Doctor Who - “Kill the Moon” (Season 8, Episode 7) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “Kill the Moon” (Season 8, Episode 7) Recap/Analysis

(BBC America, Saturdays 9/8 Central)

Oct 07, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

Last week Doctor Who showed us how to build a story on emotional tension between three central characters. It worked, and together with another standout episode this season, "Listen," established The Doctor's relationship with Clara as a fully realized, developing drama. "Kill the Moon" moves that story further along with its most impactful scene yet, but unlike "Listen" and "The Caretaker," it was nearly dragged down in an otherwise unstable episode.

The Doctor and Clara take her student, Courtney Woods (Ellis George), to the moon so she can be the first woman to step onto its surface. While there, they meet astronaut Captain Lundvik (Hermione Norris) who plans to blow up the moon. The moon's gravity has increased significantly, causing tidal disruptions on Earth, and it's swarming with giant monster spiders. Turns out the monsters are just single-cell bacteria in a twist that certainly made Whovian biologists squirm, and the gravity is because the moon is actually a giant egg that's about to hatch. The Doctor then leaves the decision to kill the unborn alien up to the three women, Clara, Lundvik, and Courtney. The Doctor flies off in his TARDIS, Clara broadcasts a message to Earth, humanity votes to kill off the baby, but Clara stops them at the last minute. The Doctor returns just in time to save them, only to watch the egg hatch from Earth and the alien leaves a new moonsame size and mass as the one that just hatchedin its place. All is well, except that Clara's furious with The Doctor for taking off at such a crucial moment. The whole ordeal contains some of the series' most ridiculous plot twists, with elements that resemble specific episodes a little too closely ("Midnight," "The Waters of Mars," and "The Beast Below" just to name a few), with The Doctor's sudden and uncharacteristic departure serving as the real plot twist.

"Kill the Moon" sees the return of a character with so much potential (Courtney) that the show openly acknowledges it, but still doesn't know what to do with her. So, despite The Doctor and Clara's driving motivation to make her feel special, she still spends that majority of the action locked away in the TARDIS. There's also the glaring scientific errors, something the show can usually dismiss with some clever storytelling, but in this episode there just weren't enough tricks to keep the details from falling apart for anyone with even a basic understanding of high school science.

But let's not lose sight of what matters here. Clara's closing words with The Doctor are brutal, but spot on. It deconstructs The Doctor's whole fascination with humanity, and presses whether or not his altruistic intentions are completely moral. This episode questions the nature of the Time Lord, his perception of time, and whether he is capable of empathy at all. Of course, we've seen him prove otherwise, but Clara's rebuke rightly challenges his moral lesson as cold and demeaning. The series has often been criticized for sexism covered up with two-dimensional female companions, and though this scene wasn't completely meta it felt like an echo of self-awareness, and a big step in the right direction. Clara has been working toward rising to the level of integrity of The Doctor since Capaldi took over, and in this episode she clearly surpasses him and finds his faults too hurtful to shrug off as endearing; something she, or any other companion, would have certainly done if this was Matt Smith or David Tennant. But then, it is hard to imagine either of them making the same move as this Doctor.

The Doctor and Clara's conflict isn't the episode's only saving grace. Sometimes poorly thought out sci-fi can be glossed over with decent production, and this episode is a pretty good example. Again, like the rest of the season so far, the setting looks great and fortunately the monsters aren't focused on too much to distract from their silliness. It helps the episode remain watchablewhich really, it isbut only contributes to its overall unevenness. The story paces out remarkably well, so that only with a rewatch or second thought do its plotholes become cumbersome, and the parts that are good are really good. Most importantly, it leaves The Doctora seemingly omnipotent, godlike characterplenty of room to grow. (www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/)

Next week on Doctor Who:

 

Author rating: 6.5/10

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