Unchained Melody

If the title of this story had lead us all to expect 45 minutes of our heroes facing off against der Fuhrer, once again we’ve been wrong footed. Admittedly Rory (oh Rory; more on you later) does get to re-enact the first Captain America cover and punch the Nazi rotter, but after a handful of lines Hitler then gets locked in a cupboard for the rest of the episode.

So much for Adolf, this episode is really about River (splendid chap, both of them), neatly filling in some more gaps about her past/future and motivations. As was pointed out by some after A Good man goes to War, we found out who she is, but not what. Let’s Kill Hitler redresses this, and presents us with a thoroughly engaging earlier incarnation: Mels.
Through a series of flashbacks we discover that Amy and Rory’s previously unmentioned lifelong friend has had an interesting relationship with them both, being looked after and occasionally scolded by Amy, and becoming crucial in bringing the Ponds together.
The cornfield scene where we first meet Mels is the perfect introduction to her character, scattering our regulars like ninepins and prophetically drawing a line through the Doctor’s name in a little red corvette. It’s also sequence brimming with the joie de vivre we need to launch back into the second half of this series.
Sadly, we’ve only just met Mels when she dies, accidentally shot by her own intended target. It’s an interesting regeneration but we seem to be skimping on the actual ‘morphs’ these days – odd because the justice robot/Teselecta’s physical transitions are rather lavish – even taking on Alex Kingston’s hair, which is no mean feat. (I wouldn’t complain though, as River’s regenerations apparently also make her temporarily bullet-proof). The Teselecta strand of the plot is utterly surreal no matter which way you look at it, a square jawed captain slouching Kirk-like in a command chair, directing the miniaturised crew of a shape-changing robot on time-travelling missions of utterly pointless sadism.

To avoid giving a narrative of the story, I’ll mention the Direction at this point. This episode is full of great visual flourishes from Amy’s tossed TARDIS model becoming the real thing tumbling through the German skies, to the return of the banana gag from The Doctor Dances in a well-choreographed duel. Notice too how little stories are being told behind the main action – Mels holding her side before anyone realises she’s been shot, and the Doctor absent-mindedly flexing his hand as River’s poison begins to take effect.
There may be even more than meets the eye, too, as the author of this blog has suggested that the Doctor’s curiously-timed change into what appears to be his Pond wedding attire may be significant. He was right about the Time Lord’s costume-anachronism last year (Flesh and Stone), so I’d listen to him – those tails may be telling.

As to whether we can assume that River is reformed now, and how and why she loves the Doctor, perhaps it’ll be explained later. Let’s Kill Hitler is as much fun as the title suggests it will be, but one of the fundamental components of this series continues to disappoint me. I like Amy, I really do, but as sometimes happens in real life; marriage and motherhood have made her a lot less fun. She comes with even more baggage now (and some of it has a rather large nose). With each passing episode I’m becoming more convinced that being entrenched so deeply in the lives of the Ponds is diminishing the Doctor, making his world and potential so much smaller. I don’t think he’s happy about it either – and the sonic screwdriver isn’t going to get us out of this one.


One Response to “Unchained Melody”

  1. Peter A Says:

    As you know Al I’m a big fan of Rory and River. Hitler? Not so much. But I was ‘worried for his reputation’ if that’s the correct turn of phrase here. The twentieth-century’s bogeyman has been transformed into a cartoon character for decades, featuring in comics (as you mention above), video games, cartoons… thank god he only gets stuck in a wardrobe here. Great title, but almost a red herring. Well played, Mr Moffat.

    Quite dubious about River from hereon in however, and Mels didn’t grab me at all. I was happy to see her go, in fact! Just too ‘arch’, and there was more to come after the regeneration of course. As the curtain-raiser for Season 6′s second act this is okay. Visually lovely (as usual) and some cracking lies, but ooh I’m still struggling to keep up on the egnagement stakes. I feel as though there’s someone out there with a mighty pen who’s more enthralled with the arc of the current series than I am right now, and that ain’t right.

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