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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Prandeamus
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:17 am

    What are these helps crushed blacks of which you speak?
    Also, descent or dissent?
    Sorry, I'm being that guy again.

    Nevertheless, a fine read. Thank you and happy new year.


  2. Prandeamus
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:19 am

    Flipping autocorrect. Hella crushed blacks.


  3. Richard Pugree
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:22 am

    This thing with the lights in Kill the Moon confused me . . . Surely everyone watches Doctor Who with the lights off?


  4. Seeing_I
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:46 am

    What he means by "crushed blacks" is that the contrast is turned up, so the darker tones in the picture all tend towards being a dark, deep black.


  5. Seeing_I
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:58 am

    /quote/ …it's not quite clear how the "the Doctor Things it away from the train" sequence is intended to strike the reader…there are moments where they clearly know they can't actually get away with what they're trying, but are hoping they'll get points for believing their bubble wrap. It's a grand Doctor Who tradition… "they went for more than they could possibly achieve."/endquote/

    I'm sorry I am not sure what you're trying to say with this paragraph, and the infamous Moffat quote. I thought the clear intent of the "Thing" sequence was to elicit laugher, both incredulous and delighted, that they'd really go for something so mad, and yet so logically in keeping with the situation. In that sense I thought it totally worked, and it's not as if the special effects were bad. Indeed, all the effects in this episode were quite good and far from giant rat territory.

    It's great to know what you can achieve, but if Doctor Who's reach didn't exceed its grasp, it'd be a much poorer show.


  6. Jarl
    December 31, 2014 @ 4:27 am

    The Doctor "Thinging" away from the train is, like you said (pretty sure) them showing off the sort of action scene only Doctor Who can do, see also the airplane scene in The Bells of St. John for similar reasons. The only way they could top it at this point, and they probably never will because of the format of the show, is by having the Doctor fake his own death by actually dying and then regenerating when he's clear of the danger.

    I would argue Kill the Moon is pro-life only in the sense that making an actual choice to have an abortion or not have an abortion would require there to be some reasons in favor and some reasons not in favor. A weighing of pros and cons. Ultimately it's a pro-choice narrative because it doesn't matter what the rest of the world wants, it's the choice of the women present to make.


  7. Steven
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:02 am

    My two cents (pennies) are that the McKinnon direction comments only really hold true for Heist. Listen looks incredible and has some incredibly distinctive moments (including the open) and Flatline is one of the best looking, most nicely shot episodes ever.

    Think the thing with the hand is straight forward and brilliant also.


  8. Jesse
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:17 am

    Because when Wilmhurst came back to Twitter he answered a question about it, and said that he didn't want to interfere with audience interpretations. Which is not the thing someone says when they're doing a big angry allegory about abortion.

    Who said it was big and angry?

    It would be a bizarrely right-wing viewpoint for a British man who's emigrated to Sweden to hold, and he just plain doesn't seem that right-wing.

    Not everyone with anti-abortion views is.


  9. John Smith 5
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:21 am

    Do Wilmhurst's politics really have any bearing on Kill the Moon? He only directed it. All the elements which viewers have perceived as part of an abortion allegory originated in Harness's script, so surely he's the one to ask?


  10. David Anderson
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:24 am

    For comparison and calibration purposes:
    whereabouts sort of do the boundaries between D+/C-, B+/A-, and A/A+ fall on the Act of Madness 1-10 scale?


  11. Seeing_I
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:31 am

    Yeah, one thing that irks me about the "pro-choice" movement is that they seem to utterly discount the possibility of choosing not to have an abortion.


    • Ichabod
      March 10, 2018 @ 7:07 am

      Not true across the board, and certainly not true of much of the most passionate and inspired writing by actual feminists in the last decade or so. “Choice” means “choice”, not “the choice I or we would make in your place: it means your choice for your reasons.” The charge you make here is just plain false, here in the USA where I live. And it’s particularly egregious because also here in the USA where I live, there have been many clinics set up by anti-abortion people as supposedly neutral sources of aid for women trying to deal with problematic pregnancies. All the damn falsehood has come from the usual side: the anti-any-choice-but-birth side.


  12. Aylwin
    December 31, 2014 @ 7:30 am

    Filling the screen with the word "Abort" in big red flashing letters wouldn't necessarily be in the script (though it might be).

    But yes, basically it is the writer you should be asking. And quite apart from that, taking such a meticulously non-committal, neither-confirm-nor-deny statement as a denial is stretching it a bit. Though not as much as "he moved to Sweden, therefore he can't be right-wing, and therefore he can't be anti-abortion, because that's Rule One of the American Culture Wars".


  13. Anton B
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:33 am

    Those are two of my favourite Oblique Strategies too. I also like 'Go outside. Shut the door', 'Which is the picture which is the frame?' and 'Do the washing up'.

