Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.
The Doctor, Clara and Courtney are taken by the TARDIS to the moon of the future. They find dead astronauts, giant spiders with neon stripes and an alien about to hatch… When I first heard about this episode, I was pretty excited, for the same reason I was excited about Time Heist, namely, yay for that Brit drama actress turning up who I like a lot (one day I will write a TV blog post on why Hermione Norris is the sort of quietly feminist actress everyone should take note of, particularly in Wire in the Blood and Spooks. I actually laughed at The Doctor when he goaded Lundvik because it was Hermione he was speaking to). Unfortunately, the premise, as many will have read about by now, became an unfortunate abortion metaphor (whether intended or otherwise it was kind of hard to read the main theme of the episode as anything else), the return of Courtney irritated and the budget simply didn’t allow for the kind of frightening ecodisaster meets arachnids (Shelob and Aragog style) the story was trying to sell us.
Clara as Teacher
The episode opens with Clara talking to two audiences: the population of earth in the episode and the viewing public outside of the episode. Her speech also marks a return to experimenting with an episode story unfolding for the audience in real time as Clara says, ‘an innocent life vs. all humankind. We have 45 minutes to decide.’ This sort of moral dilemma isn’t new to Doctor Who, but it is normally an interesting premise. Unfortunately, Kill The Moon cops out in the final 15 minutes with the either/or choice never debated philosophically, though Lundvik (Queen H) does her best to bring a dose of reality to proceedings which is hastily ignored by both Clara and The Doctor. Clara’s more nuanced role this series is excellent, but she isn’t used to great effect in this episode, her final choice turning out fine steering her dangerously close to Mary Sue territory.
The Doctor and Courtney
Courtney was still inconsistent this episode. However, she has improved since her last few appearances. I even cracked a smile when Clara claimed that she’d used psychic paper to purchase alchopops. I also laughed at The Doctor’s TARDIS rule for companions and part time travelers (no sickness and no hanky-panky) with the second rule especially amusing in light of how long Amy and Rory Pond traveled in the TARDIS as full time companions. Courtney’s quick thinking in killing a giant spider with germ killer spray was also pretty hard core in an old fashioned companion style action similar to Ace. I also thought that there was real possibility in this (and maybe later?) episodes to contrast Courtney’s reaction to The Doctor against Clara’s, especially given Danny’s comments last week. It would have been potentially interesting to explore Courtney’s disintegration at the introduction of the horrors of travelling with The Doctor, particularly given she is a child, as a counterpoint against Clara feeling fine when she should be feeling terrified or horrified.
On the negative end of things, I mentally told Courtney to grow up when Courtney complained that The Doctor didn’t call her special. When I first re-watched this episode, I thought that the point of The Doctor making Clara, Lundvik and Courtney (the astronaut, the teacher and the child) decide earth and the moon’s fate was to make Courtney special (there is actually a poem about this called ‘The Most Important Rap’ and it ended on the stanza ‘I am a child and the future I see and there would be no future if it wasn’t for me). Then I realised that The Doctor hadn’t known there was anything wrong with the moon till he got there and nor did he know what the outcome of the decision would be, not really. He could have been wrong about the alien young not destroying its moon nest and then where would Courtney have been? Courtney also flip flopped between fear, instagramming and wanting to make ‘pro life’ decisions. I get that she’s a teenager, but I just found the character kind of irritating overall.
Great Doctor Moments
I loved the return of The Doctor and his yoyo, the reinforcement of his belief that it is the little human moments which decide the big moments and his Geronimo style leap into a crater of amniotic fluid armed only with germ killer.
A Confused Moral Debate
For the first half hour, this episode isn’t half bad and feels like a classic alien of the week Who story. Unfortunately, once the moral debate set up by Clara at the start of the episode begins in earnest, the story and its themes becomes unstuck. Lundvik believes that humanity should blow up aliens (in the context of this episode, I don’t blame her) whilst The Doctor, Clara and Courtney are pacifist. When The Doctor’s reaction is “something living, something growing…. the moon is hatching,” surely Clara’s reaction of “huh” is most people’s. The plot is already bonkers at this point, but then the story gets awkward with its unfortunate abortion metaphor – kill the creature inside the moon or let the alien hatch, crack the moon open like an egg and have the moon fall to earth and destroy life on earth as we know it?
The Doctor: There’s only one of its kind, utterly beautiful…
Lundvik: How do we kill it?
I can’t have been the only person who thought that Lundvik had the absolute right idea. In the absence of real evidence that the hatching alien wouldn’t destroy the moon and thus earth who wouldn’t destroy the alien? Really now? Lundvik only said it like it is when she said, “some things are just bad… it’s not a chicken, it’s an exo-parasite.” (As an aside, I quite liked the return of snarky, almost Ros Myers like, Hermione when she said things like “I can tell [you are ground control] from your hair cut” and when she calls The Doctor a “prat” with devastating cool.) She cuttingly tells it to Clara and Courtney like is is for a second time when she says bitterly that she is about to witness:
The day life on earth stopped because you couldn’t make an unfair decision… we can’t risk it all just to be nice.
In true democratic fashion, the three women (Note: women making core decisions and a female President) take the vote to earth. Lights off means kill the alien, lights on means take the risk. Unsurprisingly, earth doesn’t want to take the risk. Clara aborts the kill button at the eleventh hour (idiot!). Conveniently, this turns out to be the right decision because the alien hatches without destroying its ‘shell’ aka the moon, but it clearly happens as a convenient plot point, not because there is any real evidence that Clara made a logical or particularly moral decision. I especially hated that Lundvik lost her usual Hermione Norris spine and thanked Clara for stopping her from destroying the alien. When The Doctor claims that he guessed what would happen because young don’t destroy their nests I wanted to punch my TV in. This is so blatantly false from what we know of the animal kingdom that it pulled me completely out of the story. Though the sentiment of humanity changing its own history by letting an alien fly free is a nice one (humanity sees a creature and wants to see it, not destroy it) is a nice one, it doesn’t really feel earnt without the nuanced moral debate to hold up the episode premise.
The Doctor and Clara Show Down
Now this was one of the strongest aspects of the episode. Too bad later episodes never followed through. Clara loses her temper with The Doctor for patronizing humanity and making her make a hard choice which could have been wrong. It almost feels like another Clara companion exit, especially when she tells The Doctor, ‘You go a long way away.” There is a beautiful scene at the end of the episode where Danny speaks to an angry Clara about finishing running with The Doctor. He says of her rage, “you’re never finished with anyone when you’re angry’ which frankly, feels truthful. I hope that they somehow revisit this idea in series 9.
Kill The Moon: 3/10 inky stars
The next two weeks are utterly excellent from newcomer, Jamie Mathieson. I. am. excited.