Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the 7th episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called Kill the Moon (<—that’s a recap from BBC America’s Anglophenia.)
Fair warning now: this is not a summary, just an off-the-top-of-my-head response, and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…
Where do we even begin with this episode, eh? Let’s try to hit the highlights. This episode is huge character development, not so much with the major-story-arc-connections (at least as far as we know) so there is much to discuss.
This episode broke my heart a bit. I don’t mind admitting it. As I said last week, I miss liking the Doctor. I mean, I love him still but I miss the likeable qualities that made the other and more weirdly alien stuff endearing. So who knew that this week we’d have a flat-out challenge to everything we thought we knew about the Doctor?
Courtney Woods – I was VERY reluctant to embrace Courtney Woods. Every time we’ve had a kid or a teenager on the TARDIS lately, it’s been an irritating distraction, of which we can only say the good thing that “at least it didn’t last long.” However, I like Courtney. Quite a bit. I loved that she stood up for herself and that she wasn’t just a brat. She was thoughtful and respectful, she knew her limits, and quite clearly she is going to play a major role in the world to come in 2049. (However, I don’t quite get how they put her in as American President unless there is a major chance to their political rules but whatevs.)
The Concept – This was pure Who, was it not? Taking something totally normal in our lives and then twisting it into something that could be silly but seems so believable all of a sudden. The idea that the moon is actually an EGG – brilliant. Bloody brilliant. Never saw that coming.
The Crew – Forgettable. But I wonder if the show runners think we’ve established enough connections with astronauts in space that we know now what to expect and so we don’t need the character development that we did in The Waters of Mars for instance (truly terrifying episode, right?). I mean, this lead astronaut pretty much could be a stand in for Captain Adelaide Brook from that episode.
Humans choosing darkness – that was a powerful metaphor, right? The lights slowly turning out one after another, showing the darkness of the decision that they made to murder the thing inside the moon rather than run the risk of what could be. Self-preservation won out over every other consideration.
He left. That’s right, the Doctor left. I couldn’t believe it. Stone cold LEFT. Calculated and walked away. I was devastated right along with Clara. He was patronizing and just crapped out. We knew exactly where he stood and yet he walked away, leaving a teenager, a school teacher, and an astronaut to decide the fate of this creature AND supposedly the fate of humankind.
Learning from his mistakes? – I was so angry about this but then part of me wondered if this wasn’t the Doctor learning from his mistakes in the past. You could argue that the Tenth Doctor’s greatest mistake was in that same episode I referenced, The Waters of Mars. That was when he gave himself over to rewriting history out of compassion. He knew that the events that happened on Mars that day were a fixed point and so he should NOT interfere and yet he did. And Adelaide Brook called him out on it and ensured that history was returned to its proper order. He dared to take the mantle of “Time Lord Victorious” and that was his worst defeat and regret. So perhaps when he walked away, he was thinking of another space station in another time and simply knew – what would happen would happen. But even if he did, he should have told Clara. For all the trust he places in her – for instance, when she tells him to “do as he’s told” and leave the place where they landed back in the episode “Listen” without looking to see where they are, he obeys – he doesn’t seem to trust her enough to tell her what he knows.
Doctor as Officer – Going back to Danny Pink’s insightful words about the Doctor from last week’s The Caretaker, the Doctor was 100% officer in this episode. He lit that fire and walked away. I’ve been puzzling more and more about the Doctor and his connection with soldiers in the rebooted series. I was reminded of the episode The Doctor’s Daughter (so good) where he refuses to “claim” her because she is a soldier and she keeps drawing the parallels between them, trying to show him that they aren’t that different after all. The part in that one that always gives me chills is at the end when he is teaching the Hath and the Humans how to live peaceably now and he tells them to tell this story and to remember that he was a man “who never would” take up arms. What other times have we seen the Doctor betray his soldier/officer prejudice and yet similarity over the years?
Which leads to the question – did he know? He claimed it was a “grey” area and the outcome could go either way. But I have a hard time believing that when he walked away entirely without any explanation other than a paternalistic attitude towards them all. “Your planet, your problem” just is NOT the Doctor we know and love. So that leads us to believe that it was a fixed point, he knew what would happen, and simply kept them in the dark so that the decision would be genuine. Even so – bad form and more than a little cruel. Regardless, Rule One – the Doctor lies. And I’ve never been so convinced of that rule as with this Doctor. So yes, I think he lied. I think it was a fixed point and he backed off to let it take its course. What do you think?
