Kill the Moon
Spoilers Sweetie – Don’t read if you haven’t watched.
“Kill the Moon” episode was preceded by news stories suggesting that the Doctor was going to do something shocking that he’d never done before and each time he did something unusual, I wondered whether that was “it”, but by the time the big “it” “Fuckity bye” moment happened, I was still as stunned as everyone else – I actually felt as slapped as Clara looked.
Shocking it was!
Teacher and student guide us into our journey at a crucial decision point – and the Doctor is absent but we don’t know why… yet.
“An innocent life vs. all of mankind.” Clara issues the summary, which frankly when put like that, the answer seems obvious.
Following the credits, we head back to the beginning of the story’s story… Courtney (Ellis George) is scarred by the Doctor’s scathing judgement of her, Clara (who has a new hairstyle – passage of time) appeals to his better nature, her frustration clear. It’s difficult to think highly of someone who vomits in your VW Beetle TARDIS, so the Doctor is entitled to his opinion, but by his words and behaviour, Clara points out, he’s driven Courtney to drink – Alcopops.
Fifteen-year old Courtney in the TARDIS challenges him to tell her that he doesn’t think she’s special, and perhaps something in her refusal to accept his opinion gets to him. Instead of just telling her that he didn’t mean it (which may or may not have been a fib), he asks her how she’d like to become the first woman to walk on the moon in 2049 (37-years into the future), something she is on-board with.
Incidentally, this episode takes place 10 years before “Waters of Mars”, and would be the event that needed to happen in order to assist all future off-Earth travels.
The Doctor parks the TARDIS in a crash-landing, bumping along the Lunar’s surface, second-hand space shuttle packed with 100 nuclear bombs, shortly to meet the three astronauts Lundvik (Hermione Norris), Duke (Tony Osoba), and Henry (Phil Nice). If this had been Star Trek, the men would have worn red shirts.
The Doctor takes the sting out of Lundvik’s killing threat and in doing so reveals much about his ethical lines of thinking – a bit more like his younger selves.
He suggests kill the little girl first – because she shouldn’t have to watch her companions die – it would be terrifying, then Clara and finally him – though they might have to spend a lot of time killing him because he could probably go on forever.
The Doctor answers his own questions, points out that the moon’s put on weight it could be Gravity bombs, axis alignment systems, planet shellers… aliens Lundvik surmises.
The Doctor paints a dramatic picture of how Earth ‘must be now’, while Lundvik shares Humanity’s solution – it’s Humanity’s unsurprising solution to everything we don’t like, understand, and causes us discomfort – blow it up, destroy it, and hope for the best.
It seems this is the gist of the unspoken message passing between the Doctor and Clara is something like, “Is that your species’s bloody solution to everything?”
The reluctant astronauts accept help and they open the damaged ship allowing Courtney to take the first step on the moon – being the first woman to walk on the moon – it only took 80 years!
Courtney’s first words were, “One small thing for a thing, one enormous thing for a thingy thing.” – and the Doctor thought Courtney wasn’t special!
Courtney thinks she knows everything, she knows some things, doesn’t quite grasp how important a moment this is (yet) and is just an irresponsible fifteen-year-young lady, but her character will be defined by the end of this grey point in time.
Lundvik explains – filling us in on more backstory – there was a mining survey done by the Mexicans who had a base – the tidal waves we learn, were the greatest natural disaster in history. As they head off to the Mexican’s camp, Lundvik sends Henry off to switch the bombs in the shuttle on. Answering the doctor’s question with, “Is that the best you could get?” with “Second-hand space shuttle, third hand astronauts” we watch Henry shuffle off assured that nothing will go bang until Lundvik’s “fiddled” with the box.
We realise that with the crash landing, and the on-board arsenal, and with everyone behaving just like Marvin the Paranoid Android on a bad day, that this is a one-way trip, a last hurrah from a desperate Humanity.
Lovely big monochromatic Lanzarote landscapes are reminiscent of Classic Who, but with more High Definition finesse, the dark sky is claustrophobic, and the SB-6 suits stand out in orange contrasting with the white Earth space suits. I believe the Doctor has a clothing replicator in the TARDIS too (something Courtney could have got on with and not jeopardised the group’s security.