    Actually Phil I'm interested in how you use them. Do you wait for an artistic dilemma as Eno suggests or do you, like me, consult them as a conceptual tarot before, during and after the creative process?


  14. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:40 am

    Bah. I meant Harness. That'll teach me to keep editing and adding things that late into the night. Fixed it.


  15. dm
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:55 am

    I agree with most of this, but I'd drop the finale two parter down a few places and elevate Into the Dalek over it, Deep Breath and Flatline.

    I smiled when I saw the placing of Mummy. THAT was the real surprise of the season- everything leading up to it, including the early reviews, said "throwaway runaround by first time Who writer" which, I suppose, is exactly what it was. But we'd forgotten how much the classic series was built on exquisitely executed throwaway runarounds like this. It really was a Robots of Death, with the addition Frank Skinner giving a spirited and genuinely affecting performance. His rejection of the doctor's invitation at the end was so perfectly delivered, he almost did a Nicholas Parsons.

    It's no Kill the Moon or Listen, but it doesn't have to be.

    Also, you know how I know Kill the Moon wasn't a pro life allegory? The fact that it doesn't hold up as one at all. If it was that, it was a particularly crap and ambiguous one, really.


  16. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:56 am

    It's not a pro-life allegory because you don't want it to be.
    You tear apart A Town Called Mercy because of a throwaway line delivered about a horse, but can't see the giant red ABORT button here?


  17. encyclops
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:57 am

    I just think we find that sometimes "accidental subtext" is forgivable and sometimes it's a sign of the most heinous subconscious prejudices and bigotry, depending on whether we like the episode or not.

    I mean, I do it too, which is why I say "we." But yeah.


  18. Terry
    December 31, 2014 @ 10:06 am

    I sincerely hope to see Doctor Who episode reviews for Series 9. You have a fantastic and eloquent of summing everything up.


  19. John Seavey
    December 31, 2014 @ 10:51 am

    These reviews…I dunno, man, sometimes it's almost like you're a different person with your own opinions about things. πŸ™‚ Personally, I couldn't stand 'Kill the Moon' or 'In the Forest of the Night', and thought that they were far worse than (to pick another great season's bad episodes) 'The Idiot's Lantern' and 'Fear Her'. I thought there were quite a few time-wasters, like 'Robots of Sherwood' and 'Time Heist' that were not great, not bad, just sort of there. And I'll be honest, the season arc lost me at the end of 'Mummy on the Orient Express' when Clara came back. It felt like an entirely unmotivated piece of writerly fiat, done for no reason other than to set up the back half of the season, and I thought it destroyed the entire concept of her having a relationship with Danny which was so necessary to set up the two-part climax. I can't believe that Clara loved Danny that much if she had that little respect for his intelligence and emotions. And that's kind of a problem when the Big Moment is all about how much she loves him.

    That said, this feels more like the back half of Davies' run–a good writer/showrunner whose welcome has just worn out a bit, rather than an actual lack of talent or good ideas–and I'm by no means done with the series. I just can't see this as being as good as Season Two or even Season Five, and I certainly don't think that it's as good as I hoped for out of Moffat. I just don't think that he has a Moffat in his back pocket the same way that Davies did, someone who can reliably crank out one or two mercilessly good scripts a season when he's off doing the other stuff that needs to be done. Far too many of the non-Moffat scripts are from people like Stephen Thompson, who I can only assume has photos of highly-placed people at the BBC having sex with furniture, and there's not the kind of run of unbroken quality that Davies could get by having Moffat fill in the holes in his run.

    Either way, roll on Season 9. πŸ™‚


  20. xec tilus
    December 31, 2014 @ 11:08 am

    Hang on, don't they end up using said button? In order to keep the space dragon alive? What kind of flimsy pro-life allegory IS this?


  21. Matt Smitheram
    December 31, 2014 @ 11:27 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  22. Matt Smitheram
    December 31, 2014 @ 11:27 am

    A pro life allegory would never call the correct decision ABORT.

    While I admit that Kill the Moon has abortion subtext, it doesn't support either side. Instead, it confused and messy. That's why I don't like it as much as Phil. I could write an essay on why it is a pro choice allegory, and a separate essay on why it is a pro life category.

    Kill the Moon is an episode where women are given the choice to keep or abort a child, and the male authority figure goes 'this isn't my decision' and leaves. Society then seeks to impose their view, but Clara rejects it, makes her own choice, and presses abort. This decision is correct.

    Kill the Moon is a story where people make the choice whether to abort a baby or not, without the mother having any say (in fact, the mother and her opinion doesn't even exist). Clara, who is not the mother or in any way connected, lets the egg hatch and chooses life. This decision is correct.

