Remember how I was increasingly disappointed in “Time Heist”? Remember how I didn’t really like “The Caretaker”? Remember how I don’t trust Steven Moffat to do anything right ever again, ESPECIALLY on Doctor Who? Yeah… I hated “Kill the Moon” with a fiery passion. All my positive opinions are contingent on a good finale, and this extremely negative reaction could also be changed if everything comes together in the end, but right now all my optimism has been, as it were, killed, because this was an awful episode capping off a three-episode decline.
Major spoilers, and my Doctor Who reviews assume you know what I’m talking about. I’m sorry this is super long, I’m just really mad.
There are some positives, so let’s cover those first:
- The line “My gram used to put things on Tumblr” made me laugh! It’s just delivered with so much nostalgic amusement for those crazy things our grandparents did. Perfect.
- At the end of the episode, it came down to three women deciding the fate of the Earth, via happenstance. Happenstance is the right way to do that. Sometimes a group might be all men, sometimes all women, sometimes a mix. It is commented on in the show, but it’s not any big deal. The astronaut, Lundvik, gets the same space suit her two male companions do, and she stays in it the whole time.
- Courtney, the annoying student from “The Caretaker,” comes along. That’s not the good thing — NO, Courtney, you are NOT SPECIAL. Of course the Doctor shouldn’t have said that to your face, but don’t expect to be treated like you are special when you contribute NOTHING. She wasn’t even really that annoying, it’s not as if stupid impetuousness even happened, much less affected the episode. The episode would literally have been exactly the same if she wasn’t there, only marginally less annoying. What I liked were her motion sickness patches — It kind of recognizes that her throwing up in the Tardis wasn’t a reflection on her as a person, that some people have actual medical issues, but slap on some adaptive technology and they’re good to go.
- The basic plot would actually be a good episode. The moon is a one-of-a-kind alien creature, but its birth will kill the Earth. Who do we save?
There are time-honored ethical questions embedded in that plot. It’s basically the trolley problem — if a trolley is headed for five people on the track, but you can pull a lever to switch it to a track with only one person on it, what’s the right choice? What if it’s a baby on the other track? In this case, the trolley is headed for all of humanity, but a one-of-a-kind alien infant is being born is on the other track. There are also shades of the violinist analogy, which deals with ethics related to someone whose life is dependent on you. And then there’s also the traditional time travel problem, one that understandably appears on Doctor Who all the time — when is it all right to interfere with the course of history? I really loved the spin they put on that for this episode, highlighting the fact that interfering with history is interfering with people’s choices.
So, here’s the set-up. The Doctor, Clara, Lundvik, and Courtney are on the moon. They have the power to blow up the moon, i.e. the egg, and have to decide what to do. And the Doctor leaves.
His reasoning is that this is a defining moment in the history of humanity, so it has to be humans who make that choice. This Doctor has been distancing himself from humanity, which is understandable because he’s not human, and I feel like he has a defensible moral position here. The problem is that by leaving Clara there to make the decision, he HAS made the decision himself. He knew she would make the right decision, and he forced her to be the one to make it, wedging her in where actual humanity was actually making the other choice. By placing Clara there, knowing what decision she would make, he effectively made it FOR humanity rather than leaving it up to them. I don’t think he realizes that what he did doesn’t actually make sense.
So, Clara decides not to kill the alien. It hatches and flies away without hurting anyone. The Doctor makes a speech about how for once, humanity looks up and sees something beautiful, and it inspires them to travel the stars. But Ben Herman has the astute analysis here — humanity had already chosen to kill the alien out of fear. They look up and are inspired, but they travel the universe in fear. They go on to hurt countless people across the galaxy, including themselves. I would’ve been happier if the Doctor had made a speech about humanity’s inspiration and brought the astronaut over and SHE decided not to press the button. Or, in the other sequence I was expecting, Clara would ask everyone on Earth to vote and they would vote YES, let it live! And then they’d be ready! It would be a beautiful moment! (Also, I feel compelled to point out that only half the earth was allowed to vote. Clara could only see one side. AND they didn’t actually show us this beautiful thing that’s supposed to be so inspiring, and I kind of resent that.)
Right now it sounds like I’m mostly criticizing the Doctor. Really I’m criticizing the writing, and I hope no one thinks I’m taking Clara’s side in the big argument, because Clara can go spit in a tree for all I care. The thing that would make me happiest in all the world would be for the Doctor to take her at her word, and never come back for her ever again. She could just never appear again, and that would be awesome!
SHE HAS NEVER NOTICED ANYTHING. I was pleased in this season that she had more self-possession and personality and agency, but it has ALWAYS been a problem that she didn’t say yes, and now she’s doing it again. Every time they’ve casually joked about her narcissism, they’ve been right.
She’s not upset that the Doctor did something wrong or is being morally inconsistent, she’s upset that he made her uncomfortable. It’s partly that the Doctor’s not human and refuses to act like it. Well, tough. He’s not here to make people comfortable. Beyond that, he made her deal with something unpleasant — that question about interfering with the past, interfering with choices. He mentions the fact that they had dinner in 1937, but didn’t march off to kill Hitler, and that’s a great example. She didn’t want to think about it at all, she just wants the Doctor to make all her choices so she can keep skipping around being happy.
(Again, the writing doesn’t actually hold up, because World War II really was humans making choices. Many humans, the whole world, making choices moment by moment. This was ONE human, who was completely out of place, making ONE choice AGAINST the will of a majority of humans, so his “letting humanity decide” thing doesn’t work, but again, that’s not her objection at all.) She’s so upset at having to deal with this that she storms out of the Tardis and tells the Doctor not to come back, all the while believing that she has the high ground. She even specifically says “Don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of the humans” or something of that nature. Thanks, Clara. Thanks a lot.
And Clara… OF COURSE the Doctor wouldn’t have casually mentioned if the moon blew up in 2049. Does she really think he would even remember if that happened? There’s an awful lot of history and an awful lot of things the Doctor doesn’t remember at any given time. It’s not like she somehow has a right to know that the moon will explode. It wouldn’t ever come up! Plus it’s pretty clear that he has no idea what’s happening, so he could hardly warn her ahead of time even if it was ever relevant. Just like in “Deep Breath,” when she inexplicably didn’t understand how regeneration works, CLARA HAS NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO ANYTHING EVER — anything except herself. She does NOT know the Doctor, and if she’s not going to put in any effort to learn, if she’s not going to even try to be affected by the wondrous things she has the privilege of seeing, then I just want her gone. I’m done.
Pics from Geekritique.