Dear Steven Moffat: Kill the Moon


Dear Steven,

To start at the end, there was a weird anti-democratic undertone to this week’s moon-sized chunk of horror schlock. We learned that the Doctor and Clara went for dinner in 1937 Berlin. The in-story reason for this was to illustrate that it wasn’t the Doctor’s business to make the big calls in human history (because he didn’t kill Hitler), the thousands of times he’s saved the planet and its dominant species aside, but it raised the question of just what the fuck the time travelling twosome were doing there.

Had the Doctor stumbled on a great eisbein place while observing Nazi intimidation and the persecution of Berlin Jews at the hand of stormtroopers first hand? Had Clara asked to eat out in a fascist capital? Did either of them think twice about supporting the Nazi economy? It’s easy enough to imagine the two of them necking Berliner Weisse, harder to envision our heroes laid back, comfortable and taking in the atmosphere, as an old brownshirt pummeled a suspected homosexual on the next table. I hope they didn’t leave a tip.

Then there was the vote. Earth was asked to decide whether the Moon creature should be allowed to hatch or be vaporised by a hundred nuclear bombs. Understandably Clara wanted to take soundings. The Doctor, a 2,000 year old genius with a deep and practical understanding of the universe and the ethical quandaries thrown up by the same, decided he didn’t have an opinion on this occasion. No, he wouldn’t be drawn so he’d let a hawkish astronaut, a teenage girl and an occasional galactic hitchhiker decide instead. At least Clara had the brains to realise that a wider pool of opinion needed sampling, so she called for a global plebiscite.

Unsurprisingly, given the potential threat from an orbital creature a quarter of the planet’s size that no one knew anything about, those on the ground voted with their light switches for annihilation. A disturbed Clara, forced to take ultimate responsibility for the decision by a buck passing Doctor, made a snap choice and overrode the species’ call, thereby overturning the largest, most inclusive show of democracy in human history. Yes seven billion had voted, many for the first time, with turnout at nearly 100% but fuck it, it didn’t feel right to a twentysomething English teacher from Blackpool who likes to eat out in Nazi Germany. Did you check writer Peter Harness’s politics before you hired him, Steven?

These political oddities aside, “Kill the Moon” pivoted on Clara’s moral dilemma. The days of the Doctor holding a couple of wires aloft and asking, ‘do I have the right?’ as in Genesis of the Daleks, are clearly over. Instead, in keeping with the companion-centric shift in this series, the episode’s meat was in Clara’s hands (so to speak). This was an interesting development, one that changed the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. It forced her to think for herself for a change, taking off the stabilisers as the Doctor put it, but it also illustrated the difference between this incarnation of the Doctor and his predecessors.

Capaldi’s man is more aloof – not just alien but alienating. Here was the Doctor saying, “this is your world, not mine, you decide its fate while I untangle this yo yo”, and that spoke to a new attitude that Clara understandably found uncomfortable. A Doctor who’s on hand for guidance rather than there to make the big decisions is clearly not the same man who used to lead from the front on the universal stage. I recall getting a similar reaction the first time I refused to pick a restaurant after a Saturday movie. Two angry people and myself stood in the street for three days, growing cold and emaciated.

I believed the Doc when he said that fucking off to check which levers Courtney had touched and moving them back was about conferring respect on Clara, but you can’t blame her for being uncertain – this Doctor’s a lot more ambivalent than most. A moral crusader would be one thing, a Time Lord that didn’t give a widow’s tits another, but one that looks like he changes his mind a couple of times an hour? That’s not someone you’d feel safe with. Little wonder, then, that despite a favourable (if autocratic) outcome, Clara had one of those tantrums that people sometimes have when they’ve had a fright, are now safe, but are pissed off with the person that made them scared in the first place. Her calling time on her travels (for now) may have been a surprise, but it undoubtedly advanced both characters. How this is revisited and what it will mean for the two of them in future crunch situations will be interesting to see. Will Clara go all the way and tell the Doctor to “fuck off” next time?

Other than that, the only other moment of note in “Killing Keith Moon” was the Doctor’s aside about being unable to see some moments in time. Things, he said, had to be decided in the here and now. I liked that, Steven, and choose to read it as giving predestined outcomes the finger, which of course is a subtle way of critiquing the accursed ontological paradox you’re so fond of. I hope you took that line in, old fruit. If this episode had any weight at all it was because it wasn’t about catching up with decisions already made but making choices now, with all the consequences unknown and unknowable. Think on.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: “What is Courtney Woods?” asked the Doctor. Well, quite. Is this import from CBBC there to up the show’s young-load? What do I have to do to stop her appearing in future episodes, carve off my leg? Well okay, you bastard – send me a guarantee and I’ll get the sawdust in.

P.P.S: “I’m not sure I won’t keep on regenerating forever.” If the Doctor got a new set of regenerations he should be fairly sure they’re capped at 12, but it was an interesting aside. Is this is the episode that guaranteed the 200th anniversary?

P.P.P.S: Returning to Courtney, why would the Doctor have a child-sized space suit handy? I suppose he could have travelled ahead, seen himself with Courtney grasping her throat and turning blue on the surface of the moon and made a mental note to get one made, but this seemed a little weird to me.

P.P.P.P.S: “I’ll smack you so hard you’ll regenerate.” That old threat.

The Adventures of Clara and her Geriatric Pal:

Doctor Who: The Youthful Years

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 14:18  Comments Off on Dear Steven Moffat: Kill the Moon  
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