There simply aren’t enough adjectives to describe how good ‘Kill the Moon’ was, the seventh episode in Doctor Who’s eighth run.
But in brief, it was a phenomenal feat of television.
‘Listen’ amped the scares up this series a few weeks back; ‘Kill the Moon’ exceeded it somehow. This was a tense episode from the offset, draped in shadows and spiderwebs and close, claustrophobic shots. Referencing the golden Philip Hinchcliffe production era of Doctor Who between 1974-77, new writer Peter Harness was told to ‘Hinchcliffe the shit out of it for the first half’, and boy did he.
Location shooting in Lanzarote created the backdrop of the moon, and the location was utilised incredibly well. The setting was believable – craters and dunes was expertly recreated, with just the right lighting to make this feel like an alien world.
The first half ran as a basic base-under-siege narrative. The shot of The Doctor, Clara, Courtney Woods, and Hermione Norris’ Lundvik trapped in a flickering room as a nightmarish spider stalked the walls was eerie and creepy. Admittedly the CGI was ropey in parts (in particular the shuttle’s crash early in the episode), but the sound effects more than made up for it. The scurrying and scuttling of the parasitic spiders drew goosebumps, and for all the right reasons.
And quite like ‘Listen’, ‘Kill the Moon’ had no real threat. The spiders weren’t malevolent and nor did they mean particular harm to the Doctor or humanity. They were simply the residual bacteria of a much larger beast. Yes, the moon is an egg.
And it’s hatching.
Whereas Ellis George grated a little last week as Courtney Woods, this week she shone. She was equally a part of the trio of female leads as Jenna Coleman and Hermione Norris, and she had her parts to shine. In fact all three women were exceptional. The cast was small, like in ‘Listen’, and due to this it worked exceptionally well. Duke and Henry (who?) were offed near instantly, and this allowed the claustrophobic atmosphere to nestle snugly around the women.
Because the Doctor left them with a monumental decision to make. Kill the moon, or possibly kill humanity. In a dark turn akin to the Twelfth Doctor’s reign, the Doctor departed and left Clara and Courtney to decide the future of Earth. ‘Kill the Moon’ revisited a recurring trope of Doctor Who: that of the fixed point in time. This was one such moment. The Doctor couldn’t intervene; he had to let events unfold, and due to Clara and Courtney’s proximity to the events, they were inexcusably part of their resolution. They both had to decide.
Following this came some sensational performances from all the lead females. Each one was compelling and just: Clara was emotional and heartfelt; Courtney was naive but steadfast; and Lundvik was strong and determined. These scenes came directly from ‘The Waters of Mars’ – Lundvik took on the role of Adelaide Brooke and was determined to let things unfold. But it’s Jenna who shone here. She was equally determined, and she made an emotional plea to Earth.
Unsurprisingly, Earth elected to let the creature die. I suppose EVERYBODY would make that decision, so they can be forgiven. What can’t be forgiven is Clara’s determination to let humanity possibly die. She had no way of knowing whether the moon-creature posed a threat and yet she was willing to let things unfold. This was clearly to generate conflict between Clara and the Doctor, but it seemed a little hard to believe.
Despite humanity’s unanimous decision, Clara and Lundvik came to opposing decisions and the Doctor intervened. Did he know the outcome all along? Probably, and this pissed Clara off. So much that she swore (bloody’s a swearword, right?) at the Doctor.
The closing scenes included, for me, the two defining scenes for our two leads. The Doctor’s beach speech was his ‘Doctor moment’, akin to Tennant’s Timelord Victorious speech and Smith’s Akhaten story narrative. In this scene Capaldi was entirely the Doctor. He completely owned the role, and in a series of exceptional scenes, blew his own work out of the water. If anybody had any doubts before, they must surely be gone now.
And finally came Clara’s departure from the TARDIS. It perhaps wasn’t a surprise, given her displeasure at the Doctor’s actions, but it was still a punch to the gut nevertheless. Jenna excelled. She was flawless and completely captivating. She stunningly told the Doctor to do one. He had left her to make an impossible decision and, like she noted, Earth was as much the Doctor’s home as it was hers. He breathed in its air; the moon was shared by them both. But he allowed her to make the decision, and for that Clara couldn’t forgive him.
Give Capaldi and Coleman multiple awards. NOW.
The trailer for next week’s scare-fest ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ appears to show no shots of Clara, so it appears as if we have another companion-lite episode to compliment ‘In the Forest of the Night’s’ Doctor-lite appearance. But Coleman will be missed, so they had best make friends again. Sharpish.