‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ by Steven Moffat explodes back on to the screen, immediately taking a much lighter tone than ‘A Good Man Goes To War’. Moffat scripts always have a good amount of witty lines but here the story itself is zany, even when it is about Hitler and the Doctor dying.
Like a great magician Moffat distracts the audience, making us look in the wrong direction so we’re surprised by his next trick. Nowhere is this more evident than the title of the episode itself, revealed back in June.
For months people have pondered what it meant and how Hitler might be involved in the plot. In truth this was just window dressing, just a means to introduce the Teselecta and engineer what no one was expecting, River Song’s first meeting with the Doctor (from her perspective.)
The introduction of Mels is jarring, even for the Doctor, but the use of flashbacks to show how she has been part of Amy and Rory’s life quickly seems to paint her as a fully formed character, the tales of the Doctor giving her a rebellious streak.
She was completely believable as a new member of the TARDIS crew and I thought that the production team had done a great job of keeping her addition a secret. I could see the rest of series continuing with her as a mixture of Ace and Turlough, shifting the balance of power away from the Doctor.
When the narrative shifted to 1938 and introduced the Teselecta, a shape shifting robot filled with time travelling miniature people, it established this wasn’t going to be a straight forward historical adventure.
The Teselecta was a fun science fiction idea, convincingly brought to the screen. The interiors communicated what part of the body they were representing, such as the eyes, and the actors playing the exterior of the Teselecta conveyed the idea that people were controlling their limbs.
The idea behind them was also interesting. The Doctor implies that they are using time travel to be like him, seeking out evil and serving their own brand of justice. So they represent another group of people who have been affected by his actions.
Would the existence of the Teselecta be able to occur if the Time Lords still existed? Hopefully we’ll find out more about their culture and place of origin to explore this further. It seems likely that there is more than one time travelling robot out there.
The plot to punish Hitler seems like it will be the main thrust of the plot. It is therefore a surprise when Mels is shot and regenerates into the River Song we know, at least in appearance.
Rather than being an ally this River Song is the weapon designed to kill the Doctor, created by his enemies. Here her ability to out-think and manoeuvre the Doctor, brilliantly portrayed in a sequence of tactical control over the weapons in the room, is a threat rather than an asset.
The hand over from Nina Toussaint-White to Alex Kingston is well-executed. The rebellious streak in Mels is still evident, combining with the aspects of River Song we already know when she transforms. Her cockiness, usually reserved for the Storm Cage prison guards, is now turned against the Doctor and her parents.
We also get to see the roles reversed, with the Doctor being aware of Melody Song’s future, introducing her to both her name and other characteristics such as the use of ‘Spoilers’. We see Melody relishing her role as an angel of death and then being humbled by the knowledge that she can be something more.
Time travel once again is a major character in this story. Right from the start, where Amy and Rory use crop circles to summon the Doctor from the future, to the mind bending revelations that not only did Melody ensure her own creation by pushing a clueless Amy and a love sick Rory together but she is origin of her own name.
Overshadowing everything is the knowledge of Doctor’s pre-destined demise. Here the Doctor appears to face certain death, leading to an acting tour de force from Matt Smith as he plays out his final minutes.
With everything that had happened I did begin to believe that he might die, leading to further confusion about the nature of time and fate. They even established that River Song could fly the TARDIS giving a way for Amy and Rory to continue travelling and left a convenient gap between the Doctor’s departure in the last episode and here, allowing further adventures with a ‘past’ 11th Doctor.
The scenes within the TARDIS, allowing for brief appearance of his past companions, were a great insight into the character of the Doctor. Filled with guilt he needs someone to give him hope, in this case little Amelia Pond.
We also seem to be moving away from the idea that the Doctor’s costume defines him. Here we see his new costume which is swapped for tuxedo, top hat and sonic cane by the end. It is not the clothes that make the Time Lord but the man.
His salvation, in the form of River Song accepting that she doesn’t have to be the assassin she was changed into, was both logical and magical. It neatly solved the question of if River Song could regenerate and added fuel to the debate over how many lives the 11th Doctor now has left to him.
What has been fun is how River Song’s life has been falling into place before our very eyes. In this episode we learn how she piloted the TARDIS (and that she wasn’t joking when she said the Doctor wasn’t available to teach her) and the possible origin of how she learnt the Doctor’s name (if that is what he whispered to her as he lay dying).
Amy and Rory were given lots to do, what with the Doctor spending nearly half the story close to death. It could be argued that they weren’t as shaken by the revelation that they’d failed to save their daughter from their enemies as they should have been but to be fair there was a lot going on.
Both are proving to be very able companions, becoming heroes in their own right. Whether it is punching out Nazis (including Hitler) or turning the tables on the crew of the Teselecta they are at the forefront of the action.
By the conclusion the Doctor knows the exact date of his death, River Song has a new name (although her motives may still be in question) and there are several further questions that need to be answered.
We learn that the Silence is the name of an organisation rather than a species (will we get a new name to call the creatures we saw in ‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon?’) and that it refers to the silence that will fall across the universe when The Question is asked. Now we just need to know what the question is.
Over all this episode was incredibly pacey, moving forward at great speed and throwing interesting concepts and ideas on to the screen. Some call it self-indulgent, I call it a celebration.
This is best summed up in the scene where Amy asks Rory if he can ride a motorcycle and he replies:
“I expect so, it’s been that kind of day.”