Doctor Who: Kill the Moon (EPISODE REVIEW)

It’s incredible how very divisive this season of Doctor Who is becoming. It seems it’s every week now that fan opinions grow more and more divided. What was once a collected agreement known to Whovians aplenty as “perceived fan wisdom,” has now become serious debate for some. Kill the Moon really takes the cake though. After a series of early reviews for the episode being so overwhelmingly positive from the likes of Blogtor Who, IGN, and others, I thought for sure it would have been uncompromisingly good. But then, in equal if not greater measure, the negative backlash from the community had me stunned. After watching the episode a few times, it’s blatantly clear what the inherent issue here is. The episode requires that you suspend disbelief to the fact that (spoilers) the moon is a giant egg and is about to hatch. Unfortunately, if you cannot suspend disbelief that far, the entire plot unravels.

There was a lot of things I really loved about this episode. There were also a few things I actively disliked, albeit only very few. But there are about 1.3 billion tonnes of things I honestly don’t know if I entirely buy, or don’t. And being that I understand fully why so many disliked the episode, and inversely why so many loved it, it’s terribly difficult for me to properly rate and review without being bias in one direction or another. But I’ll try my best to pull on both strings.

To get started, let’s just get the many wonky sci-fantasy ideas laid out. The moon is an egg, and has been for about 100 million years. The gravity and weight of said egg is increasing, causing massive natural disturbances on planet earth below. Many will be quick to note that eggs actually lose weight as they grow their young, but hey – this is a space egg – a space egg that when hatched can immediately lay a new egg, roughly it’s own size. Who are we to say how this species works?! This really didn’t bother me. Yes, this is a total Doctor Who idea, to its core – a theme so barmy it could only be taken seriously on a show like this. Did it work? For me it did, or rather I didn’t let it effect my viewing experience.

What did effect my viewing experience were the unicellular spider-germs. Cells cannot maintain that kind of mass, no matter what environment they’re put into. It totally didn’t need to be written in like that either. Peter Harness obviously had quite a few ideas in mind to write as bananas an episode as possible, and for me this was a step too far in the wrong direction.

But where it all came back to me was the decision the Doctor forced Clara to make on her own. There’s a Pro-Life argument in there just waiting to burst. Brilliant writing. I can honestly believe that the Doctor had entirely good intentions in allowing them to make the necessary choice for humanity on their own, which makes it so much more devastating to note how his assumed kindness was a perceived slight by Clara. And again, it’s one of those things that as a viewer, I can empathize with both sides. The Doctor, despite his good hearts, and bipedal features, is still very much an alien. And Clara is entirely human, and thus flawed. You felt for her case, especially after she laid it all out in the open. What an incredible scene that was too. Jenna Coleman has shattered my record of respect for her as an actress. It gave me chills.

I also have to give credit to young Ellis George for giving such a realistic 15-year old teen performance. Last time the Doctor brought kids into the TARDIS, in the much derided Nightmare in Silver, it was truly a nightmare. But here, Ellis George, playing the disruptive influence Courtney Woods, really does an excellent job. I loved how vocal she was on her opinions, and she did bring levity to the episode. When the astronaut finds out she was posting pictures to Tumblr, we get perhaps the best line in the episode, the near-nostalgic “my grandma used to put things on Tumblr!”

I also found that the year 2049 was exceptionally believable for once. Just 10 years prior to the events in Waters of Mars, I could totally picture the technology involved in this episode being appropriate for the date given.

But one thing we must all agree on was the visual direction of the episode. This to me is the single most beautifully shot episode of the series to date. The color grading done to the sands and rock of Lanzarote, where they filmed the episode on location, created the most realistic moon design I’ve seen on television. It was gorgeous. The special effects were at a level on par to many other modern science fiction programs. When the space shuttle landed on the moon it looked so realistic! And Murray Gold again put out a whopper of a soundtrack. Kudos to director Paul Wilmhurst for this one.

Love it or hate it, this episode will go down as one of the greats for Series 8 in my book of charts and lists (not a real book). It may be of interest to note that this script was originally written for Series 7. I wonder what’s been changed around/rewritten to be retrofitted into this season. Tell me your thoughts below. And yeah, I really don’t want this to spark an abortion debate, so let’s just steer clear of that bit.

27 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Kill the Moon (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. Leaving the shoddy science on the side, what really bothered me about this episode was how the Doctor treated Clara. He deliberately withheld information from her that would have helped her enormously! I can understand wanting her to make the decision on her own, but at least give her all the tools necessary to make the decision well! The only thing that withholding that information did was draw out the conflict unnecessarily.

