TV Review // Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 7: "Kill The Moon"
Warning: contains spoilers!
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Ellis George, Hermione Norris
Written by: Peter Harness
Directed by: Peter Wilmshurst
The Story: In 2049 there is something very wrong with the moon and it’s causing the Earth to die. Can the Doctor, Clara and Courtney help a cobbled-together crew help to save the Earth? Oh, and there’s spiders. On the Moon. MASSIVE EFFIN SPIDERS!
Well, the first thing we’d like to do after watching Kill The Moon is take writer Peter Harness down the pub and buy him a well earned tipple. Harness has given us a story that oozes menace; it asks some genuinely disturbing questions, loses our ‘hero’ just when we need him most. And it’s got those effin big spiders!
Kill The Moon also oozes class. Director Peter Wilmshurst does Harness’s wonderful script justice as he turns Lanzarote into a blasted Moonscape and he gives us those spiders (germs, if you’re being pedantic) in a way that would pretty much instil a fear of arachnids where there never was one. Wilmshurst does some very nifty camera work, with some terrifying point-of-view shots that up the ante in terms of terror. There’s some impressively frightening shots from a helmet-cam and even a spider-cam.
Adding to the class is the acting from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as companion, Clara. Here at SRCZ we’ve banged on about how much we’ve loved the relationship between the Doctor and Clara in this series and what we get in Kill The Moon is nothing short of spellbinding. Capaldi’s transformation into cold, logical...dare we say cynical...alien is complete and his unpredictability reaches new levels as he naffs off just when you’d expect previous incarnations of the Doctor to step up and save the day with a waft of a sonic screwdriver.
And let’s not dare miss out Jenna Coleman, who literally makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with her hurt and her rage at the Doctor’s action, or lack of it, and the terrible decision she’s forced to make. It’s astonishing stuff.
Which leads us to the actual story of Kill The Moon. In 2049 the moon has gained weight. So much weight that it’s cracking apart. A crew from Earth led by Lundvik (a top-notch Hermione Norris) has set out ten years after the crew of a Mexican moon base disappeared in a last broadcast of screams. Lundvik and her crew have also, by the way, brought along 100 nuclear bombs to destroy the moon with.
Meanwhile in the present day, the Doctor is in trouble with Clara for having told troublesome teen Courtney that she’s not special. The Doctor takes the two along to the moon, so that Courtney can become the first woman on it, which would make her pretty special indeed.
And so our two crews meet on a blasted moon that’s cracking apart and infested with huge and terrifying spider/germ things. Wilmshurst’s work as the spiders attack the moon base is incredible and quite rightly brings to mind the Alien films and even the Shelob scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And all of this on a BBC budget. The scurrying, squealing spider sound effects add to the terror as does the impeccable score from Murray Gold.
Lundvik’s crew is seen off pretty quickly as we discover that the moon is actually a gigantic egg that’s about to give birth to an entirely new life form. Which leaves the big question. To allow the new life form to live, which means certain death for the population of Earth. Or to kill a unique and unborn creature to save the Earth. Clara insists that the Doctor must know how it all turns out, but the Doctor is equally certain that nothing in this is certain. That it must be allowed to unfold. Whether he really believes this is not allowed to matter as he naffs off in the TARDIS leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to decide.
It’s one of the great ambiguities of this Doctor that we have no idea whether his action (or lack of) is cruel, pragmatic, trusting. Or all of the above. Or none of them.
What we do know is that he does leave the three women aboard a dead space station to make a horrifying choice. Who to kill? Clara manages to make a last, desperate broadcast to the people of Earth. If you want to live, turn out your lights. The women watch as the lights go out and the Earth is in darkness. As the timer is aborted, James Bond style, at the last minute, the TARDIS appears and the Doctor whisks our women away in the nick of time.
What follows is some of the most impressive work we’ve seen in this series. The moon hatches into a beautiful creature, which promptly lays a whole new moon! We learn from the Doctor that it is this which inspires humanity to spread itself across the stars and the Universe. This is brave and impressive writing from our new-to-Who scribe.
Back on the TARDIS and far from any cosy “Well, that turned out ok” backslapping, a furious Clara demands the Doctor tell her how much he knew. Saying that he knew she’d always make the best choice, the Doctor is ill-prepared for Clara’s rage at the position he put her in. Telling him to clear off...and for good...Clara leaves the TARDIS for her other life filled with anger (and with echoes of Danny’s warning to her clanging around the viewer’s head). Danny, astute and understanding, recognises in Clara the feelings he had when he left the army.
Where this leaves the Doctor and Clara’s relationship is entirely unclear as the episode ends with Clara staring up at the moon.
Did you know? This isn’t the first time the Doctor has said “The Earth isn’t my home” to a companion. The fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) said the same to Sarah Jane Smith in Pyramids of Mars.
Questions, questions, questions? Does Courtney really become the President of the United States? If, so, how is it that the Doctor doesn’t recognise her?
Best Line: “Why have you got nuclear bombs? No no, easier question. Whats wrong with my yo-yo?”
Insult of the Week: Doctor: “What are you? 35?”
Courtney: “I’m 15”
Fan-pleasing moments: The Doctor with a yo-yo, orange space suits, a Vortex manipulator