Category Archives: The Antiscribe Recaps (Self explanatory, really)
The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2011: “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” – The Antiscribe Appraisal
By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com
Well, now that we’ve put to bed another Christmas holiday, it’s important to look back on things that are most important: which, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, means the yearly Doctor Who Christmas Special.
Since 2005, no December 25 has gone by without the BBC airing a new Who episode (though they’ve only aired on Christmas here in the States since 2008); typically, the Christmas specials have served as something of transition between seasons for the series, and sometimes as a thematic preview of the season that is to come. Under Russell Davies’s tenure as show runner, the Christmas specials were generally “event” episodes that were arguably the most high-profile of their year. The original 2005 episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” for instance, served as the beginning of David Tennant’s acclaimed run as the Tenth Doctor, while 2009’s “The End of Time, Part 1,” marked the beginning of the Tenth Doctor’s end (the second part aired on New Year’s a week later). 2006 saw “The Runaway Bride,” a rather comedic episode that guest-starred popular British comedienne Catherine Tate, offering a transition between the Doctor saying goodbye to his former companion and soul mate, Rose Tyler, and his next companion, Martha Jones. “The Voyage of the Damned” in 2007 represented the most publicized and highest rated episode of Doctor Who since its relaunch, as the producers scored the coup of getting pop star Kylie Minogue to play the Doctor’s companion for the episode, which was an incredibly fun outer space pastiche of Titanic and The Poseidon Adventure. Minogue, if you’re not aware, is something of the British Commonwealth’s equivalent of Madonna, if Madonna, like Minogue, had just come back from a very high-profile and successful battle with breast cancer. 2008 was a standalone special, the first of five straight holiday themed specials that built to Tennant’s farewell from the series in the next year’s special. Called “The Next Doctor,” it starred David Morrissey (a name who had been bantered about by Whovians as a potential future Doctor) as someone claiming to be “the Doctor,” whom the audience is intended to believe could be the Doctor’s next incarnation (spoiler – he wasn’t). Other than playing off of the audience knowing that Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor would be ending, this had actually been the weakest of all the specials to date. Basically just a Doctor fights the Cybermen episode with a nice little mystery wrapped around it, “The Next Doctor” also featured a somewhat controversial finale, by Who standards, with a raging, 100 foot Cyberking marching across Victorian London. Traditionally, you have to understand, that whenever a Who episode took place somewhere in Earth’s past, history would remain largely unchanged; with Davies’s creative tenure coming to an end, this episode broke that rule with gusto, leaving it to Stephen Moffat, as the next show runner, to essentially write it out of existence.
Developments So Far:
Last time the Doctor prepared for his “last day,” and a potential final showdown with Silence by spending it with his former roommate Craig, who helped the Doctor confront both his own sense of regret and the fact that he needs a companion to keep him sane. We also saw the table set for the culmination of the Silence’s final plot on the shores of Lake Silencio, as the Silence and the One Eyed Lady, Madame Kavorian, abducted River Song and placed her in the outfit of the Impossible Astronaut. Our last image of River Song/Melody Pond was her floating underwater in a trance-like state, ready for what we’ve been led to believe is inevitable: the Doctor’s Penultimate Death. Read the rest of this entry
Developments So Far:
Last week, in a season that has become defined by its twists and turns, the Doctor and the Ponds (Amy and Rory Williams) went their separate ways, after the Doctor had, rightfully, became concerned that his adventures were too dangerous for them, and for Amy especially. The departure was amicable, poignant, and touching, but it seems to be doubtful that we’ve seen the last of Amy and Rory, especially with only two episodes left in the season (and Amy still narrating the BBC America version of the opening).
The Doctor also confronted, and defeated, a monster that reflected his own existential dilemma – an ancient, world-weary creature drenched in the blood of its unintended victims. Last we saw of him, he was forlorn and alone on the TARDIS, facing his oncoming death with dread and sorrow, but also with a touch of anticipation, having seen himself become the monster that the Anglican Marines in the future took him to be. Read the rest of this entry
Developments So Far:
In last week’s intriguing and heart-breaking “The Girl Who Waited,” Rory was faced with the choice of having to save either a younger or older version of his wife, Amy (a choice that was forced on him by the actions of the Doctor). Ultimately, the Old Amy chose to stay behind and let the younger Amy live. Though sad, and somewhat unfair, we now see that Amy Pond does have the chance to develop into character far stronger and more proactive than the one she has been. It also began to tease both the Doctor’s irresponsibility and cold-bloodedness, and Rory’s growing frustration with his manipulative behavior.
Going forward, there has been a great deal of concern among the fanbase that major emotional issues, especially in the case of Amy and Rory, have been getting ignored by the writers to a frustrating degree. With two major events in the last three episodes that should rock them to the very core – the loss of their daughter’s childhood and the sacrifice of Old Amy - it remains to be see whether this will continue to be the case, or if more attention will be paid to the continuity of their characters.
