Sunday, 5 October 2014

DOCTOR WHO, 8.7 – 'Kill the Moon' • pro-life, pro-choice, anti-spider

Sunday, 5 October 2014


There are times when DOCTOR WHO's slippery grasp of science and logic irritates me, and unfortunately "Kill the Moon" was a humdinger of preposterousness. I recently watched another moon-set slice of sci-fi craziness in Syfy's High Moon, but that was positively sedate compared to newcomer Peter Harness's script.

There were a number of factors that dragged this episode down for me. The basic idea of an adventure on the moon, with The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) taking schoolgirl Courtney (Ellis George) along with them to the year 2049, aboard a space shuttle that discovers the moon's disintegrating, wasn't a bad one at its core. Although it felt like a mistake to involve petulant teenager Courtney, having only met her last week, because it didn't feel like that character deserved to become a temporary companion.

Unfortunately, Courtney's presence was the least of this hour's problems, because the storyline wandered down a very bizarre path. The arrival of large spiders (actually overgrown bacteria) wasn't a bad move, and provided creepy sequences for armchair archnophobes, but once the true nature of the imminent disaster presented itself... well, the whole thing became instantly laughable to me.

"The moon is an egg" explained The Doctor, allowing this revelation to hang in the air while Clara gawped and the home audience giggled. Not only that, but the gigantic 'space dragon' that's spent a hundred million years inside it beginning hatching, so there's a big decision to make: allow it to be born and condemn every living thing on Earth to annihilation, or be pro-life and let nature run its course. (Oh, and the people of Earth could vote on the matter by turning their lights on or off, which presumably excludes countries not currently experiencing nighttime...)

Obviously, you'd "kill the moon" to save the trillions of living creatures on Earth, but Doctor Who has little time for lessons about 'the lesser of two evils', so Clara and Captain Lundvik (dull Hermione Norris) chose to let the moon-egg hatch... and, this being Who, were proven to have made the correct decision because the alien-dragon flew away harmlessly instead of attacking the planet (why does it need wings in space?), the Earth wasn't even slightly affected by the loss of its satellite, and a "new moon" egg was immediately laid as a replacement. Huzzah!

I know Who's never been the most serious-minded of sci-fi dramas, and generally takes a fantastical approach to everything (historically, scientifically), but I don't enjoy stories that are so cavalier about matters like this. It just felt stupendously dumb to me, and I had a tough time suspending my disbelief.

The only saving grace was found in the extended denouement, where Clara was rightly angered about The Doctor making her choose the fate of the planet in such a condescending manner, and bristled against his patronising tone by giving him a piece of her mind in the TARDIS afterwards. A wonderful, tense scene that at least enabled this hour to end on a high.

Series 8's been held together by the introduction of a Doctor it's not easy to warm to; who clearly has problems interacting with people, and is emotionally blind. That's been interesting to watch because it's so different to his immediate forbearers, but I'd love to know what the average seven-year-old is making of Twelve. Has the show lost much of the breezy fun it once had?

This episode felt like a fork in the road for Clara and The Doctor's relationship. It's been interesting to see their friendship struggle, fracture, and perhaps now break over seven episodes. Clara is starting to prefer the simpler earthbound life she could have with boyfriend Danny (SamuelAnderson), over the amazing adventures a tetchy Time Lord can offer. That's been a great deal more interesting to watch than the majority of adventures this year, and certainly this absurd mid-year offering.


  • Tony Osoba, playing astronaut Duke, previously appeared in a 1987 episode of Doctor Who called "Dragonfire" and 1979's "Destiny of the Daleks".
  • I liked the moment when The Doctor tested the gravity using a yo-yo, which also happened in Who classic "The Ark in Space" with Tom Baker.
  • This episode filmed in Lanzarote for three days, where 1984's "Planet of Fire" had filmed previously.
  • Peter Harness originally wrote this episode for inclusion in the Matt Smith era, where it was entitled "Return to Sarn", but this was changed because it was misleading.
  • Not only is Courtney Woods the first woman on the moon, but she's destined to marry someone who discovers how to time travel? The Doctor mentions she will marry a "fella called Blinovitch", and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect was introduced in "Day of the Daleks" as a principle of time travel.
written by Peter Harness • directed by Paul Wilmshurst • 4 October 2014 • BBC1

Next time...