Dear Steven Moffat: Let’s Kill Hitler

Dear Steven,

It’s been seven years, two months and a day since I last put finger to key and sent you a text laxative. I hope this message finds you, preferably before I do, because following careful deliberation and due consideration, I’ve realised that you’re to blame for my long spell in prison. I have no rational basis for such a claim but despair must be channelled somewhere. Learning to hate you gave me focus; it allowed me to tune out the hollering and the blood and the showtunes, and think instead about how much sausage meat and sage I could stuff into your chest cavity when the opportunity presented itself.

I’ve now returned to the 21st century. The details of my incarceration, if your memory craves a blog-job, are here. Seven years, Steven, seven years! It felt like a thousand. Spooning 52nd century porridge into my trap hasn’t done much for my guts.  It wasn’t all bad; I lost a substantial amount of weight; my right leg was torn off by a Delthusian Spore Beast. That, I suppose, was the best of it. The worst included a coprophile’s wedding reception, a toadstool diet and 491 days in couple confinement with a John Barrowman superfan.

Death opened its robe and displayed its temptations but I remained strong. Strength, I’ve come to realise, isn’t about bravery or dignity, rather tears and screaming; awful prolonged screaming. If you can survive that, perhaps because you’re being monitored around the clock, sometimes strapped into a padded jacket, then you truly know yourself and that, whatever the dictionary says, is strength.

Now I’ve seen Let’s Kill Hitler, I no longer feel guilty about the rambling, incidental nature of the tale that follows. The story of my escape from Stormcage isn’t a million miles from your technique in this episode, it’s billions of miles and centuries apart, but you’ll recognise much of yourself in what follows; oodles of surrealism, idea smashed against idea, humour, maybe, but not what you’d call a story really, just a shapeless act of self-indulgence; thought vomit if you will. Sure, I’ll get to the end of my story, I have to, for the reader’s sake, but let’s not fool ourselves, it’s not great writing. The characters you’ll meet in my tale are strictly utilitarian, they exist merely to act as the folds in my accordion of events.

Falling into Fascism

I was doing crunches in the corner of my cell when I felt the ground move. I’d spent many nights in that corner; terrible lonely nights, but this was the first time the muck beneath my feet had begun to shift. With hindsight I now understand that if you build an entire prison out of space-bungaroosh, a cheap building material composed from dung, wood chips and old carpet, and an entire wing of your facility is home to giant Gytholian Termites, then you could, if you weren’t careful, create a situation where the super structure of your building is fatally weakened.

Later, when the Galactic Institute of Chartered Surveyors investigated the collapse, they concluded that the termites had been eating the structure for years and it was this that caused the foundations to give way as I sat in my cell, the floor disappearing like sand through the waist of an hourglass.

That, I imagine, would have been the extent of the damage, but as I fell, and indeed kept falling, it became apparent to me that something was amiss with the ground beneath my feet. Who could have known then, except maybe those responsible for the decision to build the prison on that particular planet, that a world made of trillions of clumps of old cow meat, might be vulnerable both to time, the elements, and the planet’s one indigenous lifeform, that is to say the one left there by its creators; Bimosion Blowflies.

In my cell I’d heard many stories of interstellar conflict. My bunk mate, “Masturbating” Mo Wiley, had mentioned the Bovine War of twenty years ago. On a world fifty times the size of Earth, a planet of Cows, two factions of super-intelligent moo moos had fought a protracted battle that only ended when a meteor impacted in their milky ocean and made them extinct. Hungry aliens looted the world, hoping to get a free steak dinner, but there was simply too much meat to go around. Much of it was spoiling. It was then that a group of canny engineers had the idea of preserving the flesh and turning it into a soft pliable material that they could use in their planet-building programme. The hungry larvae came too.

When my cell collapsed it fell into ground already soft with decay and an infestation of maggots. The result was, well, there’s no other way to say it, Steven, the result was that I fell through the planet.

In the 18 hours it took for that to happen I cursed my bad luck, reasoning that any hour now I’d emerge somewhere on the Southern Hemisphere and continue on into deep space. Indeed, as I broke the surface, covered in fat white larvae, I expected to die, but directly beneath me, slap bang in the centre of the starfield, was a box with a pair of open doors. I fell in.