Also still looming over all is the fact that the Doctor now knows when he is going to die, and the toll that will take on him as the story goes forward is still to be discerned. Read the rest of this entry
Developments So Far:
Last week’s “Night Terrors” was crafted as kind of a standalone episode, which, as a follow up to the very mythology-laden “Let’s Kill Hitler” left the panoply of previous questions largely unanswered. One point of popular concern that has risen up involves specifically “the Ponds,” Amy and Rory Williams, and how they will be reacting going forward to the current state of their daughter Melody Pond/River Song, who is now a fully grown adult and living off on her own in the distant future. After no reference during the last episode (which, it’s pretty well understood, was written for the first half of the season and then produced later), many have wondered if there will be attention paid to their state of mind, or if it will be awkwardly ignored like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.
Let’s talk about Amy Pond, shall we?
For those not yet familiar with the history of Amelia “Amy” Pond (Karen Gillan), she has been the constant companion to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) since his first episode (Season 5’s premiere “The Eleventh Hour”). Introduced initially as an eight year old (who mysteriously doesn’t seem to have any immediate family), she first meets the Doctor when his TARDIS (damaged by the energy given off by his regeneration) crash lands in her backyard. After promising to return “in five minutes” and lead her off to a great adventure (which would be a cover to find out why she seems to be at a convergence for a major temporal event called the Fall), the quick jaunt in the TARDIS “to get the kinks out,” propels him instead twelve years into the future. When he returns, Amy Pond has grown to adulthood after a lifetime of believing in the “Raggedy Doctor.” After helping the Doctor save the world, however, her childhood dream finally comes true: she becomes the Doctor’s new companion, following him throughout space and time, and helping him fight monsters and save the world (as any good companion should). Because of how long she ended up waiting for him to come back, the Doctor has often referred to her as “Amelia Pond – the girl who waited.” After a few episodes as the sole companion, in a move that was considered a little controversial, Amy’s fiancé, the good-hearted but awkward Rory Williams, became a third companion (and sometimes, admittedly, a third wheel). Last season culminated with Amy and Rory’s wedding, and as a couple have been with the Doctor for the entire season so far (well, not counting the fact that Amy was kind of clone…but you get the idea). Read the rest of this entry
Developments So Far:
Well, you could just read my painstakingly detailed recap here, but, in short, in the last episode we learned the early origin of River Song, and how she transformed from a would-be Doctor assassin and proto-Time Lord into the Doctor’s future human paramour and accused murderer (ain’t that just always the way?). We also learned that her original training came at the hands of the Silence, a religious order trying to either cause or prevent the destruction of the Universe by the asking of the mysterious, unknown “Question.” The Doctor also learned, thanks to pillaging the computer files of the time-traveling robot-ship the Teselecta, the exact time and place of his death at the hands of the mysterious Astronaut, who is likely Melody Pond (though how, why, or if this is even completely true, has yet to be clarified). How this affects the Doctor’s character going forward remains to be seen, especially given how he has begun to confront (and perhaps even embrace) the darker aspects of his personality and reputation. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory both must come to grips with the awkward realization that their daughter is now a fully grown woman and must let her find her own way in the world.
Though regarded as one of the stalwarts of geek culture (and, more recently, geek chic) here in the United States, Doctor Who has been an important part of British mainstream popular culture for almost fifty years. And while the series is predominantly a popular show in the US among adult and teenage fans of science fiction, to British audiences it is regarded predominantly as a kids’ show, which is why it still airs on the “family” viewing hour on Saturday night. Part of its longstanding appeal is that, for younger viewers, it can be a pretty scary program, especially in regards to the famously grotesque monsters the Doctor typically faces week in and week out. A phrase common in the British lexicon that traces its roots back to the early days of Doctor Who is “watching from behind the sofa,” a euphemism for how British children would watch the many scary monsters, such as the Daleks and the Cybermen, while literally hiding behind their living room sofa. For an entire generation, such shared terror was an important part of British cultural experience, and though Doctor Who lacks the cultural footprint it had decades ago, it still pays keen attention to its rich history of presenting terrifying “monster” episodes that provide kids (and maybe even a few adults) the thrill of being scared. Tonight’s episode, “Night Terrors,” written by Mark Gatiss (who, along with present Who showrunner Steven Moffat, created the awesome Sherlock series) appears to be one of those episodes.
So, ladies and gentlemen…children of all ages…ready your sofas.
