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Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

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I really didn’t expect to enjoy Kill the Moon.

The drama and its solution seemed obvious from the trailer. “Should we end one innocent life or let the seven billion innocent people on earth die?” Well, sorry, but that one innocent life is probably going to have to go, and if the protagonists can’t do it, that person (as I thought it was from the trailer) will probably go into self-sacrifice mode before the episode is over.

However, although the moral dilemma was kind of wearying, Kill the Moon actually managed to be one of the more interesting Doctor Who episodes of late.

Or, to put it another way, look at all those female characters doing things. Look at them! This I really did not expect.

Kill the Moon did so many things that I thought Doctor Who incapable of doing these days. It did things that most TV shows seem incapable of doing.

It had three female characters of different ages, with different backgrounds and perspectives, all playing significant roles in the story. It had two female characters in a mentor/mentee relationship, and a somewhat troubled one at that. It had three female characters debating and solving a serious moral dilemma that had huge repercussions for mankind. And it had a female character telling the jerk genius figure how horrible he is and how he should shove off and never come back.

It even has a teenage girl figuring out how the kill the monsters, with a combination of bravery and extreme common sense. I have no idea where Courtney’s bug spray actually came from, but using it against giant evil space spiders instead of going “don’t move, it senses movement” made her the most practical character there.

So, yay. Female characters, interacting, being brave, making serious decisions, saving the day. But the episode’s real strength (and real gut-kicker) was the last five minutes, when Clara called out the Doctor for being patronizing, for abandoning them “for their own good,” for generally being pretty damn horrible to his supposed companion, and declares that she never wants to see him again. Jenna Louise Coleman really got to show off her acting skills here, and her tears of absolute rage made for a powerful scene. We have enough episodes left that I’m sure Clara isn’t finished with the Doctor, but it was incredibly satisfying to see after weeks of the Doctor’s terrible attitude. She stands up for herself, she stands up for her feelings, and she won’t let him dismiss her or push her around. Really good stuff.

Unfortunately, for all its good points, Kill the Moon did have a not-so-slight metaphor issue. I’m not the only person who thought this was an abortion metaphor, right? This surprise baby will possibly KILL humanity, but it’s an innocent life, so they should let it live and just hope that they survive, right? It doesn’t mean any harm, so you can’t take any preventative measures against the harm it causes. And although literally all of humanity thinks that their lives should come before an unhatched egg, Clara is the one with a good soul who simply cannot let that happen. She overrules humanity’s decision for its own good. And hey, look, letting it live is the right choice, because it doesn’t cause any harm and actually changes humanity’s lives for the better. Oh how foolish and small-minded they would have been, to kill this baby.

And in this light, the “yay female characters!” thing starts to look pretty sinister. A teenager, a young woman, and an older woman, making a decision on whether the moon fetus gets to live or die. No men allowed in this womanly decision, and no teams of women allowed to make humanity-saving decisions in any other scenario. And all this for a metaphorical decision where the answer seemed obvious from the beginning, but where faith in that innocent life transcended all logic in the end.

So this was an accidental metaphor, right? Or one they kind of noticed but didn’t think all the way through? Let’s say that it was. Otherwise all of the episode’s good points become more than a little uncomfortable, and I really want to be able to appreciate its strengths for what they were. A whole group of female characters in Doctor Who, working together, challenging one another and generally being awesome in order to save the world.

Rhiannon

Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

3 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

  1. Fab post. This episode made me Really Angry and I wasn’t sure why – your metaphorical reading of it makes a lot of sense. However, I too appreciated Clara’s stand, although wishing it could have been sparked by a better cause.

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