    Two interpretations, both fair (especially as I am missing out a lot of sublties on both sides for simplicity. When I said I could write an essays on both sides, I wasn't lying). The abortion subtext is too confused to say anything about it. But Phil's view? A clear and coherent viewpoint.

    That is why we can't call Kill the Moon an abortion allegory, not matter which side. Kill the Moon is a story about finding something new and different, and choosing between treating it with wonder, or attacking it in fear, with confusing, accidental abortion subtext.

    You don't have to like it. I don't agree with Phil that Kill the Moon is as good as he says (partly because of the messy, incoherent abortion stuff). But it isn't fair to call Kill the Moon an abortion allegory


  23. EvilBug
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

    In Kill the Moon, we, the humanity were collectively impregnated with Moon without our consent. I'm usually the first in line to criticize people who can't speak a complete sentence without mentioning rape, but we were essentially raped. As Moon grew, it caused us great suffering (or so we are told at least) and we fear birth will kill us. This is, essentially, two things that might even hardened pro-lifer to make an exception – rape and health hazard rolled in one.

    Now, team of professionals we sent to evaluate the situation call for abortion, humanity agrees with it, but an outsider, who doesn't belong here and won't have any stake in it for next 30 years, deny us our choice. It's not just an abortion allegory, this story celebrates brave men and women who sabotage abortion clinics from inside so would be baby murderers would fail. The fact that it was likely unintended only makes it dumber.

    I also have big problem with technobabble part of this episode. Usually, Doctor Who has little logic in his monsters and technologies. They want a monster with certain powers, or a machine with certain functions – they have it. With Kill the Moon logic is blatantly obvious and tremendously stupid. Follow me:

    Moon is alive so it has bacteria living off it (That's not the problem). The Moon is big and so are bacteria (Does Harness think Elephant's fleas are 180000 times as big as rat's fleas?). They also have eight pseudopods so they gotta produce web even though they are not predators – there's no prey on the Moon. And they die from one spray of kitchen disinfectant even though they are size of a cat.

    And, oh, there's Courtney's characterization. Because of it I can only imagine Harness as a senile racist who yell on kids to get off his lawn and get lynched.


  24. Jesse
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    A pro life allegory would never call the correct decision ABORT.

    Because a pro-life allegory could never be playful? C'mon.


  25. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

    I mean, you're entitled to your imagination, but I 100% guarantee you that you're factually wrong about this.


  26. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

    I tore apart A Town Called Mercy for being a derivative Davies throwback, and then noted that the transphobic joke made it all the worse.

    Although yes, it is true that transphobia pisses me off more than being pro-life.


  27. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

    It's difficult to imagine circumstances where I won't write something about S9 as it airs.


  28. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

    Either works, but it's been more conceptual tarot over the last few weeks.

    Do you have a favorite version of the deck? I'm partial to 1979.


  29. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

    I wouldn't pretend to have the sort of consistency of viewpoint over time that a conversion would suggest.


  30. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

    Typically when I'm watching TV after sunset I have the light off in the room I'm in, but lights on elsewhere in the house. It's possible I'm very weird though.


  31. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    "Don't you think he looks tired?" is what I think when I watch Moffat's Who now.

    It's a pale shadow of his stuff under Davies and the first half of his tenure as showrunner.

    Thought Kill the Moon and In the Forest of the Night were as bad as anything Doctor Who has ever done. Twin Dilemma, Fear Her, The Web Planet, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. … You name it.


  32. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:26 pm

    The position that Kill the Moon was as bad as The Twin Dilemma is not actually one that is remotely defensible.

    The position that it was as brilliant as The Web Planet, on the other hand, I'll readily accept.


  33. nimonus
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

    Yes, "allegory" implies a straightforward, one-to-one mapping with obvious authorial intent. Is there abortion subtext in Kill the Moon? Sure. Is that subtext intentional? Maybe. The quote Phil points to suggests not, but we can't entirely know.

    But is it an allegory? Absolutely not. Not if a reading as both pro-life and pro-choice can be supported by the text.

    I think Tolkein put it best: “I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”


  34. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    @Matt Smitheram Clara's world-class hissyfit at the end is what cements it as anti-choice for me. The idea that a silly girl would be given the choice when an older, white male, who obviously knows what's best for her is there to make the decision enrages her to the point she never wants to see him again.

    It's just a dumb, ugly script – a real mess of a story with a nasty undertone to it.


  35. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

    Your love of The Web Planet was the first time I questioned your sanity.

    I think the only thing that's saved Series 8 from being as irredeemably bad as Colin Baker's Who is Capaldi.


  36. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

    Really? Because I'd have thought "I think I'll blog about the entirety of Doctor Who" would have been the bigger red flag regarding my sanity, on the whole.