Tonight’s ep opens in a location atypical to the exotic locales often visited within the Whoniverse: one of urban Britain’s many high rise apartment blocks (well, atypical after the Rose Tyler era). Though modern, the entire landscape takes on an altogether gothic atmosphere of malevolence and dread, which is only enhanced by the eerie musical chimes playing over the soundtrack, like those from a children’s nursery rhyme. (Seriously, does that kind of music ever invoke happy, comforting thoughts and memories for anyone anymore? Yeah, I didn’t think so.) Into this scene we are introduced to some rather innocuous images and sounds: an elderly lady making the long, slow ascent up to her apartment, and kids playing soccer outside a door. Though innocuous, the shadows and atmosphere make these sounds seem almost monstrous, which they certainly do to little George, a ginger-haired little boy who lives in one of the building’s many apartments, whose mother is getting him ready for bed before she heads to her job on the night shift. It becomes immediately that George is a rather timid and anxious little boy. When he becomes scared by the sound of the elevator outside of his apartment, his mother reminds him of what he’s supposed to do when something scares him: “put it in the cupboard.” She knocks on his bedroom cupboard as a way of giving physical representation to her metaphor. As she leaves, her son insists that she turn the lights on and off five times, another comforting routine for young George. When she’s gone, George begins praying, to no one in particular, to “please save me from the monsters.” After a momentary glimpse of the outer cosmos, his mother tucks him in for the night, and tells him that there is nothing to be afraid of. Outside, George overhears his mother and father speaking tensely about him; his Dad is particularly agonized over the fact that he’s “terrified all the time.” The mother responds that they need to get help, an idea to which the father remains . When the Mom states, “he needs a doctor,” George becomes terrified, and begins muttering again, “please save me from the Monsters” over and over again. Strangely, his prayer again seems to travel through the cosmos, soaring through countless galaxies before reaching the TARDIS. Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor gets a sudden jolt and pulls out his psychic paper (for those unfamiliar, the psychic paper is a blank wallet badge that the Doctor uses to give himself false credentials when he needs them; it essentially appears as whatever the Doctor needs it to appear as). He pulls out the paper and reads the message on it, “Please save me from the monsters.” The Doctor informs Amy and Rory that he’s doing something he hasn’t done in quite a while. Amy: “What’s that?” “Making a house call.”
After the credits roll, the TARDIS appears outside the apartment building in Anycity, UK. Rory makes the comment, “No offense, Doctor…” Doctor: “Meaning the opposite…” Rory: “We could have taken the bus here.” Doctor: “See? The opposite.” The Doctor informs him that they are going to be entering “the scariest place in the universe: a child’s bedroom.” Inside his room, young George is still awake and scanning his flashlight across his room, looking for “monsters” while paradoxically making everything in his room appear more terrifying. Outside his window, the sound of the old woman’s labored breathing as she carries her groceries to her appartment scares young George, causing him to pull his blanket up over his chest. While waiting for the building’s elevator, the Doctor shares the psychic paper with Amy and Rory, and they make a plan to try and find “the very scared kid” who sent the message. In his living room, George’s Dad looks over pictures of George as he was growing up; they’re all happy and comforting, a sharp contrast to the terror that presently grips his young son. Inside his room, George is still terrified of all the random noises happening in the building.
At this point, it’s Humorous Montage Time (TM BBC), where the Doctor, Rory, and Amy visit various tenants at the apartment trying to find the source of George’s message. Of key interest is Rory meeting the building’s landlord Mr. Purcell, a gruff, solitary type who owns a large, threatening bulldog, and the Doctor meeting the old lady, Mrs. Rossiter, who’s a bit on the cantankerous side. The landlord, on the other hand, is clearly disliked by most of his tenants.
George is roused from under his covers by the sound of Amy and Rory passing by his window, wear he overhears them talking about how they have to “find that kid.” Rory then jokes that maybe they should just let the monsters “gobble him up.” This, as you have probably already guessed, will become regarded as a very bad move. The Doctor happens to see George nervously spying out his window, and decides that he may have found the child he’s looking for. After meeting up again with Amy and Rory, the Doctor sends them to check the lower floor while he goes to George’s apartment. With George becomes especially terrified in his room, Amy and Rory step onto the elevator, which then takes on a life of its own and sends the couple on an express trip straight down. When the elevator doors open however, Amy and Rory are nowhere to be seen.
The Doctor then knocks on an apartment door, where George’s Dad answers. Apparently, his wife said she was going to call Social Services, which the Doctor immediately claims to be a representative of. Walking into the apartment, he asks the father to “tell me about George.”
Out near the building’s dumpster, Mrs. Rossiter deposits her garbage while complaining about the general lack of consideration shown by her fellow tenants. As she’s walking away, one of the bags on the pile moves, drawing her attention and leading her to scold the person she assumes is trying to scare her (and calling out George by name). As she takes a closer look, the garbage pile sucks her in, and she vanishes…
Inside the apartment, the Dad describes George to the Doctor while the Doctor looks through a family photo album. Apparently, George acts very strangely for a child of eight; he never cries, for instance. The Doctor rightfully surmises that George’s condition has recently gotten worse, and the Dad confirms that they were considering sending George somewhere for help. This only further exacerbated his son’s neurosis, to the point he’s now “afraid of everything.” The Doctor explains that this is “pantophobia,” which, he makes sure to clarify, “isn’t a fear of pants.” After the Dad lists George’s various phobias, he states that he’s “not an expert” and expresses hope that the Doctor can get through to him. The Doctor: “I’ll do my best.”
