Doctor Who: 807 “Kill the Moon” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
< I’ve got to be honest I’m blown away at how good Doctor Who has been this year. I mean it has been at the top of its game. Peter Capaldi has owned the part and thrived over and over again as he shows the world that he was born to play his childhood dream. On top of that the quality of the stories has been top notch with great reoccurring and new writers along with the fact that Steven Moffat’s vision ceases to amaze. ‘Kill the Moon’ really did demonstrate just how alien the Doctor can be and how vulnerable the companion can be when the Doctor isn’t there to tell them what to do. It’s always been that ye-olde custom since day one that the companion is there to support the Doctor and help him in every way possible, with asking questions and screaming being the most notable traits they carried. Though to give the companion due credit they have always had a voice and been there to tell the Doctor off for going too far and through this grant the Time Lord some ground rules to follow. For Clara this week she was given the enormous job of dealing with a situation without the Doctor’s supervision. It was a tragic moment in a sense because the Doctor was literally declaring that he wasn’t getting involved and that Clara was on her own. Moving away from Clara’s abandonment for a moment, let’s talk about the atmosphere that newbie writer Peter Harness created within the episode. My god was it brilliant. It really did feel dark and above all tense. Within the first half of the story I was literally on edge as to what would happen. The music, the lighting, the direction of the scenes slowly pulled you into danger. The tension grew on you as certain information got given to you which quickly brought into the notion of ‘something is really wrong with this picture’. The subtle references of a Mexican team gone silent ten years prior and that the Moon is collapsing, causing tidal disturbances on a global scale. On top of that is the image that the Moon’s destruction will cause the end of the Earth. A lot of tension was riding on this episode’s back and it made me watch with anticipation, scared as to what would happen next. The first bulk of tension was derived from horror whilst the second wave was down to share shock caused by the Doctor’s absence. Whilst the Doctor is around you feel safe watching the characters onscreen (at least more so) but when he’s gone you don’t know what’s going to happen. The spiders added a creepy factor into the story. It’s their mere design and presence, a primal fear that most humans suffer with. People will tell you that spiders can’t harm you, that their size makes them a joke to be scared of and that we who fear them are irrational within our fears of them. But what it most comes down to is their sudden nature. Their long spindly legs as they sweep across the floor, seen through the corner of your eyes in a dark room. That is what makes them scary. Peter Harness did well at using this to make this tiny foe a true threat beyond the screen. I for one was scared by them and was crept out to the max. What made these buggers worse was the fact that they literally could harm you and killed you in a gruesome fashion. What got me most about these creepy-crawlies was the noise they made every time they made a scuttle across the floors and walls. It’s the kind of noise you don’t want to hear when you’re on your own. The freakiest thing was their ability to leap through the air at their victims. The thought of one of those things clinging to my face is just terrifying. They are without a doubt nightmare fuel and I can definitely see why the time-slot for Doctor Who is getting later and later. The episodes are just getting scarier for the children, which is a good thing really. Scares define children and make them want to come back for more and Doctor Who can do this well when written correctly. It also gives something engaging for the adults and allows them to soak in a more mature atmosphere. I’m not saying light-hearted entertainment is bad and Doctor Who can be fun when it’s more family orientated but as showcased throughout its long legacy, Doctor Who benefits from a darker era from time to time. I of course point to the Robert Holmes/Philip Hinchcliffe era which in my eyes held a ton of masterpieces within the show’s long history. ‘Kill the Moon’ shared traits from that era as with a lot of the episodes in this series. Steven Moffat has abandoned his fairy-tale routes displayed within Matt Smith’s era and moved into a new direction which I feel is a great move. It shows he can change his own format to suite a changing audience and direction within the living embodiment of the show, its ever-growing evolution. This isn’t just a new era, it’s a new beginning. The Doctor’s character has been the most interesting spectacle of Series Eight and to be fair to Moffat, he did warn us about his intentions with Capaldi’s portrayal. It’s one of those things that you can’t grasp an understanding of until you’ve actually seen it for yourself. Even now we’re still learning about Twelfth’s character and understanding what motivates him. Once again his harsh inhuman side took centre stage at the very start of the story as he failed to understand how he made Courtney feel after telling her essentially she is worthless in the grand scheme of things. Telling a teenager in this day-in-age they’re worthless can have dangerous affects on their lifestyle, attacking them deep within in an emotional way. As a teacher Clara tried to get this across to the Doctor as firmly as possible, especially since she could see the growing affect of the Doctor’s words poison Courtney’s disruptive behaviour further. Luckily the Doctor was persuaded to take responsibility over this situation and offered Courtney a trip into the TARDIS. Though in itself that was perhaps the most irresponsible thing to do as the Doctor’s adventures are dangerous and he could potentially be leading an innocent child into potential harm, which he did – again. To be fair on Courtney’s character, like I said in last week’s review, she is a