Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler

Posted: September 20, 2011 in Critical Hit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Warning: spoilers, rant, etc. 

Internets, I don’t know what to tell you.

It’s pretty firmly on record that I was less than impressed with A Good Man Goes To War, which is why I’ve been putting off watching Let’s Kill Hitler. And then I saw this piece in today’s Guardian about whether Doctor Who has grown too complicated, and I decided to bite the bullet.

In retrospect, I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t.

The introduction of Mels is a retcon of epic proportions. If we’d seen her before in earlier episodes or heard her mentioned Bad Wolf style, that would be one thing; but we didn’t, and we haven’t, and that makes the whole setup for the piece feel utterly contrived. We’re with Hitler for five minutes – which is a relief in some ways, because any longer would have been unbearable – but there’s absolutely no reason AT ALL that the episode has to be set when and where it is, except that someone, somewhere thought it would be cool. Which, look: I get that coolness is sort of what Doctor Who is meant to do, but dropping in on Hitler is a pretty hefty way to fuck up the established timeline, and the fact that this is played for laughs – as irrelevant – in a show whose earlier series spent episode after episode making clear the dangers and difficulties inherent in messing with established events is sloppy, unprofessional and stupid. Which means, for my money, that the episode utterly fails at coolness.

In fact, it fails at everything.

Things I am sick of seeing in Steven Moffat episodes:

  • Female characters who are universally either River Song or other girls who’ve known the Doctor since childhood;
  • Robots, robotic processes or other soulless, impersonal creatures as the only villains; and
  • Dopplegangers of everyone. OH MY GOD, THE DOPPLEGANGERS.

With the exception of Neil Gaiman’s excellent piece, these three things define every single episode in the new season. They are also the hallmarks of Moffat’s earlier and best offerings, including The Girl in the Fireplace, The Silence of the Library and Blink. From what I’ve heard, the next two episodes are no different, and it makes me want to tear my hair out with frustration. These were all great ideas the first time around, but after the sixth or seventh repetition, they’re getting very, very worn. FIND A NEW STORY AND TELL IT INSTEAD.

Oh! And then we have the sexism. Did I mention the sexism, internets? Because I’m rather annoyed by it! While regenerating, River/Mels snaps that she’s concentrating on a dress size, rushes off to weigh herself once she’s done, exclaims over the hot clothes she can wear in her new body, and then has her brainwashing-induced personality explained away by the Doctor with the hilarious addendum of “plus, she’s a woman.” AGH. Oh, and we get ANOTHER scene where the Doctor dies (only he doesn’t really) while everyone sits around being sad anyway – seriously, he’s the TITULAR FUCKING CHARACTER, he’s not about to die, there is NO TENSION IN THESE SCENES, JUST MELODRAMATIC BULLSHIT OH MY GOD – and yet more robots whose repetitious dialogue goes on and on and on; and more dopplegangers of everyone to pull focus so that the writers are spared the indignity of actually having to create new characters with actual depth; and then we end with River effectively depowering herself as a TimeLord to save the Doctor despite her brainwashing, and what the HELL? Seriously? She’s been trained to kill him her whole life, but then she mysteriously deprograms herself when he calls her River, even though that makes no sense? WHY DOES SHE SUDDENLY SWITCH SIDES WHEN SHE’S JUST SUCCEEDED IN HER LIFE’S MISSION? I don’t buy that the TARDIS made her reconsider, somehow, magically. No: she’s a main character, we should see this important deeply transformative shit actually HAPPENING and not just be told about it afterwards.

GAH.

So, yeah. NOT IMPRESSED. The Guardian asked if Doctor Who is too complicated now. I say no, unless by complicated you mean narratively disjunct, with new retcons every episode, plots that don’t make sense, and characterisation so thin you could shoot peas through it. In which case, IT IS COMPLICATED.

I’m going to watch the next couple of episodes in the hope that things might fix themselves, but honestly, my optimism is low. If Amy needs rescuing one more time, or another female character gets killed/depowered/hurt for stupid reasons that are never adequately explained solely to advance the arc of Rory or the Doctor, I will get very, very cross.

And now, I’m going to go change into my The Doctor Is In t-shirt, and pretend that David Tennant and RTD are still running the show. Also, there will be wine.

Comments
  1. Just to say….I KNOW, RIGHT? Criminy!

  2. Yes, a thousand times yes. It’s all just so incoherent, everything sacrificed for a cool idea or a ridiculous concept. And I’m afraid if you watch on to “The Girl Who Waited” you’re likely to be more than cross.

    There’s a lot of things I’m struggling with this season, but the biggest of all (unless the end of the season ties up with another massive timey wimey retcon) is that Amy and Rory are apparently okay with their daughter living a terrible young childhood in an orphanage – and then on the streets – because one day she eventually grows up to be River. So that’s okay.

    That just doesn’t work for me.

  3. Phoebe says:

    HUGS! I blogged about “The Girl Who Waited.” (spoilers!). “The God Complex” changed my perception of certain things, but only slightly (and certain other elements mad me even more angry). I’d be interested to hear what you think about the later eps this season when you get to them.

  4. imbeingsirius says:

    Can we have a party? Where we watch RTD reruns?

    Stephen Moffat can’t develop characters, so he replaces that aspect with slogan-based stereotyped characters like River Song. Her entire character was invented to be cryptic and add cliffhangers. 95% of River’s dialogue (euphemism) is “He hasn’t met me yet!” “Spoilers!” “Hello, Sweetie!” “Oh, god, do I know that man!” “Have we done___ yet?”
    Oh, and of course, Moffat’s favorite: turning EVERYTHING into kinky dialogue.
    Because that’s what women are to him- Sexy, kinky and carrying a gun (the last is so against the RTD seasons I want to SCREAM!)

    OH MY GOD I’M WORKING MYSELF UP!

    • fozmeadows says:

      The gun thing is definitely an issue. Has any iteration of the Doctor been cool with guns before 11? Because somehow, I’m thinking not.

  5. […] is the brainchild of Steven Moffat, who hasn’t got aspectacular track record when it comes to writing women, and to whom the following quote from 2004 is lamentably attributable: “There’s this […]

  6. kjpearl says:

    Part of Moffat’s success seems to be how everything is “complicated” when in reality it’s not (at least not in a good way). He makes the episodes confusing by making nonsensical twists or withholding information. The problem is when people rather than saying “this makes no sense” start feeling that it is “sophisticated” or “complicated” when it’s just plain old over-dramatic.

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