Amy and Rory the suddenly awaken in a darkened old house. While pondering how they got here after being on the lift, Rory’s first conclusion is that “we’re dead…again.” Amy will have none of this, however, and they begin investigating their surroundings. Rory then assumes that the TARDIS has done something to them…again…while something in the background is watching them.
The lamp in George’s room then falls over, and the Dad and the Doctor come in to investigate. After finding our that the Doctor is, in fact, a doctor, George asks “have you come to take me away?” The Doctor says that he hasn’t, and that he just wants to talk to him “about the monsters.”
Meanwhile, back in the old dark house, Amy and Rory are wandering around their creepy surroundings, where they discover that everything appears to be made of wood instead of metal. They also find a lantern that also uses an electrical switch (like an oversized toy), and open a drawer which contains a giant glass eyeball. Rory and Amy then notice that his pocket flashlight rhythmically turns itself on and off again five times. Appropriately creeped out, they keep searching the house for an exit.
In the apartment, the Doctor and the Dad speak with George, while the Doctor attempts to fix a Rubix cube (and fails, declaring it to be broken…too funny). The Dad speculates that they thought George’s fear maybe have been something he watched on the telly or read in a book (which allows the Doctor to reminisce on some of the classic children stories of his youth, which apparently included “Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday.”) As the Doctor begins getting all manic (as he is wont to do), he then points out George’s cupboard, which fills the young boy with dread. The Dad explains the significance of the cupboard as the place where George places the things that scare him. The Doctor: “Including the monsters, George?” When the Doctor goes to open the cupboard, there is a loud knocking on the front door that causes everyone to jump (nice shocker, actually).
Amy and Rory, meanwhile are still wandering the dark house, but now we get a better glimpse of “the monster” that’s following them: a strange looking doll with a large white head…
The person at the front door turns out to be Purcell the landlord and his dog; the gruff and unpleasant man has come to inquire about the coming rent, and we find out that the Dad is presently out of work. The Doctor, meanwhile, tries to protect George from hearing the conversation by showing off the sonic screwdriver. In a nice little bit, the Doctor uses the screwdriver to turn on all the toys in the room, which immediately makes them all seem far less terrifying. Outside, the Landlord intimidates the Dad. The Doctor scans the cupboard with the screwdriver and finds the readings are “off the scale.” After Purcell leaves, the Dad steps into the room and tries to open the cupboard, but the Doctor stops him, stating that the “monsters are real.”
Inside the house, Rory and Amy discover that they can’t get out, and find further evidence that everything in the building is artificial. They then hear sounds of running footsteps, and children giggling menacingly.
In the kitchen, the Dad tries to ask the Doctor to leave, feeling that his belief in George’s “delusions” are only making things worse. The Doctor refuses, and then tells emphasizes that he has come through time and space based on his son’s distress call, and that what is inside the cupboard is undeniably monstrous and powerful. The Doctor: “Do you see these eyes? They’re old eyes…and what I can tell you is: monsters are real.” The Dad: “You’re not from Social Services, are you?”
In the old house, Rory, Amy, and, in a separate part of the structure, Mrs. Rossiter, are being pursued by the unnatural giggling. When the couple come upon a door, it opens on them, revealing a wooden dummy, which they first think is harmless, but as they walk away, it starts moving after them.
Back in the apartment, the Doctor speculates, in a fashion as only he can, about whether they should open George’s cupboard. While they’re moving off to do it, the landlord Purcell, in his own apartment, is sucked into his floor, as his bulldog watches apathetically. The Doctor and the Dad, meanwhile, cautiously begin to open the cupboard, revealing an old dollhouse…and nothing else. The Doctor then has an epiphany, and runs back to grab the photo album. Looking through it, he points out to the Dad that a month before George’s birth, that his Mom wasn’t pregnant. The Dad then suddenly remembers that his wife actually can’t have kids, which then terrifies him as he realizes that George’s existence is, in fact, a complete impossibility. The Doctor then turns to George and asks, “What are you, George?” Before George can reply, the sound of the elevator again terrifies him, and he begins rhythmically chanting “please save me from the monsters.” The cupboard behind them springs to life and sucks both the Doctor and the Dad inside and then traps them within.