According to the Masterful Mr Moffat in an interview in Doctor Who Magazine this month, we now understand that Orson Pink’s space suit was damaged in “Listen“, so the Doctor replicated one for him in the TARDIS, must have made a few more for this crew…
Lundvik carries on painting a dark picture of Earth events from 2014 to 2049 – not pretty, and related to the moon (not climate change, or carbon-dioxide, or plastic oceans, or oil spills) building up on what’s already been disclosed.
We learn, ten years earlier that they’d heard nothing more from the Mexican astronauts, had no more space shuttles, nobody was interested in space travel anymore, and the only ship they had left was in a museum with the back cut off for children to pretend to ride in. Yeah, sounds about right with all the funding cuts everywhere. And with all the money squatting off-shore, how can anything grow? Unless it’s all been secretly re-appropriated… but how would we know? That theory’s as easy to prove as the existence of the Hiding things from “Listen”.
The group enters a small, dark cabin with creepy cobwebs everywhere and Courtney stumbles upon a corpse in a space suit. Duke offers to get the power turned back on, while Clara tries comforting Courtney, while the Doctor tries to figure out what the motive behind the creatures and webs would be – figure out how people work, or how they taste (chicken apparently)…
Once the power is back on, the Doctor switches on the computer and within moments discovers that the Mexicans found no minerals on the moon and all the fissures and cracks are bigger and the moon is breaking apart. The Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility), Sea of Tranquillity, Nectar, Ingenuity, and Crises are all affected and the 100 million year old moon is falling to bits. Nobody mentions anything on the rest of the Moon – cue the Waterboys.
We cut over to Henry, not sure if he’s switched everything back on, but he encounters a den of spider-like creepy crawlies (at no point ever described as such despite the webs everywhere), and unfortunately he doesn’t make it back, but it seems his end was quick.
In the dark, a scuttling sound reveals the spider-like bacteria Henry’s just been unfortunate enough to discover. The Doctor talks them through their panic, reminding them to stay still while planning their escape route out the room. It’s all claustrophobic… something about the absence of light, oxygen and atmosphere, plus all the cobwebs and dust bunnies made breathing an effort watching this.
After switching the power on in the Mexican’s base room, Duke dies next – sad but it buys them enough time to leave the room, leaving Courtney behind the locked door where fortunately the lunar’s gravity field malfunctions briefly, saving her life.
Courtney sprays the spider-like thing with her germ-killer – brought along to help clean up any possibly nauseating spillages in the TARDIS, and it kills the thing the Doctor calls a prokaryotic unicellular life-form with non-chromosomal DNA (aka Germ). He also realises in that moment that the 1.8 billion ton mass inside the moon shifted, therefore is unstable and becomes excited. I’m getting more of a feel for who he is, compared with who he has been in the past, it’s like the pendulum’s swung all the way out in the complete opposite direction to where it was last season, and now it’s settling into a centre-point.
Lundvik’s demeanour when Duke dies doesn’t change much, but she fills in some back story implying deep emotions beneath. He’d just had a grandchild, he’d been her teacher, taught her how to fly, and they were both given the sack on the same day – her heavy feyness is compelling – her character seems to have an interesting depth – very clever, deceptively simple painting. Nice little details that fill in all the gaps quite nicely.
The Doctor doesn’t hang around for emotional remembrances, asks which way to the Mare Fecunditatis, while Courtney wants to go home. I don’t like saying nasty things about the characters, but throughout this episode, Courtney is a bit high-maintenance. Maybe the adventure gives her a little more sense at the end of it, but during them she contributes to the tension because you just don’t know what she’s likely to do.
The Doctor eventually agrees to let Courtney stay in the TARDIS. His thinking is, everything is dangerous, and letting that stop you is no way to live your life.
Clara pleads to be taken back to Earth, that it’s not their problem and she needs to get Courtney back because of her duty of care, but it’s to no avail. The Doctor reveals a precious kernel of detail about the nature of Time Lords and their knowledge, as we’re given a peek into the finer mechanics of Time Travel and uncertain moments.
Now, we understand part of the predicament, but the crux has yet to be revealed. I enjoyed the way this episode was paced; it went quickly from one scene to the next and avoided verbatim while building up engagement, with tension.
