Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler

First of all, I just have to say: I'm really not sure about the title of this episode. World War Two was a rather serious event - it's not that you can't set light-hearted things during that period, but such a flippant title just seems... wrong. Oh well.

Of course, the reason for the title is that this episode, among other things, acts as one of our occasional reminders of why the Doctor can't just stop all the nastier bits of history from happening. This has been done most effectively in another Classically-themed episode, 'The Fires of Pompeii', in which the tragedy of allowing - or causing - thousands of people to die is fully explored, while some way of alleviating the utter horror of the situation is also found. Here, it was just one thread among many and got a bit lost - though the Justice people did note that they don't actually interfere with anybody's timeline, they just torture criminals after they've done their worst. Charming.

We found out in this episode why River became an archaeologist - it seems she thought the study of the physical remains of earlier civilizations would help her to find the Doctor. Well, there's a certain logic to that! (I should perhaps point out, real archaeologists don't take it up in hopes of finding a good man. Although the gender split is fairly even, there are more and more women taking up history and archaeology - if you want men, you want engineering!) She obviously takes her training to heart later, as the older River's attitude and ideas are sometimes reflective of her chosen career, but here she has no idea about history or archaeology, other than having a decent of knowledge of major disasters the Doctor didn't stop. My favourite thing about this episode, as a person who thought the Romans were boring and Latin useless while in school, was the total lack of interest 'Mels' had in history at school, since her preoccupation was with the Doctor, not with history itself (also a really nice way of foreshadowing her identity and her antagonism towards him). Having said that, she did appear to have poisoned him with some kind of intergalactic hemlock, given the way his legs went first. I would ask how come something kept in her lipstick didn't poison her too, but I think that would go against the spirit of the show.

I totally, totally loved the Star Trek vibe that was all over the justice-ship-robot-thingy. Well, Star Trek via Red Dwarf (their raison de'etre is a bit like an especially creepy cross between the Justice zone and the Inquisitor) and Galaxy Quest (pointless corridors above empty spaces). They even look particularly like the brown-suited officers assigned to Temporal Investigations from Deep Space Nine and Voyager. I have to say, when the Justice people saw the TARDIS and said they'd found the greatest war criminal of all, I really thought they meant the Doctor, but apparently the mass genocide of two races is either totally fine by them, or something about the way in which the Doctor 'resolved' the Time War means they're unaware of it/it's not in their timeline. Or something.

I also enjoyed seeing Rory kick ass a little bit in this episode - lest we forget, he is a trained Roman soldier and has two thousand years of guarding a box behind him, so he has his uses in an emergency. I liked seeing the Doctor's old companions in the TARDIS as well, though I would have thought the best, and most guilt-free, choice for a shape and voice would surely be 'Sexy', the human form of the TARDIS herself.

I thought this episode was a little bit all over the place, but there was enough fun - and fabulous costumes - to keep it entertaining. Somehow, I had higher expectations of the Doctor and River's first meeting - a whole episode devoted to it, with the Doctor knowing a lot more about her and about their relationship and a very young River (possibly played by a different actress) without a clue - though something similar might still be possible I guess, using an earlier reincarnation of River and a later one of the Doctor. Anyway, this was good fun and I really hope we see the Justice people again just for the Star Trek joke possibilities - they'd make good bad guys too, given that what they're doing is pretty horrible even if you are doing it to Hitler. Meanwhile, we're back to the status quo for now, but I'm sure River will turn up again before the end of the current series...


  1. Interestingly, the link you posted on Face Book to this particular article has disappeared -- wonder why ...

    As for making fun of Hitler or killing him (or both) Why not.

  2. Now the FB link is back -- must be me.

  3. Sounds like The Time Traveller's Wife meets Inglorious Basterds, with some of the poison lipstick from Firefly thrown in. (Dr Who is too silly for me.)

  4. Glad the link is back! My favourite Hitler-killing joke is from Red Dwarf, and is hilarious:

    I don't mind jokes about Hitler, it was the title that bothered me - I don't know why! We all have our personal line for what's funny and what's not I guess.

    Caroline, that pretty much sums it up! I'd forgotten the poison lipstick idea came from Firefly - it turned up on Dr Who last year and given how much modern Who owes to Buffy, I suspect that's where they got it from. It is indeed terribly silly - my favourite episodes tend to be the slightly more serious ones, though I do like a certain amount of silly - it's got a good sense of humour and that's always nice.

  5. Hi Juliette. Thanks for the recap! The title is a bit blunt, but likely a nod to the the age-old question that arises when the possibility of time travel is discussed "would you go back and kill Hitler?"

    A poisonous kiss surely goes long before Firefly? Deadly lipstick is a staple in old spy novels and comics, such as Poison Ivy in Batman.


  6. That's true - I guess the title does make more sense in context. In a way, I think I'd be happier if Hitler didn't appear and the title referred solely to the theoretcial idea of whether or not he should be killed - it's not like he did much anyway!

    I know pratically nothing about comics and graphic novels, which is very bad of me. I know I ought to read at least some of them - Age of Heroes and 300 spring to mind!

  7. Definitely check out 300. Age of Bronze is also worth checking out - the graphic novels based on the Trojan War - there's actually a super interview with writer/illustrator Eric Shanower at Ancient Rome Refocused:


  8. Interesting site - will have to read the full interview later, it's huge! Thanks for the link :)


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