In the old dark house, Amy and Rory meet Purcell, who is also being pursued by the large wooden dolls. When one of the dolls catches him, it transforms him into doll himself, giggling all the time. Amy and Rory then finally realize that they are in extreme danger and run for it. The Doctor and the Dad, meanwhile, wake up in the house themselves, and the Doctor quickly makes the determination that they, like everyone else, are trapped in the dollhouse inside George’s cupboard. The Dad, still trying to come to grips with his altered memories, asks the Doctor to explain what his son is. The Doctor explains that the Dad under the influence of a perception filter (again, for those unfamiliar with it, a perception filter in the Whoniverse is a device which effects people’s perception, causing them to forget or ignore certain elements and details; the TARDIS, in fact, uses one, so people don’t otherwise notice a hugely anachronistic police box just kind of standing around). As they make their way into the house, one of the white[faced Giggling Dolls, or Gigglers, is shown to be watching them. Meanwhile, Rory and Amy are trying to bar the door against the Gigglers, without much luck. When they try to escape the room, Amy gets captured and is transformed into a Giggler.. The Doctor and Dad then realize that George is putting everything in the cupboard that scares him, using it as a kind of psychic repository for his anxieties. One of the Gigglers then shows up, and they then realize that they, too, are in extreme danger. After finding that the sonic screwdriver is useless against them (the Doctor: “I have to invent a setting for wood…it’s embarrassing!”), the grab an oversized pair of safety scissors, which they used to push off the Giggler, and make a break for it.
The Doctor then realizes that George is a Tenza, a kind of psychic alien who are dispersed throughout the universe to find foster parents, into whose lives they assimilate themselves. In this case, George sensed two parents who desperately wanted children but couldn’t have any, and thus filled the void in their lives as well as his own. Quickly cornered in the house by an onslaught of Gigglers, the Doctor realizes that George is causing all of this unconsciously. He tries to communicate with George, telling him that he’s the only one who can vanquish the monsters. Rory then shows up, with the Giggler Amy hot in pursuit. Meanwhile, in his room, George opens the cupboard and then appears in the dollhouse himself. For a moment, it seems everything is fine, but then the Gigglers turn on George.
Remembering the clues from earlier, the Doctor realizes that George is afraid of being sent away by his “parents,” which is what is causing all his other anxieties. The Doctor tells the Dad that he needs to go help his son, but the Dad is understandably cautious with the fact his son is an alien. However, just as George is about to be overwhelmed by the Gigglers, the Dad fights his way through and rescues him, telling him that he loves him no matter what he is, and that he will never send him away. The Doctor, meanwhile, looks on approvingly as the Gigglers vanish.
And with that, everything turns back to normal. At daybreak the next morning, Mrs. Rossiter climbs out of the garbage, the Landlord wakes up on the floor of his apartment and begins cuddling his dog, and Rory and Amy climb off the elevator, unharmed. Amy: “Was I a…” Rory: “Yeah.” Claire, George’s mom, comes home to find her husband and the Doctor making breakfast and George completely fine. As the Doctor leaves, the Dad catches up to him with concerns over George’s future. The Doctor tells him just to treat him as a normal boy, and everything will be fine. He does, however warn him, “that it may pop back again around puberty…always a funny time.” George and his Dad then walk back into their apartment, arm in arm and happy.
The Doctor then meets up with Amy and Rory again, they board the TARDIS, and discuss where to go next. As they talk, their dialogue fades out, and we hear the ominous singing of the Gigglers again:
“Tick-tock goes the clock…even for the Doctor…”
The final shot is of the onscreen data the Doctor downloaded from the Teselecta last episode, stating when and where he is due to die…
Not a whole lot, really, save for reminding us of the Doctor’s impending death in the last beat; this really was the definition of a “standalone episode.” With that said, the alien Tenza/George’s reaction and terror at the word “Doctor” again works into the theme of the Doctor being regarded as a something to be terrified of rather than a figure of benevolence. The Doctor also spent a lot of time in the episode bragging about the number of monsters he has fought and defeated, even though here his final role was as a healer rather than a warrior. Finally, though, after the wardrobe change last week, the Doctor was back to his “junior professor” attire again. Possibly a meaningless change after a one time anomaly, but perhaps indicative of something more.
A good “monster” episode in the grand tradition of them, as well as something of a meta homage to the show’s legacy of children peeking out from behind the sofa (or in this case, the bedspread). One thing I kind of realized in this episode, though kind of by inversion, is that Amy and especially Rory have a tendency to “suck up the oxygen” in many episodes and otherwise prevent some guest characters from developing properly. Here, by trapping them in the dollhouse early in the episode and giving them only brief cutaway scenes, it allowed Gatiss to develop the central dynamic with the father, son, and Doctor, making for an intriguing story and a touching finale. It’s a nice change of pace from what has sometimes been the norm lately. Not a vital episode to the overall mythology of the series, but certainly worth a look on its own merits.
This is a recap of the premiere episode of a split season of the sixth series of Doctor Who, with a first half-season that had no shortage of numerous teases, twists, and turns throughout its loaded seven episodes, including what appeared to be, for all intents and purposes, the permanent death of the Doctor (Matt Smith)! I’ll be doing this for practice purposes, so my style and everything else should be strictly seen as a work in process.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Doctor Who Universe (or Whoniverse), the series relates the adventures of the Doctor, the last of a race of time traveling immortals called the Time Lords, and his adventures traveling time and space in his signature ship, the TARDIS (permanently disguised to look like an old fashioned British Police call box that is exponentially larger on the inside than the outside). Armed with a “sonic screwdriver,” which is basically a high tech magic wand, an unsurpassed intellect, the ability to regenerate when mortally injured (thus taking on a new form and personality), and trusted human companions, the Doctor battles and routinely saves the human race from no end of bizarre and malevolent alien monsters, almost always outthinking them instead of resorting to outright acts of violence. Matt Smith plays the Eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, the third since the series was relaunched in 2005 after a prolonged hiatus.