Lundvik points out that her crew is gone, that they were the last astronauts. She’s good in the role. The more I watch the more I figure out that her character is melancholy, she’s probably seen much loss and in the face of her dear friends dying, has not taken a single moment to shed a tear
Courtney is safe for now, holed up in the TARDIS. Now if you were given the run of a TARDIS with reportedly large rooms, swimming pools, libraries etc. Would you want to sit in the control room? I wouldn’t. But that’s what Courtney does – she’s bored, she uploads photos to Tumblr – it’s referenced twice – Lundvik’s grandmother liked Tumblr (if Lundvik is 54, that would have made her close to Courtney’s age in 2014 – so it’s a bit of a leap if it is to reference the point that everyone gets old (if they’re lucky)), that she shouldn’t, and perhaps this comes back at some later point (In “Love and Monsters”, a Doctor Who conspiracy group led by Alton Pope).
The Doctor finds out about Courtney’s activities and uses the sonic screwdriver to remove the images. He hardly uses the sonic screwdriver this season.
The Doctor goes out looking again with the rest, looking for what is killing the moon. They come across the dead bodies wrapped in webs, and Clara wonders aloud if it’s an infestation. There’s a panicky moment where the Doctor just manages to get away, thanks to sunlight – the best disinfectant there is, according to Clara’s nan.
The Doctor watches the germ-spiders around Mare Fecunditatis before finding amniotic fluid and leaps into the chasm. Clara supposes he’ll come back — she has a chat with Courtney to find out if she’s okay and then tells Courtney off for Tumblr pics. Then Courtney, the TARDIS, and the crashed shuttle fall into the Mare Fecunditatis.
When the Doctor returns, a shadow of his exuberant former selves is revealed as he excitedly yammers on about today being the day for humankind. He shares the discovery that the moon is an egg.
Now to me it looks like a dragon – Courtney asks if it’s a chicken – nobody ever says it’s a dragon or a chicken. Just as the germ like spider things are eventually labelled bacteria (tiny beings, in relation to one very large one) – you’d think that someone would have pointed out the arachnid-like resemblance of that…
This is one of the criticisms I have of this episode. It seemed a little too afraid to make “labels” of anything (while being so detailed and rich in subtleties) and yet relied on a huge premise of the moon being an egg, and considering Doctor Who canon, does this mean that the Moon is an egg forever, will this event occur in another 100,000 years time?
Or is this a sign that this isn’t the ‘real’ universe?
In truth, the moon could be an egg… there are theories out there that suggest its hollow, that it was once a space craft that situated where it was in order to make Earth a habitable place. We cannot doubt that the Moon is necessary to life, as we know it affects the tides, and human lunacy.
See, while Clara is experiencing all the mounting straws on her back, so is the Doctor. While he sees the beauty in every detail of humanity (as he explained to the half-faced man in “Don’t Breathe“), he must also get so frustrated at our collective penchant to always assume the worst, and resort to the most drastic measures to resolve the worst case scenario before ever determining whether the outlook is as dire as initially assumed.
We can understand Lundvik’s state of mind, we can even relate to it because we are encoded with the belief that one life is nothing when compared with the whole of humanity. However, the assumption that the nature of the situation should always err on the side of the pessimistic is not always helpful.
“It’ll never feel the sun on it’s back”
However, Lundvik is impossible to reason with, even leaving Clara with Madame Toothache is a bit of a long shot because stubborn just doesn’t cut it. Lundvik is resigned to die and she doesn’t care who goes with her, doesn’t care that there will be a corpse across the sky, has no faith, has lost all hope. That’s what happens when we lose hope. We lose touch with the essence of our humanity.
At this point, the crux is revealed and the Doctor annoyed. The only vision Lundvik has is one of death. When she looks to the stars all she sees is a rolling vista of death. There’s no suggestion that Earth’s problem were actually caused by humanity. She blames the Moon for all of Humanity’s trials and tribulations, and no longer cares if there’s a floating corpse out there after exploding it? Lundvik is likely to die, and the satellite – and all it’s inconvenient life on board it, it is all on the verge of extinction.
Have you ever tried arguing with someone who has already made up their mind before even entering into a discussion? It’s impossible.
Clara has seen a lot more than this professional astronaut ever has, has more vision than anyone else in the room due to her extensive experience. If anyone is qualified to be there, it’s this particular teacher, not the depressed astronaut resigned to die.
