Let me start off by warning you that this review contains heavy spoilers about the events of the episode (with an episode like this, you can’t help it), so I recommend skipping to the end where I advise you to see it.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” starts off with Amy and Rory Pond employing a River Song-like method of getting the Doctor’s attention, although it isn’t anywhere close to defacing the oldest cliff face in the universe or carving High Gallifreyan letters into a Home Box. This is appropriate because despite what the title and 1938 setting indicates, this is very much a River-centric episode.
Involving Hitler in the episode at all is nothing more than a clever misdirect (he’s unceremoniously removed from the story in less than 16 minutes, other than a passing reference); designed to get people speculating about what Hitler has to do with The Doctor, while they ignore the sudden addition to the cast in the form of Nina Toussaint-White as “Mels”, their annoying best friend who neither the audience or the Doctor has ever heard of before.
Call me smart or call me lucky or even an idiot, but I stumbled across the knowledge of who she was before the episode actually started. I saw a publicity shot of the team together and concluded that at some point they’d picked up Teenage Melody to go on time travel adventures together. I was wrong about the details and how it unfolded, but it meant that the reveal that she was their daughter didn’t come as a surprise to me. Fortunately she stops being annoying quickly, right around the time she gets shot and regenerates into Adult Melody Pond (aka River Song).
This is where the episode gets fun, because Kingston clearly enjoys acting as the earlier incarnation of River Song (before she got her name) as she gets accustomed to her new body (read: checking herself out) and starts going on a fun-loving rampage across pre-war Berlin with Amy and Rory in pursuit. One of my personal highlights out of many, is the scene with the Terminator reference and the brief time when “Pachelbel’s Canon” is being played. While this is happening, the Doctor is poisoned by River’s lipstick and has to find a way to survive or he will die too early in his timestream.
On the Doctor side of things, we get some great scenes. For example, when he’s in the TARDIS, trying to work out a way to survive using a holographic interface that leads us to see some old companions and the return of Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia. And of course, all respect must be paid to the dapper suit he dons later in the episode with a Sonic cane, and of course the new coat.
Sonic canes and pimp clothes aside, the thing for which this episode will be remembered is giving us a great deal of background for the character of River Song and establishing her to be possibly the worst Time Lord in history, at least in terms of time lag between regenerations.
For the record, what we know of her life so far from this episode and “Day Of The Moon”: Baby for ten years or so until she becomes the sparkly time child at the end of “Day Of The Moon”; gets to Leadworth and waits, as Mels, for the Doctor to show up, is promptly shot and regenerates into a Time Lady with Alex Kingston’s appearance; and finally squanders the rest of her regenerations to bring the Doctor back.
All in all, “Let’s Kill Hitler” is a cracking episode. It has many outstanding moments, is quite well written and includes a reference to “The Hand Of Fear” to boot. There are a couple of plotlines that went to waste (for example, the Tesselecta was an interesting concept but didn’t quite fit into an episode which was almost entirely about River Song’s origins) but the driving force behind the episode worked well. All the cast were on top form and it was quite satisfying to get some answers about what’s going on this season, even if we did get more questions to ask. Anyone who has not seen this one yet is advised to as soon as possible, and newbies to the show are advised to start on earlier episodes than this one. Anyone who has seen it and didn’t like it is advised to consult a mortician.