I’m wondering if writing a TV show is a little like ‘making love to a beautiful woman’ (as The Fast Show’s Swiss Tony liked to say). The more confident you are, the better the experience for both parties (as long as confidence matches ability anyway – but let’s not waste too much time on this analogy, we have another corking episode of Doctor Who to celebrate).
I don’t think there is anything about Let’s Kill Hitler that isn’t wonderful on some level (and often on several levels at once) . And, using the usual gauge, I can report that Hat Jr barely said a word throughout the whole thing (only two questions – is the Doctor really going to die and are Amy and Rory going to die?) – otherwise completely rapt.
(Spoilers, sweeties, below the line)
I love the crop-circle message from the Ponds to the Doctor, I love that the TARDIS is already standing in the middle of the O when they finish ‘writing’ in the wheat with their Mini, and I love that I was right about who was driving the red sports car and that Steven Moffat tricked me into thinking I was wrong (while at the same time making it completely obvious who she really is – the approaching police sirens, the boots, the instant attraction to the Doctor, the gun, the impulse to jump in the TARDIS and kill Hitler…).
Talking of which, there is just the right amount of Hitler in this story – about ten per cent – the rest of the time Steven Moffat spends answering some of the really big questions about River Song, dealing with the Teselecta (a frankly breathtaking and brilliant idea that makes me want to point back to that first paragraph about confidence) and killing the Doctor. Again.
The teases and twists he inflicts on us in the minutes leading up to Mels’ regeneration are astounding and fabulously satisfying. Amy and Rory have been close to their daughter for many years, even if they didn’t realise it. Amy named her daughter after her daughter. Melody has been a magnet for trouble all along – is that what happens to you if you’re conceived in the TARDIS?
The Teselecta could probably have consumed an entire episode on its own – and again it’s true nature is revealed like a Burlesque act. When you first see the robot and then the team of people planning some sort of cloning or duplication, you think you have an idea of what’s going on. And then your flabber is gasted as Moffat whips out that confidence again and delivers a brilliant conceit: the people we see are miniaturised and working inside the robot (as is something more sinister, the ‘antibodies’ (like airborne electrical jellyfish) who greet any unauthorised person with the cheery statement: “Welcome. You are unauthorised. Your death will now be implemented. You will experience a tingling sensation and then death. Remain calm while your life is extracted.”)
The Teselecta and its operators travel through time meting out justice to war criminals who were not punished in their own time. The look on the Doctor’s face when this conversation is going on is classic. I wouldn’t be surprised if we meet the Teselecta again. I think the Doctor has unfinished business with their operation.
Having come to deal with Hitler and been disturbed by the TARDIS smashing through the Reich Chancellery window, the Teselecta now wants Melody/River – the woman who killed the Doctor. And although he’s not supposed to die yet (his death is a fixed point apparently, by the Lake at the hands of the Impossible Astronaut) he’s doing a very good job of dying now.
He may have done a fine job of getting rid of the guns and sharp objects that Melody was intending to use to kill him (she is still functioning as a psychopath brain-washed to kill the Doctor), but he made the mistake of letting him kiss her (though he tells her not to call him ‘sweetie’ – only River Song is allowed to do that) and as fans of her hallucinogenic lipstick will know that can be a mistake.
There is no cure. He can’t regenerate. He has 32 minutes to live as the TARDIS’s voice interface in the guise of Amelia Pond repeatedly tells him. So he’s going out in style… but not before he saves Melody from the Teselecta and brings River Song into existence.
By the time the credits roll, we’ve had some big questions answered. We know that the Silence and Academy of the Question are responsible for brainwashing River and programming her to kill. We’ve also learned the Silence is not a species, it’s a religious movement that believes silence will fall when the question is asked. We can only assume the Academy are looking for the question (the answer surely won’t be 42 though). It was the TARDIS itself that taught River to fly (she did say she learned from the best). And it’s clear now why she couldn’t regenerate in the Library.
Full marks all round – it was worth waiting all those weeks for. Now, bring on the scary stuff next week…
The rest of the brilliant things about Let’s Kill Hitler
- The Doctor annoyed that the Ponds hadn’t mentioned his ‘hotness’ to Mels.
- The younger Amy convinced Rory’s gay because he has never been interested in girls.
- The old-fashioned submarine-style klaxon alert inside the Teselecta after it’s knocked down by the TARDIS.
- This conversation as the TARDIS is evacuated. Amy: “Where are we?” The Doctor: “A room.” Rory: “What room?” The Doctor: “I don’t know what room. I haven’t memorised every room in the Universe yet. I had yesterday off.”
- The look on Team TARDIS’s faces when they realise they’ve just saved Hitler. The Doctor (stunned): “Believe me, it was an accident.”
- Rory gets to punch Hitler in the face and tells him to ‘sit still and shut up’. I love Hero Rory so, so much.
- River’s post-regeneration craziness: “The hair [as she ruffles those fabulous curls]. It just doesn’t stop does it?”
- The neat reverse in conversational rhythm. River: “Who’s River Song?” The Doctor: “Spoilers.” River: “Spoilers. What spoilers?”
- River having checked out her new body: “That’s magnificent. I’m going to wear lots of jodphurs…”
- River’s answer to the half a dozen Nazis asking what she’s doing here: “Well, I was on my way to this gay gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought ‘Gosh the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish, I think I’ll kill the Führer…'”
- All the little nods to the Terminator.
- Rory’s reply when Amy asks him if he can ride a motorbike: “I expect so. It’s that sort of day.”
- The Doctor scrolling through the options for the voice interface. On seeing himself: “Give me someone I like.” Rose appears. “Thanks. Give me guilt.” Martha. “Also guilt.” Donna “More guilt. Come on. There must be someone left in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet.” Cue Amelia Pond.
- The Scottish gags. “You see, there you go again. Basically skipping 31 whole minutes when I’m absolutely fine. Scottish, that’s all I’m saying.”
- Fishfingers and custard making the Doctor brave – and making me teary.
- Right on cue, as Rory asks how they’re going to find River, and Amy suggests looking for clues, dozens of screaming people wearing only underwear pour out of a nearby hotel.
- Rory: “Okay. I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.”
- Matt Smith’s fabulous physical comedy as he contorts and slithers in white tie and tails. Not to mention River’s astonished: “You’re dying. And you stopped to change?”
- River demanding to know whether the Doctor is ‘worth it’ as she gives up all her regenerations to save the Doctor’s life.
- The Doctor insisting that River won’t be alright.”She’ll be amazing.” (Also, when are they going to market those TARDIS diaries. I want one. Now.)