Courtney reminds her that there’s life and Lundvik points out that when Courtney grows up she’ll realise that not everything is nice, but since she didn’t want to be a part of it, it’s none of her business.
Clara asks the Doctor what he wants to do and he shrugs it off and says he doesn’t want to get involved. Then he issues them with the conditions before leaving them with the ultimatum.
We discover that the President of America is a woman (could it be Courtney?) and she’s got too many decisions to make, that she hasn’t even travelled in space and time, hasn’t got Clara’s unique perspective… but Clara doesn’t want to bear the responsibility for the entire planet.
“The future is no more malleable than the past.”
Put yourself in her shoes – would you want to take responsibility for one of the most momentous turning points in Earth’s future without knowing what the outcome is likely to be? Perhaps this is an insight into what it’s like to be the Doctor, making these decisions for thirteen regenerations – and all the way until the end of time. The Doctor keeps making disparaging remarks about living forever – and on Trenzalore (in the little town called Christmas) he got to while away the centuries growing old, seeing generations passing before his eyes and if you remember correctly, living in an environment where everyone could only ever speak the truth.
Clara on the other hand is more than just a teacher; she likes a little side adventure with her “normal” life. Between her, the annoying Courtney and depressed astronaut, she knows that she’s the strongest one there, but doesn’t want to embrace it.
The Doctor has been wound up by the Astronaut’s pig-headed refusal to see anything other than, “duh, duh, duh, blow up duh moon” and something snaps. His truthfulness becomes bluntness, and he gives Clara the words she needs to hear to make the decision that he cannot, and will not. It’s harsh and it hacks Clara off – but in my opinion, he’s right. He’s done subtle all episode, in fact he’s been the epitome of nuance and congeniality, apart from the exchange of knowing looks passing between him and Clara and it didn’t make the same impact and he’s had enough, and I don’t blame him.
From Clara’s perspective, it’s been weeks of apologising for his truthful rudeness, keeping the peace, worrying about everyone, and now he’s putting her life on the line and exposing a ward of her care to extreme danger too. I don’t blame her for getting mad at him either.
This is what I loved about this episode. The characterisation is so well done that there is no confusion about what needs doing. It’s still hard to watch. The Doctor issues his speech – getting it all off his chest, chucks Courtney out of the TARDIS and basically leaves with not so much as a fuckity-bye.
The bacteria scramble across the surface of the moon and Lundvik is back to arming the bombs. There’s a tense moment where they are almost sucked out into space – the baby’s moving again.
Lundvik is primed for the worst-case scenario. She’s convinced that the life inside the moon is going to wipe out all of humanity. She calls it an exo-parasite and then plays on Clara’s emotions about having babies, painting the worst-case scenario again.
Clara is uncertain, says it’s just a baby, that it might be fine. There is no way to reason with Lundvik, and it would be a waste of energy to try. The biggest clue the Doctor left us was by leaving. If the moon doesn’t blow up, he’ll be back… but until then, he’ll be gone.
Lundvik connects to bad haired McKean (Christopher Dane) and Clara broadcasts her message to the “planet” reconnecting us with the first scene, and ultimately the governments effectively decide to switch off all the lights – maybe that’s how everybody feels after suffering the turbulent affects of the Moon giving birth – who knows – a lot can happen in 35 years. We’re conditioned to believe the worst in everything, so nobody on Earth leaves a light on – like people in 2049 with such a bleak outlook would be capable of deciding anything else.
I’d argue that the shot with the lights going off is really just to heighten dramatic tension – in reality, the Earth wouldn’t have moved that fast in just 40 minutes. But it looks good, and this is science FICTION, so I’m okay with that. Nice effect.
The Earth votes as expected and there are only nine seconds left until Clara terminates the bomb at the last-minute causing the Doctor to return almost instantly. I’d argue that it was the only way Clara could have done it, since she doesn’t have the weight of science (and pessimism) on her side, she couldn’t have convinced Lundvik who wanted to die, she admits it – and she wanted to take the moon and everyone on it with her.
The Doctor transports them to the beach to watch the once in a lifetime “big event” that almost turned out very differently.
