Doctor Who Recap: “Kill the Moon”

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“Kill the Moon” hinges on a moral question: can you trade one life for all humanity? But for Clara, another question comes out of this adventure: is the Doctor a total jerk?

Courtney Woods, the bratty 15-year-old from the previous episode, is back. Last we saw her, she was miles above earth, puking in the TARDIS. And the Doctor is still making her feel cruddy. Apparently he told her she’s not special, and that hurt her feelings. Wanting to mediate this high school drama, Clara demands that the Doctor take back his statement. Instead, he takes them to the moon.

In 2049. Where it turns out there’s a crisis: the moon is crumbling. The problems started 10 years before, when a way-higher-than-normal high tide wiped out a significant portion of the planet. Now, a group of freaked-out astronauts have arrived on the moon with a last-ditch mission: to blow it up. But this all gets complicated when the Doctor discovers that the moon is in fact an egg. And it’s not crumbling—it’s hatching.

Call me insensitive, but I would so have nuked that creature. Here’s the dilemma: blow up the moon, kill the (presumably) sweet, innocent (and massive) creature hatching from its shell. Don’t blow up the moon, maybe kill all humans. Seems like a no-brainer to me: the creature’s got to go. But Clara, Courtney and the Doctor firmly take the creature’s side, while the Captain Lundvik, the mission’s leader, is painted as the baddie for not wanting to risk the human race. Ultimately, Clara stops the bomb right before it goes off, and the Doctor zips them back to earth, where they watch the creature harmlessly hatch then fly away, laying another moon/egg in its place. See, harmless! Hindsight is so helpful, huh?

The real dramatic crux of this episode, however, does not lie in the choice to kill or not to kill the creature, but in the Doctor’s choice to not make a choice. When decision time arrived, the Doctor said this was a human issue—i.e. not his concern—and took off in the TARDIS, leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to handle things on their own. Back at Coal Hill School, Clara is furious. Did he know all along that the earth would be okay? (Considering he’s been to the future so many times, he should have.) Was he testing her? And how could he just leave?

Clara is so upset, she tells the Doctor never to come back again. It’s an explosive moment—an interaction that seems specific to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Early in the season, he asked Clara whether or not he was a good man. She said she didn’t know. And as viewers, we can’t know either. In this case, we’re not sure if the Doctor was telling the truth, or why he left. Not being able to trust or understand his motives makes for a very different Doctor than we’ve seen in the past. More complicated, and more interesting.

As an end note, I’m curious to see what will happen with the photos Courtney posted to Tumblr. Is the Doctor about to go viral? It’s hard to believe he could be any more popular on the internet than he already is in real life.