Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

Clara: 'You go away, okay? You go a long way away.'

The early buzz seemed to suggest we were in for a treat this week. Reviewers were praising tonight's episode as better than 'Listen', others were saying it was terrifying, and some were touting it as one of the best episodes of all time. I don't think it was any of those things, but it had much to recommend it. The story was good, it had a decent moral conundrum at its centre, and the acting was terrific. So why am I being such a Davros Downer?

Slotted into season seven, this would have been a sterling episode. Nestled amongst this season's offerings, it felt slightly above average; which is testament to this season's quality. I'd easily rate it above 'Robot of Sherwood' and 'Time Heist', but there were a few too many missteps to elevate it above 'Listen'. Like most episodes of Doctor Who, if the main story's compelling, I tend to overlook its minor failings. I remind myself that this isn't hard science fiction, it's fantasy, and if I get my knickers in a twist every time something implausible happens, then I'll be singing soprano for the rest of my life.

Yet the blips seemed a little too numerous tonight. They were just enough to take me out of the story, which is a shame, because the story offered the perfect framework over which to drape Clara and the Doctor's crumbling relationship. The idea of the moon being an egg, for example. Not a great idea, but not terrible. But having an alien entity hatch out of it, and within two minutes of being born, crap out another egg roughly the same size as the one it just crawled out of, really did stretch credulity. (Not to mention the poor alien's arse.) Yet seeing the entity being born and fly away free, finally able to feel the sun on its back after a hundred million years, kind of made me forget the ridiculousness of it all. It was genuinely moving. Even the slightly sub-par CGI couldn't ruin the moment for me.

Thankfully, the CGI elsewhere was more impressive. The germ spiders looked superb, and apart from the occasional unrealistic shot of the ship's exterior, I thought a computer altered Lanzarote doubled well as the moon. The atmosphere was perfect, the planet exteriors were beautifully rendered, and I even liked the shuttle crew. Hermione Norris played a serviceable, if one dimensional, disillusioned astronaut, and it's always a pleasure to see returning Classic Who actor Tony Osoba on the show ('Destiny of the Daleks', 'Dragonfire'.) Shame he got bumped off almost immediately.

I was a little puzzled by the idea of humanity having to choose its own path. Since when has the Doctor shied away from getting involved in earthly affairs, especially when it involves the protection of a unique species threatened by extinction? Isn't this precisely what he's been doing for the past 34 seasons? Even if he couldn't have made the decision himself, he could surely have stayed around in an advisory capacity? His input would have been invaluable.

Luckily, the threat turned out to be benign. Clara was right at the start: they could have walked away without repercussions. The situation was always going to resolve itself, because the future still had a moon in its sky. Add the fact that Clara ended up ignoring humanity completely and went with her gut, and you have to wonder what the function of this episode actually was. Was it simply to drive a wedge between the Doctor and Clara, and give Courtney back her self-confidence? Or was there a bigger set-up nestled somewhere inside the seemingly straightforward narrative?

The Courtney side-story I found a little tiresome, but kids in Doctor Who are more often than not annoying. Hardly anyone seems able to write them well. Courtney went from irritating adolescent to sulky teen to saviour of the world, all in the space of 45 minutes. That's impressive going, even by a future president's standards. Why did the Doctor even take her? Because Clara asked him to? Because she made an impression when she vomited all over his ship last week? He just seemed to tire of her so quickly. The Doctor's usually so animated around children; what is going on with him these days?

Early on, we brushed aside the Doctor's weirdness as post-regeneration madness, but now I'm starting to wonder. All season he's done nothing but make insensitive comments about Clara's looks, last week he couldn't seem to understand that Pink wasn't a PE teacher, tonight he couldn't judge Courtney's age, and his decision to abandon them on the moon absolutely beggared belief. Are these errors simply a product of the show's darker humour? Is this how the Doctor is now? Or is there something going on with the Doctor that we're not yet privy to?

The last five minutes were mesmerising. Clara's rage at the Doctor's callousness absolutely stole the show. Jenna was brilliant in that scene, as was Capaldi. The Doctor looked totally baffled by Clara's fury. Tonight they could all have died. Clara asked for help, and all the Doctor could do was leave. That the Doctor saw his abandonment as a manifestation of his trust in Clara, really emphasises how disconnected he is at the moment. If he can't understand the function of makeup, how can he be expected to understand the complexities of the human mind? Did he even understand why Clara told him to go? More importantly, how long before he admits to being an arse and apologises?

