After last week’s episode seemed to finally get the components to click together, I had high hopes for this week’s episode, particularly after an “Alien”-inspired trailer. And you know what? By and large, I wasn’t disappointed. This was the easiest episode this season to enjoy, with my only major gripe being the facile “oh, look – it laid another egg” deus ex machina reset button at the end (when a far more satisfying ending would have been seeing a new moon under construction ‘a few years later’ like the Death Star in “Return Of The Jedi”). Oh well.
The story actually hangs together better than most and the intriguing set up of the Moon putting on weight creates a fantastic mystery whilst also allowing for the existence of money saving gravity. The otherworldly landscape of Lanzarote, greywashed, looks fantastic and the production values are generally top notch here. Condolencias Mexico, by the way, for getting to the Moon only to find out it’s literally a giant piñata. Cultural irony ahoy! Yes, the spider creatures are derivative and the description of them as bacteria seems suspect when parasite would be more apt but they make for an enjoyably creepy red herring until the true cause of the problem is revealed. The story is so neatly structured that it doesn’t actually need a cold open, let alone a tedious in media res speech to camera that Doctor Who is becoming all too fond of.
This is, for my money, Capaldi’s finest outing so far as the Doctor. His callously rational version of compassion just works so well in this situation, and everything you need to know about this Doctor is summed up in his “shoot us” speech, where he uses irrefutably compassionate logic to explain why Hermione Norris’ astronaut should shoot first Courtney, then Clara before settling in for a long old execution of all the Doctor’s remaining regenerations, all the while taking control of the conversation and the mission. It was such a perfect 12th Doctor moment that in the fullness of time, I expect it to be up there with Tom Baker’s “Have I the right…?” and McCoy’s “…somewhere the tea is getting cold.” speeches.
Speaking of Courtney, the cynical, jaded teenager is the perfect addition to the brusque no-nonsense logical Doctor and the increasingly pious Clara. There’s a real spark of fascination between her and the Doctor who both seem to have a similarly jaundiced outlook but come to it from entirely different directions. Although I’m guessing she’s served her purpose I’m holding out hope we haven’t seen the last of her, given she brings a far more interesting dynamic to the TARDIS than Clara now does.
Jenna Coleman is terrific in this episode but Clara is clearly on her way out, into the arms of Danny Pink (but only, presumably, once we find out exactly what his dark secret regret actually is). For a brief moment, I genuinely thought that they were going to pull a complete surprise on us and have her depart permanently in bad feeling after her tirade against the Doctor for putting her into the position she was in, kind of like they half-heartedly did with Tegan leaving the 5th Doctor after “Resurrection Of The Daleks” proved a ‘bloodbath’ too far. But then Danny showed up to remind us of his mysterious guilt and nudge Clara back to the Doctor. For now.
Tense, atmospheric, with a sky-high concept scifi premise and a hefty dollop of moral dilemma, “Kill The Moon” easily overcomes its few fumbles and is one of my favourite epsiodes of Nu-Who to date.