The Weekend's TV: The Man Who Crossed Hitler, Sun, BBC2
Ocean Giants, Sun, BBC1
Epic Win, Sat, BBC1

The court case that could never be won

As a title The Man Who Crossed Hitler couldn't help but look oddly underpowered at first glance.

What had the man done, you wondered. Pushed in front of Hitler in the queue at the soup kitchen? What's more, given the eventual course of history, couldn't several million people claim the same distinction? Then, five minutes into Mark Hayhurst's drama the light dawned. "Wouldn't it be fun to cross examine the man who gives the orders?" someone asked – and you realised the title contained a legal pun. Hans Litten, the drama's hero, was a radical Berlin lawyer who, in 1931, subpoenaed Adolf Hitler in the trial of two SA men accused of a murderous attack on a socialist's meeting. His intention was to put Hitler in the witness stand and expose the hollowness of a previous commitment to the rule of law. At which point a different doubt may have arisen. Do clever puns sit entirely well with such dark subject matter?

If that made you fretful there was a bigger test to come, because Hayhurst's smart, snappy script attempted to apply the fantasy fluency of an American courtroom procedural to the all too real violence of brownshirt thugs. It was a kind of SA Law, if you like. "Hans finds reason erotic my dear", Litten's friend Max explains archly to his wife, "He gets a twitch in his trousers every time he hears the word 'therefore'." And naturally Hans can more than hold his own when it comes to banter: "You could talk a Mother Superior into a cabaret," Max says to him admiringly. "And up on to the stage, too," replies Hans cockily. As the narrative unfolded you ticked off the familiar components of legal drama: the idealistic lawyer who pushes his luck, the presiding judge with his testy warnings about limited patience, the late night research to find a clinching bit of evidence; the careful construction of a forensic ambush.

In the end it didn't quite work – but it worked so much better than you might have expected that it hardly mattered, creating a genuine anticipation about the moment when Litten and Hitler would face each other in court. And Hayhurst managed to squeeze quite a bit of history into his legalistic duel – a sense of how fragile the rule of law was in Weimar Germany, and how two types of eloquence confronted each other at that moment, the seductive rhetoric of the demagogue and the moral logic of the lawyer. Litten's friends warned him that what he hoped would be a pillory might turn into the perfect soapbox (Hitler had performed well in a trial in Leipzig, when he'd made his cynical promise to give up violence). In the end, that's what happened; after early humiliation an incandescent Hitler retired to the lavatory to refresh himself with an anti-semitic rant (Ian Hart's demonic glare underlit by the reflection from the white porcelain) and returned to take control of the courtroom. In a fiction Litten would have triumphed, of course, and there wasn't a lot Hayhurst could do about the fact that history won't take notes on third act resolution from studio executives. Instead he left us with the bleak consequences of Litten's last stand; his arrest as soon as Hitler had given himself emergency powers, his torture and his eventual suicide in Dachau. There's no sassy comeback to that.

Ocean Giants was at pains to persuade us that cetaceans are not only the smartest animals on the planet, but also possibly the most empathetic. About the first claim I would say only this; that their brain power seems to be somewhat narrowly focused in the field of fish-catching (though they are absolute Einsteins of mackerel-snaffling). About the second, I'll reserve judgement. We may be able to cross-examine them soon, since a marine biologist called Denise believes that we're only five years away from being able to communicate directly. The footage of a large gang of male teenage dolphins, harassing a lone female suggested that cherished New Age ideas about gentle dolphin sagacity may need to be adjusted. The rough translation would have been,"Oi oi! Come on darlin', show us your dorsal fins."

Epic Win is a new pointless talent show hosted by Alexander Armstrong, the talents being pointless rather than the show, which is actually quite entertaining in a silly way. This week one contestant triumphantly demonstrated that he could identify historic lawnmowers based only on the strip of grass they'd cut in a lawn. Dolphins can't do that – though I think it may be to their credit as a species.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering