Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor Episode. Today is the Eleventh Doctor adventure Let's Kill Hitler...
I deliberately write these articles immediately after I've watched the episodes. They're not meant to be detailed reviews. They're more stream of consciousness rambles. I pick up on the stuff that sets the bees buzzing in my bonnet. Occasionally that means I watch a story and I find myself not quite sure what I think of it. Let's Kill Hitler is one of those stories.
I watched it the first time completely drunk - for reasons that escape me now - and I really liked it. This time around I'm not so sure what I think.
Firstly the glib use of Hitler and Nazi Germany as a setting. The Nazi's in this are basically Indiana Jones Nazi's. I'd say Doctor Who isn't the sort of programme where realistic Nazi's can take a part. This isn't Rome, Open City or Schindler's List, this is Doctor Who. Also Doctor Who has already done the Nazi's. Often. They're the Daleks. So, what can the real Nazi's add except some nice uniforms and be a bit of a short-cut 'obvious bad guys'. It mostly doesn't matter where this story was set because the main crux of it is the River-Doctor tango, not the frippery going on around them. Except the Moff needs to introduce the Teselecta so he needs to demonstrate what its purpose is and if you're a gang of time-travelling handers out of justice where better to pop up than Nazi Germany. So, having gone around in circles and twisted my own brain inside out I concluded that whilst I think Hitler - especially Hitler - and the Nazi's are pretty much here as glib shorthand they're no better or worse than the Nazi's in Indiana Jones who are there for the same reason really. No one minds people killing Nazis. There's enough documentaries and books about the real Nazi's if you want to know what they were really like and if your idiotic enough to get your history from a forty-five minute episode of Doctor Who then you possibly deserve a smack about the head with a hardback copy of Hubris Volume One of Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler.
I think that paragraph had a point. I fear it got lost somewhere.
Secondly Mels. God she's irritating. Once again, I'm inclined not to blame Nina Toussaint-White but Mels is just a bit too much, but she's designed to slightly skate over the awkward fact that Amy and Rory aren't going to get Melody Pond Aka River Song back and the loss of a child is - again - a bit too much of a dark topic to explore in Doctor Who. It's easy to forget that Amy and Rory have lost their child sometimes in all the excitement. They seem to be dealing with it surprisingly well considering, partly because I think they've got faith in the Doctor, but they've lost their daughter and this episode basically makes it clear that she isn't coming back. Until she comes back. There's also the slightly forgotten fact that Amy and Rory's first child was affected by the vortex and TARDIS but no one wants to talk about the possibility that it might happen again.
But look that's two chunky paragraphs of me taking a forty-five minute episode of Doctor Who far too seriously.
There are some brilliant bits in this: the Doctor and River's dance around Hitler's office as one tries to kill the other is a bit of a favourite of mine, even if it is a tad arch but it isn't much different to some of the highly choreographed nonsense you'd have seen in, say, Mr & Mrs Smith.
However the best thing in this episode for me are the performances of the main cast. All of them. It makes the episode sparkle, but kudos goes most to Matt Smith for me. The highlight being the way he says - to the crew of the Teselecta - "I'd ask who you thought you were" (if I've remembered the line correctly). I know that's an odd highlight but for me it's the way Smith manages to convey the power and anger of the Doctor without ever having to raise his voice. I love that about Smith. And, for me, it is the way the Doctor should be. Power through quietness. Fab.
Both Smith and Alex Kingston sell the death of the Doctor, birth of River Song scene with some lovely work. Ably backed up by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. I love Rory. Have I said this before? Perhaps I have. But I do. Each episode that goes by nudges Rory to the top of my 'New Doctor Who' companions list. Battling with Catherine Tate for the title.
So having got all of that off my chest what do I now think of that episode? I think I liked it. More so than I thought when I started writing this article but probably less so than I did when I drunkenly watched it the first time around. It's a key episode though. For this is the story of River Song's 'birth'. It's the beginning of a story that began back in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.
That's what I call timey-wimey.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.