Kill the Moon was by far the most controversial episode of the Doctor Who’s entire season. Plenty has been said about it and the somewhat hamfisted way the episode presented a metaphor for abortion. That and Peter Capaldi’s rather curious choice of shirt left this story as one of the most hotly debated of the last few years.
We are reintroduced to Courtney Woods, one of Clara’s students and trouble makers. She is desperate to be seen as special in the Doctor’s eyes and for some reason the Doctor has told her, or made her feel like he believes that she is not. The Doctor denies saying this, but we know how fallible his memory can be. Clara insists that he tell her that she is special but the Doctor, instead, decides to show her, or let her show him.
This was a good move, I think, as it fits in with the Twelfth Doctor’s attitude. People don’t need to be lied to, and he seems to apply this especially to children. He won’t give Courtney platitudes, instead he will give her an experience. This time, he asks her, ‘How would you like to be the first woman on the moon?’
Arriving on a shuttle filled with nuclear war heads, team TARDIS are confronted by a team of astronauts led by Captain Lundvik (Hermione Norris). The Doctor quickly ascertains that they are here to blow up the moon because it has been gaining mass, thus wreaking havoc with the earth’s tides. The exact scientific veracity of this particular plot point is somewhat… questionable at best. But the interesting thing to note here is that Lundvik’s team have concluded that it is the work of aliens and…
“Isn’t that what you do with aliens? Blow them up.”
Which sounds a bit like UNIT back in the day. This would have been a perfect moment for the Doctor to have a go at the military as an institution and a mindset, but he keeps strangely quiet.
They soon discover the base of a earlier mission to the moon. Mexican astronauts were there looking for minerals until they all died ten years previously. The team find strange cobwebs and the remains of some of the old crew. The Doctor examines the remains and then the findings of the Mexicans. It seems that the Moon is falling apart.
The astronauts are slowly killed off one by one as the strange spider-like creatures emerge to feed and defend their home. There are some very creepy, very atmospheric scenes here, where the tension is built and the emotions of the characters come through very strongly. Hermione Norris (who has often appeared on lists of possible future actors to portray the Doctor) was able to give life to some of her fellow characters with only a few well delivered lines.
Then we come to the big dilemma of the episode. The moon is an egg, within which is some sort of space dragon creature. If it hatches, it could kill everyone on earth, so is it right to kill the unborn fetus and save all of those lives? As pointed out by Whovian Feminism this could either be seen as an argument about abortion, or a ‘trolley problem’.
The baby space-dragon is floating in an egg in space; there is no pregnant creature whose bodily autonomy is potentially being violated. The moral question in “Kill the Moon” isn’t even over bodily autonomy. Essentially, it’s a Trolley Problem; the question is primarily about numbers and uncertainty. Clara isn’t sure it is right to kill the space-dragon, even if its hatching may kill millions more, and is especially uncertain because they simply do not know how many people it could kill.
The language used in the dialogue is what makes it sound a lot like the abortion debate, perhaps, with a lot of emphasis on the apparent ‘innocence’ of the space dragon, and Courtney referring to it as ‘just a little baby’.
Ultimately, the decision is made; Clara and Lundvik decide not to kill the creature and it hatches. But in the end it leaves behind another egg, apparently the same size as the one it hatched from… Which is, again, not particularly plausible even by Doctor Who standards.
Then we get to the part of the episode that I think was one of the finest moments in this series. Clara confronts the Doctor about his abandonment of the humans during this giant crisis and dilemma. The Doctor, turning a full 180 from his position in The Waters of Mars, had chosen to not try and control time or space, but let it play out. But there is more to it than that. The Doctor’s attitude this series has been incredibly negative, even poisonous at times and Clara finally calls him on it and makes him face up to the consequences of his actions.
The Doctor does often act as if he believes he is better than humanity, that he, as a Time Lord, is beyond the comprehension of ‘little humans’. Clara quite rightly reprimands him for this and I think you can see in his face that he is just starting to understand.
Next time we will take a look at ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, which was one of my personal favourites.