TV REVIEW: Doctor Who, S8, E7: Kill the Moon

The intriguingly titled Kill the Moon was penned by newcomer to Doctor Who, Peter Harness. It is also only the second episode this season so far to have not been either written by – or co-written by – Steven Moffat. How does this newcomer’s adventure hold up?

 

 

 

In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface, they find a mining base full of corpses, vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack and a terrible dilemma. When Clara turns to the Doctor for help, she gets the shock of her life.

This is an episode I had very little knowledge about before I saw it. Other than the teaser trail at the end of last week’s episode, I’d managed (mainly through an incredibly busy week) to stay oblivious to information or images about the episode. I knew only the basics. The title. And that Clara’s student, Courtney Woods, would get a proper ride in the TARDIS.

What instantly struck me about this episode was how well Harness’ script worked. Considering the poor to mediocre stories put together by series stalwarts the last couple of weeks, this stands out all the more. Kill the Moon is brilliantly written. It’s a perfect story for Doctor Who and probably one that could only be told in this universe. The title itself should draw people in. Why and indeed how does one kill the moon? Before I start in detail – yes I do think the main revelation in this episode was completely crazy. But it was Doctor Who crazy. The right kind.

The pre-title sequence helps set the atmosphere and utilises the same “we have an episode length of time to solve this problem!” mechanic as seen in 42 a few years earlier. It’s a mechanism which is instantly thrown out the window though, as the audience is flung back to see how the situation was arrived at, and subsequently the resolution and after-effects of the decisions made in the story.

It’s a brilliant take on the traditional base-under-siege story that is one of my favourite of the Doctor Who tropes. In this instance, the Doctor – indeed all of those involved – arrive at the base together. Managing to assert his authority (which Capaldi exudes), the Doctor avoids the usual locking up and becomes immediately part of the team. A team seeking to discover what has happened to the moon. Changes have occurred and the Earth is suffering. On top of that (as mentioned in the official synopsis), there are massive arachnids about. Are they the cause or an effect? That is one of the things that the team must discover.

The consequences and ramifications of the Doctor’s involvement (or lack thereof) are also highlighted here. While in his mind, the Doctor is carrying out the correct actions, it is clear that Humanity sometimes needs a guiding hand. I never liked the fact that in the Russell T Davies era, it was clear that the Human race was always in the right. This story shows their fallibility. The Doctor and Clara’s intervention allows the hope to continue.

One thing this episode did brilliantly was show the Doctor as an alien with alien morals and an alien viewpoint. I have been on board with Capaldi’s direction for the Time Lord since his first episode, but if any story was really going to cement my opinion, it was this one. I much prefer a slightly unpredictable hero. The second, fourth, seventh and (occasionally) tenth Doctors all managed to surprise their friends as well as their foes by being inhuman at times – Capaldi really takes this up a notch and I personally love the change of direction.

I mentioned last week that I wondered when our Time Lord had become so irresponsible and careless about who he lets on board the TARDIS and this episode certainly justifies this thought. Having said that, bringing her along does show how exceptional Clara (and indeed all of the Doctor’s travelling companions over the last half-century) are. Courtney is a teenager – all bravado and front, but with no real substance beyond the normal human teenager. Ellis George performs this brilliantly, providing a character who may not be likable but who certainly feels real.

Of the guest cast though it is Hermione Norris who really steals the show. Norris is a brilliant actress and she really manages to present a tough but vulnerable character. In many ways she seems like a mature Courtney. She has her soft centre, but that hard edge has had time to form and she knows that sometimes the hard decisions need to be made.

Hats off once again to both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman who absolutely rule the television screen when they are on. The final scenes of the episode in particular were uncomfortable to watch for all the right reasons. I’m genuinely uncertain at this point what direction – or directions – the two will take following this episode. A genuine pleasure to view and an episode that I think deserves to become a true classic of the series. Welcome aboard, Peter Harness – may you have more scripts like this one in you!

Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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