In the days of the classic series, you generally knew that when the Doctor had apparently been killed by that week’s villain, he was more than likely going to turn up again in one piece by the time the adventure was over.
Thanks to the events of The Impossible Astronaut and the various other twists that have occurred this series, however, that fact is no longer assured. We already know that the Doctor (Matt Smith) dies in Utah, just as we know that time can be rewritten. it was certainly on my mind while watching Let’s Kill Hitler that our hero could be about to face a second “genuine” death, another sledgehammer from Steven Moffat to leave fans scurrying around for pieces of the puzzle.
Indeed, it was a surprise that I actually found myself thinking anything at all, given the moments of laughter, sadness, action and revelation that are littered throughout what certainly ranks among Steven Moffat’s best Doctor Who scripts. If it wasn’t the high octane opening that thrilled then it was surely watching Rory (Arthur Darvill) deck the Fuhrer or even discovering Melody’s (Nina Toussaint-White,) identity and linking things up with Day of the Moon. Throw in a cyborg shape-shifter controlled by dozens of miniaturized humans (featuring what must be the best transmat special effect in Doctor Who yet) and the surprising-but-logical news that River Song is a war criminal and you have a recipe marked “instant classic”, just the thing to bring the show back on course after the anti-climax of the mid-season “cliffhanger” (or “miss-hanger”, as I consider it) A Good Man Goes to War.
For an episode called Let’s Kill Hitler, however, it is a shame that the Fuhrer was left locked in a cupboard, almost like a scene from classic comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo. He really serves no purpose other than being the reason for the crew of the Teselecta judgement machine to be at the same location as the crash landing TARDIS, but it is somewhat amusing to see the time traveller’s reaction to coming face to face with a man who literally changed the face of the world.
Comedy is plentiful in this episode, mainly during the flashback sequences where we see young Amy (Karen Gillan), Rory and Mels interacting in a series of “Mels in trouble” scenarios, but at the heart of Let’s Kill Hitler is the much-needed River Song (Alex Kingston) “origins” story, the tale of how she comes into being, who she intends to kill, why she has to commit that crime and how she comes to love the Doctor.
Let’s face it, we’ve been waiting for this since 2008, and Steven Moffat delivers an intriguing few scenes while drip feed into our existing knowledge of River Song/Melody Pond.
But there is such a lot more to Let’s Kill Hitler than a regeneration, some Hitler decking and the origins of River Song – Steven Moffat has littered the script with several boot-strap paradoxes. These are circular events that cannot exist without being self perpetuated, such as the Doctor giving River Song a blue box diary, Mels ensuring her own conception by letting Amy know that Rory is in love with her and of course the fact that Amy named her daughter after her daughter!
Show me any other TV show that can deliver such richness while referring to a 35 year old episode at the same time (of course, when the Doctor tells Eldrad that the TARDIS interior is in a state of grace in The Hand of Fear, the implication now is that he was bluffing. Given what we’ve seen since in Earthshock and The Parting of the Ways, this seems to have always been the case).
A quick note about the use of locations, costumes and direction - Richard Senior has done a stellar job in pulling everything together for this episode, utilizing familiar Doctor Who locations in new and fantastic ways. You wouldn’t know that the episode wasn’t shot in Berlin if you didn’t know that the overseas shooting had already been completed in Utah.
Ultimately, of course, Doctor Who is back. The waiting is over, Series 6 is back on course and we’ve got just five more weeks to learn the truth behind the Doctor’s ultimate fate.
I’ve got a few theories of my own…