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Impressions of Kill the Moon

This season of Doctor Who seems to be largely about subverting audience expectations.  At first, “Kill the Moon” seems like it’s an episode that goes for scares, but approximately a third of the way in, the episode takes an unexpected turn.  Much like in “Listen,” we are left with no real villain at the end.  And, those final few scenes…well, I’ll get to that later.

The Doctor, Courtney, Clara, and Lundvik watch as the moon hatches.

The Doctor, Courtney, Clara, and Lundvik watch as the moon hatches.

“Kill the Moon” begins back at Coal Hill School, with Clara upset because the Doctor told Courtney she wasn’t special.  As a result, the Doctor takes Courtney to be the first woman on the moon.  Instead of landing on the moon, however, they land on an old shuttle, loaded with nuclear bombs that is about the land on the moon.  The travelers learn from the astronauts on board that the moon’s gravity has increased tremendously causing high tide everywhere at once.  These astronauts have come to find what is on the moon and kill it.

I enjoyed most of this episode and I found myself involved in the story.  The early part of the story was genuinely scary as the spider-like creatures attacked.  I didn’t realize how much I had been wanting a just plain scary Doctor Who until the episode shifted its focus, and I found myself feeling a bit disappointed.  However, I was still engaged as the story became more of a morality play.  I wasn’t completely sure why the spider creatures (I know they were really bacteria, but I don’t care) just stopped being an issue after they had killed several people, but I accepted it and went along with the story.

The moral dilemma was an interesting one.  The idea of one possibly innocent life versus all the life on the planet was familiar (it reminded me a bit of “The Beast Below” and even had a very similar resolution).  Since I’m very late on this write up, I’ve heard a few other people’s opinions on the episode, and I have to admit that the idea that the episode was really about the issue of abortion didn’t cross my mind while watching it, but I can definitely see how that could be a theme.  That even helps to explain Courtney yelling about how “It’s a baby!” and the references to it being born, instead of hatched.  I’m not one hundred percent sure what it would be saying about the issue, so I’m not sure it dealt with the issue terribly effectively, but I can see how it could be in there.

This brings me to the part of the story where my opinion of it completely shifts: the ending.  First of all, I didn’t really like that it was Clara who had to decide to stop the bombs.  I know that was necessary to lead to the final scenes (which I liked even less), but it would have liked to have seen the problem resolved another way.  Perhaps Lundvik, the astronaut, could have had a change of heart or humanity (well, really Europe judging from what we could see from the moon) could have done the surprising thing and voted not to kill it.

Clara broadcasting the decision to humanity

Clara broadcasting the decision to humanity

Or, in the story that I would have liked to have seen, Courtney could have made the decision.  What would’ve made her more special than to have saved the life of the alien and to have saved humanity from making a big mistake?  As it was, she was completely unnecessary to the story.  Think about it: would the story be any different if she hadn’t been there?  Aside from her getting to use one of what I assume was a DVD from “Blink” and quite oddly carry cleaning products within easy reach at all times (was she prepared for more “spillage?”), she didn’t really do much.  The idea of her posting pictures of the Doctor on Tumblr was amusing, but, again, not really necessary to the plot at all.  I was left wondering why, exactly, Courtney needed to go on this particular adventure.

The final scenes, however, are where I really had a problem with this episode.  While I have enjoyed the fact that Clara feels perfectly comfortable standing up to the Doctor, her argument with the Doctor at the end bothered me.  I wasn’t completely against her point.  It was a tremendous amount of pressure for the Doctor to place on her, to decide what essentially amounts to the future of humanity, so I can see how she would be upset by it.  And the Doctor was being manipulative, in his own way, by saying that he was leaving humanity to make the decision for itself, but still leaving Clara there.  He even says that he knew she would make the right decision, so he wasn’t really giving up control of the situation.

I felt that Clara was a bit too self-righteous, however, and I found myself on the side of the Doctor.  He genuinely looked a bit hurt to me that Clara wasn’t pleased by what he did.  I see his misjudging the situation as a mistake, since I think he sometimes forgets what it’s like to not be him, with all of his knowledge and past experiences.  I even felt that perhaps he did that because he thinks so highly of Clara.  Basically, I guess I’ve found out that I will forgive a lot from the Doctor, but it doesn’t help Clara’s case when she is threatening to slap him so hard he’ll regenerate (I’m not a big fan of the slapping this season).  I also feel like he’s not a human, so I guess I don’t expect him to be held to exactly the same standards.

