New Who Review: “Kill the Moon”

It’s the classic time travel question – would you kill a dangerous killer in their crib, before they’ve actually done anything?  Well, what is you weren’t sure the baby was going to do anything?  What if you were asked to…

By  Peter Harness
Directed by Paul Whilmshurst

Clara speaks to the entire Earth – they run the risk of the Earth being destroyed if they don’t kill an innocent being.  “The man who normally helps” is nowhere to be found, and a decision must be made.  Flashing backwards, we learn that Coal Hill student Courtney Woods has not reacted well to her brief run on the TARDIS.  The Doctor told her she “wasn’t special”, a comment she’s taken to heart.  Clara asks him to apologize; he instead offers her a chance to be the first woman on the Moon.

Alas, all is not well there.  In 2049, the moon has mysteriously gained 1.3 billion tons of extra mass, causing staggering tides on Earth.  It turns out the moon is something altogether new to The Doctor’s eyes, and rather than help…he walks away.

This was a very dark episode with a bright ending, only to reveal that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.  I expect we’ll see this story used in argument for certain social issue quite soon now.  Fabulous performances all round.

GUEST STAR REPORT – Hermione Norris (Lundvik) is well known to British audiences for many regular TV appearances in series like Spooks and Cold Feet.

Tony Osoba (Duke) – is one of a smallish group of actors who’s appeared in both the new and original run of the series.  He had roles in both Destiny of the Daleks and some years later in Dragonfire.

Paul Whilmshurst (director) will be back next week, and will be directing the Christmas episode.  He has a long resume of TV directing, both drama and reality/documentary.

Peter Harness (writer) has been writing for British television for nearly a decade now.  He wrote and appeared in a TV movie about British comedy legend Frankie Howerd, who was played by Who-lumnus David Walliams.

THE MONSTER FILESThe Moon has been the setting of many Who adventures over the decades. It first threatened the Earth millions of years ago, where the dominant life form of the Earth, who would come to be known as Silurians, feared a monstrous asteroid would crash into the planet.  They set themselves up in massive hibernation cities to sleep through the disaster, only for the heavenly body to be trapped by the Earth’s gravity and become the Moon.  That change to the delicate balance of the orbital mechanics of the solar system was enough to allow the planet Mondas to break free of its orbit, returning millennia later as The Tenth Planet.  There have been many bases on the Moon, built and manned by both human and alien forces.  The Cybermen tried to attack one in an appropriately titled episode.  It would be used as a penal colony, house River Song’s alma mater, and eventually, we’d haul in four more for additional real estate.  Needless to say, there’s never been any mention of it hatching a titanic alien and leaving another one in its place, but that’s the sort of thing that gets forgotten when you’re trying to fight off Draconians.

Doctor Who has had its share of spiders as well, even if in this case they’re just bacteria that resemble spiders, by some mad coincidence.  Brought with human explorers in the future, spiders would evolve to control the world of Metebelis III, eventually known as the Planet of the Spiders.  The Racnoss were a semi-arachnid race who planned an overthrow of the world, stopped by the able assistance of The Runaway Bride.


SET PIECES – Rather than go for the old reliable stone quarry, the production team traveled to Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands off Africa, to duplicate the surface of the Moon.  It was last used in the Davison adventure Planet of Fire.

I WEAR THE CLOTHES OF THE REGENERATED – Capaldi is wearing David Tennant’s spacesuit from The Satan Pit, a suit which is rapidly becoming the most recycled prop on the show, gaining on that rock used on almost every alien planet in the classic series.

“No being sick and no hanky-panky” – Considering the last time there was…you know, what-not… on the TARDIS, it resulted in River Song, a clear example of a result which caused both happiness and hardship.

“You’ll have to spend a lot of time, shooting me, because I will keep on regenerating” – The Doctor may be bluffing when says he might keep on regenerating forever – he made a similar comment on The Sarah Jane Adventures when he was asked how many times he could do it.  But the new energy infusion given him by the Time Lords is something new – it’s not known if it was enough for one, a whole new cycle of twelve, or a potentially infinite number.

“What is wrong with my yo-yo?” – The Doctor used a yo-yo to test gravity force during the Baker years, with the same color yo-yo, yet.  I’ve mentioned before that this Doctor is using more gadgets, large and small, to get things done, not just relying on the Sonic Screwdriver, a change I love campaigned for.

“That’s what you do with aliens, isn’t it? Blow them up?” It’s not The Doctor’s primary method, but it’s come up a couple times.  Prime Minister Harriet Jones, (Yes, we know who you are) contacted Torchwood to destroy the retreating Sycorax spaceship at the end of The Christmas Invasion.  And after Leela recommended it the whole time, The Doctor suddenly “came up with the idea” of blowing up The Invisible Enemy.

