"You've got a time machine. I've got a gun. Let's kill Hitler!" So begins the second half of series six of Doctor Who, speeding back onto screens after the mid-season break and keeping its foot to the floor until the credits roll.
Steven Moffat's script doesn't so much address the classic time travel question as put it in a dress, get it drunk and show it the night of its life. The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are diverted from their search for the couple's baby daughter by a gleeful romp through 1938 Berlin, where they face a harrowing betrayal. And Nazis. Inglorious Time Lords, if you will.
The first half of Let's Kill Hitler is bursting with wonderful moments and fizzing with action, introducing then detonating red herrings with a mischievous cackle, firing laugh-out-loud lines and slapstick silliness with delirious abandon.
It's packed with crowd-pleasing moments: a breathless montage of Amy, Rory and a mysterious third party as kids; River's best entrance yet -- topped almost immediately by another one; and Rory punching out Nazis, like Captain America if he took on Hitler without bothering to beef up. There's a proper unashamedly sci-fi concept about the responsibilities of time travel that's then crossed with a Beano comic -- and rendered with a gorgeous and cleverly-employed special effect. There's a menacing fleet of robots that manage to be both truly threatening and genuinely funny -- all while looking endearingly wobbly in authentic Who style -- and at least one genuinely horrifying moment.
On top of all that there's lashings of fan service: Karen Gillan in school uniform, Matt Smith in top hat and tails, Alex Kingston in Nazi uniform ... it's camp and exhilarating and utterly daft and inescapably infectious.
Yet despite the high concept and teeth-rattling action, Let's Kill Hitler also emerges as a nuanced character piece. It's driven entirely by the relationships between the characters, much of the tension coming from what we know each character knows and doesn't know, and what they know and don't know about what the other characters know and don't know. Y'know?
Moffat even explains a few things, before lighting a fire under the series' core mystery: the Doctor's death, seen in the first episode of season six. New viewers are still likely to be utterly bewildered, though.
Let's Kill Hitler may be gloriously and gleefully daft, yet it's full of depth. That's particularly true of Smith's performance as the Doctor: the playful eccentric we know and love even as he faces his own mortality, but with the sheer strength of his unshakeable decency bringing on the climactic revelation.
Our only reservation is this series opener is almost too good: it's so stuffed with 'moments', served up at such a relentless pace, that it really pushes the limits of just how much awesome our thrill-receptors can take. For this reviewer, one line -- despite being delivered by Smith with obvious delight -- brazenly sticks a toe across across the fine line between crowd-pleasing and excessive fan service.
The split in the middle of season six mean there are two openers and two finales in this series, and as each ramps up the awesome the episodes in between could struggle to measure up. When the show's blood sugar levels stay over-elevated, we end up with stuff like Rory dying every week and every season ending with a Christ-like Doctor smiting his enemies just to up the ante.
Seriously, we can't be the only ones who've completely losing interest in characters dying and returning. But Rory punching bad guys? We'll have more of that. If each episode has half as much good stuff as Let's Kill Hitler, we'll be happy.
Let's Kill Hitler premieres Saturday August 27 on BBC America (USA), Saturday September 3 on ABC1 (Australia) and at 6pm on a Saturday soon on BBC1 (UK). Watch it, and then we'll all go and run round the playground acting out the best bits.