“You will experience a tingling sensation”
In some ways, writing a spoiler-free review of the new Doctor Who episode, Let’s Kill Hitler, is about as easy as it gets.
Crammed into the 45 minutes are so many details, so much storytelling and so much interesting material, that inevitably we have to veer on the side of caution, for fear of spoiling the episode. That need for caution kicks in so early in the episode, that it’s best we tell you as little as possible, story-wise at least, about it.
Because not for the first time, we can but conclude that this isn’t an episode that you want spoiled. Partly for the obvious reasons, in that it introduces some plot developments and back story that you wouldn’t want to know in advance. Also, because Steven Moffat, writing his fourth episode of the series (five, if you want to count the Christmas special), throws in a few more balls that he’s going to need to keep juggling (even in one or two of the quieter moments, it feels like important details are awaiting discovery), which should fuel a few online debates come the end of the month.
But mainly because Let’s Kill Hitler is such a refreshing, entertaining blast of fun. And a piece of television best enjoyed cold.
This is Steven Moffat on fire, with comfortably one of his funniest Doctor Who scripts yet. Certainly the audience we watched it with were guffawing loudly, and rightly so. The dialogue is sharp, fast, snappy, and delivered with skill and experience by the cast.
But the ideas, too, are really to be cherished. While finding time to broaden the overarching narrative of the series, Moffat squeezes in, just to give a flavour of what to expect, a crop circle, Adolf Hitler, a nice nod to the Terminator movies and a very well placed banana. There are loads of little things like that, dotted right throughout the episode.
It’s frenetic television at times, with the peak of the episode arguably coming around the half way point, where Moffat uses words, time and damn good actors to brilliant effect. It’s a particular scene that absolutely crackles, and is the kind of television that, put simply, the vast majority of people simply can’t do. Doctor Who is lucky to have a man who can.
It’s a bit of an acting tour de force this one, as well. The three leads each have to lift their game to match what the material needs them to do, and it’s a testament to how Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have each grown into their roles that their performances are so confident.
The whole episode shares that confidence, in fact. The production design and the effects work stretch the budget presumably to breaking point (and we wouldn’t be surprised if it went a little bit beyond), and director Richard Senior keeps a busy episode zipping along with necessary clarity.
Our particular advice would be to pay lots of attention. Let’s Kill Hitler is willing to answer a few questions, but it also starts posing more, and it takes turns that we really weren’t expecting at all. Once or twice, we wondered if Let’s Kill Hitler was taking a less interesting turn, but it all turned out to be part of the master plan.
This is the strength of what Steven Moffat’s been doing with Doctor Who, and of Doctor Who as a whole, though. It simply hasn’t lost its ability to surprise. Rather than having a near-50 year backstory as a burden, modern Who increasingly plays it to its advantage. It digs into it when it needs to, but seems decreasingly afraid to make up new rules and ideas. Long may that continue.
Let’s Kill Hitler does leave questions, as it should, and it leads nicely into the remaining episodes of series six. But it also does justify that series break, and it brings Doctor Who back onto our screens with considerable style.
As the man sitting next to me remarked before the episode began, “Hitler has one, Doctor Who has two”. Damn right.