Background (The Season So Far):
Beginning in the two-part season premiere “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon,” the Doctor’s time-traveling companions, and recent newlyweds, Amelia “Amy” Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), along with the mysterious time traveling adventuress (and possible future wife of the Doctor) River Song (Alex Kingston), are called to the United States at the invitation of the Time Lord himself, who tacitly revealed that he had (supposedly) aged about two hundred years since we last we saw him at the end of season 6. Shortly after enjoying a largely uneventful picnic with his friends, the Eleventh Doctor approached a mysterious Astronaut who suddenly appeared in Lake Silencio in Utah, not far from their picnic ground. Resignedly accepting his fate, the Doctor allowed the Astronaut to blast him with something that resembles TARDIS energy; the Astronaut then even did it again as he tries to regenerate, permanently killing him.
Shortly thereafter, though, the much younger Doctor we know and love appears, having also been invited by his older self to the United States. From there, during the period of the 1969 moon landing they confront a race of alien monsters called “the Silence” (a clever amalgam of the grey-skinned aliens of abduction lore and prototypical “men in black,” who are forgotten the moment as soon as you look away from them) who had been secretly influencing the human race for generations. During this time, Amy Pond, who initially thinks she’s pregnant but then decides she’s not, begins having strange visions of a One-Eyed Woman spying on her. It is also soon revealed through subsequent episodes that the mysterious “Impossible Astronaut” appears to be a young girl with red hair (not unlike Amy’s) and who displays the regenerative potential of a Time Lord!
During another two-parter, “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People,” the Doctor manages to make a nearly perfect clone of himself as a way of verifying that, unbeknownst to even herself, Amy has been a clone for the last few episodes, controlling herself remotely through the One-Eyed Woman. Before destroying the clone, the Doctor promises to find the real Amelia, just as said real (and very pregnant) Amelia gives birth to her daughter, Melody Pond.
This set the stage for the memorable midseason finale “A Good Man Goes to War,” where the Doctor, Rory, and a small army of allies staged a masterful attack on the asteroid base Demon’s Run to rescue Amy and Melody from the nefarious Anglican Marines (the Anglican Church having apparently turned into a paramilitary state sometime before the 40th century). While initially striking what seemed to be a decisive victory over his enemy, the Doctor is again foiled by the One-Eyed Woman, who has replaced Melody with her own clone replacement. Melody Pond, as it turns out, having been conceived on the TARDIS and thus exposed to the Time Vortex, and therefore has many of the properties of a Time Lord. As the episode comes to a close, River Song reappears to reveal the season’s worst kept secret: that she is, in fact, an adult Melody Pond (get it?) But equally important is the revelation that the Doctor, who over the past few seasons and especially since the outset of the Matt Smith era, had grown exceptionally more arrogant and prone to using his reputation as the implacable foe for the most dangerous monsters in time and space to bully and intimidate others, was actually considered a “villain” by the human race, and had made the term “doctor” synonymous with “warrior” instead of “healer.” Therefore Melody Pond was kidnapped to become the ultimate weapon against the Doctor. As the episode ends, the Doctor traveled off to find the infant Melody while River assured her parents that “everything will be all right.”
So as the second half of the season begins there are a number of important questions that need to be answered: Is the Doctor still facing his own inevitable death at the hands of the mysterious Astronaut? What happens to Melody after her kidnapping, and how does she eventually become River Song? Will the Doctor begin to change his ways and become a healer once more? Will he be able to stop the Marines/Silence in the process? And…will Hitler survive?
The Episode: “Let’s Kill Hitler”
The episode begins with Amy and Rory driving through a cornfield, frantically turning to and fro, before coming to a stop before the Doctor and the TARDIS, who has since assumed a wardrobe change: his professorial suit-jacket, white shirt, and red bowtie having been replaced with a brown leather topcoat, yellow shirt, and navy blue bowtie. Well…at least he’s still rocking the “cool” bowtie. As it turns out, Amy and Rory have spelt out “The Doctor” in the middle of a cornfield in order to contact him, which then appeared on the cover of the local paper. After some somber conversation reveals that Doctor has not yet found Melody, Rory notices that the crop circle pictured in the paper suddenly has a new element added to it. It is immediately revealed that the line across the Doctor’s name is created by “Mels,” a n’er-do-well (and Afro-British) friend of Amelia and Rory, never before introduced, who has stolen a Corvette while escaping from the police. After some lugubrious banter where Mels flirts with the Doctor and reveals that she knows everything about him, she pulls a gun and insists that he help her escape. After asking where she would like to go, she responds, “You have a time machine, I have a gun. What the hell? Let’s go kill Hitler!”
