8.7 – “Kill The Moon”
When The Doctor treats Clara and young Courtney to a quick trip to the moon, it’s not long before they find themselves embroiled in a serious dilemma – one which The Doctor decides is none of his business, leaving the fate of humanity to a child, a teacher and an astronaut.
Genuinely moral dilemmas are a rare thing in modern science fiction by merit of the fact that shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek have already done most of them before. It must be difficult for television writers who want their episode to be filled with morality and difficult questions/decisions to come up with something without suffering the involuntary impulse to check Memory Alpha first. Kudos then to writer Peter Harness for delivering an episode of New Who that does manage to place our heroes in a situation where there is no magic reset button, where hard choices do have to be made and the consequences of those choices have to be faced.
The trouble-making Courtney Woods (played with equal parts innocence and sass by Ellis George) returns to the show after her brief trip in the TARDIS last week, when Clara informs The Doctor that he’s pretty much stamped on the kid’s faith in herself by telling her she’s not special. Encouraging him to try and make it up to her, Clara unwittingly sends The Doctor into show-off mode, as he takes the three of them on a joyride to the moon. They materialise on-board a spaceship that is carrying 100 nuclear missiles and, shortly afterwards, it crashes onto the lunar surface. Our heroes then encounter Captain Lundvik and her team, who are there to try and ascertain why the moon has gained mass and is causing tidal mayhem back on Earth. After a classic Doctor-talking-his-way-out-of-trouble speech, Lundvik agrees to let The Doctor help them in their mission.
But Hinchcliffian horror soon rears its head when the team are attacked by highly evolved germs (that’s “glowing spider thingies” to you and me) and they soon learn that the entire moon is infested with the blighters. But that’s not nearly enough to account for the increased bulk the moon is now carrying around its midriff so The Doctor runs off to explore a crater, leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to twiddle their thumbs for a bit. Upon his return the penny finally drops; the moon is actually an egg and inside this egg there is a one-of-a-kind lifeform growing. That explains the weight, but what about the seismic activity on the lunar surface? Well, that’s the creature attempting to emerge from its shell. The Doctor finds all of this absolutely fascinating and quickly finds the beauty in the existence of such a creature but Lundvik immediately wants to know how they go about killing it. You see, if this thing hatches then the moon will cease to exist and the consequences for Earth could be catastrophic. For a start, the beautiful coastlines of Australia might be permanently defaced by the presence of skyscraper-sized pieces of egg shell.
And this is when The Doctor makes the dramatic decision to step back and wash his hands of the affair. He tells Lundvik and Clara that the future of the human race will be decided right here, right now and seeing as how it’s their moon and their planet that is in potential jeopardy, it’s up to them to figure it all out and make the decision; kill the creature using the nukes or let it hatch and see what happens. Some people will no doubt read this as a pro-life argument, abortion on a planetary body scale, but that’s just stupid (in my opinion). this is a creature that exists nowhere else, it isn’t in a womb or inside a host and it’s not something that requires the care of somebody else. Once it hatches, it will go off and do its own thing. The dilemma here isn’t a pro-life or pro-choice one, it’s more like a test of humanity’s character or a question of faith; do you assume that the hatching of this creature will destroy all life on Earth and kill it to prevent that from happening or do you accept that, realistically speaking, you have no idea what might happen so let the thing hatch and then deal with the consequences?
Clara turns the decision over to humanity itself when she addresses the world, instructing them to leave their lights on to vote Save The Space Egg and to turn their lights off to vote We Don’t Understand! Kill The Thing We Don’t Understand!! You might be expecting a shot of Earth glowing with artificial light to show that mankind has once again proven that it’s alright deep down. If so, you clearly aren’t a member of the human species and must therefore be detained for further study. Yep, all the lights go out and humanity proves that it’s not ready to be Star Trek, preferring instead to save its own arse above all else. It doesn’t matter in the end though as Clara makes the choice to let the cards fall where they may, and stops Lundvik from detonating the nukes. The Doctor turns up instantly afterwards to rescue them all and takes them back to Earth, where they witness the hatching of the creature and the moon’s “shell” disintegrating, causing no harm to the planet below. The consequences of a planet without a moon are still in question though, so it’s time for another classic Doctor speech, in which the Time Lord explains that humanity witnessing the spectacle of the alien being hatching will inspire them to get off their collective backsides and go explore the galaxy, discover new worlds and new civilisations and boldly go where their species has never gone before.
Cue the theme tune from Star Trek: The Next Generation!!
In spite of the positive outcome and the little bit of magic that mankind has witnessed, The Doctor’s behaviour during all of this has been a bit shoddy and it’s no surprise that Clara feels he basically walked out on her at a moment when she was afraid and needed the support of her best friend. That the episode doesn’t gloss over this but instead chooses to address it head-on is wonderful; we are treated to an epilogue in which Clara gives The Doctor a bollocking and tells him to sod off, he’s crossed a line here in their friendship. A chat with Danny doesn’t improve Clara’s mood but it does showcase Danny’s level headedness, gives us another insight into his character when he refers to wisdom being the result of “a bad day” (I couldn’t help thinking of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke at that point!) and once again points his character’s history in the direction of tragedy.
Leaving aside the high quality of the performances and the emotion-wrought epilogue, “Kill The Moon” would still deserve props just for taking a ridiculous premise like “the moon is an egg” and being able to turn it into a genuine moral dilemma. An “eggcellent” 8/10.
I’m…I’m so sorry…
Written and edited by Richey Hackett