TV Recap: Doctor Who - Let’s Kill Hitler
Season 6, Episode 8
By Edwin Davies
September 3, 2012
From there, River tries to shoot The Doctor, but is constantly prevented from doing so thanks to a couple of cleverly staged switcheroos The Doctor secretly conducted, and which the show delights in going back and showing us in detail. Eventually she kisses him on the lips, introducing a poison into his system that will kill him in 32 minutes. (The series of revelations about The Doctor and River's game of one-upmanship reminded me of the fun 1999 Comic Relief special, “Curse of the Fatal Death”, which was written by Steven Moffat and got a lot of mileage out of The Doctor and The Master constantly time travelling in an attempt to kill each other through inventive architecture. It can be seen in two parts on YouTube and is a lot of fun.) River runs off into the streets of Berlin and causes havoc, Amy and Rory give chase, and The Doctor prepares to die by heading back into the TARDIS and changing into top hat and tails.
The story is primarily about changing River from the would-be assassin that she starts the episode as into the unshaped clay of the character that she will become, which it does by having her witness The Doctor's resilience, even in the face of imminent death. Even as his life ebbs away, he tries to save Amy and Rory after they are miniaturised and put inside of the justice squad's robot, The Teselecta, which is patrolled by antibodies that kill anyone who doesn't have the correct security privileges. In general, I thought that the robot was a really stupid idea that the show could have done without, and all the stuff that happened inside of it was not very well handled. However, I did really like the deadpan humour of having the antibodies be incredibly passive-aggressive in their dialogue, calmly saying things like, "Welcome, you will experience a tingling sensation, then death", and "Welcome, remain calm while your life is extracted." River gives up her ability to regenerate in order to save The Doctor, in doing so laying the groundwork for the person she will one day become.
I enjoyed Alex Kingston's work in this episode more than I have in awhile. Due to the nature of River's character being someone who knows pretty much everything that will happen in The Doctor's life, she can at times come across as gratingly smug. She did this time around, but at least since she was ostensibly the villain of the episode, it made sense for her to be pretty obnoxious, and her growth over the course of the 45 minutes was very nicely played.
Outside of the River story, the episode threw out a couple of small but very important pieces of information; The Silence, in Buffy terms the “Big Bad” of this season, aren't a species, but a religious sect convinced that the universe will end when someone asks a specific question (which I guess makes them the apocalyptic equivalent of the people who built Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy); the fact that Melody Pond grows up to almost kill The Doctor in this episode suggests that maybe The Doctor doesn't get her back as a baby; and The Doctor, given access to the files contained in the robot, now knows that he will die on April 22, 2011, as seen in "The Impossible Astronaut", a fact that Amy and Rory have been trying very hard to keep from him because a little foreknowledge is a dangerous thing. Incidentally, hats off to Matt Smith, who was at his exuberant and rascally best here, even as he was acting out his second death of the year.
I'm from the school of TV science fiction fans who really like mythology episodes. I loved Lost and The X-Files, for all their myriad flaws, because every so often they would make episodes that were just about deepening the world of the show. For that reason, I really liked Let's Kill Hitler because it revealed some things about River, a character that I find interesting, and because it moved some of the pieces of the broader series narrative into place. But as a standalone episode, I didn't think it really worked. The robot was, as I've said, kind of a stupid idea, and it never felt like anything other than a device to advance the mythology elements. It was a mixture that didn't quite gel, which is a shame, because the mythology stuff was really fascinating.