I’m just going to start off with a massive SPOILER alert, because this episode was such a left-field game changer that I’m still scratching my head about it. So, SPOILERS! Good? Good.
“Well, goodness me. The lake is ruffled at last. I often wondered what you’d be like when you lost your temper.” – Madame Vastra – Series 8, Episode 1
Remember how last week Danny Pink called out the Doctor for being an officer and an aristocrat? Remember how he said that one day the Doctor would push her too far? Well, that day has arrived. We’ll come back to that. But first we have an ethical dilemma to solve.
“It’s your moon, womankind. It’s your choice.”
“Kill the Moon” starts as a fun, intriguing mystery: Why has the moon put on weight? What are those spider-y creatures? In the first twist of this brilliant if divisive episode, we find that the moon is actually an egg and it’s about to hatch. It then takes another sharp twist in that they have to decide whether to let the egg hatch and release an exotic creature, or kill it before it has the chance to wreak havoc on the Earth and to stop the destruction the moon’s current activity is already causing. And what does the Doctor do in all of this? He leaves.
That’s right. Not to go off on some vital side mission. Not to see what’s in the future. He abandons Clara, Courtney Woods, and the astronaut Lundvik to make the decision for the fate of the moon.
(Side Note: While we Americans can see this as an allegory over a woman’s rights to abortion, in the UK it isn’t nearly as volatile as a subject. Still it’s a smart little allegory.)
There are many shocking things in this script by Peter Harness (who makes a hell of a show debut with this piece!) but the most shocking is something that has been hinted at since the beginning of this season; that the Doctor has a tendency to leave people in precarious situations without either rescuing them or giving them a way out, particularly Clara. And yet, another thing emerged. While his comment of taking Clara’s stabilizing wheels off, he acted like the aristocratic office that Danny pegged him as at their first meeting. Because while the Doctor may or may not have known how this would have turned out (and Peter Capaldi played the conflict perfectly), he knew that Clara would ultimately make the “right” decision. But this also ties back into a theme that goes all the way back to the beginning of NuWho; that the Doctor turns his companions into weapons. Or as Davros nailed it at the end of Season 4:
The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun. But this is the truth, Doctor. You take ordinary people, and you fashion them into weapons. Behold your Children of Time transformed into murderers. I made the Daleks, Doctor. You made this. Already I have seen them sacrifice today, for their beloved Doctor. … How many more? Just think. How many have died in your name? The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame. This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you yourself.
Which makes the last five minutes of “Kill The Moon” so blistering. While the Doctor’s past companions had no problem being weaponized (Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Amy Pond, River Song), Clara most certainly does. Even the companions who weren’t necessarily fighters (Donna Noble, Rory Williams), were brilliantly resourceful in their own right that they made miracles happen in the field of space/time combat. All of them had no problems with the Doctor meddling and prodding them into compromising positions because they had been trained to respond the way he wanted. And just like a pet, he lovingly patronized them in equal measure.
Maybe it was the words from Danny, maybe it was the fact that Courtney (a relative innocent) was there, maybe it was her own conflicted feelings and her conflict about this Doctor not always being there, maybe it was the patronizing comment about letting her have the choice, maybe it was all of those things, but Clara. Has. HAD. IT. While those five minutes are controversial in how it casts the Doctor/companion relationship in a negative co-dependent light, it it valid because of all the companions Clara has been defined by her unshakeable faith in the goodness of the Doctor (to the point where she inserted herself into the Doctor’s own time stream to save him over and over and over again). Well, that’s been shaken and she basically let him have it. And in that rant (which Jenna Coleman should submit for her BAFTA nomination reel right now because she nailed the scene) we finally have the answer why Clara Oswald is an important companion. She’s not a fighter, she’s not resourceful, but what she is is an empathetic and emotionally grounding force for the Doctor. Like he joked, she is his “carer”. Now that the Doctor has lost that, it will be interesting to see how he functions now.
NEXT TIME: All aboard for a glamorous train ride through space…
Photo and Video Credit: BBC