“High tide everywhere at once” – Well, no. It’d be tides far higher than normal for parts of the Earth both facing and pointed away from the moon, and calamitous low tides at the sides.

“When I say run…run” – So much fun to see bits of the old Doctors pop up again. That was one of the second Doctor’s catch phrases, like in this clip from Tomb of the Cybermen.

“There are some moments in time that I simply can’t see” This is a new take on the old reliable “Fixed Point”, where crucial points in history exist, chronal tipping points that cannot be changed.  But here, rather than just walking away, here he forces three humans to make a choice that will damn the world, either physically, or by making them party to genocide.

“My Gran used to put things on tumblr” There actually is a girl named Courtney Woods with an account on tumblr, and I expect she’s getting an amazing increase in traffic right now.  The Doctor Who tumblr community is amazingly vast and creative, featuring animation, art and filk music.  It’s neat we’re finally getting a shout out.

“The last time you said that, she turned up on the wrong side of the planet!” – Clara is referring to the events of Cold War, where the TARDIS popped off to the south pole because The Doctor turned on the HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System.

“There’s some DVDs in the blue bookshelf – just stinck on in the TARDIS console, it’ll bring you to me” There are exactly seventeen DVD titles containing the program that will automatically return the TARDIS to The Doctor’s location.  They are the seventeen DVDs owned by Sally Sparrow, as revealed in the classic Blink.

“We didn’t nip out after pudding and kill Hitler” River Song, or rather Mels certainly tried that one time.

“Turn your lights off” – Real world physics get in the way here. Luckily, when they see the moon from Earth at the end of the episode, it’s full, which means it’d be behind the Earth. That’s backed up by the fact that the Moon is fully lit throughout the episode. This means when they were looking at the Earth, they’d be looking at the side in night   If they were on the other side, they’d never be able to see the lights. But unless my math is wrong, 45 minutes is not close to enough time for the light-up votes of the entire Earth to be seen – only an additional sliver of the Earth’s circumference would com around.

“Mind your language, please – there are children present” I count one child. Whoever could The Doctor be referring to in the plural? Patronizing, indeed.

“You made your decision…humanity made its choice” Assuming the vote is the same on the bright side, the Earth chose to kill a beautiful and innocent creature to save themselves.  That’s more than a bit similar to the choice the denizens of Britain made when they built the Starship UK in The Beast Below. Considering they made themselves all forget they did it then, maybe that’s a viable explanation why it’s so rarely mentioned in future history.

“Not bad for a girl from Coal Hill School” I for one am perfectly ready for Courtney Woods to come on full time as a companion.  We’re seeing her make a massive change in just these two episodes.  She’s not well educated, she’s an average kid.  And as such is a more perfect avatar for the viewer than any of the adult companions we’ve seen in the entire new series.  Companions are often younger in the comics for that reason. It’s likely the extra issues of a minor working on a TV show, especially one as intensive as Doctor Who that precludes such a casting choice, but for a girl for this this is her first professional acting job, Ellis George is more than up for it.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Clara’s arc is once again the only one furthered this week.  The blowout argument with The Doctor, combined with the heart-to-heart with Danny, certainly points towards a change of affiliation in the future.

“It’s time to take the stabilizers off your bike” there may be two levels of action happening here.  The Doctor is forcing Clara to make a staggering decision.  He is also causing a rift in their relationship.  What are the odds that this is another attempt to push Clara to safety?  It’s plainly obvious that Clara will do everything in her power to help The Doctor – she hung onto the outside of the TARDIS for an eyes-open trip through the time vortex in The Time of the Doctor. She’s already spent an unknown amount of time racing through his timeline, fixing what The Great Intelligence set wrong.  Perhaps he knows she deserves a rest, and knows the only way she’d leave is if he all but pushes her away.  As here, The Doctor is forcing Clara to make a massive choice.

“You wanna have babies?” Courtney’s teasing mention of Danny is spot on.  Assuming he’s not something Clever and surprising from Moffat’s dark evil heart, the budding relationship between Danny and Clara is almost a certainty.  There’s not much that could stop it – death, perhaps, or as mentioned, an inability to leave The Doctor.

“I’ve got Grey areas” “Yeah, I noticed” It sure sounds like a hair joke, but on further rumination, it’s pretty clear Clara is talking about the grey areas in The Doctor’s personality.  This is an extension of that first question – “Am I a good man?”

Clara Doctor copperfield
That’s the quote from David Copperfield on Clara’s board. Once again, the choices of quotes Clara selects are amazingly prescient.

“I had a really bad day” – Yes, there’s absolutely a very big story to be told here, and there’s still a chance it may not be a good one for Clara and their relationship.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – The Doctor tests the little grey cells.  Mummy on the Orient Express, coming this Saturday.