I’ve mentioned before that this series is a return to basics, and you don’t get more basic in Doctor Who than a base on the Moon being under attack by creepy aliens bent on destroying humanity. Except for the first half of the episode that’s what it is before it becomes something else entirely, and I don’t think some fans will especially like the second half of the episode. It’s a pity as it’s flawed, but it throws a lot out there for people to take in so best go back to the beginning.
The episode starts with a teaser of Clara and an unnamed astronaut telling Earth that there’s a threat on the Moon and ‘the man who helps’ isn’t there.It’s a pretty jarring start but it’s enough to hook you, especially with the hint that the Doctor has left behind Clara in a life or death situation. As the episode starts, we’re introduced again to Courtney, the schoolgirl introduced in the previous episode, who is still wanting to travel with the Doctor and Clara in the Tardis. After a short discussion the Doctor says he’ll make Courtney the first woman on the Moon which is something he seems to want to do to show off to not just Courtney, but to Clara.
The Tardis lands on an old Space Shuttle which is about to land on the Moon in the year 2049. Now forget that the Space Shuttle couldn’t stand a journey of that distance, this isn’t not just a programme that generally ignores science, but this episode is better if you really do try to ignore the big problems with science in it. Anyhow, after the landing, the Doctor and crew meet the Shuttle crew lead by Captain Lundvik who has managed to commission an old Shuttle because in 2049 humanity doesn’t travel into space anymore. Though they have come to see what happened with a private mining survey and the fact the Moon needs to be blown up as freak high tides have wiped out a large part of humanity and taken out many of it’s satellites.
For much of the first part of the episode this is classic Who. Moonbases, gobby companions, monsters, minor characters dying horribly, and a threat that means the possible destruction of the Earth. It’s very traditional Who with creepy spider monsters, who end up being germs feeding on something inside the Moon itself. At this point the episode changes from what it would be in a classic episode, and turns into a morality play because what’s caused the Moon to put on billions in tons in weight and cause the high tides, is that the Moon is an egg. There’s a lifeform in the heart of the Moon and it’s about to hatch which means that a new, innocent and possibly unique life is born, but that Earth will be destroyed as chunks of Moon rain down on the planet. Clara, Courtney and Ludvik are given a choice by the Doctor: do they let this unique alien creature be born or do they blow up the Moon saving the Earth but aborting this creature before it’s born.
Clara demands the Doctor tell them what to do and how things should happen, but the Doctor refuses saying this is a job for humanity to decide, not him. He doesn’t do anything heroic, but he does point out the morality he has to deal with as he points out to Clara that he took her for dinner in Nazi Germany in 1937 but they didn’t kill Hitler. For the Doctor this is a fixed moment in time and he can’t change that. The audience will know what happens when the Doctor last tried to change a fixed moment in time in The Waters of Mars, but Clara argues that he should help. This falls on deaf ears as The Doctor leaves in the Tardis which means Clara, Courtney and Ludvik have to make the decision. They manage to contact the Earth to tell them the situation and give them a chance to decide. If they turn off their lights then it’s to abort the creature, if they leave them on, it’s to save it. Earth turns it’s lights off and as Ludvik is about to detonate the nuclear bombs she’s brought with her, Clara stops her and at that moment the Doctor returns to rescue the three from the Moon and takes them to Earth to watch what happens. The egg hatches and a massive winged creature is born, but it also lays another egg which becomes Earth’s new moon as the Doctor reveals that this incident revitalises humanity’s desire to go into space and they colonise the stars.
Ok, so forget about the fact a massive creature weighing billions of tones flying in Earth’s orbit would cause massive devastation on Earth, or that there’s billions of spider-germ monsters in orbit around the Earth. From this point on the episode is about how much of an arsehole this Doctor is to Clara and humanity. Clara loses her temper with not only the Doctor putting Courtney at risk, but nearly standing by watching Earth die. It’s a great moment as Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is morally ambiguous not to mention is clearly not a natural hero as Matt Smith and David Tennant was. This is a Doctor who is alien and doesn’t want to interfere with humanity, but as Clara points out, he’s lived on Earth and it’s as much his home now as it is hers so what’s his problem?
It’s a bit of a blinding performance from Jenna Coleman which coming after a massive abortion metaphor is asking a lot from an audience so it’s great the episode delivers so well. Capaldi’s Doctor is an arsehole, but he’s an alien which doesn’t make Clara wrong, but coming after Matt Smith’s warm welcoming Doctor this is a massive shock to her system. She’s also right. The Doctor should have done more, and he shouldn’t have had put Courtney and herself in a near death situation, though the Doctor is also right that he couldn’t make the decision humanity had to make itself. It’s just he was such an arse about it which ties in with Danny Pink’s comments about the Doctor coming from aristocracy last week. But with Clara telling the Doctor to get out of her life who exactly is going to keep this Doctor under check?
We’ve now got a turning point not just for this series, but the entire programme as a whole. Where is the Capaldi Doctor going? Is he a ‘good man’? Has Clara left the Doctor for good? What about Missy and the ‘Promised Land’ anyhow?
I’ve said before I wish Matt Smith had consistent scripts of this standard, and he should have, but Peter Capaldi’s casting has seriously dragged this programme up from some low depths in the last few years, and up to a level this programme hasn’t really hit since it’s return. Just ignore all the science stuff….