The idea of sacrificing oneself for the greater good is one of the most powerful and frightening concepts anyone could ever consider. For the Doctor and his companions it is a reality they often face. But what if someone you trusted was ready to sacrifice you for the greater good? And worse, what if they made you decide? What if the Doctor was willing to sacrifice one of his companions?
The Doctor, Clara, and newest member, Courtney, show up on the moon in the near future, having landed the TARDIS aboard a crashing space shuttle. It doesn’t take long for the Doctor to realizes something is wrong with the moon’s gravity… it’s too strong! A team has been sent to investigate after the increase in the moon’s gravity caused serious natural disasters on Earth. Introductions having been made, it’s time to explore, and before long things don’t look good.
The episode has the feel of classic science fiction horror, and it fits well with the darker theme of this season. It’s also an episode that feels exactly like a Classic Who episode. I could easily see Tom Baker or Peter Davison exploring the abandon moon base. Even the episode’s “villain”, giant space spiders, fit right at home in a 3rd Doctor story.
The spiders are actually one of the more creepy and truly threatening monsters in quite some time. They not only look exceptionally monstrous, but they actually feel like a true threat to the TARDIS crew. At one point Clara thinks the danger is too great, and ask the Doctor to leave. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Doctor give his “some moments in time” speech, and he gives it hear. The Doctor thinks that the danger is too great to just pack up and leave. Some moments are just too important to run away from.
The Doctor quickly deduces that the moon is infested with these spider-things, and this realization leads to the understanding that the moon itself is a giant egg, and something large is getting ready to hatch. It may be one of the more ridiculous plots we’ve ever seen. That said, it’s actually a fairly unique concept, one that could only ever make sense on Doctor Who.
The theme of the episode becomes clear when the Doctor comes to believe that whatever is hatching from within the moon is unique enough to deserve surviving despite the risks to the Earth and everyone on it. This mirrors Courtney’s reaction to when the Doctor says she isn’t special. This sentiment, that an individual isn’t special, is a stark departure from the Doctor we’ve come to know. But it’s an interesting character twist that gets explored within the context of this episode’s plot as the Doctor does believe some individuals are special after all.
The Doctor makes the decision to leave the choice to save the Earth in the hands of Earthlings, namely Clara. He believes it’s not his place to decide whether to kill this unique life and save the human race, or let it live and possibly allow humanity to perish. This is another drastic departure from the Doctor we’re used to. We’ve seen the Doctor make this decision so many times that his refusal to make it now is shocking.
For all intents and purposes the Doctor abandon’s Clara, leaving her to make an impossible moral choice, one that he has historically made himself. A choice that he now doesn’t seem to feel is his to make. The discussion that ensues is compelling to say the least. Clara is with one of the shuttle crew, a human who knows only the world she’s lived on. But on the other hand is Clara, who has been so changed by her life with the Doctor that she is willing to at least take a moment to consider the right of an unknown monster to be born. We see yet again how spending time with the Doctor changes his companions, for better or worse.
In the end we see Clara placing the decision in the hands of all humanity, by giving everyone on Earth a vote. It’s a scene reminiscent of the 11th Doctor episode The Beast Below, another exceptional tale of morality and survival. As expected humanity votes for self preservation, but at the moment of obliteration, the Doctor arrives to whisk Clara and company away in the TARDIS, leaving whatever is in the moon to hatch. What follows is an example of completely nonsensical writing that points to someone who has written oneself into a corner. It’s an episode that pays no attention to science and reality from beginning to end, but that wasn’t really the point of it anyway.
The first half of Kill the Moon was forgettable, and the ending was absurd, but the bulk of the episode is full of moral dilemmas and discussions of right to life and responsibility. An episode that could have fallen flat on its face actually managed to offer some compelling science fiction drama, and continued the trend in season 8 of developing characters more deeply than previously seen on Doctor Who. What started as an average episode became something memorable for its poignancy. It embodied Doctor Who’s maturation over the course of this season, and it gave us perhaps the clearest picture yet of how different this Doctor is than the one we’ve grown accustom to. Even Clara reaches her breaking point in her relationship with the Doctor. From this point on, no matter how close they are, the events of Kill the Moon will lurk below the surface.
image source: [doctorwhotv]