Still a little skittish after last night's new episode of Doctor Who? No? Really?
Well it is a day later and I suppose you've had a chance to get over
ALIEN ATTACK SPIDERS!!!!!
Oh, you are still a little jumpy, huh?
However, the presence of
ALIEN ATTACK SPIDERS!!!!!
may have been only the second most startling thing in the episode.
Joe Scott at Geeksboro Coffeehouse warned me, "This is going to be a game changer."
So we're going to look at Kill the Moon, the latest episode of Doctor Who Series 8 after the spoiler warning.
The episode begins with a cold open of Clara Oswald beseeching the people of Earth that there is a decision to be made with the life of an innocent and the safety of a planet at stake. What's going on here?
The story proper starts in the present at Coal Hill School where Clara is rather cross with the Doctor for telling Courtney Woods (AKA, "Disruptive Influence") she's not special. Courtney is waiting in the TARDIS (she's a companion now?) when the Doctor decides that Courtney will be the first woman on the moon. But instead of just going 93 million miles straight up, the Doctor also goes 35 years into the future.
There the Doctor, Clara and Courtney encounter a refitted space shuttle crashing onto the surface of the moon, a shuttle with three astronauts and a butt load of nuclear weapons. The problem? The moon as gained weight, about an extra 1.3 billion tons and its throwing stuff on Earth into chaos with city-smashing tidal waves that threaten to destroy the Earth.
An analysis of the situation shows that the moon is breaking apart. It also disgorges an
ALIEN ATTACK SPIDER!!!!!
which kills an astronaut before Courtney takes it out with a bottle of bacterial cleaner. Yeah, the spider is not a spider but a really, really, REALLY large (and very scary) bacterium. Don't mourn for our mutant bacterium creature; there are more. A lot more, just under the surface of the moon, millions and millions of mutated bacteria but I still call them...
ALIEN ATTACK SPIDERS!!!!!
One of these creatures has killed another astronaut leaving only the mission commander, Captain Lundvick, to carry out the ultimate sanction, to set off the nuclear payload that will obliterate the moon before it can fall part and rain down in chunks on the Earth in a super sized extinction event. But the Doctor delivers a surprising bit of news: the moon is an egg and it's not breaking apart, it's hatching.
Yep, at the center of the moon is an alien life form. So saving the Earth would mean killing an innocent life form; allow the life form to live would jeopardize the Earth.
It's a hard decision but the Doctor is not the one to make it. Citing that this is a moment in time that he cannot see beyond, he declares this is a decision that needs to be made by humans, not him. So he pops off in his TARDIS, leaving Clara, Courtney & Lundvick to grapple with this on their own.
A chance to communicate with Earth puts the decision in the hands of the people of the world. The world decides that the moon...egg...whatever, it needs to go.
But at the last second, Clara stops the nuclear weapons from being set off. Then the TARDIS appears; the Doctor has returned to take Clara, Courtney and Lundvick back to Earth. There they witness the end of the moon. But it doesn't break into dangerous chunks but instead disintegrates into dust as the alien life form, a space dragon (yes, a space dragon!) comes to life. Before beginning it's journey, the space dragon lays another egg. The Earth once more has a moon. Meanwhile the Doctor reveals that this moment was a key moment in the development of humanity. Humans were inspired to go out into the stars once more after decades of playing it safe on the edges of the atmosphere.
So the alien life form is saved. the Earth is saved as well as its bright and shining destiny.
No, no yet. Because Clara is furious with the Doctor, his recklessness, his dismissive attitude towards humanity and his blatant disregard to leave Clara in such an impossibly stressful quandary as deciding the fate of the planet Earth. So Clara tells the Doctor to go away and don't come back. And Clara leaves.
NOW the end.
Wow! This is one hell of an episode and I mean that in a good AND a bad way.
Let's deal with the elephant in the room, the moon-sized elephant: yes, there is some seriously dodgy science going on here. The moon abruptly gains weight? Because there's a gestating baby dragon in the center about to be born? Yet the moon is actually an egg that's been there for millions of years. Because of the extra weight, the moon has normal Earth-like gravity. Yet gravity is lost in one room when the weight shifts. The weight is still there. Why would shifting it turn off the gravity? And why is that effect localized to one room?