    Past that, honestly, I think that it is actually impossible to sincerely hold the view that anything in Season 8 is as bad as any of The Twin Dilemma, Attack of the Cybermen, The Mark of the Rani, or Timelash, and that anybody who claims otherwise is actually trolling. I do not believe that you actually think that, and think you are just trying to get a rise out of people.


  37. inkdestroyedmybrush
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

    @evilbug you're reiterating many of the same problems that i had with the episode, and I don't think that there is any way to resolve Phil's love for an episode that I think is awful. The episode did one thing really, really, well: it provoked an emotional reaction.

    I still think that the pacing of the episode is terrible, its fits and starts, and the science is so beyond bad as to make me truly embarrassed for the watching the show. the moral dilemma is, i think, an intersting one, but not well served by the episode at all. I would love to see that moral conundrum done better elsewhere.

    Phil has expressed his admiration for this story, and the Forest episode and its clear that he's watching a show doing things that he's really intersted in, and its clear that i see a show going in a direction that i really dislike.

    To my mind, to Hinchliffe this story: this is "revenge of the cyberman hinchcliffe": dire science, crap monsters, bad resolution, not "ark in space hinchcliffe" decent psuedo-science, good pacing, effective monsters, good moral dilemma.

    @Phil are you making the factually wrong comment about the science of the parasites or the characterization of Harness? I'm not sure.


  38. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

    The latter.


  39. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

    I would put Attack of the Cybermen way ahead of Kill The Moon. Mark of the Rani is boring as hell but it isn't downright offensive like Kill the Moon or the one where the Doctor makes anyone who gives their kids medication so they can function in society feel like shit. And, I like Kate O'Mara. There was potential there with her that wasn't realized. I can't even remember what Timelash was about. I actually re-read the plot on wikipedia and still have no memory of it.

    With the exception of Listen, which I think is brilliant, I wouldn't rank anything from Series 8 higher than Vengeance on Varos.

    Episodes like Time Heist, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood and Mummy on the Orient Express are all watchable and don't really seem to be going for much more than that, which is fine.

    The ones that seem to be trying to say something though, like Kill the Moon and In the Forest of the Night. … You're taking two subjects that are incredibly difficult and personal and making painfully glib observations on them in a 45 minute TV show. Abortion and medicating kids don't even merit a two-parter.

    I had the same reaction to both as I did to Twin Dilemma, which is they made me feel vaguely ill afterwards.


  40. David Anderson
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    You are not helping your case by using the phrase 'world-class hissyfit'; I do not normally take seriously on feminist issues people who spontaneously use the phrase 'world-class hissyfit' of a woman arguing with a man.


  41. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

    I used the phrase to make the point. It's why I also referred to her as a silly girl.


  42. jane
    December 31, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

    12) In the Forest of the Night: C
    Yeah, if this is perfectly average Doctor Who, you've got a great season on your hands. Not so concerned with the production issues of filming in a Welsh forest. It's a very pretty forest. I liked it. I do think the lack of nuance around the treatment of Maebh's condition is a concern, even though it's obviously meant as a metaphor for Blake. Mostly it lacks pace and tension, which isn't actually a good thing for the so-called kids' episode of the season. But its heart is in the right place, and it's mythologically rich.

    11) Time Heist: C+
    It's a great concept, but fails in some its details. For me, the biggest lost opportunity wasn't using different colored gels, or production aspects in general, but what the story meant for Clara's development. Twice she's caught by the Teller, which should entail an exploration of her guilt. But we don't get anything that she feels guilty of, like going on a date with the Doctor instead of Danny, or indeed of not telling the Doctor about Danny's solider past. We just get a couple of bland expressions. Likewise, Saibra's ability to mirror people could have yielded some more interesting scenes.

    Not that it's a disaster or anything. Given Thompson's previous work, it's easy (for me) to spot its ascension themes, which plays nicely into the longer arcs of Moffat's era, and the fact that Clara's payoff is saving an alien creature is certainly consistent with her characterization. It just isn't anything new. And a lot of the shots were really quite interesting, as far as the direction goes, even if some of them were lackluster.

    10) Into the Dalek: B-
    This is a great case study in how gorgeous direction isn't going to save a story that's so ugly at its core.

    9) Mummy on the Orient Express: B
    Competent. Yes, the direction is exquisite with the Mummy attacks. I'm not so sure about the central metaphor. Not that I disagree — Grace can only come after surrender. But, yeesh, another soldier story? I get tired of soldier stories. Especially those that don't have a strong critique of underlying military structures to accompany them. It's certainly elevated by the Clara material, which is fresh and new, but the Mummy story itself really bores me.

    8) Robot of Sherwood: B+
    It's light and frothy, and really quite funny. I love that Robin works as a metaphor for Clara's own characterization — bubbly personality masking something, though for Robin it's not "control freak" but "broken heart." It still works. It's actually quite good at what it attempts to do, and even though it's not doing anything new, what it's trying to (be fun!) is so important to the underlying ethos of Doctor Who I can't knock it for going there.

