Doctor Who “Let’s Kill Hitler” Preview Screening: BfI, Monday 15thAugust
Almost two months on from my last visit to the BfI (for the Torchwood: Miracle Day preview) and I was back in the main theatre on London’s South Bank again, this time to herald the imminent return of the Doctor for the second half of Series 6. Once again it is a privilege to share a few spoiler-free thoughts for Kasterborous.
What struck me first about Let’s Kill Hitler was just how funny the episode is. The prequel released by the BBC on Monday is somewhat melancholic, but the episode that launches us back into Series 6 opens in madcap style and proceeds apace with moments of wonderful physical and verbal comedy, all played pitch perfect by the main cast. I will say very little about the actual content because once again it is very much best viewed with as little foreknowledge as possible, but what I will note is that this is an instalment that very much focuses upon the relationships of the core characters and provides some key answers to questions that have been posed to date, whilst simultaneously suggesting some intriguing new ones. The Hitler aspect of the story is almost incidental beyond adding colour and context, but this proves to be a strength of the episode as it really allows the TARDIS team to take centre stage and shine.
An entertaining and insightful Q&A session followed the episode, chaired by writer/broadcaster Matthew Sweet and featuring Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Steven Moffat. (Matt Smith was sadly absent, off filming Olympic drama Bert and Dickie for the BBC somewhere on the Thames.) Aside from the odd pushy question from one or two of the journalists present, this was a largely good humoured and respectful affair. There were questions about the “narrative acrobatics” of Steven Moffat’s approach to the series, which the great man himself humbly suggested are not as clever as they appear given he knows the story he wants to tell with River Song and then simply reveals it out of order. He did add, however, that he did not have River’s arc planned out when he first created the character, only realising this in full as he came to create Amelia Pond.
As an aside, I would note that in preparation for the screening I had made a point of going back to The Impossible Astronaut and watching the first half of the series over again all the way up to A Good Man Goes to War. This proved to be an even more rewarding experience than I had anticipated. Whilst maybe just a happy accident, these episodes reveal themselves in brand new ways and with more cohesion in retrospect, benefitting from the knowledge of River Song’s identity, so I would strongly recommend a second viewing to one and all.
Karen and Arthur also offered some hints as to what is to come in the remaining episodes, always remaining mindful to avoid spoilers. Karen teased that Episode 10 will explore Amy and Rory’s relationship further – something that Let’s Kill Hitler also does in a very successful and entertaining fashion – and highlighted how the series is very much about those core relationships at its heart. It was also suggested that there will be a pay-off of sorts regarding Rory’s unfortunate habit of dying, and Karen asserted that she thinks Amy and Rory would have more children – three in all – in such a fashion that left Arthur completely unable to disagree! Arthur did manage to assert himself more successfully when it was queried why there is no Rory action figure available; Moffat joked he would make this his top priority!
The Grand Moff also talked a little about the Doctor, including how much of himself Matt Smith brings to the role. Describing the character as “accidentally powerful” and also as “an unarmed man who can’t drive”, he explained how the Doctor’s growing myth is inevitable given how many times he has defeated his enemies and also therefore why the returning foes constantly have to up their game in turn. He also hinted at darker days ahead for the Eleventh Doctor, whilst retaining the inherent humour that is so natural to Matt’s performance. When asked if he might pen his own book akin to Russell T Davies’ well received “The Writer’s Tale”, he stated that he would not as it would just end up reading as the same book over again, just a little grumpier!
Tantalisingly and in response to an unexpected appearance in the extended version of the latest trailer that followed the episode, Moffat explained to appreciative applause how he lies brazenly in interviews and statements in order to preserve future surprises, and will always continue to do the same for the benefit of the viewers’ experience when they sit down to watch new episodes. BBC Controller of Drama Ben Stephenson’s introduction to the event also teased how Moffat’s vision and ambition has transformed the series this year and is massive in terms of his plans for the next two years as we approach Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary.
A closing thought about Let’s Kill Hitler itself. Without doubt it is certainly a lively return for Series 6 and hugely enjoyable from start to finish, but it also contains a lot of promise for the pay-offs still to come in the remaining episodes. I suspect that once Episode 13 has aired we will be looking back on one of the most intricate, inventive and rewarding runs for the series yet, and will be impatient to watch it all over again.