They get out of the TARDIS and watch the egg crack and disintegrate (along with 100 nuclear bombs?) and a Moon Baby with the finest wings flies away, while they stand watching on a gorgeous Lanzarote Beach. I think there should have been a little more here – maybe a longer scene, considering that this is the lightest event in the episode and it’s going to be followed by a huge argument in the TARDIS.
The Doctor peers into the future of the Earth and sees a long history of a space faring race that will endure until the end of time. And it does all that in the year 2049 when it had stopped thinking about going to the stars, that it looked up and suddenly the whole course of history was changed because of one last-munite decision, and not Democracy.
Courtney is amazed by the experience, throughout she’s been a pain but in this defining, final moment she comes into her own character — something that will set her up for life (as the future president of the United States somehow linked to a chap called Blinovitch – which might explain how she happened to be there on the moon in 2049 as her younger self)
The Doctor about Courtney: “Well she really is something quite special now, isn’t she? First woman on the moon, saved the Earth from itself, and rather bizarrely, she becomes President of the United States! She met this bloke called Blinovitch…”
The Blinovitch Limitation Effect is a fictional principle of time travel physics: firstly, that a time traveller cannot “redo” an act that he has previously committed, and secondly, that a dangerous energy discharge will result if two temporal versions of the same person come into contact. The first aspect is similar to a real-world physics conjecture, the Novikov self-consistency principle.
Lundvik thanks Clara (after being prompted) and the Doctor obviously doesn’t feel obliged to give her a ride home, but uncharacteristically he’s not rude about it. Clara can’t get rid of Courtney fast enough – sends her off to Geography, before she switches off the TARDIS, and demands to know what the Doctor knew.
The Doctor admits that he knew eggs don’t destroy their nest, he knew Clara (the Impossible Girl) would make the right decision (has done so before without the situation being as tense). But Clara feels betrayed, shaken by his abandonment, and everything that they’ve gone through that she never addressed at the time, comes bubbling up. She gives him absolute shtick, fuelled by girl-power, for everything – and who can blame her?
Sometimes relationships are made stronger through conflict while weaker relationships are broken by it – survival of the fittest. We’re left with a silent numb feeling as her words ring around and we know exactly what’s been behind her passive-aggressive, adaptable acceptance of everything for the sake of friendship, traveling, and expectations.
Clara tells him never to lump her in with the humans that he thinks are tiny, silly and predictable – she doesn’t fully understand him yet because she never heard what he’d said to the half-face man about how important all the details are. In addition, apart from a professional relationship, the only other area in their lives that they discuss outside of the time-travel companion role she fills, is her love for Danny Pink and his opinion of PE teachers and soldiers.
The Doctor doesn’t do things the way a human would – and that’s probably just as well. Humans would have killed the moon and preferred a corpse across the sky. A non-human life is not worth the whole of humanity in humanity’s eyes. A Time Lord would see things differently and actually, I think it elevates him above our species’s collective blindness.
I don’t think he’d have left Clara if he didn’t think she could handle it. In Deep Breath we were shocked when he shoved her back into the cell, but ultimately it bought him time, revealed the half-face man’s intentions and it was a good decision. I’d argue that he took the stabilizers off then, but he never overtly said it.
When he ranted at Clara he gave her some tangible points to fire back – which just goes to show, conflict begets conflict – even though it’s often necessary for progression – Growing pains and all that.
Clara is the impossible girl who has always used her ingenuity and poise to save him – throughout his timeline. She’s not a simple character like Rose, Martha, Donna or Amy… she’s so woven into his life, that she is almost part of his expression of it.
When you assume the worst, the Doctor is painted in the worst light. When you assume the best, he’s not. The fact is he has got so much respect for a single, unique life that he thinks is beautiful, that he couldn’t stand to be there to watch the risk of it being destroyed (not being his decision anyway) – which was so touch and go, that anything he might have said could have pushed Lundvik over the edge.
Clara’s not having any of it, The Doctor points out that the reason he left was a way of respecting her, there were a couple of swearwords, but since this is being shown after the watershed, it’s probably not a big deal – one prat, and a few bloodies.
It sounds good in principle, but it’s not strictly true. If he could have done anything else he would have, but this was a decision for humanity to make – perhaps Clara doesn’t realise he wasn’t just using grand words to express a grand excuse to leave (much like Lundvik was doing to convey how vitally important it was to destroy the moon).