    7) Flatline: B+
    This is the character arc I'm most interested in — Clara's exploration of heroism, and how neatly it intersects with Pascal's admonition that "to play the angel is to play the beast." There's a fascinating underlying conceit here, some very interesting visuals (playing to the show's ethos of spectacle) and an extolling of graffiti as legitimate art that appeals to my sense of social justice.

    And the Doctor becoming "Thing" to save the TARDIS from the train pays off the use of "a thing" in so much of the season's dialogue it still makes me giggle.


  43. jane
    December 31, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

    6) Kill the Moon: B+
    This is a story that stirred me up at the end. I literally didn't know what I was feeling at the end, and that's certainly a rare experience. It's something to cherish.

    So why the relatively low ranking? It's not the usual objections — I love the narrative substitution, the moon being an egg, and indeed everything that's patently absurd about the story, for that's right in my wheelhouse when it comes to mythology. But in those terms, strictly, I'm not quite sure about spiders as a monster choice. If anything, it's that I've got to sit through the setup of Hinchcliffing the shit out of it to get to the good stuff. Given that I find the spiders neither scary nor symbolically relevant, I'm just not entirely sold.

    5) Deep Breath: A-
    I for one loved the Smith era, and getting one last bit of putting it to bed is something I really enjoyed. Regeneration stories are transitional stories — they're not where we get something really new, but that have a lot of work to accomplish, necessary for getting from point Q to point R. And this accomplishes that work with aplomb.

    I love the direction, the pacing and the rich visuals. It's funny, and the Paternoster Gang is a lot of fun. It's got a metaphorically rich monster, poses an interesting question at the end, and especially there's Clara's near-death experience at the heart of the story, which in a way mirrors the near-death experience of every regeneration. It all fits together, and it's got room to breathe. I think it's terribly underrated.

    4) Last Christmas: A-
    One of my favorite Christmas specials, and I haven't even had a chance to just revel in it what with being enmeshed in family and holiday activities. But I have had a chance to study it. And sure, it's a little flabby, but that's the only thing going against it. It's got heart, it moves past the ending of Death in Heaven without too much song and dance, and gets to what's really important.

    Which is, first and foremost, setting up what I really think is something new for companion dynamics in the Revival. Clara's finally let go of Danny Pink, and with that she's really let go of anything tying her down to life on Earth. Of all our companions, she's truly in a position to Ascend, to become fully Doctorly in her own right. There's such an interesting possibility teased by Jackie back in Army of Ghosts, of Rose growing so much she doesn't even seem human anymore, and given the promising title of "The Magician's Apprentice" I'm really looking forward to Clara being stretched far beyond what we've seen of anyone so far.

    So that final dream of hers that mirrors the end of Eleven is kind of like a warning — no, not a warning. The Last Temptation, more like, what's behind Door One, the "nice" prize; traveling with the Doctor now will yield either disaster or some kind of jackpot, something wild and new. I'm very excited.


  44. jane
    December 31, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

    3) Dark Water / Death in Heaven: A-
    Yeah, the volcano scene is absolutely brilliant, not to mention the setup going into it. SEB is hilarious. The subversion Ascension itself into something that's kind of grotesque and sad, that's very surprising and interesting. Missy is a necessary step in the right direction, and Gomez is fantastic. All the acting is superb.

    My only marks off are really for, again, the flabbiness — the stalling of the second half of Dark Water, and drawing out the military themes in DiH, though at least there's more of a rebuke here. Some of the graveyard scenes are just flat; the coffeehouse scene, on the other hand, positively soars.

    2) The Caretaker: A
    Yeah, I like it that much. It's quick, it's funny and yet also poignant, it's loaded with tension, and it's got an incredible amount of structural finesse. I think it's Roberts's best script to date. I love the scene where the TARDIS is on stage, the Magician and his Apprentice showing it off. We get the wonderful Courtney introduced here, too.

    And it positively shines in how the resolution of the plot is completely in line with the character dynamics of the Clara/Danny/Doctor triangle. It's just so damn elegant. Murphy also provides some interesting shots that add some rich layers to it all, especially the one of Clara looking into a split mirror.

    1) Listen: A+
    That it's considered an instant classic is telling. It is brand new — its take on monsters certainly is. That it so brilliant interweaves what's original with new takes on familiar tropes, all perfectly executed, takes it to a completely new level. The scares are exquisite. The message is exquisite. But it's the heart, the feels, that's what really gets me. And again, so very much character generated — and with Clara being the one to complete the ontological loop, and indeed driving the TARDIS, she really is the Magician's Apprentice, and well on her way to being a Time Lady in her own right.