After the credits, a cute, humorous montage shows Mels growing up with Amelia and Rory and eventually maturing into a young criminal malcontent as their relationship blossoms into romance. At the montage’s end, we join our travelers already aboard the TARDIS with Mels having inexplicably shot up the big centrifuge in the middle of the control panel, sending the ship spinning out of control through the space time continuum. Meanwhile, in Berlin 1938, a random Nazi officer is tracked back to his room by a robotic shapeshifter, the Teselecta, piloted by hundreds of tiny futuristic people and protected internally by robotic antibodies (wasn’t this an Eddie Murphy movie that me, you, and no self- respecting warm-blooded creature ever saw?). The “antibodies” recognize a person as a crew member by a bracelet they wear on that wrist that glows green for safe (a red bracelet or no bracelet means the antibodies try to kill you). Following the Nazi back to his office, the Robot takes on his form, bit by bit, before shrinking him down, sucking him inside, and feeding him to the antibodies.
The Robot makes his way to Hitler’s office, and there the command crew identifies Hitler and finds him guilty, zapping him with a white light that causes him tremendous pain. Realizing that they have arrived too early in the timestream for Hitler’s death, they begin to abort their assassination attempt when the TARDIS bursts through the window and knocks the Robot to the ground. After getting off the TARDIS, the crew gets their bearing, and the Doctor is suddenly rather horrified to learn that he just saved Hitler. The Doctor: “Believe me…it was an accident.”
After the Doctor warns Adolph that “the British are coming,” the Teselecta revives and is immediately shot up by Hitler (that’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d type). After locking Hitler up in a cupboard, the Doctor examines the disguised Robot, who faints on cue a little too conveniently. Before the Doctor can try to investigate, however, it turns out that Mels was hit with one of Hitler’s stray bullets, and is about to die. The Robot’s crew identifies the TARDIS and links it with a criminal of history that apparently dwarfs Hitler in reputation, which turns out to be Melody – the Doctor’s killer!
As the Doctor, Amelia, and Rory comfort the “dying” Mels, she reveals that her parents are in the room with her. Mels then begins going through the Time Lord regeneration process; as should have been no surprise, “Mels” is short for “Melody.” Amelia: “I named my daughter after her…” The Doctor: “You named your daughter after your daughter.” So, as Melody points out, Amy and Rory actually “got to raise her after all.” And before you can say “Geronimo,” Mels regenerates…into the woman we know as River Song!
After a fun little sequence where Melody “gets to know” her new self (including weighing herself…too funny), the Teselecta crew identifies Melody. A extremely fun little segment then plays out where Melody, who is programmed to kill the Doctor, keeps trying to pull it off, only for it to be revealed that the Doctor has disarmed her ahead of time. After giving the Doctor a brief kiss on the lips, Melody states her attention to head into downtown Berlin to raise some hell. As the Doctor moves to stop her, it is revealed that Melody dosed her lipstick with a special poison, and he collapses. As he struggles to regain composure, he sends Amy and Rory to follow her, being sure to arm Amelia with his sonic screwdriver.
After taking out a group of Nazi guards, Melody arms herself with a few machine guns and hops aboard a motorcycle. Rory then knocks out a Nazi and steals his bike to follow her, but as it turns out, the Nazi is the Teselecta, and sure enough, he joins the chase on a spontaneously generated motorcycle.
Having pulled himself onto the TARDIS, the Doctor cycles through various images in the “Voice Interface” system, including past companions Rose Tyler, Donna Noble, and Martha Jones until he finds one he “hasn’t screwed up yet.” Finally selecting the eight year old version of Amelia Pond, the TARDIS cheerlessly tells him that he has only 32 minutes to live, and that the poison has deactivated his regeneration properties, to which the Doctor replies, “You are SO Scottish…”
Meanwhile, Melody barges into a nearby five star restaurant, where the Nazi elite are dining peacefully, firing her machine guns into the ceiling and claiming that “she has nothing to wear.” Outside, Amy and Rory pull up, wondering how they are going to find their daughter. On cue, the patrons of the restaurant come running out of the front door in their undergarments and screaming in terror. Before the two of them can respond, however, the Teselecta shows up, having already transformed into Amelia. Inside the restaurant, Melody is trying on the latest in Nazi fashions, when the Teselecta/Amelia walks inside the Restaurant.
