Is this a two-part story?
After The Impossible Astronaut/Day Of The Moon, author Steven Moffat again skips a few months between episodes to blur the lines between cliffhanger and resolution.
And aside from the unfolding River storyline, these two instalments are highly distinct from each other. Different casts, different principle villains, different locations and times… we even get through different actresses playing River.
Oh and they go out in different series too… or do they? I guess we'll just have to wait and see how 2011's episodes ultimately get catalogued by fans. It probably doesn't help that I watched them on different channels in different countries, with different opening credits…
But hey, none of the above is a criticism - doing new stuff with the show is one of the things that keeps it fresh. All the same though, episode one does feel much more like an episode two, partly because of all the Doctor's old friends who we've never met before. The Silurian and maid, the Sontaran nurse, the girl who met the Doctor as a kid… if this is your first Doctor Who story, and you're feeling a little behind, then don't worry, so did everyone else.
In the UK, a week earlier, even the humble BBC-1 continuity announcer got his trail mixed-up, managing to mis-identify one of the returning characters - Dorium - as a new one:
"... and if you can't wait, watch a prequel of next week's episode featuring a new monster - there it is - and a familiar face at the Doctor Who website..."
Now the blue guy's inclusion here threw me off for three reasons:
First of all, despite having appeared in last season's The Pandorica Opens, Dorium only really gets introduced to us in the online preview being advertised above, which I didn't see.
Second, given how in that earlier episode he only met River, and that we've so far witnessed River's adventures in reverse order, I had to suppose that we were seeing Dorium's life in reverse order too. Not so apparently, as in this he dies. Unless that event changed the future. Someone needs to sit down and categorically work all this out now, along with where River's apparently more generic appearances come, such as this episode's throwaway Stevie Wonder trip. (or does her costume imply that this has happened after all?)
Third, given how the familiar-looking Silurian was actually a new character, and the familiar-looking Sontaran was actually a new character, maybe the familiar-looking blue-headed guy was new too?
Basically, all these unfamiliar characters receiving so little introduction, combined with the Doctor himself's absence for the first act, made part one quite hard to get into for me. Flatmate Dave even fell asleep in the middle, although in fairness he did wake up again when the commercials came on. Think Matrix 3, I guess.
For all that, it's always great to see the Doctor defeated. As usual nobody thinks to just shoot him, even when he's surrounded by guns pointed at him (duh), making him somewhat more lucky than clever. However the realisation that his lifetime of winning battles is catching up with him forces him to question his identity, which is quite a big defeat in another way.
Acknowledging the aforementioned hiatus in transmission, part one concludes with a post-credits teaser. This features the Doctor's skeletal hand lying on gravel, holding the sonic screwdriver as its weakening light fades to nothing. By the end of the second series of 2011, this scene had still not come to pass. Bit of a cheat if you ask me, even if we get to see this story in another upcoming series. Is this scene not intended to be canon?
A few months after the darkness of part one, the second episode is another kettle of Jimmy the fish entirely.
After all the misery of a fictional war, Let's Kill Hitler takes an actual war and subverts it into a knockabout comedy. Finally the bright lights are back, the spectacular direction, and Steven Moffat's trademark banter. That whole "You will be dead in 32 minutes" dualogue between the Doctor and the TARDIS was an absolute sketch! (although it does challenge the human TARDIS' tearful farewell to the Doctor in The Doctor's Wife) This one is laughter all the way, which combined with the satisfaction of finally getting some answers on River, makes this a joy from start to finish.
Mels: "It was late - I took a bus."
Rory: "You stole a bus."
Doctor: "You shot it! You shot my TARDIS!"
Nazi: "What are you doing here?"
River: "Well. I was on my way to this gay gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled, when I suddenly thought 'Gosh, the Third Reich's a bit rubbish, I think I'll kill the Führer.' Who's with me?"
Amy: "Can you ride a motorbike?"
Rory: "I expect so. It's that sort of day."
Subtitle: BERLIN, 1938
Well all right, that last one wasn't so much of a quote, but with the serious music and all it just flashed up so deadpan.
Sure there's a token zombie in there, just as Melody had been in part one (and arguably part two), but the Teselecta has got to be one of the best executed doppelgängers of all time. I was enjoying this episode too much to worry about challenging it.
Good job too, or I'd be questioning why the girl hadn't been trying to kill the Doctor in The Eleventh Hour, The Vampires Of Venice or The Big Bang. Or umpteen earlier stories… Surely that would have been a better reason for Madame Kovarian to have placed the child on Earth.
The final difference that I have to note between these two episodes was that I watched them in different hemispheres. A Good Man Goes To War in New Zealand, and Let's Kill Hitler back in the UK. The reason why I highlight this is two-fold:
1. The 'The Doctor will be back in Let's Kill Hitler Autumn 2011' caption at the end of part one in the UK, probably read 'The Doctor will be back in Let's Kill Hitler Spring 2011' down under. Alas, we deleted it from the MySky box afterwards so I cannot now check.
2. Episode one in NZ had the US opening titles on it (covered in more detail in my review of The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon). Up until this point, I had been watching the entire series with these on the start, and naturally assumed that they had been on the UK versions too. Apparently they hadn't. A bit of a loss for the Brits, that. Hitler might have approved.
However staying with the subject of different versions airing in different countries, Let's Kill Hitler also boasts an additional scene that only American viewers got.
This was an animated motorbike sequence featuring the Teselecta chasing Amy and Rory in the middle of the episode. Well, more specifically, in the commercial break, apparently branded with the AT&T logo. I've watched the scene sans the branding, and as a cartoon it's not much to write home about. However, had it been live-action as originally envisaged then it would have fitted right in with all the other astounding classic moments in this episode.
Sheesh, where will it all end? Probably with the Police Box getting rebranded with each country's local telecoms logo.
That's what happens when a good plan goes too awry.