And to go along with the dodgy science is some rather shaky morality. Clara Oswald overrides the decision of the entire planet to save whatever is living in the egg. (Well, the part of the planet that was on the night side.) There are more than a few passing similarities to The Beast Below. The fate of an alien creatures vs. the fate of a very large group of people. In that episode, Amy makes a similar decision to Clara's.
But Amy was taking in bits and pieces of information over the course of the episode; her decision was reckless and in defiance of the larger population but it was more or less an informed decision. Here Clara elects to save the baby about to hatch with only a feeling that to do otherwise would be wrong.
It turns out to be the right decision but there was no information that Clara could either know or even intuit that would tell her it was a right decision. There was no way she could have known or even guess:
- The moon would not rain down chunks of itself on a helpless Earth but would instead just disintegrate into dust.
- The creature once hatched wouldn't just turn on the Earth for food or something.
- The creature would helpfully lay a new egg, a new moon that very conveniently restores the balance of things on Earth.
- The science may be complete rubbish but I have to admit the idea of the moon as a space dragon egg is pretty cool.
- I don't know what the deal is with Courtney Woods (Ellis George) is but she's a refreshing take on the concept of kids in the TARDIS. There's a point where Courtney gets a bit overwhelmed; she just wants to go back to the TARDIS and post pictures on Tumblr, just like a normal teenager. But she comes around to the larger mission at hand and insists on being involved in the decision facing Clara and Lundvick. Courtney as a sympathetic figure is a pleasant surprise.
- Captain Lundvick is a strong guest character. As portrayed by Hermione Norris, she effectively conveys the weight of the burden she carries as she leads an impossible mission with "a second rate space craft (and) third rate astronauts". Her aspirations for space travel have lead her to this suicide mission to blow up the moon. The very idea of a space creature growing inside the moon is the exact sort of wonder she would've imagined encountering. Yet she knows she has a obligation to protect the planet below. She makes the rather sensible calculation that the lives of billions outweighs the life of one unknown creature.
- The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is in fine form here with the unique mixture of intensity, humor, tetchiness and whimsy we've seen develop for this Doctor over the course of Series 8. There's a nice call back to the 4th Doctor and the classic episode Ark in Space when the Doctor uses a yo-yo to test the gravity on the moon.
- ALIEN ATTACK SPIDERS!!!!!
- Seriously, those critters were SCARY!
But the big story here is Clara. Again. But unlike last episode where the focus on Clara shoved the alien monster plot to a secondary status, Clara's actions are tied to the main narrative. Jenna Coleman once again delivers a strong performance as Clara Oswald juggles keeping up with this madman Time Lord, looking after the student in her care and making a decision that decides the fate of the world. It's the last item that pushes Clara past her breaking point (something that Danny Pink warned her about last episode). She is furious with the Doctor for abandoning her and Courtney to decide the fate of the entire world. While the Doctor tries to defend his actions, Clara will not let the Doctor off the hook. She tells the Doctor in no uncertain terms that they are done and he should go away.
Back at Coal Hill School, Danny checks on Clara and immediately tells from her demeanor that the Doctor finally pushed her to far. Clara says she angry and she is done with the Doctor. Danny very wisely observes that she won't be done with him as long as she's still angry.
So we have "a game changer". The Doctor is off on his own and Clara has walked away from this part of her life. We know that the Doctor and Clara will be reunited; Jenna Coleman just Tweeted a few days ago that filming on the Christmas special was complete. But there is now a significant gap in the relationship between the Doctor and Clara; exactly how that gap will be bridged is going to very interesting indeed.
6 days from now and another Doctor Who Weekend comes around.
Saturday: In light of Clara's angry departure from the TARDIS, I've decided to look at a former companion who also left under a cloud of anger: Tegan Jovanka, the Mouth on Legs.
Sunday: Another edition of Doctor Who Is NEW! with a review of Mummy on the Orient Express.
Until then, be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You
ALIEN ATTACK SPIDERS!!!!!