THE WHO REVIEW: “Kill the Moon”

Spiders on the Moon are the least of the Time Lord’s worries this week. Lee prepares for a Doctor-Companion meltdown. 

This was a brilliant episode. I’m going straight out there and saying that this week. In a series that has been solid so far, you could argue forever about what has been the true stand-out episode, but for now, that argument is over. “Kill the Moon” was a hardcore science fiction story, something we have hardly seen since the show’s return, but it was also rooted purely in the problems of the TARDIS crew’s relationships. This episode had everything and was expertly presented.

The ending was something that has been brewing for a while. The Doctor and Clara have been bickering a lot more recently, and his dependence and trust in her was pushed to the limit. Being trusted implicitly to do something can make one feel abandoned and betrayed. This was why Clara reacted so strongly to being used as a soldier in deciding the Moon’s fate, whilst the planet signalled their execution order. You could argue The Doctor was right to abstain from making a choice as it isn’t his planet’s Moon, after all. This is the Time Lord following his race’s credo to never interfere.

Whatever side of the argument you fall on, praising Jenna Coleman’s acting in that scene comes easily. She has been the true star of this series, and with such material being presented for her to play, it’s no wonder why. You couldn’t help but cheer for Clara in that instance as the evil eyebrows showed confusion. Sometimes, The Doctor is an awful person, and after being promised to see that side of our new Doctor, we finally did. Gone is the lonely God and now he’s simply alone because of his choices. It’s all so heartbreaking but great writing from Wallander scribe Peter Harness.

The idea for this story was conceived in 2011 when Matt Smith was still The Doctor. The mood of the plot certainly fit better for Peter Capaldi. The Moon is the cause for drastic changes in Earth’s weather systems and Lundvik (Hermione Norris) and her crew are sent to investigate. It turns out that Earth’s constant companion is an egg for the creature inside, who is now hatching. It reminded me of the video game Dead Space 3 and the Brother Moons of that particular story. As a sci-fi idea, in the Whoniverse, it was certainly a new and bold one.

So, it’s left up to The Doctor, Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik to decide the fate of our lunar rock. After having a vote with the lights on Earth, humanity predictably decides to kill the creature. A return to noting the negative side of humanity that was explored more in Torchwood than in recent years of Doctor Who, where we have been presented too positively at times. There needs to be a balance and that was showcased well here. Thankfully, Clara is on hand to save the Moon before it laid another egg as a replacement – despite my praise for the story, I do feel this was a little silly and  far too convenient a way of replacing the lost Moon.

The threat this week mostly came from the bacteria spiders that were scuttling across the surface. In the early scenes, they were pretty creepy. The atmosphere was so spot-on. Episodes like this take their inspiration from Alien and it’s always a good choice, especially when one decided to face-hug a member of Lundvik’s crew.

As a whole, the episode was presented superbly. The location shooting in Lanzarote certainly helped create the Moon on-screen. Production levels this series are still as strong as ever, with no real eyesores. There were a couple instances of CGI that didn’t look too convincing, notably the spaceship crashing on the Moon, but for the most part, everything looked truly convincing. Kudos to the production crew for naming early scripts “Return to Sarn”as Lanzarote was used for the 1984 story “Planet of Fire.” This led to some wondering if The Master or Turlough would return, but no such things occurred sadly.

So, what is next for our TARDIS crew? It seems Twelve is on his own for his trip aboard the Space Orient Express. I would love to see an episode to himself, harking back to “The Deadly Assassin” during the Tom Baker era, or even “Midnight” from the Tenth Doctor years. There won’t be another trip for school kid Courtney Woods, though. Ellis George played her well but the character was a bit annoying in places. Her role was too stereotypical a teenager, yet she did develop towards the end with her “feeling special” message. As for Clara, cast lists for the remaining episodes have Coleman still around until Christmas, so expect her back very soon… if not immediately.

Compelling from start to finish, with a great science fiction-driven plot, “Kill the Moon” is the best episode of series 8 so far in my opinion. It displayed that a new voice in the writing department can do great things. It should be thought of highly as a defining episode of the early Capaldi era. Some will still doubt that he is truly the star of this series, but together Capaldi and Coleman are excellent. More like this please!

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