Other Thoughts:


—Surely the whole world couldn't have voted to kill the creature? Not one light stayed on. Not one!

—Clara and the Doctor are quickly becoming my favourite new-era pairing.

—Just last week Danny warned Clara that the Doctor would end up pushing her too far. Was tonight the straw which broke the camel's back?

—What did Courtney touch in the TARDIS? I would no more leave her alone in my lovely TARDIS than I'd leave a kitten alone with new curtains.

—This was an episode originally written for Matt Smith. It was called 'Return to Sarn', I'm guessing because they also filmed 'Planet of Fire' in Lanzarote.

—Well done Courtney for randomly spraying the germ spiders with household cleaner and thus solving the whole puzzle. What a stroke of luck.

Quotes:


Doctor: 'The moon's an egg.'

Doctor: 'When I say run, run!'
Lundvik: 'Who made you the boss?'
Doctor: 'Well you say run then.'

Clara: 'I can't, the secretary hates me. She thinks I gave her a packet of TENA Lady for secret Santa.'

Clara : 'How can the moon die though?' Doctor: 'Everything does, sooner or later.' Clara: 'Tell me what you knew, Doctor, else I'll hit you so hard you'll regenerate.'


6 comments:

rebecca_s921 said...

Through out the episode I kept imaging Jemma Simmons rolling her eyes in exasperation at the many scientific gaffes. The numerous violation of the first law of thermodynamics alone is egregious enough. The Doctor seemed to have forgotten his own pledge, unless he's so clueless as to not know what's cruel anymore. As much as I love the drama at the end, this is probably not an episode I want to rewatch any time soon.

TheShadowKnows said...

My wife and I are longtime fans and have recently been rewatching classic Doctor Who. I think it's worth remembering that the First, Second, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors were pretty much jerks who constantly put their companions in danger, and the Third and Fifth often did this as well. The Fourth (and admittedly most popular) Doctor tended to be less confrontational and arrogant in his behavior, but was still obnoxious and reckless in a whimsical way. It's only been the last couple Doctors who were presented as "cuddly" (for the most part). Looking at the series as a whole, I'm not so sure that Twelve's callous and capricious behavior is all that unusual for one of the Doctors.

Bea said...

I actually agree with TheShadowKnows on this. Even Nine and Ten haven been known to be unkind and cruel. Think of their treatment of Mickey, think Jack being left behind by Nine and then Ten running away from him; think of Ten's punishment of the Family of Blood, think of his complete disregard of Martha's feelings. Hell, think of Eleven basically turning humans into homicidal maniacs by programming them to kill The Silence without their knowledge.

Ten and Eleven may have been "cuddlier" or funnier than the rest perhaps, but I don't think The Doctor has ever been nice. Twelve is more blunt, of course, but his lack of tact to me feels very much in character. The Doctor is fascinating, intriguing, amazing and many more great things, but he's also an arrogant ass.

As for the episode, I quite liked it actually, if only for the last bit. I mostly gave up on the science side with Doctor Who a long time ago, but what felt like a bit of a stretch to me was probably having the Doctor decide that he wasn't going to make the decision, but then again, perhaps that is a side of the Doctor that's new to this regeneration.

I agree that Clara/Twelve is a wonderful pairing, and although no one will ever be closer to my heart than Donna/Ten, I'm fairly in love with this two.

It's funny, too, that I've never been against romance with the Doctor, but that my favorite pairings are the ones without romance involved. Huh.

nancy namaste said...

One spider (however CGI) plus 12's abrasive rudeness and I think I'm giving up on the series for the time being. I tried, I really tried to like this doctor but he just irritates me. I also don't share the chorus of praise for Clara. But maybe the next doctor....

drnanamom said...

I have found this series hit and miss and I guess with this one, in between. I am enjoying Capaldi more though but I think that is the function of just getting used to a new doctor. He was probably great from the beginning.

Kenny Teeology said...

This was just a really terrible episode from start to finish. I'm trying to like this season and the new duo but I'm honestly just watching out of habit at this point. Most S8 episodes are poorly paced and boring and this one was the worst. I still have hope though, even if the finale looks like an over-the-top mess.