“Doctor Who” | Series 8, Episode 7: “Kill the Moon” | Date: Oct. 4, 2014
“Kill the Moon” continued the improving trend of episode quality for the eighth series of the revived “Doctor Who.”
In the present day, Clara (Jenna Coleman) scolds the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) for making young Courtney (Ellis George) feel unspecial. Courtney has been acting out in school after her brief trip in the TARDIS. Apparently all youths need to be made to feel special or they’ll go all haywire.
The Doctor takes Courtney and Clara to the moon in an effort to make Courtney fell special as the first woman on the moon. But they overshoot into 2049, where they come into contact with some astronauts on a grim mission.
In 2049, the moon is gaining weight and breaking apart, causing all kinds of havoc with the tides on earth. Mankind has given up space travel. The last surviving Space Shuttle is sent to the moon with a classic human solution: Blow it up with nuclear weapons.
The Doctor and company explore an abandoned space station and are attacked by red-eyed spider-like creatures. Courtney cleverly (or accidentally) discovers how to kill them: anti-bacterial spray. The shifts in light and darkness and “what’s around the corner” bits are worthy the series’ more intense and frightening moments.
The story shifts into a moral dilemma. The Doctor discovers the moon is, in fact, a giant egg for a beautiful space dragon. The humans must decide: murder the space dragon and maybe earth survives or don’t murder it and maybe earth is destroyed. Or maybe it survives. They really don’t know.
And the Doctor isn’t telling. He says he cannot see the future. He may be lying. He does that. But he refuses to help Clara make the decision. In fact, he packs up in the TARDIS and leaves Courtney, the last surviving astronaut and Clara decide the fate of the moon and possibly human kind.
Clara uses a TV satellite to appeal to the world. If they want the unborn creature blown up, turn off their lights. If they want it to live, turn the lights on. The earth goes dark. Kill the creature. At the last moment, Clara stops the countdown on the nuclear missiles. The Doctor arrives and whisks away the trio.
The Doctor reveals that because humanity didn’t destroy the space dragon, they become curious about space again. They travel to the ends of the universe and survive to the end of time. Courtney participated in the salvation of the human race. How’s that for special?, the Doctor asks.
Clara, however, is furious. She feels as if the new Doctor is cold-hearted and manipulative. He looks down on humans and she’s had quite enough of it. She tells him to go away and leave her be. She returns to Coal Hill School and vents to Danny (Samuel Anderson), who tells her she is not quite ready to leave the Doctor yet because she’s angry. You can’t be done with someone who can still make you angry, Danny wisely says.
The drama is well-played and, as usual, Capaldi and Coleman are top-flight. But I have grown weary of the self-righteous Clara. I could do with an episode away from her. In fact, I would be too tearful if she were to leave outright at Christmas as has been rumored.
The writers have woven Clara into the Doctor’s mythos so deeply that he seems less of a heroic character and more of an expression of Clara’s forceful personality. Clara wants the Doctor to be more empathetic to humans. But she lacks empathy for him.
She didn’t like the fact that he didn’t look like a boyfriend upon his regeneration. And she seems to forget that the Doctor once decided the fate of his own planet. It went poorly until he got a do-over through some timey-wimey business. Perhaps he simply wasn’t up for deciding the fate of an alien world.
A lot of critics, both mainstream and amateurs like me, have been rapturous in their praise of Coleman’s work as Clara and the overall in the eighth series. I am more measured. Coleman is great, to be sure. But this idea of her whispering courage into a young Doctor’s ear as cowered in his family barn on Gallifrey ticks me off.
This effort to make Clara the most important companion — the most important person — in the history of the Doctor rubs me the wrong way. It undermines the spirit of the Doctor. He could not, apparently, have come to any moral base of his own without the influence of Clara. How conceited on the part of the writers to feel the need to build up a character by hollowing out another.
Still, I’m 800 words deep in a blog post about the series. It is, at least, inspiring me to think. This is far more than most of the TV I watch. And I still dearly love seeing my favorite hero each week.
But somebody please stop Capaldi from wearing those polka-dotted shirts. If he thought the scarf was silly, those things are abysmal.