Oh, dear. At the end of this episode, I am trying to find a sense of accomplishment, as I always do. Something to take with me, something that happened—in this case, there is a lot to take in, emotionally, but as for stuff happening: difficult. In the end, Hitler is still in the cupboard, the Doctor’s still alive, and Amy and Rory are still bewildered parents. Which is fine, basically setting the universe right again is what the Doctor does, it always reverts to a state of status quo, if you will, but this episode celebrates it. Or maybe the episode doesn’t have any other ideas?
I’m not sure which it is, to be honest. Basically, this is an episode turning in on itself: wrongs are being righted—from our perspective, even Melody beginning to become what River will be one day is just an episode (no pun intended), a glimpse into the past. This is the point on which everything pivots, this weekend, this series, this Doctor: rewriting time. The Justice Department thinks it’s a good idea to go back in time and kill war criminals—which is a nice thought, but what else might have happened if Hitler hadn’t?—and so this is all about erasing. Keeping the robot from getting to Hitler, bringing the Doctor back to life.
Things get started, but then stopped or reversed—and the one thing that does and that actually does some good is the robot giving Melody “hell.” No idea what she was being tortured with, but maybe it was life from the Doctor’s perspective. Something to do with him that sparked compassion in her, that managed to dig through the brainwashing and make Amy and Rory’s daughter regain control. So, we see why she changed, and how, but it’s not complete yet. The Doctor himself seems unsure how much trouble and pain she’s going to have ahead of her now, how difficult her beginning is going to be, but he still gave her her diary—he’s hopeful, and he trusts her. I’m guessing that this might be what he whispered in Melody’s ear before he “died.” River’s introduction at university is ambiguous, and we still don’t know why she’s going to be imprisoned in Stormcage. As much as the making of River is now less of a mystery to us, her life is even more of a puzzle now.
In any case: psychopathic River is fun. No, seriously. I mean, it hurt when she regenerated and then… that happened. It was terrifying to see what the Alliance had done to her, what they had turned the Doctor’s best friends’ daughter into. When the miniature people in the Teselecta get excited about having the universe’s worst war criminal in front of them—after all the things we heard from River in the last episode, one would think they mean the Doctor, the mighty warrior. Except they don’t. They mean Melody Pond. I guess someone out there still likes the Doctor. And I can see why. She killed the Doctor with a kiss. How fitting.
The beautiful thing about Mels is that she managed to find her mother after her first regeneration in New York, and then becomes her best friend. She’s already got the knack at getting into trouble that we already know so well from River, and basically, Amy and Rory do get to raise their daughter, even if it’s in real time with their own growing up. It’s also nicely Back to the Future that Mels has an integral part in getting their parents together—and the penny drops!
Another thing: the TARDIS taught Melody to pilot her. The Doctor knows that she can save him by using her regeneration energy—by giving him the rest of her lives—and the TARDIS knows it, too. Even better: the Doctor knows that she can, but the TARDIS knows that she will. Time can be rewritten, but the TARDIS can look inside her—she’s a child of the TARDIS. No matter what she might have just done, the TARDIS trusts her.
Rory: Alright, I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.
There is more information about the circumstances of the Doctor’s death, now. We now know that the Silence are a religious order who believe that silence will fall when the oldest question in the universe is asked. There is also something slightly Hitchhiker-ish in this: the ultimate question, probably, but what is it? Since the Doctor’s got a brain the size of a planet, I guess he and Deep Thought will be very happy together.
Matt Smith said before this episode aired that Alex Kingston rocked this one, acting-wise, and, well, going from psychopath to a person beginning to be River Song is one hell of a leap, and she does it brilliantly. The nuances are very good, and the reluctance in her, you can see it. There is something waging a war inside her when the Doctor pleads with her to help him save her parents as he’s dying. She’s amazed that he still cares about his friends first and doesn’t give up, and it almost sways her, but then she is flippant again and compliments his perseverance mockingly. It’s not until he whispers in her ear and she sees that the one woman he trusts the most is herself. She can’t quite believe it, and it shows, but she wants it to be worth it.
And the Doctor is worth it, because Matt Smith makes it so. His portrayal of a dying Time Lord is fascinating and emotional, the way his eyes turn a deeper shade of green when he pleads with Amelia’s hologram to give him something, a reason to keep fighting. It is, and will always be, fish fingers and custard. Matt Smith can’t just do amazing things with his face, he is also an incredibly good physical actor. He’s proved that a zillion times over the course of the last two years, but for a man who knocks coffees over for a living, he’s got wonderful control over his ridiculously long limbs to do a poisoned man’s little breakdance on a stick.
Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are having the time of their lives, it seems, and Amy and Rory are beautiful and complex characters who need all their potential—and they’re willing to give it. Amy is an especially hard job this time around. It’s so damn difficult for her because she doesn’t understand what her daughter has become, she’s scared and torn between grieving for her best friend and protecting her child no matter what. She needs the Doctor to guide her through this. She doesn’t have the emotional energy to argue, so she channels it into doing what her best friend must know is best.
Rory. Oh, Rory. You are magnificent and glorious and brilliant. Just as confused as anybody else, but you are the Last Centurion.
Amy: Can you ride a motorbike?
Rory: I expect so. It’s that sort of day.
It’s that sort of day. It’s the sort of day when Rory has to pull the bloody Pandorica with his wife inside—the wife he’s been guarding for 2,000 years—out of a burning museum in the middle of the London blitz. It’s the sort of day when he punches Hitler in the face, tells him to shut up, and stuffs him in a cupboard before realizing the Führer just shot his daughter instead of the robot. It’s the sort of day when he has to save his daughter who is about to walk into Nazi Berlin to go “shopping” and most likely just killed his best friend. It’s that sort of day when the Centurion hops on a 1938 motorbike and gives it a ride.
The four together, as always, are a wonderful team. It’s the little things in which it shows, such as the little clap on the shoulder Rory gives his best friend and virtual son-in-law as his daughter flounces off and leaves them behind looking bewildered and, in the Doctor’s case, scared and sexually nervous: his face as all he offers is, ‘Spoilers’ when Melody asks about River Song for the first time is golden. It’s a delight to watch—and listen. The dialogue is very good, as is Steven Moffat’s way of proving how well he knows his characters, and the emotions within the script range widely. Amy’s sarcasm is just one sign of how, in between all the big deals being discussed, the little things never get overlooked.
Rory: I’m getting this sort of banging in my head.
Amy: Yeah, I think that’s Hitler in the cupboard.
Along with the corn circles to get the Doctor’s attention, this is brilliant. Hands down brilliant.
Then there’s that moment of pure fear when Hitler gazes up at the TARDIS. Oh Jesus, imagine what would have happened if he’d gotten a hold of that. Churchill better keep his hands off, because not all of time can be rewritten, but this guy? Oh, God.
I do wonder what the Justice Department is going to do, though. Will they continue to hunt River throughout the centuries, or will the Doctor’s orders count for something? They are still going to put her in Stormcage for killing the Doctor at Lake Silencio in Utah, apparently, so what the hell is going to go wrong?
Next: Night Terrors.