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.
“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.
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.
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…