration power into the Doctor to save his life in this episode. Why did she begin studying archaeology? To keep track of the Doctor. She was raised for the sole purpose of killing the Doctor, but in this episode she reevaluates that mission and becomes the River Song we know; the one who is devoted to saving the Doctor. We also learn more about The Silence, and the fact that they are not a species, but a religious order whose main tenet is to kill the Doctor.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” is a solid, well-written episode that provides answers to fan questions and alludes to future questions all while having a solid theme tied together by both historical events and the story arcs of the characters. Also, we now have a black Time Lady! And in an episode featuring one of the world’s great racists, no less! What really makes the episode, however, is its rampant humor. Every scene was full of quality one-liners and intriguing character moments that make the episode breeze along beautifully. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have a wonderful scene in the flashbacks where Amy dismisses Rory as a romantic possibility because she’d always assumed he was gay. And then there is the amazing display of one-upmanship between Alex Kingston and Matt Smith as they protect themselves by outsmarting each other. Both of these scenes, as well as the quips skillfully scattered throughout display the acting and writing on Doctor Who at its best.
If you were concerned about where Series 6 of Doctor Who was going, “Let’s Kill Hitler” has the show going in a fresh, funny direction that is ultimately more satisfying than the intensity of the first half. And Rory got to punch Hitler in the face, which is just awesome.
Doctor Who is back on BBC America Saturdays at 9PM ET!
Teresa Jusino wants to be River Song when she grows up. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.