good addition. She has layers of character and each was explored within the story. Yes she had moments of being an annoying modern-day teenager asking for stupid things but for the most part showed off depth. Excitement was the first characterisation which was truly natural given her circumstance of being on the Moon. I even loved how she bought travel-sickness pills so that she didn’t vomit on the TARDIS again. Then we got fear when the spiders showed up, with the extremely tense moment of her nearly being killed by one. I was literally on the edge of my seat during that segment. This was probably down to the fact that I thought the Doctor’s promised dark decision revolved around Courtney, with her potentially dying or poisoned by one of the spiders. Luckily that didn’t happen as it would’ve been a massive shame. Yes I will admit it would’ve been a massive shock that would develop a lot of discussions but fundamentally it would’ve been too tragic and placed the Doctor in too much of a dark territory. Due to the fear of the situation, Courtney requested to leave which was surprising because she seemed like one of those typical teenagers who doesn’t admit to fear. But no, she put her hands up and wanted to leave because things had become too tense. It showed she was sensible and understood morals, unlike Angie from last year. The whole disruptive thing makes you wonder if she does it for attention; that maybe there’s more to her character than what first meets the eye. She at first came across as a bratty, bullying teenager but then quickly mellowed out to show a new layer to her character, opening up depth to explore. ‘Kill the Moon’ really did that with great care I think and I really came to like her character and hope she comes back. The second stage to her character was caring. As soon as it was revealed, by bizarre circumstances, the Moon was really an egg that held a large creature inside Courtney became an onboard character who wanted to do everything in her power to accomplish what was right. Her goal was to save the creature at all cost and constantly questioned the actions of Lundvik, claiming the unborn creature deserved life. Lundvik was an interesting character in the sense that she was utterly bleak and lost all sense of adventure within her being which really contrasted against her profession as an astronaut. Her resolve from the very beginning was to destroy the Moon by whatever means necessary, showcasing a sign of honour in a very backwards way to the point she wanted to die staring out into space. The speech about believing the stars to be dead and the thin atmosphere was the only thing holding her from death was quite gothic and grim, a very satire way of looking at life beyond the stars. It was great to see that in the end her character was proved wrong and her direction would’ve caused damage within the course of history. Perhaps the glory of the resolution was that her character may finally see reason again and spark back some adventure within her heart. Back to the Doctor’s abandoning. The Doctor suddenly deciding to leave the fate of the Moon and Earth in Clara’s hands was just shocking to say the least. Such a weight to be left on her was just inconceivable and made you wonder what the Doctor was thinking. He ran away like some child and expected everyone else to clean up the mess he brought them into just because it wasn’t his problem. Clara as ever proved that she could use her head to try and get everyone out of the mess they were in but you did feel the pressure lay on her shoulders as she began to panic. For once she was out of her comfort zone because the Doctor wasn’t there for her and she didn’t actually know whether he would come back for her. It’s naturally thought that when she did her grand speech to Earth that they would be inclined to help, even if it was just a little over half of the population that said yes. Then you’re shocked to see that as the clock ticks down Earth abandons Clara as well as she is literally left alone with the responsibility of allowing her student to be killed by the Doctor’s unthinking lifestyle. Cutting it too fine the Doctor returns to show everyone that the hatching of the Moon wouldn’t cause the end of the Earth and that it would poetically make humanity accomplish their desire to travel amongst the stars, beginning the journey that has been seen in Doctor Who for decades. What ended the episode so perfectly was Clara’s unleashing of anger at the Doctor. The scene was so tense and emotional. We’ve never seen Clara so angry at the Doctor before, never so frightened by his behaviour to a point that she doesn’t know who he is anymore. It reflected back to her reactions of him in ‘Deep Breath’ only this more reflected upon his character in general. I like to think regeneration opens different doors to different segments of the Doctor's brain, with different characterisation and moods taken hold each time he changes, causing the in-balance in how he operates but not him as a person. It’s simply a different side to his personality. This time he has crossed the line in how he sees and does things. The look on the Doctor’s face seemed that of sadness but he didn’t necessarily understand what he had done. In his eyes he’d done good in allowing Clara to stand on her own feet and make the right decision as he knew she would. But this is not something that is the norm nor is it something one would appreciate. The Doctor has simply become too alien to understand and Clara is in need to leave him before things go too far. Upon Danny’s entrance at the end you are reminded by his words from the end of ‘The Caretaker’ and know the Doctor has asked too much of Clara. I have to give Jenna Coleman credit for that scene because she really did spill her heart and gave it that extra touch. ‘Kill the Moon’ was a brilliant addition to Series Eight and really put a dint in the dynamic of the current show, pushing things forward to exciting and challenging directions to which I can’t wait to see how they are played out. To me this was a perfect representation of Doctor Who which I hope gets considered as a ‘Classic’. Verdict: 10/10