You’ve got a time machine, I’ve got a gun. What the hell? Let’s kill Hitler!
And with that, Amy and Rory’s new oldest friend Mels hijacks the TARDIS and spins off to Nazi Germany to shoot Hitler. But whaddaya know? Someone else has had that idea!
Let’s Kill Hitler is jam-packed with plot progression, but though it starts out with Fuhrer Fun, the episode quickly becomes all about the time travellers and a certain River Song. In fact, as the closing credits roll, you’ll find yourself thinking “What happened to Hitler? Is he still in the cupboard?”
Let’s begin by talking about the overall story. As we know from the midseason finale, Steven Moffat was coming under fire for writing frenzied episodes that on later reflection, didn’t make an awful lot of sense. I’m pleased to report that Let’s Kill Hitler gels beautifully. The chemistry between the characters now seems locked in place and finally we’re seeing ideas coming through that are plausible (within this universe) and are highly entertaining.
Yes, a friend called Mels suddenly materialises and we see her woven into Amy and Rory’s past. But suddenly it isn’t Mels, it’s an early-incarnation River Song, programmed to kill The Doctor. There’s poetry in telling River’s story this way – Rory and Amy think they’re missing their child’s formative years, then they discover that they’ve spent their formative years with their child! No wonder Rory is heard asking “Does anybody else find this day a bit difficult?” It’s hilarious when even the characters are so baffled they have to sit down and take it all in!
I’ve gotta hand it to Moffat for engineering things in this way. When The Doctor meets the Ponds in the middle of some homemade crop circles, a red car appears and almost knocks him over. It’s a River Song entrance, so we’re baffled when a young black woman jumps out. But when she kidnaps The Doctor and hijacks the TARDIS, it’s a bullet wound from Hitler that forces Mels to regenerate into a more familiar form.
I mean, so furious was the pace of this story that you could completely overlook something so HUGE as being shot by Hitler!
And there are gags galore – from Rory punching Adolf and telling him “Shut up, Hitler!” to Mels explanation for the sinking of the Titanic: “Why didn’t the Titanic sink? Because The Doctor didn’t save it.” Even the incredibly polite killer robots got fantastic dialogue: “Please hold still while your life is extracted.” My point is, this episode – perhaps for the first time, for me – had a wonderful balance of throwaway flippancy and highly emotional moments.
The key thing here is that Let’s Kill Hitler followed on nicely from A Good Man Goes To War. If you’re as interested in this story arc as I am, you won’t have missed Hitler after he got bundled in a cupboard. Infinitely more amazing to watch River Song regenerate – with brief reference to being a toddler in New York – and go through the wonderful post-regeneration sequence, chattering her teeth and discovering her boobs.
And of course, she tries instantly to kill The Doctor, but is outmanouvered by the Time Lord at every turn. It’s a brilliantly comic scene, culminating in River delivering her old poisoned lipstick trick. Cue Doctor slowly dying and another brilliant comical scene where he tries to get the TARDIS to display the avatar of someone he hasn’t messed up yet!
Ultimately, it’s River Song who ends up saving the Time Lord’s life. And she does it via a kiss as well. This time, it’s after realising that the “River” The Doctor is referring to throughout the episode is actually her. And I think she realises that devotion must come from somewhere, even if she doesn’t quite understand if yet. So she saves him by sacrificing every future regeneration she has. This neatly ties up a number of story threads in one go. And unlike the midseason finale, these developments are all believable within the framework of the story.
A thoroughly enjoyable episode of Doctor Who that really focused on the time travellers rather than the genocidal maniac of the title. There’s so much good stuff to explore within the episode that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one review. I mean, did the TARDIS really enter a Tessalator’s body at Inner Space size, rescue Amy and Rory, then restore them to normal size again? Worth a second watch just for the profound things that happened that passed off so casually.