Doctor Who takes a yet another turn at the terrifying this week with Kill The Moon, the seventh episode in this rather stellar Eighth Season for the most part. As Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor shines, this week’s episode feels a bit more like a Doctor-lite episode, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest.
This is because it means we get more development of Jenna Coleman as companion Clara, who has definitely been in need of more weight and expansion up until this series actually did some interesting things with her. There are still the usual Clara flaws, but Kill The Moon actually gives her a little more urgency, and that’s brilliant in the context of the dilemma they are faced with.
To share the entire breadth of this dilemma would be tip-toeing into spoiler territory, so instead, let us consider the elements building up to the decision-making process. Kill The Moon begins with Year 10 student Courtney Woods (played by a decent child actor, Ellis George) who was apparently told by Capaldi’s Doctor that she isn’t special.
When one thinks back to a Doctor like David Tennant, this claim is quite against type, and of course, ripe for an episode to be plucked from the idea. To try and rectify the claim and mistake, The Doctor takes both Clara and Courtney to the moon…
…but at a time where astronauts from Earth have just arrived with 100 nuclear bombs.
Written by playwright Peter Harness, Kill The Moon is an episode with a relatively narrow, focused location, but thankfully, one with a budget (I’m looking at you, Time Heist) and one that well suits the playwright’s talents.
It also typifies the penchant for scariness Doctor Who has had in its DNA: to warn those likely to be affected off the bat, this episode has spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. If you’re arachnophobic, then, you might find the first half of this episode doubly scary. This fear factor is definitely a welcome result of the current later airtime for Doctor Who on BBC One.
Director Paul Wilmshurst does a stellar job of taking the script and translating it onto the screen. There’s a great bit of tension and terror as the giant, spider-like monsters make their appearance and take down the redshirts of the episode. At times when things aren’t so scary, he still does a great job getting wonderful performances out of the cast.
While some of the moral subtext of the episode gets a bit… interesting, Kill The Moon at least does a good job weighing up the good and the bad sides of the decisions the humans have to make. I say humans, because The Doctor decides that he can’t give judgement on the future of humankind, as he stands on the outside as a Time Lord. This choice is quite an interesting one for the character, and one you just know will have repercussions.
Kill The Moon becomes an uneasy ride in the best of ways from the tense and scary first half. There’s a bombshell of a piece of information that literally could turn the tide of the entire situation, and while the way things go down may be a bit questionable, it’s handled competently. It is both similar and contrary to choices made in episodes like Waters of Mars, where The Doctor takes a pro-active role in the future of humankind. Capaldi’s Doctor is certainly one that has learnt or at least diversified from the Tenth Doctor on the edge of his lifespan, and with that, we’re treated to a genuinely interesting curveball of a final act.
There are problems with this week’s episode. The moral implications apparent when reading into some of the details may seem a bit iffy to some viewers. Also, potential nods to the fanbase such as the namedrop of Tumblr felt a bit like pandering. Clara, of course, turns on the waterworks once again, but at least here it is justified, rather than, as usual, serving as a get-out clause in the writing.
Kill The Moon is one of the middle of the road episodes when compared to the rest of the series so far, but like last week’s episode, it still provides some pivotal details in the general arc of the Twelfth Doctor and Clara. Plus, the results of this week lead neatly into next week’s episode, which hopefully will be a doozy.
Because it’s on the Orient Express.
But in space.
With an unstoppable mummy, and what seems to be a slightly Bioshock-like setting.
No questions about what you should be excited about next Saturday!