Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: Doctor Who 8.7: Kill The Moon

This is gonna be a long article, folks.
From the BBC
When you strip away the era's misogyny, prejudice and the incompetance of its head writer, the one thing I really wanted from the Moffat Era was a story with political and/or scientific undertones. Good science fiction blends a straightforward main plot with themes which relate the story to real-world issues, but in a way which maintains our suspension of disbelief. Kill The Moon is a story which addresses a lot of science and has one clear, bludgeoning political message - Abortion is bad, anyone who supports it is bad and there is no possible reason anyone should not have a child. Now, while I personally think this opinion is despicable, it would be remiss of me to damn the episode on that alone. No, instead I'm going to damn the episode on more or less everything else. This level of crap is the reason I started writing, folks, so hold onto your belts.
How was the moon alien growing? Where was it getting its
energy and sustenance from? The moon has no organic matter:
from whence did it gain the material for the "bacteria"? What
was their purpose? From the BBC
     After The Doctor apparently called troublesome teenager Courtney "not special" last episode, Clara chews him out and the subsequent argument leads to them taking Courtney to the Moon. They arrive in 2049, on an old Space Shuttle sent to the Moon with mankind's remaining nuclear weapons in order to discover why our natural satellite has apparently gained weight. There they discover the last expedition dead and covered in cobwebbs, killed by hordes of spider-like creatures which The Doctor says are like bacteria. Eventually The Doctor, Clara, Courtney and one survivor, Lundvik (Hermione Norris, Spooks) discover the reason for their trouble - The Moon is in fact an egg for a planet-sized organism, and it's about to hatch. Lundvik wants to kill the creature using her arsenal of nukes, reasoning that if the creature awakens The Earth will be tormented by both catestrophic climate change and by continent-sized chunks of moon-rock. The Doctor and his fellowship spew out pro-life arguments, and The Doctor buggers off, forcing Clara to make the decision on whether to kill or not. She eventually decides not, and the Moon hatches, with the remains of the planet magically disappearing and a new "egg" being layed in its place.
     Now, Doctor Who should be a forum in which a variety of political avenues are discussed - in the Classic Series alone we had drug addiction, the taxation system, the British Political system, the effectiveness of Thatcherism, the Cold War, the Gay Rights Movement, whether Britain should join the EEC, and many, many more. Abortion and its ethics are not an untouchable ground to walk on. However, and I stress that I do speak from the perspective of a white cisgender male, this is not a topic that you discuss through outlandish metaphor. This is what is referred to as a Space Whale Aesop, and its use in actually discussing Pro-Choice versus Anti-Abortion is close to none. Instead, the effect is a very blunt and very tiring presentation of the Anti-Abortion position as an absolute moral right, with none of the actual consequences that such a decision can entail in the real world. And don't just think I'm drawing conclusions out of metaphor here, there is no god-damn metaphor. "Why do you want to kill it, it's a little baby?", "It's not been born!", "You can't blame a baby for kicking!", "I'm gonna need more than that if I'm gonna kill a baby." The truth is, it doesn't even make sense in-universe - the creature lays an egg directly after it hatches, so it must be in a state of physical maturity, and the Moon is made of large chunks of rock that would cause a major catastrophe upon its destruction.
     That very neatly brings me onto the other thing about this episode - the bad science. This one is a cracker - I almost wish I could finish writing that "5 More Cases of Bad Doctor Who Science" article now, because this episode offends nearly every discipline. This episode's premise, a planet which turns out to be a gestating creature, is not a fundamentally bad one - exobiology allows for all sorts of possibilities. The Moon, however, is something we know about. Like, we know what the Moon is made of. It's got a molton outer core and a liquid inner core, like Earth. (But at a much smaller scale.) The temperature at the centre of the moon is about 830°C (1) - the point is, Mankind has looked inside the Moon, we didn't just hop about on the surface and hope for the best. Alongside other claims like "there are no minerals on the moon" (The Moon is made principally of "minerals") and "there's no water on the moon" (there totally is (2)}, there's no explanation given as to where this majestic creature came from, just that "it's always been there". I don't want hard science here (this is after all a show about a time traveller), but I would expect the writer to spend a minute on the god-damn Wikipedia page. (Also, those giant spiders are certainly not "prokaryotic" organisms. That was embarrassing.)
No giant space aliens. From Wikimedia
     The episode's main problem, then is in its suspension of disbelief. Now it can be said that as someone who's been dissecting TV for a good 5 years or so, my suspension of disbelief is pretty thin - of course I see the tropes, of course it's harder for me to be carried along by the universe. But that's a pretty poor excuse for what's going on this week. On the one hand, we have a set of characters who are forced into opposing sides of a debate on Abortion, where one side is advocating the continued survival of the entire human race and the other is going "but the ickle giant space baby!" That is not a natural dilemma that we can get behind - it's a complex issue both in and out of universe, and not one that the episode should make a fundamental decision on. On the other hand, we have the entire concept of The Moon being a giant alien which hatches and simultaneously lays an egg the size of itself. This episode didn't just kill my suspension of belief, it pulverised the corpse, cremated it and ejected the remains into the sun.
     And, to finish, I think the thing I hated the most about this episode was the allusions it made to The Waters of Mars, a fantastic story. Walking in that same orange space suit across a barren yet familiar world, charting the history of space travel and mankind's progression. A guest star in a respected female actress playing a future astronaut. Except, where The Waters of Mars told a story of the understanding of necessary sacrifice and hard decisions, Kill The Moon inverts it and shows that taking hard decisions has no consequences as long as you follow naive, child-like reasoning and black-and-white morality. That is a very common theme with Moffat's era. That and, I've noticed this season, making Capaldi do something un-Doctorish and then having Clara shout at him as though he's always been like that. There were times when Clara was screaming at The Doctor where I felt she summed up my feelings towards the character (and the series) with more clarity than I ever could.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: Because RTD didn't do Agatha Christie well enough, I suppose. We take a train-ride in Mummy on the Orient Express.

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