    This is really some of Moffat's best work. And Mackinnon's. The set and lighting of the Barnhouse is gorgeous, and perfectly apt. The whole design of that scene is brilliant. As is the chronology of the discourse, saving the bits of storytelling for their best place in the story. Clara's melancholy at the beginning. The reveal of Orson is perfectly timed. And, of course, saving that wonderful line of fear making companions of us all for the end, highlighted by perfect shots — the soldier without a gun, and the Doctor's eye, full of stars, for Clara has made him bigger on the inside, which is the perfect metaphor for us all.


  45. Matt Smitheram
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  46. Matt Smitheram
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

    @KMT75 Got a couple of things to say in reply, but first, I just want to make something clear. I don't think Kill the Moon is fantastic. As much as I agree with Phil's interpretation and love the themes and ideas associated with his interpretation, I find the framing of the choice is done so badly to the point of incompotence. Not just because of the abortion stuff but because I have talked to many clever people about this episode and they all seemed to understand the framing of the choice differently. This is a catastrophic failure in communication by the episode and a major flaw. And then there are the more minor problems. My argument isn't that it deserves Phil's A+, or even any A grade. Just that looking at it as an abortion story on either side of the debate is wrong.

    Now, onto my points

    1. As I said, I could write an essay on why Kill the Moon supports either side. My little thing was simply the most basic version, and I intentionally missed out a lot of stuff. The big one that I missed in the pro life version was that Clara rejected the Doctor leaving. But I missed an even larger one on the pro choice side, that pro choice doesn't mean pro abortion, but pro making the choice. Making the choice to keep the baby is truly pro choice, being forced to keep it isn't. Considering the whole point of the episode is the three women making the choice, this is a big tick in the pro choice column

    2. That is a terrible interpretation of Clara's speech, and not just because of the horrendous word choice. I honestly think you are remembering the emotion, but not the actual complaint, which is important. Read the actual quote. Clara wasn't complaining about the Doctor not making the choice, but of the Doctor abandoning her. Look at what she says. She states that it was 'patronising', that she didn't feel 'respected' and most importantly 'you can damn well help us when we need it'. Note the words 'help us'. Helping, by defenition, is supportive. She is not complaining that the Doctor didn't solve the crisis for them, but that he didn't stay to support them and offer his wisdom to help them make the choice. To put it in abortion terms, the role of men in abortion is to offer support and wisdom when wanted. Which honestly sounds like a great answer to 'I am a pro choice man. What is my role in abortion?'.

    Lastly, and most importantly, even if we grant you your interpretation of Clara's speech, it still doesn't change the fact that this is an episode where women have to make a choice about abortion, reject society's attempt to enforce a decision and choose a choice that is actually called ABORT. Surely that is enough room for ambiguity? Because no interpretation of Clara's speech cements a viewpoint for me. Each viewpoint is hilariously easy to defeat with opposing arguments. I mean, I've already given you the argument to defeat my first point in my first post. It is dishonest to call Kill the Moon pro life, just as it is dishonest to call it pro choice. Kill the Moon's view on abortion is confused and nonsensical, and should be criticised for being confused and nonsensical, not for being pro life or pro choice.


  47. Unknown
    December 31, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

    I thought that was a reference to the ridiculous music. The Thing scene was obviously written to be funny, and I loved it for the reasons you said, but it was like the director or sound editor thought it was a thrilling action sequence.


  48. EvilBug
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

    I'm not going to award some letters to episodes. I'd say most of this season's episodes were very enjoyable except for Kill the Moon (I complained already) and In the Forest of the Night (Where nothing of relevance happened, pieces of plots hanging around including strange, purposeless sister – was she supposed to be kidnapped by faeries? Because if she's not, I really suspect she ran away on her own accord. What about disruption of services – are we going to ignore it?)

    And finale which hangs too much on Danny Pink's death. With his lacking characterization and dull acting he firmly belongs into "disposable spouse" heap. Yeah yeah, Clara, you lost your long-time boyfriend. Now quit your whining and do something interesting, you are on Doctor Who, not Depression Ward. But I give Moffat credit for thinking to insert him into episodes – at least it's believable that Clara would care that much.


  49. KMT75
    December 31, 2014 @ 11:53 pm

    "Making the choice to keep the baby is truly pro choice, being forced to keep it isn't. Considering the whole point of the episode is the three women making the choice, this is a big tick in the pro choice column."

    This may be what irks me most about the whole thing. It's a nasty way of trying to turn the tables. The pro-choice movement doesn't exist because women need to fight for the right to have babies. That choice is always available. No one forces a woman who is told she won't survive childbirth to have an abortion, and no one forces a woman to abort her rapist's baby. The pro-life movement grants sainthood on anyone who does. But, there are people out there writing and passing laws (at least in the US) that make the "life" of a cluster of cells that would fit on the head of pin with plenty of room to spare more valuable than the life of the woman carrying that cluster of cells in her uterus. There are people who would force a woman to carry her rapist's child to term or undergo a labor that would kill her.

