‘Kill The Moon’

Last night’s Doctor Who was certainly a divisive episode. There were some great performances from Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi (as usual) in Kill The Moon, but there were problematic elements, which created vitriolic debate and allegedly caused writer Peter Harness to quit Twitter.

The premise was a surprise, in that what was sold in the ‘next week’ preview bore little resemblance to the episode that eventually unfolded. As shown in the preview, upon arriving on the Moon in the near future, the Doctor, Clara, and the accompanying student Courtney find a whole heap of nuclear warheads, and a group of astronauts getting ready to use them. Also present were the terrifying dog sized ‘moon spiders’, rendered in CGI that looked a lot better than the show’s usual standard (I’m looking at you, awful-looking T-Rex in Deep Breath). But in the end, these spiders became an almost irrelevant issue, as the bigger plot was revealed.
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It’s this bigger reveal that drew so much attention, and regardless of opinion, you can see why. It turns out that the Moon is in fact not the Moon, but an egg that’s been growing over time, and is now ready to hatch, something which obviously could have serious implications for life on Earth. This development was incredibly bold, even for Doctor Who, both in terms of where it took the episode – changing the direction of the instalment completely after setting up the spiders – but also simply in terms of sheer believability.

One might argue that Doctor Who is a show where believability is irrelevant given the basic premise, and that we’ve been here before with the Racnoss ship in Runaway Bride turning out to form the core of the Earth itself. Yet, to me, the idea here didn’t quite sit right. Perhaps it wasn’t so much the idea itself, but rather that it’s execution killed the momentum of the episode, as it required further exposition for the new situation, halfway into the episode, while not actually revealing a whole lot about the creature inside.

Aside from Clara’s double take upon finding out that the Moon was an egg, it became an accepted fact all too quickly. And in amongst the whole, ‘should we kill it?’ debate, other than the Doctor’s jargon loaded description, little time was given to what ‘it’ actually was, and whether it would be as violent and deadly as its spider-like bacteria.
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On the guest character front, it was a bit hit and miss. Hermione Norris’ astronaut, Lundvik, provided a good contrast in her point of view, but Ellis George’s student, Courtney Woods, who has cropped up in Clara’s school subplot a few times thus far, was such a stereotype that she only hindered the episode. How can you really be bored when you’re in a mind-bendingly-sized spaceship, in a space shuttle, on the Moon?

The other key debate concerned whether the episode portrayed a pro-life subtext, concerning whether to kill the ‘moon-spider-egg-baby-thing’. But that debate can be dodged, as from a dramatic point of view, it didn’t really work anyway. The end result felt far too deus ex machina, and the ‘referendum via lights’ also seemed forced.

Kill the Moon was still a decent episode, with some strong acting and good visuals, but perhaps let itself go towards the end. Next week: A mummy on the Orient Express, in space! (Voyage of the Damned anyone?)

★★★