Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 8- ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’

Originally written for the saucy devils at TV Pixie.

You can hardly blame the youthful version of River Song for being a bit bonkers.

From what we know about her: after the events of the mid-series finale A Good Man Goes To War she was raised in space by a spittle-flecked psychopath in an eyepatch, experimented on, strapped into a creepy astronaut suit as an eight year-old and potentially murdered the Doctor by Lake Silencio in Utah before escaping and regenerating in a New York alley (alarming a tramp in the process).

But wait, there’s more: in Let’s Kill Hitler we learn that she subsequently made her way to the UK as an unaccompanied minor, befriended her own parents, went to school with them for years – even helping them get together in their early twenties-before ending up on a time machine spinning out of control, getting shot by Hitler and finally regenerating as a lionine, sexy fortysomething who used to be on ER.

That’d probably be enough to unhinge the most stable of children: even those nice middle class ones from Outnumbered. 

Yes, having first met River at the end of her life in the tear-jerking, Tennant-era Forest of the Dead, its quite symmetrically pleasing that we’ve now also encountered her at the beginning of her existence: a wise-cracking, unstable assassin, brainwashed by the ‘Silence’ to kill the Doctor.

As if all of that weren’t enough to fill an hour, it turns out the Doctor and co weren’t the only time travellers on their way to kill the rubbish-haired mega-racist (as Hitler shall henceforth be referred to). As the TARDIS crash lands in 1938, it inadvertently foils an attempt on Hitler’s life by a sort of miniaturised Justice League who are piloting a person-shaped ship called the Tesselator. But not just any robotic person-ship, oh no: this one can change shape. It’s mission? To eliminate the biggest bastards in history (watch out, Jeremy Kyle).

The repeated ‘bam, bam, bam’ of information didn’t let up: the writing equivalent of covering the script with glitter, giving it vodka and strapping it to a Waltzer. This sneakily helped to gloss over quite a few plot-holes. For example, with baby Melody missing, you’d have forgiven Rory and Amy for being ashen-faced, weeping shells of their former selves, inconsolable and desperate to reconnect with their daughter. But that wouldn’t have made for very pleasant Saturday night TV.

Neither, to be fair, do Nazis: but despite the title of the episode we saw precious few of them. It should have been obvious that the ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ title was a bit of a red herring from the start; something to stir up media interest – but also an excuse to set the episode in the Third Reich as a way to have an (albeit minor) dialogue about war criminals. As we know, in the future River Song is in prison and considered to be a war criminal and the Doctor is perceived by the Silence – now revealed to be a sort of Universe-wide cult rather than just some trick or treaters in Edvard Munch masks – as a war criminal in turn.

If that makes the treatment of the Hitler-subject matter sound serious: don’t worry. The episode was more Allo Allo than Downfall, with a murderous Melody/River on the rampage in downtown Berlin, demanding diners get their kit off so she can try out new looks. It was like watching the 1938 Gok Wan vehicle: ‘Wie Man Gut Schaut Ohne Kleidung’ (yes, he’s older than he looks).

Also, despite spending 32 minutes of the episode at death’s door at the hands – or lips, rather – of Melody/River, the Doctor also finds time to play dress up; although he chooses Fred Astaire top hat and tails instead of a pretty dress and fur stole, which is a pity. He’d look so fetching in heels.

Lighthearted moments like these, combined with the manufactured tension, Numskull style miniature people (Beano reference, people – we’re down with the kids) and strange setting make for a rather odd episode: more dizzying carousel than emotional rollercoaster. But despite the fast pace, the daft set up and the muddled messages it was still enjoyable to watch.

This was largely in part to the ever mesmerising Alex Kingston, but also the fact that somehow, the dissimilar parts managed to work together against the odds. Nazis, human-shaped time-travelling war crime tribunal delivering spaceships, sonic canes and poisonous lipstick doesn’t exactly go well together – a bit like fish fingers and custard – but Steven Moffat seems to be able to blend it all together with dazzle, wit and charm.

Bring on series six and a half, episode two. If Let’s Kill Hitler is anything to go by, it’ll be set in a Siberian gulag during the Stalinist purges, the Doctor will be dressed as Frank Sinatra and it’ll feature a robot Margaret Thatcher who can cry poisonous vodka tears.

And somehow it’ll all make sense.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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