Of course, if you’ve been reading my recent posts, you’ll know that I have no great love for Danny Pink.  Despite trying to blame my feelings on lingering dislike from the last episode, I still find myself at least partially blaming him for the problem between Clara and the Doctor.  It seemed to me almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy; Danny told Clara the Doctor would push her too far, and, sure enough, in her very next adventure with the Doctor, he pushes her too far.

I guess ultimately, I just feel like Danny is too controlling.  It’s like Clara is ready to leave the Doctor just to please him.  As someone who always hopes that there will be a time when traveling with the Doctor is fun again, I’m also not a big fan of his constant insistence that Clara’s travels with the Doctor are just like his time in the army.  I’m fully aware, however, that this is a direction in the writing as of late, and was there before Danny arrived, so he is just a symptom of the current trend, not the root of the problem.

Is that still the fourth Doctor's yo-yo?

Is that still the fourth Doctor’s yo-yo?

For the second week in a row, Doctor Who has left me feeling confused about an episode.  Only when I gain time and perspective on this season will I probably figure out what I really felt about the past two episodes.  As much as I enjoy Capaldi’s Doctor, I’d like to see the show be a bit less hard on him.  I really feel like they’re doing a bit of a Colin Baker-ish storyline with him and I hope that he is able to stick around long enough to resolve it (unlike poor Colin).  Until then, I’m hoping for episodes that can combine the danger with a dash of fun.  Which is why the trailer at the end of this episode had me looking forward to next week’s “Mummy on the Orient Express.”  After the last few stories, I wouldn’t mind one that I could enjoy all the way through…

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9 responses to “Impressions of Kill the Moon

  1. I really enjoyed your review and analysis. You raised some very valid, insightul points concerning what is a complex, controversial episode.

    Agreed completely that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is reminiscent of Colin Baker. From the interviews of Baker I have read, this is probably very similar to how he wished to portray his Doctor on the screen. Very regrettably, he was undermined by poor scripts, a tacky costume, a script editor who apparently had a personal dislike for him, and hostile BBC politics. At least Baker has had a great opportunity to reprise his Doctor on the Big Finish audios and to play the part the way he always wanted to.

    I think Capaldi is fantastic as the Doctor. I really enjoy that he is so unpredictable and hostile and rude and alien, that he is an anti-hero like William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee. It makes for great drama. Capaldi gets such superb dialogue, and he delivers it magnificently.

    Looking forward to reading your thought concerning “Mummy on the Orient Express.”

  2. What Ben said. Also, with the exception of Danny (who’s been, by and large, a non-factor this season), the Clara/Doctor stuff finds an interesting resolution in “Mummy”, which I hope you enjoyed as much as I did!

  3. Thank you for putting into words my very confused feelings about the past few episodes. Capaldi is GREAT, but I feel like the episodes are not quite up to his level of awesomeness. I hope it gets better for him soon.

  4. Yep, basically agree with every bit of this. The only possible exception is Danny — I feel like his characterization’s taken a bit of an odd turn, and he’s a bit too sure about his interpretation of the Doctor since he’s BARELY ever interacted with him, but I don’t see him as controlling. I put the blame squarely on Clara for her behavior, especially after Mummy on the Orient Express, and of course also on Moffat and the scriptwriters — it is, of course, their fault that the Doctor pushes her too far immediately after Danny says he will. There is a good point that maybe he planted the idea in Clara’s mind, so when this happens she interprets it as being pushed too far when she normally wouldn’t have, of course.

    • I feel like everything in the Clara/Danny relationship has been rather rushed, including his prediction about the Doctor and it actually happening. From the moment they met, it has felt to me like we don’t really see any real connection forming between them, we are just told that there is one and that is supposed to be enough. I feel like a lot of the recent episodes are telling is how we should feel and how the characters feel, rather than showing us.

      • Yep. I liked it at first. Danny had a really interesting screen presence, but everything’s just so off lately. And you’re right, it’s getting a bit maudlin rather than genuinely emotional.

      • And Danny has been largely a non-factor this season. He was featured heavily in one episode (“Caretaker)… shared equal screen time with his & Clara’s presumed descendant Orson in another (“Listen”)… and really has just been in a scene or two in every other episode. We have no idea WHY Clara loves him, apart from the fact that, on the night of their first date, she was told that she was eventually going to start a family with him. This trend continued with “Flatline”, in which we again got a single Danny scene and in which we again were shown a stupid, impulsive Clara completely mis-handling things… you would think Moff, who has last word on every script rewrite, could have done a better job than this.

      • You’re right. It looks like he might have a more prominent role in next week’s episode, but I thought he’d be a much bigger factor in the episode. It seems like his role is now just to place a call or two to Clara at an inopportune time.

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