Amy and Rory then wake up inside the mouth of the Robot, having been shrunken and ingested. Rory: “I sure hope this isn’t a metaphor.” The antibodies try to destroy them, politely informing them that they may feel some discomfort during the incineration process, before a crew member provides them with the green-lit bracelets to protect them. Melody, confronted by the Teselecta for killing the Doctor and otherwise showing no remorse, is then zapped by the white light. But the Doctor and the Tardis again appear in the nick of time, with Time Lord dressed to the nines in a top hat and tails and assisted by an awesome sonic cane. Melody: “You’re dying…and you stopped to change?” The Doctor then identifies the nature of the Teselecta with the sonic cane, but his sickness gets the better of him. Melody tries to run, but the Teselecta stops her and traps her in force field. The Doctor tells the Teselecta not to kill Melody, but the Teselecta Captain is incredulous as to why. The Doctor states simply, “I’m not dead,” and since he is the one being killed, “what does it have to do with you?” The Teselecta Captain reveals that he and his crew are time travelers looking to exact justice on criminals throughout history who have escaped punishment by catching them at the end of their lifeline and “give them hell.”
The Doctor demands to have the details of his death revealed, and with Amelia’s help, the Teselecta reveals that the Silence are the ones behind Melody’s brainwashing. After asking who the Silence is, the Robot reveals that the Silence are not actually a race, but a religious order who believe that “silence will fall when the question is asked.” “The Question,” apparently, is the oldest question in universe and “hidden in plain sight.” Of course, the Teselecta has no idea what the Question is, leaving the Doctor to complain, as only he can.
As the Doctor is about to die, the Teselecta crew “gives her hell,” and Melody begins to be burned alive. The Doctor insists that Amelia save Melody, so she uses the sonic screwdriver to deactivate all of the Teselecta crew’s green bracelets, leading to the crew having to shut down their entire system to prevent the antibodies from killing them. The Teselecta crew teleport away, but Rory and Amelia are about to be killed by the antibodies. While the Doctor struggles to save them, he accidentally calls Melody River for the third time, leading her to wonder who River is. Moved by his willingness to help her parents despite his own imminent death, she insists on knowing who River is. ..
Just before Rory and Amelia are killed, the TARDIS materializes around them and saves them, but it’s Melody who is piloting it, not the Doctor. She is shocked by the fact it knows her, and that the Doctor told her that “she is a child of the Tardis.” Returning to the dying Doctor, he asks Rory and Amy to let her speak to Melody, where he asks her to deliver a message to River Song. He whispers the message to her, to which she replies, “I’m sure she knows.” The Doctor then…dies.
Melody asks Amy who River Song is, and Amy approaches the Teselecta and asks it to transform into River Song, which it does, revealing to Melody who she really is. Lamenting her crime, River’s hands begin to glow. Melody: “Tell me…is he worth it?” Amelia: “Yes!” She then touches the Doctor and regenerates him, giving him her trademark greeting “Hello Sweetie” for what is, for her, the first time. She then kisses him, as time vortex energy swirls all about them.
A little while later, River awakens in a futuristic hospital bed surrounded by Rory, Amy, and the Doctor, and it is revealed that she sacrificed all her future regenerations to resurrect the Doctor. The attending nurse tells them “She’ll be absolutely fine.” The Doctor replies, “No, she won’t…she’ll be absolutely amazing.” He then gives her the TARDIS journal that had also previously been her trademark.
After leaving her at the hospital, Rory and Amy lament leaving their daughter behind and ask the Doctor why the future River who they’ve met is in prison for murder. The Doctor smiles, and does not answer them. Moments earlier, it is revealed that the Doctor has downloaded the contents of the Teselecta’s memory, and now knows the date of his confrontation with the Astronaut…and his of his own death.
In a final tag, River Song is asked by a professor in the 5zst century “Why do you want to study archaeology?” Clutching her TARDIS journal, she replies that “she’s looking for a good man.”
How will the Doctor react to knowledge of his death going forward? Is River Song the Astronaut? Will he really die? What is the Ultimate Question that the Silence believes will destroy the Universe (and will it)? And what’s the link between the Silence and the One-Eyed Woman? What’s with the Doctor’s new, slightly more rugged look? Is it a sign he is accepting his reputation as a warrior instead of a healer?
Also, where can I get a sonic cane? I really want one.
What we do know now are the basic origins of River Song…though, as stated, her final role in the Doctor’s death remains unknown.
One final intriguing development is that the series finally answered the question of whether or not a Time Lord can actually change race during the regeneration process, which Melody’s changing from Mels to River clearly establishes it as possible. Likely, this means that we might have a non-Caucasian incarnation of the Doctor in our future. May I personally suggest Chiwetel Eliofor?
A really good episode, and as usual for the series, it featured some of Stephen Moffat’s amazingly clever and creative science fiction plotting in clearing up River Song’s origin story, as well as a slew of very funny lines. It’s also incredibly crucial to the overall mythology of the series. Personally, though, the episode has been the latest to take the series into very serious territory, and that has taken a bit of the fun out of it for me. Also after seeing the Doctor being killed, defeated, and outsmarted throughout the first half of the season, seeing him slowly dying for almost half an hour was a bit of a downer, as well as the fact Melody clearly underwent some serious trauma to turn her into a psychopathic killing machine. I also haven’t really been a fan of the chemistry between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, though they are both undeniably fun in their roles.
Next Week: “Night Terrors”