Aired 27 August 2011
After its first official midseries break, Doctor Who blasts back onto screens with an audacious adventure, offering further exploration into the increasingly complex relationship between the Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River in the process.
Through the use of a series of true flashbacks, it’s clear that Melody Pond has been a part of Amy and Rory’s life for far longer than just as the infant glimpsed in ‘A Good man Goes to War.’ Taking a cue from the headscratcher that was the Doctor’s escapism from the Pandorica, writer Steven Moffat offers another paradox of sorts through the introduction of their childhood friend Mels. Though a troubled individual, it is Mels who gets Amy to realize that Rory likes her as more than a friend after showing just how dedicated he is to her at an early age. She is so important to the pair of them that they decide to name their daughter after her, and as she regenerates into River Song later in the story the fact that they named their daughter after their daughter is a delightful quirk. It’s from Mels, though, that the tantalizing title ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ comes as the Doctor and his TARDIS finally enter the scene after several hilarious attempts by Amy and Rory to contact him.
Probably wisely, though, the episode chooses not to focus on Hitler or the Nazi regime, essentially a tease as he is quickly locked in the cupboard and forgotten after a few clever jokes. Instead, the core characters and the newly-regenerated River Song take centre stage. River proves to be at a disadvantage here for once as she has none of the knowledge she has teased in previous episodes set in her personal future, knowing only that her purpose is to kill the Doctor. This certainly sheds some new light on River Song, though Alex Kingston is in top form as always, and the scenes where she and Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor try to outmaneuver each other through some ingenious wordplay and mind games are certainly some of their finest, showing just how confident the two characters as well as the writing and direction are.
And, ultimately, the Doctor does die at the hand of River, a psychopath the Silence have tailored; at the very least least, he gets as close as possible to dying in a fascinating sequence of events. The fact that there is technology or some substance that can disable regenerations is an intriguing one and could continue to pose a major dilemma to the Doctor in future battles. Facing death on the TARDIS floor, without doubt the most touching moment of the episode comes as the Doctor pleads to see someone he hasn’t screwed up yet- a rather deep insight into the character- only to be met with the face of the young Amelia Pond. The eventual change of heart of River is built up to well and ends up being very believable- even when disregarding the future she and the Doctor are known to have. Using all of her remaining regenerations to save him, of course, brings about questions regarding the Doctor’s ultimate regeneration number, but it proves to be a tremendous sacrifice on River’s part as she has literally given her future for the Doctor.
‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ does offer a few more firm answers, though, and it is through this near brush with death that the Doctor learns of his eventual and certain death portrayed in ‘The Impossible Astronaut.’ This is to say nothing about the Teselecta and its miniaturized crew, an ingenious invention for justice that seeks out war crimes and criminals. After arriving too early in Hitler’s timeline to justify any action, the rapidity of their switch in focus to Melody Pond, someone whose crimes dwarf Hitler’s, is telling. This brings about the apparent confirmation that River does spend time in jail for killing the Doctor as well. While Amy and Rory faced some very challenging and dangerous moments aboard the justice ship- proving in the process once more how great they are together- it’s this revelation that carries the most impact.
Even with Hitler and the most tantalizing of paradoxes being just a tease, ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ accomplishes an incredible amount in its running time and offers easily the most thorough exploration of the relationships between the four leads so far. With so many allusions to events in the future, it’s very rewarding to see River given the blue diary that will remain so important to her for the rest of her life. The Doctor getting to use the word ‘Spoilers’ is a nice touch as well. However, equipped with the knowledge of his death that Amy and Rory have tried so hard to keep from him, the Doctor is certainly readying himself for bigger events in coming adventures.