So far the most interesting thing about this season of Doctor Who has been the reactions. They’ve ranged from overly enthusiastic to totally underwhelmed. Not unexpected with a show this popular. Opinions are bound to be divided. What interests me is the fact that my reactions have tended to be directly opposed to the majority. As the rest of the internet gleefully praises Deep Breath, Into the Dalek, and Listen, I’ve sighed. While my enthusiasm for Robot of Sherwood and The Caretaker is countered by their declaration of “meh”.
The trend continues with Kill The Moon. Social media was full of confused tweets and angry Facebook posts. Folks didn’t seem to enjoy it very much. Many compared it to some of the show’s weakest episodes such as “Fear Her.” My ears naturally perked up with interest. “The internet disagrees with the episode? Must watch!”
After watching it, I can see where the negativity stems from. There’s a lot here to make people unhappy. There were no real monsters. Everything felt confined to a single space. The scientist characters were uninteresting. A kid was present. The Doctor is untrustworthy. Clara is left confused, angry, betrayed, lost. Closure is just a seven letter word.
Kill The Moon is an episode that asks some big questions. Many of them are left up to the audience to answer. Was the Doctor right in what he did? Was he just being a bully? Does man blow things up and ask questions later because it’s too infantile to see past itself? Should we stop looking at ourselves and start looking up? These are the kinds of things science-fiction can delve into better than any other genre. I’ve said it before, sci-fi isn’t just about exploring the stars, it’s about exploring what it is to be human. And exploration doesn’t always result in answers, just the evidence to do with what you will.
The ending of the episode is an excellent example of how to leave things to be resolved in another episode. It’s the sort of thing Moffat used to be good at. Tell a contained story with elements to be carried over. We know why The Doctor takes Clara and Courtney to the moon. We know what the scientists are doing there. We even know what’s going on with the moon. What we don’t know is how this will affect The Doctor and Clara’s relationship. That is compelling drama. Showing us that something is lurking in the Tardis, suddenly introducing a core element of a character we’ve followed for 50years, having something hidden under a sheet, and cramming in pointless complexity to the plot is a lazy way of trying to keep the audience’s attention, and a poor way of telling a story. Kill The Moon tells a simple story with complex ideas and that will always be infinitely more interesting.
The episode was by no means perfect. Asking Earth to respond by turning all their lights off was pretty silly. What if there was a massive power outage and Clara mistook that as their answer? Courtney does come off as fairly pointless. She isn’t annoying, but she doesn’t really contribute much either. The scientists might as well have been wearing red shirts. The Doctor’s decision to bale felt forced at first, but the resulting conflict was engaging enough for it to work.
Visually the episode pulls off a lot. Trekking across the moon was cool. But the interiors were basically basements with flags hanging on the walls. The image of the characters standing on the beach watching the moon hatch was terrific. That is the kind of visual Doctor Who can get away with. It’s both ridiculous and beautiful.
Peter Capaldi seems to be him most Doctorly here. He’s funny, mean, wise, angry, and fascinated by the universe. Jenna Coleman does a solid job of portraying the fear that comes with having so much doubt in The Doctor. Samuel Anderson’s little scene made him feel completely real and human. And everyone else was just whatever.
A good episode. Not great. Not amazing. I’m not picking up pieces of my blown mind out of the carpet. I am however perfectly satisfied.