In the land of fiction any man, woman or beast of the imagination can exist, including variants. Life, in this realm, doesn’t so much reproduce, more spins itself off. I was now in a TARDIS, but not the friendly one known to millions of Whovians, but the home of an all together different Timelord.

When I awoke, having smashed my head on the console, I was in the presence of a muscular leviathan with a line in black, skintight clothing. He introduced himelf as Die Ubermensch. Should have I been concerned, Steven? I wasn’t. Perhaps it was the knock on the head but I didn’t worry, not even having laid eyes on the Swastika shaped console or the bust of Hitler that rose and dipped in the centre. I cared not a jot about his companions, Adalbert and Claudia. They had kind, pale faces, and I liked the fact that they took time to rub oil on each other’s bodies and check their sunflower manes for extraneous hairs.

Looking back on it now, it was probably the head injury that forestalled panic when the pair told me I was too fat and ugly to reproduce. Claudia offered to sterilise me, which was good of her, but I declined. Adalbert kept asking Die Ubermensch if I’d be more comfortable shot in the head. This was unorthodox hospitality for sure, but after seven long years in that dank cell, I was glad for the company. They were funny, in a morbid, Teutonic way, and I enjoyed listening to this terrifying Gallifreyian talk about his plans to visit Earth and turn it into a fascist utopia. He spoke with real passion and the couple of days I spent in that TARDIS talking about agriculture and living space were precious.

Eventually it was time to part company and in exchange for my pledge to act as an agent of the new world order and uphold the principles that had seen him exiled from his native land, Die Ubermensch agreed to take me home and end my time travelling nightmare. Really, a lovely guy all told.

So finally I got to see Let’s Kill Hitler, an episode my new TV companions would only allow me to have on because of my reassurance that the title alluded to the enemy’s perspective and was understood to be ironic as clearly any attempt at assassinating the Reich leader was doomed. You already have an inkling of how I felt, Steven, but I’ll finish with a few of the details.

The Review

I love that you’re playful and non-linear, that’s all smashing, but I think you’re in danger of forgetting that an episode of Doctor Who must be more than a series of smart-arse one liners and cool shit, like a tessellating android manned by miniature humans. The story must have coherence and cohesion, that’s the key, and there must be a story, not merely a series of arc complications that you tick off en route to an open ended resolution. Let’s have revelations, let’s kill Hitler, but let it be more than the sum of its parts; hang these incidents on something more substantial.

This episode, which wasn’t really about Hitler at all, in fact I was loathe to understand why Melody mark II, or whichever, wanted to kill Hitler in the first place (did she just decide on the spot, you know, for something to do?), seemed to me little more than a series of inventive vignettes, many or all of which would appeal to fans and convince them that they were experiencing a brain fuck.

Ah, but Steven you don’t fool me. I am impressed by the TARDIS crashing into the Reich Chancellery, and I do like lines like “Rory, put Hitler in the cupboard” but I need to feel that the 50 minutes I’ve spent in the eyeballing of this shit are about something. I know you’ll say this episode was about River and her origins, and that’s fine, but don’t just throw elements at the screen, allow to them to drive the story.

In this episode Hitler, Berlin, the Nazis, the tessellating man-ship with its antibody droids that made no sense (who’d build a ship stocked with robots designed to murder the crew unless you wore the correct armband?) were all background noise that threatened to drown out the character moments that could have been of great interest. Let’s face it, the episode could have been set anywhere and that annoys me, because if we’ve got Nazis I want them to be part of the fucking plot!

Murray Gold seems to be back on the tartrazine and I’m sick to death of The Doctor using modern colloquialisms; stop it, he’s a man out of time, he should use his own words. No “spoilers” or any of that crap, he’s not the talkback section on Ain’t It Cool News.

Still, even if the intricacies of your plot are threatening to smother your story craft, 50 minutes of this stuff is still 267,000 times better than anything else on Saturday night TV. Just think about what I’ve said okay? I’m pleased we’re getting all of River’s particulars but if we don’t get to some sort of conclusion soon I’m going to tear up our truce and reactivate my autograph campaign. You know what that means; it’s a seat at the end of your bed and the Hitler youth knife Claudia gave me.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

Spring episodes catch up:

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