07 “Kill the Moon” (Doctor Who series 8) [SPOILERS]


doctor who peter capaldi

Ah the dance of the Doctor Who fan. You hope, you hope, you anticipate, and you’re disappointed. But then you’re up again, hoping, hoping, and achieving.

It’s a bloody rollercoaster, is what it is. But that’s part of the reason why I keep watching. I never know whether it’s going to be a dud or a corker.

Oh, and Peter Capaldi’s magnificent eyebrows. That’s the other reason I watch

This week sees the Doctor taking Clara and Courtney — the troubled student from last week’s school-based episode — on a trip to thge moon. Or rather, on a space shuttle. A space shuttle crashing onto the moon. A space shuttle laden with nuclear bombs, crashing onto the moon. As the Doctor quickly deduces, the gravity is all out of whack, with the moon suddenly having gained a lot of mass and causing havoc down on earth. The crew of the shuttle — the last astronauts — are there to blow it up. Except, that the moon isn’t just the moon — it’s a giant egg.

I’ll be the first to admit that, as a concept for a Doctor Who episode, that’s particularly barmy. But it is also particularly brilliant.

It starts up as a typical adventure in space, the Doctor having upset Courtney by highlighting her own insignificance next to the entirety of time and space, takes her to the moon to…reinforce that point? I’m not sure. The point is that it grows to something altogether bigger and better — and that for once a child has an understandable reaction to the truth about the Doctor.

But this isn’t actually an episode about the Doctor. He shows up, figures out that the moon is a giant egg, and sods off again to leave Clara, Courtney and Hermione Norris’ excellently steely astronaut, Lundvik, with the choice of whether to blow up the moon and kill the unborn alien, or to let it hatch and potentially destroy the Earth.

It’s a little clumsily put together, granted. It would have been better if the Doctor, having realised what was going on, left the humans to figure out what was happening for themselves. But even so, putting the choice in humanity’s hands is an interesting idea. Particularly when humanity makes (what is later revealed to be) the wrong choice. In fact, the day is only saved by Clara’s last minute change of heart.

What I particularly liked was the little hints of the backstory left unsaid. This is the sort of thing I appreciate, dedication to storytelling which sparkles from the in media res opening. The abandoned Mexican mining base on the moon, some time before, only properly being investigated when the moon poses a danger. Lundvik and co being the last astronauts. Hints of a humanity which has forgotten its dreams of the stars.

And so the way that the conclusion — the egg hatches, and the baby flies off — wraps into the sub-textual narrative works beautifully. And if that was it, I would probably give the episode a thumbs up, rank it one beneath “Listen” and move on.

But the final scene, in which Clara castigates the Doctor for leaving her alone to make the decision, which she almost made wrong, was something else. This was some of the best acting I’ve seen in Doctor Who for a long while, and Clara’s understandable anger matched with the Doctor’s misunderstanding only served to amplify the gulf between him and humanity.

The fact is that, wearing Peter Capaldi’s face, the Twelfth Doctor has been the most alien that the Time Lord has seemed since the BBC brought the series back. And credit to them, the writers and showrunners are pushing that for all its worth. I genuinely think that “Kill the Moon” turned out every bit as excellent as “Listen”.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Doctor’s orange spacesuits are back. I like the Doctor’s orange spacesuits. I wonder how many of them he has…
  • Did Norris’ hard-as-nails astronaut Lundvik remind anyone else of Lindsay Duncan’s hard-as-nails Mars base commander Adelaide Brooke, from The Waters of Mars? Given the reference to fixed points in time, I thought the story was going to take a similar tack, but I guess not. Maybe it was all in my head.
  • I’m sure it was for budgetary reasons, but the scenes on Earth at the end didn’t seem particularly troubled by seismic or tidal troubles. They could have at least put it away from the sea, so that we wouldn’t see any devastation, not markedly seeing its absence.
  • Similarly, the “it laid a new egg” bit at the end was a massive cop out. I don’t think I mind though, all in all.
  • I don’t think the bacteria-spiders were necessary. Interesting creature design, but the emotional core of the episode was weighty enough that tacking monsters of the week on felt rather redundant.
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3 comments

    1. Clara works better, it seems, when she is treated like an actual character. She spent her first season as a plot device, and until this episode hadn’t really emerged from that yet this season.

      All in all, I don’t think she’s been a great companion, and I hope the casting team are a bit more adventurous with the next one.

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