    And once again I come back to my hypothesis that we have another Colin Baker situation on our hands, by which I mean that we have a decent Doctor hamstrung by bad writing and whatever behind-the-scenes weirdness is causing the bad writing.


    1. Well. In Capaldi’s defense, he is almost unanimously loved, as far as I’ve seen. I haven’t encountered anyone who doesn’t love him.


  2. I enjoyed every second of the episode, watching minute by minute… but, having been part of online Who fandom for 20+ years, I suspected that mine was going to be a minority opinion, as indeed it’s turned out to be. It doesn’t bother me that the moon was an egg all along, and I thought the spider monsters were nicely creepy (as an homage to 1976’s “The Ark in Space”). I thought both the Doctor and Clara raised interesting points in their debate. The episode kind of loses credibility when it’s over-analyzed, though, so I suspect within 10 years, received fan wisdom will coalesce around “Kill the Moon” being a turkey.


  3. Heh, this is funny, because I don’t really have a problem with the bad science (just used to it I guess) but I HATED the character interactions, and most commenters here seem to be saying the opposite. Divisive episode indeed.


  4. “I really don’t want this to spark an abortion debate, so let’s just steer clear of that bit.”
    Yeah, I think, in retrospect, I probably went a bit too far with that with my initial review…


    1. It’s just so testy a subject, and a debate that in the end isn’t going to be resolved by commenting on its implications within a Doctor Who episode, I don’t see the point. Go to Gallifreybase if you want that discussion, I say.


  5. The thing I hated most about this episode was the terrible deus ex machina ending that negated everything that came before it and made the Doctor into a complete jackass. It was implied at the end of the episode that the Doctor knew everything would end be fine if they let the creature hatch but didn’t bother telling anyone. He just mentioned that was “unique” and sauntered off. This left Clara and the Head Astronaut to decide whether to blow up the egg and save the Earth or save the egg and doom the Earth to unknown destruction. This could have worked as a great character building moment for Clara with her having to choose between two impossible choices and having to live with her choice, but no, instead we get the clean “Everybody lives!” ending that the show has yammering about since it came back.
    Plus, the crack about Tumblr doesn’t really make any sense when you realize that the actress who played the Head Astronaut is in her late-forties, which would make her character about 12 years old in 2014. 😦


  6. I believe that what really got under my skin was how literally Earth changing the decision was. Then it simply resolved itself. Not only did the Doctor swoop in once a decision had been made, but then the creature simply laid a new egg. I can go for the idea that the moon was an egg. I can go with the idea that it’s mass was increasing. However, it is really hard for me to believe that the problem came and went in a span of minutes. Easily resolved. It almost negates all the struggles that they went through to make a decision. I guess what I’m saying is that there was no sort of lasting effect.

    It did lead to possibly one of the best scenes of the season so far when Clara finally told the Doctor off.


  7. In spite of the unbelievable science (both the moon = egg and all it’s associated nonsense, as well as the giant bacteria that look and act just like spiders) I really enjoyed this episode, as I have enjoyed most of the season, as I have enjoyed most of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. A lot of the complaints are a bit mystifying to me (Doctor Who has been contradicting its own history for decades, presenting us with nonsense science for just as long). For me, the characterisation, the lead performances, the rhythm, the visuals, the creepiness, and the imagination all help the episode to win out.


  8. I totally agree with you that we are steadily being let down. I haven’t enjoyed an episode in quite a while. And what MrMonkey1980 said above was spot on: Capaldi is brilliant but his episodes are rubbish. I just stopped writing about Doctor Who because of the whole “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”


  9. The whole moon is an egg concept didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even consider it as being a problem. The reason the episode didn’t work for me was that the entire thing, like ‘Time Heist’ and most of this series, is that it was a rehash of old story elements: giant creature we have to decide whether to help or kill at the possibly detriment of the human race (The Beast Below)? Check. Annoying human who is stubbornly, stupidly close minded for no reason other than to provide an obstacle (The Almost People)? Check. Rickety, isolated space mission (Waters of Mars, Impossible Planet)? Check. I could go on. Not to mention the massive plot holes. The moon didn’t put on any noticeable weight for the first 99.99 million years, just the last 2 or 3? Stupid. The Doctor, despite being the meanest one yet doesn’t at all feel ill towards the humans who voted to kill the giant creature? Ridiculous! I was really expecting him to make some snide comment about how they will infect other systems with their narrow mindedness….

