This season promised us a darker Doctor. I’m not convinced that it has delivered, if one is comparing to the Doctor at his darkest in the past. But I was delighted that the episode “Kill the Moon” featured less attempt at making the Doctor simply less kind and likeable, and made him instead harsh and demanding in a manner that he has often been in the past. We need more of the latter rather than the former, and certainly don’t need nastiness and insults in an odd attempt to make us like him less.
In this episode, we learned that the Doctor had insulted the student Courtney Woods, whom he had previously allowed into the TARDIS and taken into space (with the result that she vomited), suggesting that she wasn’t special. The Doctor decides to take her to the moon. It is interesting that he chooses a particular moment when the moon’s nature is revealed and its future determined in a decisive manner. I’m guessing that wasn’t an accident – especially when we’re given a hint about Courtney’s future in American politics (which presumes a change in American law, but that is neither here nor there) precisely in the same period. The Doctor claims that he can’t see what will happen at that moment. But by the end of the episode, he knows exactly what the significance of that moment was. And so did it just become clear once the crucial decision had been made? Or was he lying?
The notion that the spider-like creatures they encounter on the moon are single-celled germs is rather silly. But that is just a way of distracting from, and yet at the same time setting the stage for, the big reveal: the moon is an egg, and the reason its gravity has increased is that the life form inside is almost fully formed and is about to hatch.
We see Courtney being challenged by the danger and by the moral decision that has to be made. Is the right thing to do to risk allowing a birth that might destroy all humankind? Or is the right thing to do to try to save humankind by eliminating an organism that poses a potential threat?
The Doctor leaves the humans to decide, since it is their moon and their decision to make.
Clara cannot decide, and so poses the question to humankind. And yet she ignores the answer they give, choosing to do instead what she believes is right.
But she is also very angry with the Doctor, and once again she has some great lines, such as when she says that the Doctor walks the Earth and breathes its air, and so it is his moon too, and he can help when there is an issue related to it. When she discusses what happened with Danny, he has some wise thoughts to offer. You’re never done with someone when they can still make you angry.The reference to never going back in time and killing Hitler is of course an interesting one to reflect on in relation to the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler.” (See too the SMBC cartoon about changing history that I shared here previously).
The fact that the creature hatches and immediately lays another egg is a nice touch, even if biologically unlikely.
What I really liked about this episode was the Doctor saying that humans need to make the decision, and going away until the decision had been made. The truth is that, in the presence of someone whom we revere and to whom we happily defer, we often cease to take full responsibility as moral agents. The story would have been a different one if the Doctor has stayed and simply done whatever he needed to in order to prevent the destruction of the moon – or to ensure its destruction. Clara may or may not have been framing the question in terms of “What would the Doctor do?” But the very fact that the Doctor takes her traveling implies a shared moral foundation. Of course, we have seen Clara tell the Doctor he is wrong. And so perhaps the suggestion that this was all mainly for Courtney’s benefit is the most plausible one in the end?
I liked that the episode diretly addressed the suggestion that “blow them up” is “what you do with aliens. The Doctor certainly participated in the blowing up of aliens. He also expressed dismay at the blowing up of sentient entities (see for instance The Silurians). And so the Doctor has taken a fairly consistent approach to mere monsters versus beings that are sentient, however monstrous they may seem to human eyes. He has sometimes destroyed the latter, but never without them insisting on harming others and ignoring his warnings. And so the situation in “Kill the Moon” posed a conundrum: was this a mindless monster that ought to be killed before it caused harm, or a sentient being, the snuffing out of whose life would be a tragedy.
There were aspects that might have been done better, but on the whole I found the episode to be one that asks viewers to reflect in a serious way about moral decisions.
What did you think of “Kill the Moon”?