Clara’s resolute and instant decision to save the creature was a truly fine and beautiful moment. Truly. I was cheering. Of course she would save the creature, of course she would. It was beautiful. I did find it a bit odd that the Doctor mentioned that this event in 2049 was what rebooted the space programs and sent humanity to the stars when he said something very similar in the Waters of Mars episode about Adelaide Brook’s grand-daughter being inspired by their failed mission. I guess I can see it – I mean Waters of Mars took place in 2059. So it’s completely reasonable to say that both stories stand as game-changers for what ensures the survival of humanity long after the end of earth. The new moon restarted the space program and exploration which lead to just ten years later, the launch to Mars to establish the colony which lead to Adelaide Brooks’ grand-daughter taking it further and so on. I get it.
Can we talk about the not-so-subtle connections to abortion in this episode? It was pretty broadly painted, in my opinion. The dialogue around the issue could have been lifted from any discussion on the topic in any movie. The moral dilemma of the choice before them, an innocent life for their lives, even the fact that the right to choose was given to the women. I thought this was a beautiful and nuanced exploration for the issue through this storyline, not shying away from the unfairness of the decision and the agonizing choice between lives. Case in point, Lundvik’s words to Courtney: “Look, when you’ve grown up a bit you’ll realize everything doesn’t have to be nice. Some things are just bad.”
I mean, it’s nice that it tied up so neatly at the end with no loss of life on earth, but they didn’t know that going into the decision. I think if there is one thing that has remained consistent about the Doctor over the years, it is that he is pro-life in all its iterations – he’s curious about and fascinated by all life, he doesn’t think that different equals bad. In fact, some of his greatest arguments with the soldiers/governments over the years have been over this very issue – the humans are afraid and so they want to kill the aliens while he wants to encourage life and cooperation (thinking in particular of the Ninth Doctor with Harriet Jones or even the battle of Canary Wharf when we lost Rose because of Torchwood opening the breach etc.).
THAT ARGUMENT AT THE END THO’. I know. I know. How did I wait so long to talk about it? This was THE moment of the show. The great moment. Probably one of the greatest moments in Clara’s time in the TARDIS. Her anger, her feelings of betrayal, her devastation, her broken heart was all so beautiful. She held him to account for his actions and his attitude, his patronizing and paternalistic habit of interfering when it suits him. It was a thing of beauty in his terribleness. And it was made all the more powerful by Peter Capaldi’s bewildered hurt at her words, you could see in that moment that he really thought he was doing the right thing and his instincts had been wrong and hurtful to her. This entire scene took the episode from being a good one to a truly great one, in my opinion.
Of all the companions, Clara sees the Doctor most clearly, I believe. Rose and Martha loved him, Donna brought out his conscience and his friendship like none other, Amy Pond worshipped him and he was always trying to live up to her childhood ideal. Clara isn’t his friend, not really. She’s not in love with him. But she isn’t afraid of him either. And her blistering accusations are so real, so deep, and raw that they ring true. He was in the wrong. He was being hypocritical and cruel. He used her and manipulated her. And what’s more is that he left her to make a decision simply because he didn’t want to make it. He begged off on the whole “I’m not human” thing that, as she said, that’s bullshit. That has never stopped him before. No other companion that I can recall has called him out like this before. We’ve been told that River does do this sort of thing, but I haven’t ever seen the equivalent of this scene.
And finally, Danny continues to be the man. I love that guy. He seems to have such an interesting back story, I hope we explore it. Even though he was only there for a few moments in this episode, he is clearly pivotal. I loved that line of his when Clara asks him how he got to be so wise: “Like everyone else: I had a very bad day.” So true.
Now what do you think? Did you like the episode? Any theories or ideas or highlights? Have at it – I love your comments and can’t wait to get the conversation going.
(And as a note, I’ve been asked by a lot of folks who are intrigued by the Doctor but intimidated at starting to write a quick primer on how to start watching the show and what’s important to know. I hope to have that done this week.)