    It’s strange because the things this episode does well, it does really well. I like that it has matured as a show and we get to see this kind of division between Doctor and assistant come to shouted words. That’s fresh… and that’s what the show desperately needs. Fresh ideas.

    The main problem with this series can be summed up in one short sentence: The new Doctor is brilliant, perhaps the best yet, but his episodes are rubbish. Moffat has worn out his ideas and keeps rehashing new ones like he is spinning a bingo jumbler of Who cliches. It’s time for him to step down and the show to take a new direction.

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  10. What bothers me about the story is the idea the moon, the real one only an egg waiting to be hatched. Took that long in the context of traveling through time, and space to learn the moon we thought was the moon wasn’t the moon. This part of the story was not grounded with a lack of gravitational pull.

    I did enjoy the further unraveling of Clara’s character as a strong woman leaving the Doctor perplexed, and somewhat helpless to understand his own state of being, Will Clara become the impetus for the Doctor to take a moral cleansing? Will the Doctor be ‘stuck’ with the impossible girl? Is this relationship reconcilable? If not, is this the beginning of the end of Clara?

    Courtney’s appearance was favorable but, I cannot see her flying around with an older man. She could become a ‘thorn’ in his side via Skype, and other Social Media.

    I enjoyed watching this episode but, a little bit too much fiction incorporated with the science.


  11. I don’t remember enough to know if egg-moon destroys any continuity… and I can “buy” the egg-moon up to a point.

    It’s harder to buy that it suddenly after 100 million years began gaining mass just in the last few years. That seems wrong for even a space egg-moon.

    Also harder to buy a newly born space thing laying a new egg that is the same size as the one it just came out of… eggs are generally smaller than the thing they come out of…

    Also… what other space thing was going to fertilize this egg? If that was the only one left, laying an egg seems odd.

    The large one-celled things seemed as wrong here as a similar plot on a Star Trek episode about large virii did…

    Outside of that… if you ignore the honking egg-moon in the plot… the rest of the episode is actually pretty good.

    It’s like… somehow this season is literally the opposite of how I critiqued the Matt Smith series.

    Of that “era” I said Moffat had good big ideas but often poor execution and episodes that were letdowns to the story they promised.

    So far, the Capaldi “era” is shaping up to be a series where the ideas aren’t as good and are flawed, but the execution is far better.

    IF we could pair the execution of these ideas with the grand ideas of previous series… that would be something to see!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. For me, Kill the Moon is the second worst Doctor Who episode of the 2005 era. Only beaten for sheer awful crap by Fear Her.

    The moon as an egg is literally like a Space:1999 type riff, as is the mothballed shuttle- what, they couldn’t afford to make a new model or cgi object for the episode? Something in a TR-3 or Aurora type vintage?

    And as for the egg-moon within the context of Who, the Moon already has its backstory, and it isn’t this.

    The Moon has been treated as a celestial body, one with moon people living in it indeed, in the new show.

    This is the kind of tosh that showrunners do when they are personally weary and no longer focused and which marks a sort of watershed between general viewership and fan enclaves. Moffat is fan pandering and making people do the Choice thing- accept whatever he serves whether it’s crap or not, or rebel.

    Too many people are settling for third best with this show.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And not to itemize your response, but this is kind of what I mean. Respected “superfan” reviewer Blogtor Who claims this to be a “modern day classic” and “the best Doctor Who in years.” While others like yourself feel downright affronted.

      Also, it is easy to point the finger at Moffat for poor production decisions – same as it was for JNT. But I’ll give him slack on episodes he isn’t credited in. He’s not the sole puppeteer behind every scene.


      1. Moffat is absolutely the sole puppeteer behind the scenes and this sort of rubbish proves it. RTD had close supervision because it was a new show with necks on the line. Moffat is caretaker of a nice earner that holds its slot but is no longer essential first run viewing. It’s swapped status with Casualty in that sense.

        Moffat is a control freak and an egomaniac, as is well documented. And it shows.

        The audience churn currently has the show getting similar numbers to 2005-2009 but I’d bet real money the content of those numbers is now well into fan territory not general viewing territory. From here, it’s JNT nebula time.

        Re moon people, it’s been mentioned as a throwaway line in a couple of Matt Smith episodes and the rogue planetoid of the Silurians’ era that became the Moon was clearly never intended to be an egg for crying out loud.


      2. The moon MAY have not been an egg before the Time War as we may have seen before. But Post-Time War all bets are off and there are differences. This is one of them!


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