‘Kill The Moon’, by Peter Harness, concerns the Doctor and Clara taking Courtney Woods to the moon only to discover that in the future it poses a terrible threat to Earth. With time running out the Doctor leaves it to humanity to make the final decision.
While it has an interesting idea and an initially creepy setup this episode is let down by a confused morality and preposterous lack of science.
Spoilers From Here On In!
Following on from the events of ‘The Caretaker’ Courtney Woods, a pupil at Coal Hill School, has gone off the rails since the Doctor took her for a trip in the TARDIS, especially now as the Time Lord told her she isn’t special.
Finding Courtney has somehow found her way into the TARDIS (does the Doctor not lock the TARDIS doors anymore?) and unwilling to lie and say the school is special, as Clara wants him to, the Doctor takes them all to the moon in 2049.
There they find a group of astronauts on a desperate mission to nuke the moon because it has suddenly increased its mass wrecking havoc on the planet below. These initial scenes are well done, presenting the viewer with an intriguing mystery.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is at his best when he uses his uncompromising nature to prove a point, here telling the astronauts to shot the girl first thus forcing them to confront the horror of what they are proposing. This also sets up the ethical nature of the later decision that will confront the group.
Exploring the remains of the Mexican mining survey that apparently initiated the change in the moon 10 years before they find the buildings covered in cobwebs and the desiccated remains of the missing astronauts.
Director Paul Wilmshurst boosts the fear factor by having the group explore the ruins in darkness, moving amongst the dead. This builds the tension nicely for when the horrible moon spiders make their appearance, picking of the third rate astronauts Duke and Henry.
The presence of Courtney pays off here, as she is left floating in zero-g as one of the deadly spiders approaches her, fresh from its last kill. Courtney proves her worth by using anti-bacterial spray to finish off the monster and revealing its nature as a germ.
It is just a shame that Courtney decides she doesn’t want to do this anymore and is safely secured away within the TARDIS. There she quickly becomes bored, although it is humorous that she begins posting photos to tumblr (although we never see her take the photos and when in time are they being posted?).
This feels like they didn’t have enough for the character to do and weren’t willing to keep a school girl in danger. Her boredom brings back unpleasant memories of Angie from ‘Nightmare in Silver’.
With Courtney out of the way the adults investigate the cracks in the moons surface. The Doctor discovers (off-screen) that the moon is actually an egg and a gigantic winged dragon is preparing to hatch from it.
While the Doctor is overjoyed with the discovery of this possibly unique organism Lundvik, the only remaining astronaut, is unsurprisingly intent on kill it before it can cause further destruction to Earth.
What is probably more surprising is that Courtney and Clara argue against killing this unknown alien because it is a baby and blameless for its actions. As Lundvik points out its actions, intended or not, have already killed many and many more will likely die if it is allowed to hatch which potentially includes the children of Courtney and Clara.
Rather than help the Doctor leaves in the TARDIS, once Courtney has brought it to him using a dvd from ‘Blink’, letting the three women make the decision for themselves. This brings us to the crux of the plot and the decision that was teased at in the opening of the episode.
Hermione Norris does a great job as Lundvik, presenting well reasoned arguments why they should kill the baby without making her seem like a villain. Indeed Clara and Courtney come across as unreasonable, unwilling to make a difficult decision because they find it distasteful.
Clara again tries to hand off the decision making, this time to the Earth. Broadcasting to the world she asks the population to turn their lights off to show they want to kill the moon and lights to wait and see what happens (ignoring the fact that following the greatest natural disaster known in history how many would hear her message or have electrical lights to turn on or off?).
With the Earth overwhelmingly showing their wish to kill the unknown monster Clara defies them and shuts off the nuclear countdown. With the decision made the Doctor returns, taking them to the safety of a beach on Earth to witness the birth.
There is some impressive SFX here, as the moon disintegrates harmlessly and the space dragon unfurls its wings. Of course its a happy ending, with the Doctor confirming that this will renew an interest in space travel and that the sight of the space dragon was the first thing that humanity didn’t want to destroy (although they had only a few moments before).
Jenna Coleman gets a great emotional scene as Clara confronts the Doctor about his behaviour. She no longer knows when he is lying and feels patronised by his behaviour. The Doctor explains that it isn’t his place to make major decisions for humanity and that he was showing her respect by giving her the responsibility but Clara obviously still feeling the guilt for what she might have done tells him to go away.
We get a brief scene with Danny Pink, revealing that his leaving the army was due to similar feelings of disillusionment. He correctly points out that Clara is still angry at the Doctor and so isn’t yet done with him.
It is difficult to say if the viewer is supposed to agree with Clara in this episode and similarly disapprove of the Doctor’s actions. It has been point out before that Clara is something of an egomaniac. Here she decides her opinion is more important that the rest of the whole population of the planet and her anger at the Doctor is mainly because he forced her to make a choice rather than making the decision for her.
Where this episode really fails is the revelation about the moon. If the moon is an egg it doesn’t explain why the Mexican expedition in 2039 caused it to suddenly gain mass in a way in which eggs don’t. Nor does it explain why, once hatched, the space dragon and can instantly lay another moon sized egg. The ‘egg shell’ of the moon is still thick rock and would likely have caused terrible devastation as showered the Earth.
The lack of an interest in space travel also doesn’t match with what we’ve seen in the show. ‘The Waters of Mars’ indicated that NASA had built the highly successful Project Pit Stop to allow planetary exploration prior to 2041. It just doesn’t feasible that they would be forced to use a shuttle from a museum for a rescue mission rather than build a new one or be unable to get anyone other than third rate astronauts to send.
The moon also has a significant place in the mythology of both the Silurians and Cybermen that will have to be re-evaluated.
While Doctor Who is science fiction it has to be believable and this story fails at that, both in the facts its presents and the actions of the characters. It is ironic that Lundvick’s statements that being an adult means accepting not everything has to be nice is what makes this episode feels childish when it tries to have everything work out.