Have just finished the eighth episode of the new Doctor Who season – ‘Let’s Kill Hitler!’ and well, I’m pretty disappointed. The set-up for this season was always going to be a tough gig – the lead character dies, except he’s not dead and that’s OK because in the Steven Moffat version of the show no one dies – people’s lives are splintered beyond recognition (or way beyond the entirely theoretical audience-giving-a-toss-about-them threshold) – and so the ‘fun’ should be in trying to work out how the characters will eventually find their way to some conclusion.

I say ‘some conclusion’ because in theory the Doctor/River Song story has nowhere to go – we know the Doctor dies in Utah and we know River is assimilated into the data core of the Library in the 51st Century. So it’s not a case of finding what happens to the Doctor and River’s characters, how their lives develop, it’s now simply a case of counting down the weeks until the story arc ends, when something will change and the result we saw in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ will change, if not the result of ‘Forest of the Dead’.

We know the Doctor can’t die, which suggests that outcome x of ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ will change. It also rendered most of the 45 minutes of ‘Let’s Kill Hitler!’ pretty pointless too, but death and Doctor Who go hand-in-hand don’t they?

A few years back we’d talk about the senseless killing of the RTD era. People died all the time, they were shot, exterminated and blown-up. Moffat himself gave us the story where ‘everybody lives’, the Doctor’s absolute joy at saving everyone was wonderful to behold. Yet death is an important part of Who, of letting us know the stakes are high, we need the hero to save the people we love and the day. We need him to especially save the innocents caught in the middle, the Doctor should be there to save us all. However by the time Moffat came around the rumour was that there was to be a definite shift in the creative team’s approach, death would actually mean something, no more needless killing of supporting actors.

Unfortunately this has meant repeatedly killing or nearly killing the main characters every week. Rory gets killed so often he’s become a joke from South Park, Amy was killed two episodes ago, the Doctor nearly died this week. Part of the problem is upping the drama in a 45 minute time slot. In old 100 minute Who there would be plenty of opportunity to be in mortal danger, it could be spread-out between participants and escalated until the traditional episode 3 cliffhanger. Now you have to cram all that tension into three quarters of an hour and the easiest way to do that is to bring your leads to the end of their natural lives as quickly as possible and it’s been happening rather a lot lately.

Sadly, this approach represents the only slight drama in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler!’. First off we’re introduced to a character who’s best friends with Amy and Rory, but simply turns out to be a pre-regenerated version of River Song. So when she dies, she doesn’t die, she regenerates – something that used to leave the Doctor broken and disorientated but seemingly turns other characters into superheroes.

That however isn’t the important bit. Four people are in a room that contains probably the most evil man the world has ever known. Rory satisfyingly punches Hitler in the face, but no one kills him. No one kills Hitler. Despite there being two guns and some furniture that could do some serious damage to a skull, none of them really consider it. The entire, misguided family unit are all so self-absorbed they miss the opportunity to change history and save millions of lives.

That’s high-stakes, that’s a story that would make you think, an entire perversion of known history without World War 2 – that’s REWRITING TIME! However, Hitler is left in a closet and forgotten about, amazingly no one let’s Hitler out of the closet and Moffat misses the opportunity for a tired gay joke.

By the way it would have taken two seconds for the Justice Robot to kill Hitler then go and chase River Song.*

Oh yeah, the Justice Robot. A nice idea, well-executed on screen with all the tessellating, but again let’s think about the logic of this for a second.

Rather than despatch Time Agents to infiltrate criminal establishments using plastic surgery or a perception filter or Harry Potter’s invisible fucking cloak, they think it’s a good idea to miniaturise a crew of 20-odd people, inject them into a robot who is then teleported in from a mothership in orbit around the target planet. YOU WHAT?! Yeah, let’s put all those people in danger! It’s without doubt the most insane plan ever devised – and it seems the insanity is catching – ‘time can be rewritten’ they point out ‘remember Kennedy’. So, major historical events are now throwaway lines? What is this show about now?!

Evidently the show is about the Doctor and chums wearily dragging themselves towards some sort of conclusion involving the Silence who are there are to be help out the Question who are trying to answer the Ultimate Question that… God, it’s getting worse than the explanatory dialogue from The Matrix Revolutions.

So no innocent lives to save, no bothering to stop the world’s most evil man, just a bunch of people standing around  trying on clothes, awkwardly waiting to force a conclusion to a plot line they already know. Still at least they’re going to try and do ‘Fear Her’ properly next week.

*The brilliant Dave Cromarty pointed out to me that they couldn’t kill Hitler at that point in time because it would badly affect the timeline. I find this very interesting for several reasons:

  • This means that for the Justice People’s mission to work they needed to land inside the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin on April 30th 1945 just before Hitler commits suicide. How on earth, with all their advanced technology did they manage to be seven years out? Surely a cursory scan of the Earth’s radio signals would have let them know they had jumped in at the wrong time?
  • From the perspective of the 51st century (or whenever the Justice People came from) isn’t it pointless to intercept someone’s life at the point of death and then put them through hell? What if you’re just dead enough you can’t feel anything? It seems an odd way for someone to pay for their life of crime, with all that power one would assume that they would change history for the better – maybe there are groups of pro and anti-time rewriters in the future?
  • By whose rules are these people playing? Judging some guilty and others not? Surely this is exactly the sort of person the Doctor should be going after to stop. No one has the right to play God, everything has a time and everything dies etc etc.