Sci-Fi · TV & Movies

Doctor Who Review: “Kill the Moon”

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.

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon

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.

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon Lundvik
Lundvik

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.)

Doctor Who Review Kill the Moon Clara
Clara

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.

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20 thoughts on “Doctor Who Review: “Kill the Moon”

  1. You raise very interesting points about Clara’s behavior. I enjoyed the episode quite a bit more than most commenters in this thread, but I also appreciate that it was a very divisive episode, that’s inspired a lot of thoughtful and critical posts from the fans, examining the story from all sort of different angles. In that regard, this season has been the most interesting one in the Moffat era so far. I enjoy Jenna Coleman’s acting more than the writing she’s provided with; I’ll be sorry to see her off the program, if the rumors about her leaving turn out to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I understand it, Clara is out this Christmas Special, so they seem to be leading us to that. And it seems to be Jenna Coleman’s decision, so maybe they’re having to write the conflict that they didn’t want to? I feel it would have made sense to leave her sooner, or keep her longer… She was finally starting to get better as a character, to have a life of her own, and then this.

    I do like that we seem to not be bringing Danny along at all – hopefully they keep that up, at least. It’s interesting to have a character like him.

    We have hints that Clara and Danny end up together and that she lives, so she really could just be left. And, in the end, I’m pretty sure she will just be left, like Martha, because she decides it’s time to live a normal life. But while we might respect Martha deciding it’s all a bit much… Clara never really earned that.

    And she really seems to not remember ANYTHING from The Name of the Doctor, that seems right. Which is weird – I don’t remember them mentioning anything along those lines. They made it clear people wouldn’t remember the events of Day of the Doctor, yes – but she should remember all of the regenerations and the life of the Doctor, and clearly she does not.

    I’m rambling. Definitely weakest episode of the season. But thanks for the pingback 🙂

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  3. A little bit too much fiction being added to the science. A moon hatch? Thought the concept had no grounding. For me, Sci-Fi writing is better just over the edge, and not taken to such an extreme that it borders on ridiculous.

    I enjoyed watching Clara’s character unravel to a point that takes the Doctor to new places in his own character search. Will the Doctor and the Impossible Girl find a common level of understanding? Is this the beginning of the end of Clara?

    Do the traveling companions still revere the Doctor or, will he be continually questioned about his activities? Will the Doctor become only a participant who doesn’t have all the answers and only an equal to those traveling with him? If yes, I think it weakens the entire story scenario.

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    1. I don’t mind the basic idea of the moon being an egg, but the way it was treated was just ridiculous.

      I agree — I think it weakens the show to have the Doctor being constantly “brought down to size.” Everyone makes mistakes, and that can be dramatic, but I don’t want the Doctor to be just some guy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was the first Capaldi episode I’ve seen and I thought it was woeful. Redundant characters and plot holes the size of the moon itself. Where did the cache of nuclear bombs go when the creature hatched? I suppose they were conveniently deactivated somehow, but still…that was weak, as was the premise. The moon is alive? An egg was left conveniently in its place? I can’t suspend my disbelief that far (and that’s really saying something when it comes to Doctor Who).

    Nice post BTW.

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  5. I missed this episode, but I too have been disappointed with the new series of Doctor Who so far, which seems such a shame as Peter Capaldi is inspired casting, and I was so pleased when he landed the role. Maybe Steven Moffat has just been writing for the show too long? He seems to have written or co-written every episode of the series so far. Do they need some new writing blood?

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  6. I liked “Kill the Moon” a lot more than you did, Hannah, and I still agreed with most everything you wrote here in your review. The more I think about it, the more I disliked Clara in this episode. You are right: she conveniently ignores that the Doctor is a 2,000 year old alien even when she has met his past incarnations and she had Madame Vastra read her the riot act that the Doctor is NOT a human being. She is angry at the Doctor for looking down on humanity and then in the very next breath she gets mad at him for forcing her her to decide what is best for her own species rather than playing the role of a paternalistic God yet again. To top it off, she asks humanity to vote, but when she doesn’t like the results she simply ignores them and does what she wants to. How is that any different than, say, every dictator who has ever seized power and ingorned the will of the people because he was so absolutely certain that he was right and everyone else was wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Preferences are entirely subjective, it’s totally possible to like something while thinking it’s problematic. 🙂

      Yes! Asking people to vote was pretty pointless, she just wanted confirmation for what she wanted, even if she didn’t realize she wanted it yet.

      (Of course, I don’t think killing the alien was the right thing to do. But the idea of humanity making a choice is just not working here.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, agreed. Killing the alien would have been wrong, but the manner in which Clara came to that decision was so totally flawed.

        I’ve even read in other people’s reviews the suggestion that Clara’s so-called “democratic” vote might not have even been anywere close to accurate. Never mind that half the Earth was hidden from her view. The fact that entire portions of the globe blacked out simultaneously led some viewers to hypothesize that the governments of the world seized control of the planet’s power grid and shut it down to prevent anyone from casting votes to save the alien Moon baby. Really, the whole “vote by turning your lights on or off” sub-plot really muddied and confused the story. It should have been left between Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to make the decision.

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  7. I called it the worst episode of the season so far. Didn’t go into this much detail, but I definitely see the problems you’re pointing out here.

    That Clara-storming-away conversation at the end was just too much. It truly did leave me groaning.

    All my optimism isn’t gone yet, but this along with the fact that they seem to be not going to move the season arc at all until the next-to-last episode or so doesn’t bode extremely well.

    I can’t wait to see what Will has to say about this episode on Saturday. Most of time, he’s the least forgiving of the three of us when it comes these types of story problems.

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