My fellow Whovians, this episode was a hot mess. I loved it anyway. I respect that my love is not shared, some of the reviews of this ep (which I usually never read before I write my own recaps, bad Selena) were pretty harsh.
I love this show, and Moffat, when they throw a million things at us at rapid-fire speed. I kind of like the “Screw it, why not?” attitude. Corvettes, debigulator rays, creaky ginger robots, wibbly-wobbly time, TARDIS tutoring, poison lipstick, and Hitler in a cupboard, this episode had it all.
I know some of you are active in fiction and fan-fic communities. I thought this episode felt like one of those ridiculously fun prompt challenges, where the group lists a series of completely ridiculous, unrelated things which the writer has to make into a cohesive story. Picture it! England, 2011, writers’ room…
Moffat: I need some ideas to give River Song a better backstory than Captain Jack. Be creative!
Writer A: Poison lipstick!
Writer B: Robots!
Writer A: Flashy American sports car!
Writer B: She names her first gun Benjamin!
Writer A: She names her LADYBITS Benjamin!
Writer B: Let’s make it ambiguous!
Writer A: Miniaturization rays!
Writer B: Hitler! And Chekov’s cupboard!
Writer A: Don’t you mean Chekov’s gun?
Writer B: No. If you shove Hitler in the cupboard in the first act, you can never speak of him again. Chekov’s cupboard. Maybe it’s Beckett’s cupboard…
Writer A: The line: “You will experience a tingling sensation and then DEATH.”
Moffat: Let’s use them all! I bet you a box of David Tennant action figures I can pull it off.
So Amy and Rory make a crop circle which spells out “Doctor,” bringing our time-traveling Muppet to Leadworth. He is sad to report he’s had no luck in finding baby Melody. They’re interrupted by their childhood chum, Mels, who drives up in a ‘vette, on the run from Johnny Law. We learn, through flashbacks, that Mels is a lifelong troublemaker slash badass, and the reason Rory and Amy fell in love. Aw. In the present, she flirts with the Doctor, then hijacks the whole gang and the TARDIS to escape the police and, while they’re at it, go kill Hitler.
Hitler has his own problems. A shape-shifting robot from the future has also jumped back in time to dish Hitler up a steaming plate of comeuppance. A shape-shifting robot filled with tiny people and killer antibody robot jellyfish. The TARDIS slams into Hitler’s office and knocks the robot out cold before he can hit Hitler with his hell ray.
When the shape-shifting robot comes to, Hitler starts shooting, missing the robot completely. Rory punches Hitler in the face, then shoves him in the aforementioned cupboard. Sadly, Hitler did shoot Mels, and everyone rushes to her side.
Before she dies, she tells the Doctor they should get married. He says they will, as soon as she gets better. She says he’ll have to ask her parents for permission, and they’re standing right there! The delightfully sassy Mels is actually Melody, who was able to bend space and time to grow up alongside her parents, as school chums. Amy named Melody for Mels, because of course she did.
Mels has more surprises, she’s regenerating. The pretty golden magic fades away to reveal the one, the only, River Song. River has no idea of things that haven’t happened yet, which to us is everything, and she’s under the spell of Nanny TighPatch and the Silence, so she gets right to trying to kill the Doctor. There’s a great bit with guns and bananas and flirting. She ends the “I’m going to kill you” dance with a quick kiss, before heading for her usual (but not yet) egress, the window.
As the Doctor is chatting her up, he falls down. River’s hallucinogenic lipstick had a prototype, apparently, and it’s a more permanent problem solver. Meanwhile the robot has decided it should be killing River instead of wasting time on Hitler, whose timeline they had wrong anyway. River escapes, taunts some Nazis, takes some bullets and then robs a fancy party, so she’ll have something to wear.
The Doctor sends Amy and Rory after her, as he tries to figure out what to do. He stumbles into the TARDIS and summons a voice interface. It flashes between an image of the Doctor (“No! Someone I actually like!”) previous companions Rose, Martha and Donna (“No! Too much guilt!”) and finally settles on Wee Amelia Pond, who brings her no-nonsense approach to telling the Doctor he’s going to die in 32 minutes, there’s no cure, and his regeneration has been disabled.
OKAY. Let’s take some stock, for just a moment. River got shot while she was regenerating and it made her bullet-proof. Is this a clue for the future? Why did that same thing kill the Doctor to Dead Dead instead of Mostly Dead, or better yet, bullet-proof like River? The Doctor lies, River lies, we’re left with questions.
Another point, we know how River gets Dead Dead, too, sort of. This doesn’t make sense if she can regenerate, but at least we’re getting an answer to this one in this episode.
Back to the story. The shape-shifting robot poops himself a motorbike to chase after Rory and Amy, and by extension, River. He turns into Amy and then debiggifies the real Amy and Rory and sucks them inside the robot. Rory, as he does, takes it all in stride. He’s probably still feeling a little cocky for punching out Hitler. The robot heads inside to put River in a hell ray for killing the Doctor. The Doctor shows up, points out he’s not dead, and falls over a lot. He yells at Amy to save River from inside the robot. She has the Doctor’s sonic, so she disables the protective bracelets that tell the killer antibody robot jellyfish not to kill the crew. They’re transported away to a deus ex mothership, leaving Amy and Rory on the run.
The Doctor is too sick to help, so he begs River to save her parents. She hops in the TARDIS (River is part TARDIS! HA! Selena is right again. It’s like I punched Hitler) who teaches River how to drive her, on the fly, in Nazi Germany. She lands the TARDIS around Amy and Rory, and they fly back to the Doctor.
The Doctor is in a bad way, and he asks to talk to River. River goes to him, and demands to know who this River Song character is. Amy makes the empty robot tell her, which it does by turning into River. River goes to the Doctor with regeneration magic coming out of her hands, and heals him. She asks Amy and Rory if the Doctor is worth it, and they enthusiastically tell her he is. I’d think one of them would ask “Worth what?” but whatever.
She wakes up in a hospital, where Amy tells her she used up all her remaining lives to save the Doctor. Then says “You shouldn’t have done that.” Jeez, Amy, you are really embracing the mom thing. No wonder River likes guns, guns don’t send mixed signals.
The Doctor leaves River a shiny new TARDIS journal, and tells the nurse (Question: Was that one of the kitty cat nurses? I love them.) that River won’t be fine, she’ll be amazing. This is the saddest f’ing love story ever. Romeo + Juliet, those humps from Love Story, the unfortunate brother and sister from Flowers in the Attic, none of them have anything on River and Her Doctor.
In the 52nd century, River is applying to archeology school, because she’s looking for “a good man.” I love you River, please don’t stay away too long. *sniff.*
Next week, from the previews, will be one of those hanky episodes wherein the Doctor is very kind to a child who doesn’t know a lot of kindness, and they’ll fight monsters. I’ll be right here next week, and we’ll talk about it between all the blubbering.
Images from BBC online, which you should visit.