Doctor Who episode 823: Kill the Moon (4/10/2014)

‘That was me allowing you to make a choice about your own future.’ The one where the Doctor condescends to allow Clara to make a Day of the Doctor (or perhaps Genesis of the Daleks) choice of the lesser of two evils. The Moon is disintegrating, the Earth is in chaos, giant spider germs are swarming across the lunar surface consuming the astronauts sent to destroy the Moon before it destroys the world, and the Doctor, Clara and Courtney have dropped in for a school outing.

I’ve seen it suggested that Peter Harness thought he was writing a fantasy version of the old trolley problem with a star dragon and had no idea this could be read as an abortion metaphor. If that’s so, it’s a remarkable oversight. There’s a sonic scan showing the embryonic creature; the Doctor talking about a ‘little dead baby’, Courtney pleading, ‘it’s a little baby’ and Clara stating ‘you cannot blame a baby for kicking’. When Clara halts the nuclear countdown, in block caps. the display says ‘ABORTED’. The abortion stuff strikes me as being about as accidental as the ISIS imagery in The Zygon Invasion.

I don’t believe there are topics that the series should never touch – this skirts around the Doctor’s attitude to Nazism – but if you go there you ought not to shy away from the implications. The episode gets it right when it positions this as a difficult, distressing decision for the women, but fails by suggesting Lundvik is the only one morally suspect enough to kill the moon because ‘I don’t have any kids’ and she has no plans to. I fear this plays out one-sidedly, with all the emotive language about babies and a consequence-free conclusion where Lundvik admits she was wrong, and the space baby flaps off and lays another moon in precisely the same position. Kill the Moon positions the choice as (as Clara puts it) ‘kill a baby’ versus ‘the chick flies away’.

Or maybe it is all just inadvertent, and Harness just wanted to tell a story about human fear of the unknown or the unlike. I can totally buy the inspiration for this story was looking up into the sky and wondering, “what if the Moon were really an egg?” It still could have done without the Doctor forcing Clara into his shoes, on a whim. Like Clara, I’ve been warming to the 12th Doctor over the past few episodes. He even gets a great hero moment early in this episode as he leaps inside the Moon to investigate. But then he walks out on his best friend when she’s been asked to make a terrible choice. That isn’t kind, that’s not the Doctor (or at least, not outside of the New Adventures). I watch this episode, and I agree with Lundvik: ‘what a prat.’

Next Time: Mummy on the Orient Express


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