Doctor Who: A Writer Completely Disses Moffat on His Own Show
There really isn't any point in discussing my opinion of "Kill the Moon" without spoilers, so here's your warning. Nothing but spoilers follows because I honestly believe the granddaddy of "taking the piss out of your boss" must be discussed with all the tools on the table. First-time Doctor Who writer Peter Harness didn't write an episode, he wrote a backhand.
Before I get to the spoilers, here's a few things I keep forgetting to mention I love about Series 8. The Tardis interior? Love it! For the first time in the revived series, it actually feels like a place you'd want to hang out. The new opening? Perfect, and I'm so glad the BBC took my advice. Peter Capaldi himself? Wonderful man, though I think he should apologize to the wardrobe department for whatever he said that made them put him in my mom's blouse this week.
Overall, I liked "Kill the Moon." I'm a fan of countdown stories, with "42" being one of my favorite episodes. The same shtick is used here, and it keeps the action tight. The monsters were completely terrifying, sort of like the second act of Cloverfield in space. Capaldi himself has some great Doctor moments; near the end he stands and narrates as he feels the course of time alter in front of him...it's the sort of ancient, godlike unknowableness that I haven't witnessed since Eight was first lost in the divergent universe in "Scherzo." It was chilling and terrifying to behold, and a grand reminder that The Doctor is far more than he ever appears to be.
Now, on to the spoilers.
"Kill the Moon" is essentially one long abortion story. I mean that literally. Earth's moon is actually an egg incubating life, and humanity has to decide whether to kill it and continue life on Earth unchanged or let it live and deal with the possibilities of that choice.
To be fair, I don't think Peter Harness was actively taking a pro-choice or pro-life stance with this. The metaphor is heavy-handed, but the actual result is largely unimportant. What matters is that abortion, whether to give birth or not, is primarily a women's issue.
Don't believe me? Well, let's look at it this way. Before the halfway mark on the episode is reached, the entire male cast has disappeared. Our non-Tardis crew cast is a four-person team led by Captain Lundvik, who is the only female. Her compatriots are all immediately eaten by moon germ-spiders, leaving her with only The Doctor, Clara and Courtney Woods for help.
Except The Doctor (Note the double entendre) dives into a black, gaping crack and then buggers off seconds after returning with the diagnosis that the moon is pregnant with a large, unknown organism. He says that the decision of what to do with it now rests with Courtney, Clara and Lundvik. I believe his exact words are, "in the hands of womankind."
There's that focus on femininity again. Lundvik even sharply corrects The Doctor when he assumes that the President of the United States is a man in 2049. Seconds later he disappears into the Tardis to leave the three women debating what they shall do with all the lovely nuclear bombs they brought to blow up the moon.
A lot of critics think that showrunner Steven Moffat has a problem writing women. I'm one of them. Aside from Madame Vastra, who I should point out is gay and therefore not interested in men, Moffat's female characters rarely pass the Bechdel Test. As his time goes, he simply cannot seem to fathom the idea of having a woman whose sole purpose isn't pleasing/winning the affections of/impressing/being willing to die for The Doctor. There are bright spots early in his writing career like "Blink" and "The Empty Child," but Series 8 has seen exactly zero that I recall.
I think that Harness sees this, and was using the script of "Kill the Moon" to bring it to light. Note, for instance, how he very slyly references "Blink" when The Doctor tells Courtney to put in a DVD to find him after he and the Tardis are separated. That was also the episode in which Martha mentioned she and the Tenth Doctor had seen the moon landing in person, something Twelve makes a joke about as Courtney steps out onto the surface.
So there we are...a life-or-death choice in the hands of three women representing the acme of female empowerment; Maiden (The teenage Courtney), Mother (Clara, who has been a nanny and says she wants kids in the episode) and Crone (Lundvik says she has no children). In the end they decide to let the moon hatch, an act that further drives home the abortion metaphor by saying the explosion was "aborted".
That's when The Doctor comes waltzing back in, gets them away in the Tardis and tells the three women how proud he is that they made this decision. They watch the moon hatch and birth a new, harmless life form that inspires humanity to take to the stars and start their march towards empire. It's a glorious moment that he was sure would happen because he had absolute faith in Clara to make the right decision.
For this, she threatens to slap him so hard that he will regenerate.
Normally I'm opposed to when it becomes The Clara Show, but here it was dead on the money. Clara cuts down The Doctor, claiming that he knew exactly what was at the heart of the moon and could have told them at any time that it wasn't dangerous, an act that would have removed the whole reason for the debate in the first place. Maybe Twelve was remembering the death ray of Harriet Jones and how it destroyed the Sycorax, but to Clara that's not how it felt.
She makes it clear that he is part of Earth now. He breathes our air and travels with our sons and daughters. The moon was his moon as much as anyone else's, and yet he left the life hanging in the balance just so he could pat Clara on the head for finally taking the training wheels off her bicycle.
It was condescending, patronizing, borderline psychotic, and most of all wrong. It was Four tricking Leela into thinking that her playing with a yo-yo was important to keep her from bothering him, something else nodded at in this episode. It was The Doctor's newfound, and rather irritating arrogance towards those around him, especially women, that needed exactly the sort of dressing down Clara gave him before telling him to leave and to not come back.
It was a message, I think, to the brilliant man who has helped make the revived Doctor Who great, but at a price. It says, "Mr. Moffat, either learn to trust the women to stand with The Doctor on equal footing or leave this to others." I truly believe that Peter Harness is so subtle this message slipped through.
Oh, by the by, the moon survives. The new creature immediately lays another moon egg. That's good because this episode takes place in 2049 and the Second Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie have an adventure on that same moon in 2070 and I was kind of wondering how the hell they were going to resolve that. So everything is back to normal.
Never mind that better minds than me have pointed out the completely unscientific nature of this entire episode. To me it's just one more nod to the way Moffat has been known to fudge the details and leave everything to wibbly wobbly timey wimey to resolve the gaping holes in his plots. Justin Harness shone a light on all that needs to change in the show.
Does the make me happy, being many of the things I've myself said previously? Hell NO! I don't want a self-referential, self-aware Doctor Who. Fun looks at the classic series are one thing, but active commentary on the state of the current one is quite another. I don't want scripts that poke fun of ongoing tropes, I want those tropes addressed in new scripts.
"Kill the Moon" was alright, even enjoyable. However, more and more the show seems to suffer from a kind of idea fatigue. The fact that it seems so keen on looking backwards this season isn't helping that.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.