After a mid-season break Doctor Who returns with an episode centered around River Song’s (Alex Kingston) first encounter with the Doctor (Matt Smith). The episode, involving a friend of Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory’s (Arthur Darvill) named Mels (Nina Toussaint-White), a trip to Nazi Germany, and tiny time police in a human-sized robot, has all the markings of a classic Doctor Who serial. And on that level it works well. However, there can be only one episode where River meets the Doctor for the first time, and that means there’s an entirely different scale on which to judge “Let’s Kill Hitler.”
First, what works. Any episode that sees Rory lock Hitler in a cupboard isn’t a bad thing. The character of Mels (and how she steers the Rory/Amy relationship) also is enjoyable. The minaturized time cops truly do feel like something out of the old Doctor Who series, even if that part of the story doesn’t end on the best note. River Song, though far too maniac for me, does get in some fun lines as well.
On the subject of River, however, I have some questions and concerns. Why does River not know her name (as we are led to believe that she was raised by a group of people who would refer to her as River Song, not Melody Pond)? Also troubling is that her first meeting with the Doctor is so schizophrenic and crazy it lacks the gravitas and emotional underpinnings you’d expect. The episode tries to overcompensate for this at the end, but even here it feels rushed and not fully thought-out.
There are also quite a few moments in this episode that appear to have great repurcusions including the message the Doctor whispers in River’s ear, the fact the Doctor now knows the date of his death (as do the time cops who call it a fixed moment in time), what the Silence is and what they are searching for, and we also see why Amy and Rory went from friends to lovers. That’s quite a bit to reveal in one episode, especially one as wacky as this one.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” works well as an entertaining Doctor Who tale that hearkens back to stories of old, but as a monumental first River/Doctor story I wanted a little more. I really enjoyed the beginning of the episode with Mels, but once River Song is reborn the episode takes an entirely different tone that might have been better explored in its own episode (instead of only a part of this one).