Doctor Who Recap: Kill the Moon
By Edwin Davies
October 14, 2014
The revelation at more or less the halfway point that the creatures were not insects but germs, and that they had appeared on the moon because it is actually an egg that is about to hatch, took the episode in an entirely new and unexpected direction. The revelation itself seems like something that could have been very silly, and it kind of is, but the actors and the script (written by Who newcomer Peter Harness, who previously wrote the very sweet Michael Caine dramedy Is Anybody There? and has written the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Susanna Clarke's great dueling magicians novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) treated it with a moral seriousness that really elevated the premise. Realising that allowing the moon to hatch could completely devastate the Earth, The Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik are faced with a choice; to allow the creature to live, or use nuclear weapons to kill it before it gets the chance.
Actually, The Doctor isn't faced with that choice because he recuses himself from the decision-making process. Saying that it isn't his moon or his planet, he leaves it up to the three women to decide if the unborn creature lives or dies, with the fate of Humanity hanging in the balance. (To increase the stakes, The Doctor reveals that he conveniently doesn't know for certain what actually happens at that point in history, so he couldn't offer them any guidance even if he wanted to.) So having placed these three characters in a series of small rooms, the episode slows down and has them discuss the moral implications of carrying out an abortion on a huge scale.
The word "abortion" may never be said by any of the characters - the closest it gets is the moment when Clara deactivates the nuclear weapon and the word "ABORTED" briefly appears - but the episode is undoubtedly about one, even if it may not be about the broader debate about a woman's right to choose. It's worth noting, particularly for American viewers, that abortion is not a hot button topic in Britain the way that it is in America; individuals may have strong personal, moral or religious opposition to it, but there is no large-scale political movement to restrict access to abortion clinics, or calls for abortion to be banned entirely. As such, I think the decision to centre "Kill The Moon" on a debate about whether to kill an unborn creature has less to do with making a big political or social statement (because it would be making one on a debate that doesn't exist in its home country) than it does with placing Clara in a position where she has to make a difficult decision.
Because ultimately, "Kill the Moon" is about pushing Clara's relationship with The Doctor to its breaking point. After putting the moon's fate to the people of Earth - asking them to turn off their lights if they think the creature should die or leave them on if it should be allowed to live - and negating that decision when Clara turns the nuclear device off, The Doctor returns to take Clara, Courtney and Lundvik back to Earth where they witness the birth of the creature. As it unfolds and floats away, The Doctor makes an impassioned speech about how viewing something so magnificent was the crucial event that led humanity to rediscover its desire to explore the Universe, and to endure until the end of time. (Incidentally, that speech, as well as the way that Peter Capaldi imbued the words "The moon's an egg" with such a potent mix of glee and fear, made this probably his strongest episode to date.) Yet heartfelt speeches don't mean much when they come after you've abandoned, both physically and emotionally, someone who admires and respects you, and when they get a few moments alone in the TARDIS together, Clara lets The Doctor have it.