Clara gives him her own version of fuckity-bye and off she furies to the warm arms of Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), leaving the Doctor alone in his bloody lonely TARDIS.
Back into “Normal Life” Clara reflects on some pieces of paper she finds on the floor by her desk, Danny stops by, and they share an exchange. He recognises that she’s had a bad day and comforts her. This is what she needs, even though we know by contrast the Doctor is alone in his TARDIS.
“You never finish with anyone when while they can still make you angry”
Clara says she’s done, insist that she’s done and I believe she feels this way. Living two extremely different lives can tear you. Maybe this is what she’s reflecting on when she gazes out her window, looking at the moon. She’ll never see it the same way again.
We know that Danny’s hiding something, but somewhere in this episode, I realised that there is often very little benefit in assuming the worst. I’m not convinced that Danny cares as much about Clara as she does about him, but I think that he’s good for her because he counterbalances her unusual friendship and it’s related circumstances with the Doctor. He’s not like Rory where he gets to travel with them. This version is a lot different, it sees Clara living two separate lives, one extremely dangerous.
I am keen to understand what the twist is in Clara and Danny’s relationship, because it could be that Danny works for UNIT, it could be that he’s linked somehow with Missy, but for now I’ll just let speculation run rampant until the season’s run. I would like to see more of him traveling. I think it would be fun to see how his character would evolve beyond the unstated historical pitfall of his own experience.
“Kill the Moon” is the seventh episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Peter Harness and directed by Paul Wilmshurst. The episode stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with Hermione Norris guest starring.
My first question after the moon hatched was what happened to the 100 Nuclear weapons? Did they just get sucked into the vacuum of space? Are they still hovering around up there?
Regarding the argument online about this being agenda driven and anti-pro-life….
If this were about the abortion agenda, this foetus had long passed it’s first trimester, and I don’t believe that the gungest of hoest pro-lifers would be publicly on-board with terminating a birthing baby. To associate this thinking with Doctor Who is unfair (and somewhat repulsive) as it’s not in keeping with the show’s ethos, which is far broader than a two-party political agenda manifesto item from another country.
Though having said that, if the shoe fits – maybe it needs looking at.
There may have been congruences with some controversial discussion points, there may have been references to women-kind making decisions about the planet (usually left up to man-kind) and there was an interesting balance of female energies – the maiden, the woman and the crone. The crone has spent her career in a male-dominated industry having to conform for acceptance in order to be taken seriously. Courtney has had very little life experience – but now she’s special because she had to stand up and argue a point that was important for the future of humanity, and Clara has such an unusual history that despite her reservations is most perfectly cut out to make decisions of this magnitude. Besides Courtney may very well have been the President of the US and not known it!
The moon itself is a symbol of femininity – as a life bringer to Earth. I found a lovely article entitled, “Without the Moon, would there be life on Earth?” and I thought it interesting to read after watching “Kill the Moon”.
This season has been so strong so far, I’m in two minds as to whether this the weakest episode so far because I think it was well-written and incredibly generous with the Doctor’s motivations – which up until now have been sparse. Although information repeated, it wasn’t word-for-word (which was my one crit of “Robot of Sherwood“), it seemed balanced throughout and contributed generously to characterisation – which leads to strong empathy.
Perhaps the women being left to make this vast decision, being viewed by a predominantly male audience may have led to some misunderstandings. From a grumpy middle-aged female’s point of view, I loved the way it carried out – I am often as cynical and deadpan as Lundvik and I think she represents a generous sample of our collective cynical expression, Clara is all about responsibility carried out capably, and I think Courtney’s character came out the other end with a little more sense than she had to begin with.
The Doctor? Well I think he’s just getting out after spending hundreds of years getting old on Trenzalore in the truthful town of Christmas.
But it all just goes to show that just because something seems cut and dried, just because stakes are high, the worst-case scenario should not necessarily be the overriding consideration when determining any course of drastic action.
And we could argue till the cows come home but ultimately it proves that democracy doesn’t always arrive at the right decision for all. That democracy only works when everyone properly and fully informed of an entire situation.
Even Clara didn’t know what to do, but she knew what to do if she ever wanted to see the Doctor again – that was the greatest clue of all.
© Screen grabs courtesy of the BBC
© Nicki Ki, All Rights Reserved