REVIEW: Doctor Who - "Let's Kill Hitler"
Has it already been three months? Looking back to when “A Good Man Goes to War” aired at the beginning of June, the second half of Doctor Who Series Six seemed so far away. Now we’re back with episode eight, “Let’s Kill Hitler” – and it was worth the wait.
This episode serves as an example of how Doctor Who has truly hit its stride since the introduction of Matt Smith as the Doctor – the writers have found the “sweet spot” of character development, quirky concepts and fan service. The Doctor’s escapade in 1938 Berlin with Amy and Rory simultaneously gives fans what they want to see from the show and challenges our expectations, twisting the Doctor Who mythology into an extremely fun romp through space and time. Read on for my full, spoiler-free review of “Let’s Kill Hitler”, including my ranking out of four stars!
The episode opens as many have done in the past: Characters trying to get the attention of the Doctor. In this case – in a classic bit of Whovian reversal – Amy and Rory create a crop circle outside Leadworth to signal him, and their “wild child” best friend Mels comes along for the ride when the Doctor arrives. A stray shot from Mels’ pistol punctures the TARDIS console, sending the TARDIS crashing into the Berlin office of Adolf Hitler.
There, they encounter a Teselecta, a shape-shifting “vehicle” of the mysterious Justice Department staffed by hundreds of miniaturized people, which can take the form of anybody it chooses. The crash-landing of the TARDIS interrupts the crew of the Teselecta from capturing and torturing Hitler for his war crimes, but the Justice Department crew soon find a new target, who they believe will be responsible for the death of the Doctor.
That’s all I’ll give away, but the quality of this episode doesn’t lie so much in the facts about the plot, but how writer Steven Moffat is manipulating Doctor Who lore. Just when we thought we had the show mostly figured out at the end of the last episode, Moffat gives the story arc for Series Six another stir. By giving us some new clues about the mysterious Silence and about River Song’s backstory, all while presenting a real threat to the Doctor’s life, Moffat challenges we, the viewers, to sort out his colossal puzzle.
You might have to sit back when the credits roll and spend a few minutes sorting out all the information we’re given. One of the reasons why “Let’s Kill Hitler” is so complex is a pervasive theme of identity – the episode consistently asks the question, “Who is x?”: Who is Mels, really? Who are the Silence? Who is the Justice Department? Who is trying to kill the Doctor? This theme even reflects on the “monster” of the episode, the Teselecta, in how it can take the appearance of anybody. The mysteries, new and old, remind us that we’re still only halfway through this series, and that the answers we received at the end of “A Good Man Goes to War” were not as satisfying as they originally seemed.
I feel that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have now grabbed a solid hold on their characters. Amy’s confidence from Series Five has been eroded slightly by all her traumatic experiences, while Rory has taken the opposite route, gaining a considerable amount of courage. It’s energizing to see them work well as a team, and it highlights how much they’ve gone through to get to this point. Alex Kingston, meanwhile, is enigmatic and magnetic once again as River Song. This time, Moffat's gone for an earlier version of the character, and River turns out to be a fairly lethal pseudo-villainess for the better part of the episode - a side that's interesting to see after all her appearances as an ally of the Doctor.
I can’t say enough good things about Matt Smith. Between his performance and Moffat’s writing, the Eleventh Doctor feels like a full-faceted, logical progression from David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Whereas Ten had more of a command over all the enemies he dealt with, Eleven occasionally displays more of a confused, even beleaguered, attitude. The sense of humour and the cavalier outlook are still there, of course, but during the Doctor’s darker moments, all the anguish of his past regenerations comes to the surface. This is seen especially in this episode when the Doctor asks the TARDIS’ voice interface to change from the likeness of Rose, Martha or Donna into a form that makes him feel less guilty.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” is especially notable for its moments of fan service, where it directly references commonly-held notions about the characters. By now, it’s a Doctor Who tradition to reward its fans with these kind of tidbits, which only increase in value the longer you’ve been watching the show. We get all kinds of awesome moments, like the line, “You never said I was hot?!?” or when River draws a banana instead of a gun. There’s also plenty of banter, which I mentioned in previous reviews is one of my favourite parts of Doctor Who. Moffat uses these lighter elements to balance out the complicated “timey-wimey” mythology and darker character material, so the overall tone of the episode doesn’t sway in any one direction.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” is likely going to number among the fan-favourite episodes of Doctor Who. Being a midway episode, though, and providing few answers to the lingering questions of the series, means that it likely won’t number among the “best” episodes, like series finales or specials in the vein of “The Waters of Mars”. Nevertheless, because of its smooth combination of complicated lore, impressive character work and more than an average dose of humour, “Let’s Kill Hitler” gets four stars out of four.
What did you think of the “midseries premiere”? Is it keeping the momentum of the series going? How did you feel about the complexity of the episode? Did “Let’s Kill Hitler” disappoint you in any way? Post your reaction in the comments!
If you’d like to catch up on the rest of my Doctor Who Series Six reviews, click the links below. If you’re on Twitter, consider following me to stay updated on my latest Who reviews and other blog posts.
Check out all my reviews of Series Six of Doctor Who so far:
Episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut | Episode 2: Day of the Moon | Episode 3: The Curse of the Black Spot | Episode 4: The Doctor's Wife | Episode 5: The Rebel Flesh | Episode 6: The Almost People | Episode 7: A Good Man Goes to War