As terror stalks the Moon and the Earth’s constant companion faces destruction, the Doctor’s alien nature finally becomes too much for Clara to cope with.
We have a terrible decision to make. It’s an uncertain decision, and we don’t have a lot of time. The man who normally helps – he’s gone. Maybe he’s not coming back. In fact, I really don’t think he is. We’re on our own…
If this series of NuWho had been split in two, as happened with Series 6 and 7, then Kill the Moon would have been the obvious point of separation. Although it’s nice to have a straight run of episodes once more (for the first time since 2010) this would’ve been a hell of a cliffhanger to leave viewers on at the end of Series 8, Part 1. Imagine the echoes of Clara’s storming out of the TARDIS in the wake of the Doctor’s actions on the Moon remaining unresolved for seven months instead of seven days.
Peter Harness’ first script for Doctor Who was a curate’s egg of delights, horror and atrocious humour. Told to “Hinchcliffe the shit out of it” for the first part of Kill the Moon, i.e. deliver the kind of spine-chilling horror that infused Doctor Who when the legendary Philip Hinchcliffe was the producer. With cobwebbed-festooned corpses, goosebump-raising scuttlings and giant spider-like killer bacteria, this horror-tinged quota was fulfilled and exceeded.
The increasingly later transmission time of Doctor Who isn’t simply to accommodate Strictly Come Dancing. Series 8 pushes the boundary of pre-watershed Saturday night television. In some areas of the media new Mary Whitehouse-style “Is Doctor Who suitable for children?” campaigns are fermenting. The viewing figures and audience appreciation for Doctor Who remain healthy so people are watching – even if it’s from behind the sofa again.
Drama relies upon conflict and a serious falling out between the unpredictable and callous of Twelfth Doctor and the compassionate and humane Clara had been gathering momentum ever since Deep Breath. In Kill the Moon Clara’s resentment of the usurping of the Eleventh Doctor by the Twelfth Doctor erupted in a scene that was a tour de force of fury-laden acting from Jenna Coleman. She’d finally had enough of the Time Lord’s manipulative actions. Clara considered herself to have been abandoned by the Doctor with the decision as to the fate of humanity foisted upon her when she was in no way equipped to make such history-turning choices. After stumbling through the close of the Matt Smith era armed with a paper thin character and lightweight material, Coleman has truly come into her own paired with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.
In the mid-21st century, humankind starts creeping off into the stars, spreads its way through the galaxy to the very edges of the universe and it endures until the end of time. And it does all that because one day in the year 2049 when it had stopped thinking about going to the stars something occurred that made it look up not down. It looked out there into the blackness and saw something beautiful, something wonderful and for once it didn’t want to destroy and in that one moment the whole course of history was changed. Not bad for a girl from Coal Hill School and her teacher.
For all Clara’s justification for splitting with the Doctor it’s all too easy to sympathise with his perspective. For hundreds and hundreds of years he’s been called upon to provide near-impossible last minute solutions to prevent potentially universe shattering events. Now he’s faced with a decision that he can’t predict because his usual insight into the unfolding of time, history and consequences is denied to him. To the Doctor it’s eminently logical to place the fate of humanity into the hands of a human. Clara’s decision to ignore humanity’s wishes and allow the creature within the Moon to live justified his faith in her. Or so he believed.
Not all parts of Kill the Moon were wine and roses. Whilst the regulars had prime material to sink their teeth into, the secondary characters were unmemorable to the point of being superfluous. Hermonie Norris (Cold Feet, Spooks, Kingdom) is a superb actor but here she was completely wasted with a non-existent character to play. As expected the presence of Courtney Woods (Ellis George) made zero difference to the narrative. She only seemed to have been present to provide poorly written so-called humour at the start of the episode. Clara’s dilemma over whether or not to detonate 100 nuclear weapons would have played out just the same without one of her dullest pupils on hand. Why does the Doctor keep allowing whiny children aboard the TARDIS?
In light of the events of Kill the Moon it seems that the Moon the Tenth Doctor visited in Smith and Jones was Moon Mk 1, but the Second Doctor visited Moon Mk 2 in The Moonbase and The Seeds of Death. Er…
Now is the point where any serious examination of physics in relation to Kill the Moon doesn’t occur. Time to go with Sir Terry Pratchett’s assertion that “Doctor Who’s science is pixel thin”. The Moon being an egg for a massive outer space creature that’s being gestating for hundreds of millions of years is patently ludicrous. Almost as ludicrous was the notion that once said creature was hatched it’d immediately replace the fragmented Moon with an identical egg/satellite. It’s a nonsensical concept that belongs in the bargain basement Space: 1999, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century or a particularly dire episode of Star Trek: Voyager (which was 99.99% of that series).
Tell me what you knew, Doctor, or I’ll smack you so hard you’ll regenerate.
If Kill the Moon had been Jenna Coleman’s Doctor Who finale it’d been a hell of a departure and one of the most memorable companion exits: telling the Doctor where to go and settling down to life and children with Danny. But there’s another five adventures left in Series 8 and Clara’s in them, so a reunion and reconciliation of sorts with the Doctor is on the cards. Let’s hope that it’s not an easy rejoining of the two characters. The Doctor once again has to prove to Clara that he’s the same Time Lord she first met, and there’s not likely to be another telephone call from the Eleventh Doctor on Trenzalore to reassure her. Unless Steven Moffat really planned ahead when Matt Smith filmed The Time of the Doctor…