Monday, 17 June 2013

Let's Kill Hitler

Originally Broadcast 27th August 2011

Written by: Steven Moffat

In a nutshell: The Doctor has spent the summer searching for Melody, the Ponds’ daughter. He returns to them in time to get the answers.

Prequel Review: OK, so the prequel is short, snappy, heart warming and heart breaking. It’s a testament to Moffat’s writing that he can achieve so many emotions in just over a minute of footage. It also pains you to see the Doctor knowing he’s failed in his duty to his best friend. More than anything else though, it really succeeds in making you want the episode now, and that’s exactly what a prequel should do. Roll on Let’s Kill Hitler!

Episode Review: And kudos to the gang for the episode title. Brilliant! And it sparked a lot of press so another good move. Straight away the direction and score teams up to pull you right into the episode. This is a fantastic opening and really pumps the episode up, just what was needed after a few months gap. And then there’s Mels. It seems strange how she’s never been mentioned before if she’s been told everything about the Doctor. It also doesn’t seem very scary that she points a gun at the Doctor but clearly has her finger nowhere near the trigger. Not very threatening.

The flashbacks with Amy, Rory and Mels takes us out of the action but the music keeps us gripped. I’m never a fan of flashbacks and then the mistake of Amy thinking Rory is gay is a bit lame. The scene feels like it’s come out of a Russell T. Davies episode but then we get a pretty good merge back to the modern day, well, 1938. The state of temporal grace lie is brilliant and very Moffat, cleaning up a continuity error from the 1980s with a ‘clever lie’.

The Tesselecta is a good idea and the effects work on it is absolutely incredible. Moffat uses Harriett to teach us about the security and then we’re shown the anti-bodies. I’m not a fan of them, they only say the same thing over and over and look a bit ropey. The other thing I’m not a fan of, which happens too often in the Matt Smith era is that the Doctor is taken out of the episode for a good percentage of the time. Here he’s not done anything for ten minutes and he also disappears later when he stops to change.

Penny in the air?
I love what is done with Hitler and how even the Doctor appears to want him dead. It’s very British and quite rightly done and it’s nice how he gets the episode title but barely features in the episode. Then the Tesselecta labels a feint as surveillance mode. Brilliant. Sadly Hitler got a shot in on Mel, which provides my favourite scene of the episode: the reveal. It’s just so cool. Although the Doctor can’t remember Vampires In Venice too well if he claims it’s a belter! When Alex Kingston turns up sans regeneration, she steals the show. She is just so much fun. The hair, the teeth, weighing herself. You should be worried she’s here but it’s just too much fun to care about anything else. Even the Sherlock-styled run-around with guns and knives doesn’t feel out of place.

There is simply too much to note about what works here. Everything and everyone is on fine form. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston just provide one of the greatest duos ever and we show the Doctor really wanting River, which we’ve never seen him do before. What is a bit rubbish though is the bit when River can fire back all the Nazi’s bullets just because she’s recently regenerated. It just seems like a weak excuse to use some naff effects and an easy solution.

The voice interface is a nice touch. Of course the Doctor hates to see himself and feels guilty for the past companions and the only person he hasn’t messed up is little Amelia. I think in the Moffat times the Doctor really does help teach the Doctor how many lives he can mess up just by being there. We actually feel the huge amount of guilt the Doctor has over his actions, it was visible in the prequel and it’s also shown here. The way the ‘fish fingers and custard’ line is used is just so touching as well. We, rightly, don’t see the interface say it so it could be in the Doctor’s mind but Caitlin Blackwood’s face after the line has been said is just cute. There's also something powerful in Doctor Who's language where the words 'fish fingers and custard' can carry so much meaning to a story.

Fish fingers and custard!
This episode is a bit sexist which I’m surprised wasn’t picked up on at the time. The line about River changing her mind because she’s a woman as well as River going shopping and having to weigh herself. They’re all funny lines but it is a bit sexist, isn’t it?

The Doctor’s entrance is beautiful and very reassuring. And he looks cool. I don’t know what it is about Matt’s Doctor but he just is very cool and he gets to continue the ‘Doctor Who?’ joke. The rules get a bit silly, I like the line “You can’t be serious?” to the Doctor’s reply “Never knowingly” is good, but then Moffat has to go too far with “never knowingly be serious” which feels jarring, like the Doctor is trying to enforce the fact he’s odd upon the audience. The Doctor does face death in a gracious manner though and the line about his legs going to sleep is funny. It’s heartening how the Doctor, minutes from death, is doing his best to work out more of the plot and save River. There’s something about Doctor Who where death is concerned. The Doctor goes into it laughing and smiling, still asking and standing up for people. It’s a clear message to the audience to always be positive. The same thing happens when the Doctor, passed out, wakes up and struggles to the TARDIS when hearing Amy pleading for help.

It’s scary when we hear the Doctor asking, no begging, for help from River. I’m not sure we’ve seen it happen before and it’s not something I take pleasure in watching but it’s fitting that it’s River who ends up saving everybody, after all, this is her episode. After she saves her parents, you can spot the Doctor’s tweed jacket in the TARDIS so keep your eyes peeled!

Something in Moffat’s writing I enjoy is the turn around of speeches. River and the Doctor flip speeches all the time (for example River says “don’t you dare” when the Doctor wants to save her from death in Forest Of The Dead and vice versa in The Wedding Of River Song). In this episode the Doctor’s dying words are for River rather than the Ponds, as it was at the end of The Big Bang. It’s touching, emotional and believable as our characters develop. What I don’t get is if the captain of the Tesselecta shut down all power, how can it still change form from Amy to River when asked to? Continuity error aside, it’s all worth it to see Kingston’s reaction when she learns who River Song is and, after an episode where she’s been bad, it’s so lovely to hear her say “hello Sweetie”. I’ve been waiting for that.

Matt Smith carrying on the shows oldest joke. Doctor Who?
This series has been criticised for not being big enough to handle the emotions of childbirth and loss and it is true. Amy has one line about not wanting to leave River in the future and the Doctor tells us we have to. Surely a mother would fight more than that? We get some nice development for River as she becomes closer to the woman we knew when we first met her. She now has the diary as well, a nice touch from the Doctor.

I think this is a strong episode with some strong issues that aren’t explored too well, what with it being a 48-minute family show but there is strong writing, direction, costume design and, above all, very strong acting. All our regulars shine and it’s a brilliant welcome back to Doctor Who after its summer break. There are some weak points, as there are in all episodes, but this shines above most of the other Moffat-penned episodes as show runner. The only problem I have with the series 6 and  format is how nothing really happens in any episode bar the opener and closer to the series and River has to come back every time we have a finale or opener. Moffat wanted the series to not feel routine hence the break-up in broadcasting, but he fails to do this by using the same elements for each ‘big’ episode.

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