On Saturday night I was happy like you would not believe. My favourite show, DOCTOR WHO, (that had been flagging a bit this series so far, and was capped off with a mid-season finale that was less than stellar to say the least) had returned after its hiatus.
Last week I spoke about how I felt that the decision to split Series 6 into two halves was a silly one, and on the weekend I was proven utterly, undeniably correct.
The 8th episode of the series (and technically a mid-series premier as well) LET’S KILL HITLER was not only good, but it was in fact fantastic. It is no secret that I disliked the 7th episode, A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR, and to have been left hanging on that mid-series finale for so long was torturous as it gave me time to voice my grumbles aloud and generally be frustrated. That said, had LET’S KILL HITLER run the very next week instead of nearly 3 months later I would never have had a chance to be upset because episode 8 was so entirely splendid throughout.
At any rate, had you been worried about the show this Series, rest assured that LET’S KILL HITLER is WHO back in fine form and taking names.
At length, Chris and I previously babbled about Moffat’s writing skill at the quieter episodes (and that he wasn’t great at the big spectacle episodes), referencing the lackluster A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR…but I am pleased to say that Moffat has upped his game and in this episode he has managed the spectacle of a big set-piece (also period piece) episode, while also creating an inherently quiet and dramatic one. The script had excellent energy in it and so much to enjoy. It had fan nods, timeline trickery and fun, big explosions, creepy killer jellyfish machines, Nazi’s, Hitler, the Doctor’s new long green coat, the Doctor’s tuxedo, robot spacecraft, great fun info dumps of stuff about River Song and The Doctor both, but you want to know what it had above all else? ANSWERS. Yes you find out who River Song killed, yes you find out more about who she is, and you actually find out an answer about something people have wondered about since the Series 4 ep THE FOREST OF THE DEAD, you get more info about Amy and Rory’s childhood and also answers to things from the premier two-parter. We get mention of the Silence and what exactly it is and how that ties into Melody Pond (River) being wanted for murder and having been trained since birth for that. Lastly, yes there is a nod to the old companions and while it was quick and simple, it was heartfelt and compelling to who the Doctor is now and his emotions. This episode had a number of absolutely brilliant one-liners, a lot of which are uttered by both Rory and the Doctor. One of Moffat’s skills as a writer is making an episode as dramatic or emotional as he wants and yet still keeping a bit of the lightheartedness this show is known for. Characters sling one-liners around like nobody’s business and they are always great.
The acting in LET'S KILL HITLER, it should be noted, is top notch. I think Arthur Darvill’s Rory especially (who I’ve never really warmed to before) came to the fore in this episode and made me pay attention, for many reasons not the least of which was punching two different people in the jaw. He was genuine, funny and stalwart. Dare I say it…I think we may have finally put Rory into the soldier role that Mickey eventually inhabited after his stint on the Cybermen-infested Alt-Earth in Series 2. He became badass and I think we are seeing Rory take up that mantle not a moment too soon. Amy gets to play herself and also a version of herself as a robot and that second version really showcase’s Karen Gillan’s acting skills. Watching her as a robot with only really her mouth opening and closing over lines was impressive…she LOOKED like a robot and not Amy at all and it was one of the most believable bits in the whole episode. I was really knocked over by that. Alex Kingston’s River Song was River Song. She doesn’t change much as a character, though here we DO get to see one of the earliest incarnations of her and she is rather fun as usual. I think she’s best when she’s interacting with the Doctor as their conversations simply always shine. Matt Smith. Well after episodes like THE DOCTOR’S WIFE we KNOW that Smith can play the Doctor with a significant amount of emotions and I was hoping beyond hope that in the next few episodes we’d see more of him emoting like he did there. We know he is a revelation in the role of The Doctor. He’s funny, spindly, manic, sometimes even completely madcap, and in LET’S KILL HITLER you will get that in spades. However, you will also get to see more emotion from Smith and it’s actually SO well done that I think he gives Tennant a run for his money on the emotional scenes. It was lovely, heartfelt, and blindingly well-acted. I’d love to see more and I really like that it’s a balanced thing and it’s not all one or the other. He plays the whole range and it really shows us all why he was chosen for the role in the first place. There’s a number of side characters in the episode and while I don’t want to talk much about them so as not to spoil anything plot-wise they are all well acted and I never felt like anything was hackneyed, or that anyone overacted their parts. I should also mention, however, that Caitlin Blackwood is back as young Amelia Pond and once again she absolutely steals her scenes. She embodies grown-up Amy so well, and was absolutely splendid yet again.
So like I said above, in LET'S KILL HITLER you have a big, spectacle episode, with a layer of quiet tones over-top of it and Moffat makes me shut my gob and retract what I’d said previously.
I will definitely buy this series on BluRay now based on this episode alone. That’s a big thing as previously I’d wondered whether I would or not. I think this one coheres what they had been attempting before and I can see why the split caused so much of my ire.
It was everything that WHO should be, scary, funny, light, dark, action-packed, informative and dramatic. It gave me plenty of answers to questions I had about characters and even about events earlier in this Series. It also throws part of the entire story-arc for Series 6 into a loop that I wasn’t expecting and makes for a new level of WTF-ery, but not one I am at all annoyed by. Moffat answered most of my major questions (ones I’d been bothered at having been teased about for so long) or at least gave me enough on them to move forward again. Now I have a whole fresh set of questions that are picking at my brain and it is wonderfully delicious feeling to have.
I feel totally sheepish. I should have had more faith. In Moff we trust right?
So there you have it folks, in one episode Moffat has restored my faith in DOCTOR WHO and made me be excited to watch next week (Mark Gatiss’ NIGHT TERRORS episode which looks significantly creepy). I haven’t felt like this since Series 5, and it’s such a great feeling!
Sidenote: The special effects in this episode were EXCEPTIONALLY well done. I think they are always pretty good, but I think they went above and beyond here and smaller aspects of the show’s effects are so patiently attended to that I was really blown away by it.
Stay Tuned for next week’s review.