Warning: this review contains spoilers.
6.8 Let’s Kill Hitler
“That’s right, Adolf. The British are coming”
Blasting back onto Saturday night telly with considerable style, Let’s Kill Hitler is an episode of Doctor Who that covers bits of familiar ground, but does it with a zest and sense of fun that’s very hard to resist.
Kicking off, wonderfully, for little logical reason whatsoever in the middle of a crop circle, the episode is essentially an exercise in exploring the increasingly complicated relationship between the four lead characters. If anything, it’s the Doctor who has to take a bit of a step back here, as some of the gaps in the life of Amy, Rory and River/Melody/Mels are filled in. He does get to wear some natty outfits, though.
It’s clear straight away that Melody Pond has been part of Rory and Amy’s life for far longer than either has realised. Specifically, in the form of Mels.
We’ve not met Mels before, a seemingly-troublesome friend of the pair who’s been a lifelong friend of both. And if you like your time paradoxes, wrap your head around this. It was Mels that got Amy to realise Rory liked her. Then, Amy and Rory named their daughter after their daughter. It’s as if Steven Moffat took one look at the Internet threads trying to work out how exactly the Doctor could escape the Pandorica last year, and decided to stir things up still further. He might just have succeeded.
And while we’re on that subject: why are the Doctor’s regenerations “disabled”? Anyone fancy a stab at that? The use of the word disabled points to something quite mechanical, rather than it being anything to do with the poison that Melody/River/Mels planted on the Doctor’s lips. Who has the power, then, to switch the regenerations off who’s also still around in the current Who universe?
Back to the story, though. Eventually, Mels regenerates into River who doesn’t know she’s River, and in the course of forty-five minutes, she manages to use up all of her remaining regenerations, eventually emerging as a heroic figure who saves the Doctor. Not before our favourite part of the episode, though, where she and the Doctor indulge in some mental sparring, ending with River pointing a banana at his head.
It’s that sequence that captures the zip, the confidence and outright skill of modern Doctor Who. It’s a showdown, a confrontation, but a very funny one. It gets its storytelling done, with absolute efficiency, and had us chortling away.
The episode did fall back on one or two fairly regular traits of Who, if you want to be ultra-picky. The Doctor dying again, for starters (makes a change from Rory, some might argue), although in the episode’s defence, it’s ultimately his non-death here that indirectly leads to him learning about his real one (and also, that turns River into the River we know). It’s also established, as if there was doubt, that the Doctor was indeed shot by the astronaut, although we still reckon that the gangers might be involved there.
The Star Trek-alike space ship, the people made out of lots of different people, and the incredibly chipper recorded messages from the security jellyfish things that kept threatening to kill people were all good fun. And I really liked the moment when the Doctor, facing death while on the floor of the Tardis, calls for the face of someone he hasn’t screwed up yet, to be met by young Amelia Pond. A lovely touch, one with added custard.
The episode also seems to confirm that River – and Alex Kingston is on blistering form here – did indeed go to prison for killing the Doctor. And we also see where she was given the blue book full of spoilers that we first saw in her hands all those years ago. Nice to see the Doctor getting to use the “Spoilers” line too. Is this, then, the point where the Doctor knows more about River than he ever will again?
The omission of sorts from the episode was actually Adolf Hitler. He was basically the MacGuffin here, in much the same way that the cybermen were teased in A Good Man Goes To War, and then blown up inside five minutes. In the case of Hitler, he had a few (good) jokes made at his expense, and then got locked in the cupboard. And left there.
Let’s Kill Hitler, instead, was far more interested in complicating the relationship between its central characters, which it did terrifically well. Coupled with some of the snappiest dialogue of the show this series, it packed plenty into its near-fifty minute running time. It offered a stark reminder, too, that “the Doctor lies”. As if we didn’t know.
Where does it leave things? Well, that’s a good question. The Doctor has the knowledge now that Amy and Rory have tried to keep from him all series, namely the exact details of his death. River? She’s back off on her travels. Amy and Rory’s heads have been thoroughly messed with (not least as they try and work out just how people go looking for the Doctor), and there’s the small matter of lots of creepy doll things awaiting us in next week’s episode, Night Terror. From the preview we got, that looks terrific.
For now, though, Let’s Kill Hitler is a triumphant return back to our screens for Doctor Who. It’s great to have the show back, and here’s looking forward to the next five episodes…
Read our review of episode 7, A Good Man Goes To War, here.
All our reviews and articles about the first half of the sixth series of Doctor Who can be found here.