    The fact that the "science" of the episode – which we're told to ignore because it's Doctor Who so why should we care – allows Clara's decision to keep the "baby" to be consequence free is also troubling. I'm pretty sure the complete destruction of the moon, to be replaced within minutes by another moon wouldn't equal hitting the reset button. Maybe I'd be less down on the episode's "Life. What A Beautiful Choice" message, if it showed 500-foot tidal waves smashing cities to bits and drowning hundreds of millions of people.

    But no, the egg hatches and it's all better. Just like that. Better than better because now humanity has its sense of wonder back. And all in 45 minutes.

    "That is a terrible interpretation of Clara's speech, and not just because of the horrendous word choice."

    The word choice was very deliberate. I was showing Clara the same respect that the episode did, which is none at all. She wanted him to make the choice for her. That is abundantly clear. Condescending and patronizing is NOT telling someone they're capable of doing something right on their own and having faith in them to do it. It's the episodes assumption that a woman can make a competent decision but first she needs a man to hold her hand and listen to her talk it through.

    And here's the thing, if you take out all the abortion subtext, it's still not a great, or even good episode. What is it doing, what premise is in here, that's so new and different and unique? The moon as an egg? Off the top of my head both Game of Thrones (moon is an egg with a bunch of dragons inside) and The Onion (moon has a chicken in it) both did this before Doctor Who.


  50. KMT75
    January 1, 2015 @ 12:08 am

    By the way, if the episode ends with a significant portion of life on Earth being wiped out and humanity tossed back into the dark ages because of Clara's decision, her being angry at the Doctor, and the Doctor trying to comfort her by explaining that she may have killed hundreds of millions of people but she managed to save something that's totally unique in all the universe, my opinion is entirely different.

    The way it ended though, to quote Clara, is cheap, pathetic, and patronizing.


  51. Jarl
    January 1, 2015 @ 12:53 am

    "The BBC announced today that revered composer Ian Levine would be returning to the Doctor Who production offices after a nearly 30 year absence.
    'We're tremendously happy to have Ian back in our stable,' said showrunner Steven Moffat, 'Already he's been sharing ideas he's had on the backburner since those hallowed times, it's tremendously exciting.'
    In a statement released to the press, Levine referred to his new position as 'close advisor' and 'story consultant', with the words 'creative control' and 'veto power' used numerous times. Speaking of the series's past 8 years on television, Levine said 'It's good to be back, to have creative control over something I'm so passionate about. And I can assure you, we're tightening up the ship here. I won't spoil too much, but I will say this: Macra.'
    Current star Peter Capaldi issued a statement through his agent praising Ian Levine's return to the series. 'I remember exchanging letters with Ian back in the day,' the current Doctor Who recounts, 'And I want him to remember them, every single one, because I certainly do, and my lawyer has them all locked in a safe in his office.'
    Says former showrunner Russel T Davies, 'Ian is such an inspiration to me. Two of my favorite episodes of the show to write were directly inspired by his presence, the way you can just tell when he's been in a room.'
    Levine's new stewardship over the series begins in February, after filming on Sherlock completes."


  52. Jarl
    January 1, 2015 @ 12:58 am

    Mummy on the Orient Express, Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood, and even Time Heist to an extent, are all tremendously fun. Nothing Eric Seward ever signed off on was fun.


  53. EvilBug
    January 1, 2015 @ 1:21 am

    It's not about Clara being a woman and have choice bestowed on her by a man. It's millenia old Time Lord bestowing choice on puny humans for no good reason. Nobody told astronaut lady what to do after all.

    Clara was mad because she was going to make reasonable choice, but it turned out to be the wrong one. When big ball of biomass causes you calamity and death you nuke it. Few things can outweigh survival of your own species. And why does it even orbit a planet with active biosphere if not to consume everybody on hatching?

    Kill the Moon. For the Imperium!


  54. Anton B
    January 1, 2015 @ 1:48 am

    I think mine is a 1979 deck. It was a gift from my then partner. Before that I used an earlier deck (which must have been the '75) that I borrowed from a friend. I also had a version that a programmer friend created for me as a random generator on my PC (which I no longer have) I have a website version on my laptop and I often use one on my Kindle which I downloaded from the app store. My preferred version is the physical deck though. I got a big kick out of seeing Bowie's actual deck, the well thumbed version he must have used with Ron himself on the 'Berlin sessions', at last year's 'Bowie is' exhibition at the V&A.


  55. Anton B
    January 1, 2015 @ 1:52 am

    *Eno not Ron. Darn auto correct! But hey, honour your mistake etc. I'll be calling him Ron from now on.


