Review: DOCTOR WHO S8E07, Kill The Moon (Or, The Doctor Doesn't Decide)
Let's get straight to it. The idea that Doctor Who is weighing in with its thoughts on abortion and a woman's right to choose is surprising, to say the least. The episode uses the realisation that there's something going on with the moon to tell a story about how it's really an egg that's about to hatch.
The Doctor then leaves Clara, 15-year-old Courtney Woods (Ellis George) and the last surviving astronaut from a mission to save the moon (Hermione Norris) to decide whether the enormous creature growing inside the moon should live or die. It's rather unsubtle and a little heavy-handed - this is the abortion debate but on an oversized scale.
Of course, the fact that the moon disintegrating would put the world in danger gives the whole thing an interesting spin, but it's still really about those main issues of choice and responsibility. Does it manage to do this topic justice within its brief 45-minute running time? Almost. It seems like it wants to make a statement that it can't or won't commit to. "Kill The Moon" rushes about all over the place and lacks propulsive energy, but that doesn't mean it isn't still powerful and full of emotional weight. Throughout, Jenna Coleman turns in some of her best work as Clara so far, and she ultimately delivers the kind of moving and angry speech that most companions would probably like to have said to the Doctor.
If there's one aspect of Peter Capaldi's Doctor that doesn't make quite as much sense, though, it's how little he seems to care. It all kicks off after the episode's climax when Clara calls out the Doctor on his illogical and unfair behaviour, launching into her tirade by saying, "Tell me what you knew, Doctor, or else I'll smack you so hard, you'll regenerate." In many ways, Clara has been the star of this series, and her actions here show just how much the Doctor seems to have forgotten about people. We all know Doctor Who has "fixed points in time", but he's rarely appeared so uninvested in the future of humanity.
That the climax both sees the moon destroyed (as Clara decides not to kill off a creature that is moments away from being born) makes for a strong conclusion, and it's intriguing to see the Doctor tie this moment to humanity's renewed efforts to travel through space. It's a bit facile to see the old moon replaced with a new moon almost instantly, and that's really an example of how often the show likes to manufacture a happy ending without laying the groundwork for it. In any case, that it's followed by that magnificent rebuke from Clara ends the episode on a really compelling note, and it's great to see Danny there too, able to relate to her experiences and provide her with support.
"Kill The Moon" is an episode punctuated with moments of excellence. It's claustrophobic, uncertain and quiet. There's a scary tension to the spider-like bacteria crawling the surface of the moon and a palpable sense of suspense provided by Capaldi, the almost silent soundtrack and the dark atmospheric sets. All of this fear is needed as the show moves into debating difficult issues in its third act, something I don't think it manages to pull off when it comes down to it. It feels a little more like the show has the easy answers than it should, even if the process of discussing everything is engaging. A defining characteristic of Series 8 is its ability to take risks, and that ambitious streak is on display in what is another strong episode.