Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Let’s Kill Hitler

And now for something completely different.  The Space Opera stylings of A Good Man Goes to War are immediately replaced by a story that feels part 30s knock about romantic comedy and part Graham Williams with a little bit of The Beezer thrown in for good measure.

This seems to be treated as being the conclusion of a two part story but it’s anything but that.  A Good Man Goes to War was clearly a season finale and Let’s Kill Hitler is clearly a season premier, but there is a disconnect.  The resolution to the events of Let’s Kill Hitler are so roundabout that it feels as though  Let’s Kill Hitler is largely concerned with ignoring A Good Man Goes to War’s long term implication in favour of resolving the River Song story arc and the cliffhanger to Day of the Moon. 

The Wedding of River Song would prove to be the real conclusion (or at least continuation) of A Good Man Goes to War.  This is effectively a timey-wimey prequel to A Good Man Goes to War.As much as I loved the Epic Space Opera of A Good Man Goes to War, I was just as happy with the frankly bizarre comedy on show here.  Pretty much everything is pitched towards comedy, but as with the best comedies there is some real heart and drama underneath the jokes and great lines (“The Third Reich is a bit rubbish” bit was priceless).

The backstory of Amy, Rory and Mels is terrific fun.  Amy’s assumption that Rory was gay was pretty funny.  Rory really is LONG suffering.  Mel’s attitude to life frankly makes River Song and the Doctor look well adjusted.  I got a real kick out of the fact that Mel’s intervention effectively guarantees her own conception.  I also loved the fact that she actively sought out her mother and father.  You do get the sense that she wanted to be brought up by her own parents after a fashion.  

Against the fun of that is the real problem of Amy and Rory’s attitude to all of this.   I can buy into River feeling like she had a childhood and that she had her parents, but I don’t buy Amy and Rory feeling like they had a daughter.  I know the Moff took and tried to present the view that they were effectively River’s parents.  But they did not know that at the time.  There is a whole hell of a difference between keeping your friends on the straight and narrow and bringing up a daughter.  

As funny as the ret-conned backstory is, the whole situation doesn’t bear any close examination anyway.  Amy might not have thought to ask about Mel’s parents (or even her home) because of the crack in her bedroom wall, but Rory?  Fundamentally, what we have here is a very clever, funny and entertaining idea with no sense of any real emotional truth to it.  Just as the Amy and Rory relationship fell flat last season, so the pregnancy storyline falls flat in this one.  There is never any real feeling that Amy and Rory are truly parents.  My feeling is that the Moff was a little too ambitious and clever for his own good here and we should at least have had the chance to see Amy and Rory realise and come to terms with their impending parenthood and the loss of that parenthood.  The result is an inversion of the flaws of the RTD era, with emotion being sacrificed for Plot.  In general I prefer the RTD approach, but I will let the Moff off here as this season has delivered in spades in terms of presenting and paying off several complex story arcs.  This ambition is to be applauded and I have yet to see an arc heavy show that hasn’t had to make a compromise or dropped the ball somewhere along the line.  

I found the final reveal of River Song’s identity and origins to be particularly satisfying.  There are levels here to be explored with the Doctor’s role in all of this being questionable.  We have seen the Doctor manipulate his companions before, sometimes deliberately and sometimes accidentally.  What we now have is a Doctor that has essentially played God with a whole family history. 

This seems to be mostly accidental and mostly to the benefit of Amy and Rory (Amy gets her parent’s back, Amy and Rory marry each other, Amy and Rory have a child), but it’s clear that River is a very messed up person who only exist because of the Doctor.  It seems that her only purpose in life is to be obsessed with the Doctor, firstly as an assassin, then as a companion for the Doctor.  Then there’s the fact that she essentially commits suicide to save the Doctor on two separate occasions.  Again, there is nothing to suggest that the Doctor wants any of this.  But he benefits from it.  What is uncertain is just how much of the Doctor’s behaviour and actions in relation to River are his taking advantage of the situation and how much are his taking responsibility for the situation.  We see in this episode the guilt he feels about Rose, Martha and Donna; how much does he now feel about Amy, Rory and River in particular? 

The final element of this episode worthy of consideration (since Hitler was in this context rightfully relegated to a cupboard) is the Tesalecta and its crew.  The Moff was clearly channelling RTD for this one as we see the Numbskulls recycled into a space-time traveling, vigilante, war crimes tribunal.  The sets looked a little cheap, but the idea was great fun and generally well executed.  

One final niggle. “I always dress for the occasion”  was cute in the TVM.  The Doctor doing the same here was irritating in view of the minutes to live stuff (and yes I know it was all part of his plan, but even so).

Overall, this episode was terrific fun which delivered emphatically on the story arc front. 

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