  56. Matt Smitheram
    January 1, 2015 @ 1:54 am

    Trust me, you aren't saying anything I haven't considered. Is it better for a pro choice narrative to show abortion? Yes, because of everything you said. It does not disqualify a pro choice interpretation. And that is my point. You have done a great job at describing the pro life narrative I have always said existed. You just can't disprove the existence of the pro choice narrative that I say also exists. My point isn't that the story is pro choice. My point is that there are two clear, contradictory narratives that exist, and calling Kill the Moon an allegory for either side is ludicrous. You aren't going to change my mind by talking about the pro life subtext I said from the start existed. You need to explain why the pro choice subtext I have described does not exist.

    Going to ignore all the stuff about science or the moon is the egg stuff, because, despite what you think, we aren't debating quality. Some of it I agree, some of it is full of a basic failure to understand how narrative work. But who cares, because it is meaningless to the argument. I have never said Kill the Moon is a good episode. In fact, I went out of my way to explain how I find it hugely flawed. My statement about the poor framing of the choice isn't supposed to be some minor mistake. It is a fatal flaw the epsiode has. I am here because I believe in the need for good criticism, and therefore seek to disprove your assertion that it is a pro life allegory for the more accurate 'it is an episode that is full of contradictory abortion subtext that adds up to gobblty goop, and that's terrible) because currently, unless you start actually addressing my arguments with a response that adequately addresses my issues, your critique is terrible. It is flawed and easily disproven, and ignores the actual problems the episode has (contradictory abortion context, a framing so bad everyone has a different understanding of the context of the choice and many other flaws).

    On Clara's speech, you willing to give any evidence? Because I quoted from the speech itself to give my interpretation, and in fact discussed how specific word choices suggested that Clara was angry that the Doctor wasn't there as support, and not 'talk her through it'. All you have done is made statements without evidence. You want to change my mind? Give evidence to support your interpretation, not meaningless statements.

    Oh, and disrespecting a female character like that is a terrible thing to do, and saying that you are only treating her like the episode does is an even worse justification. Just because someone or something else is being sexist gives you no right to be just as sexist.


  57. Anton B
    January 1, 2015 @ 3:04 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  58. Anton B
    January 1, 2015 @ 3:09 am

    I'm intrigued as to where next season's The Magician's Apprentice will take us, with its invocation of both Narnia (The Magician's Nephew) Fantasia (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) and themes already hinted at in series 8 ("She's not my assistant she's my carer" and "I was going for minimal but I think I ended up with Magician").
    It reminds me of a comment I posted on Phil's remarkable Logopolis essay back in 2012.

    The Doctor is a Magician. The actors who have and will portray him are Conjurors. (A Conjuror is an Actor pretending to be a Magician).
    The Doctor's act usually goes like this –

    A box appears a man gets out. He produces something from his pocket (a wand? A sonic screwdriver?) and makes something else appear or disappear. His 'glamorous assistant' is locked in a box. He opens the box. She is gone. He makes other stuff appear and disappear. His assistant re-appears. Finally he and his assistant get in a box and they and the box disappear.

    This is why the Doctor is so often at home in circuses, in theatres and around show people. He is a conjuror pretending to be an actor pretending to be a magician. Or is it the other way round?

    Boxes within boxes within boxes

    As above so below.


  59. Ombund
    January 1, 2015 @ 5:21 am

    1. Time Heist C
      11. Into the Dalek B-
      10. Robot of Sherwood B
      9. Flatline B+
      8. Kill the Moon A-
      7. Mummy on the Orient Express A
      6. Last Christmas A
      5. The Caretaker A
      4. Dark Water/Death in Heaven A+
      3. Deep Breath A+
      2. In the Forest of the Night A+
      1. Listen A+

      Episode-for-episode series 8 is easily the best series of New Who for me (and probably Classic era as well, although I don't really watch them as a series as such so it's harder to tell) – only Time Heist was a disappointment and even that's not terrible. I still wouldn't quite call this series my actual favourite though, because a combination of the highs beings so very high, Smith being brilliant and the introduction of the Ponds + River TARDIS team means that series 5 will always remain pretty much unbeatable for me.

      The scores and ordering above are based on a rewatch but not much has changed since transmission. Into the Dalek dropped one place, but I still love In the Forest of the Night just as much. Deep Breath gets better and better with each watch – as Jane said above it's very underrated. It just has such a beautiful sense of melancholy to it and for me it's the only time post-regeneration madness has been justified, both emotionally and dramatically. That last scene still makes me tear up.

      As well as the generally exceptional writing something else that has to be highlighted this series is the level of acting. Capaldi was brilliant, pretty much what I expected but surprising at times too. It would have been easy to overplay the callous aspects of this new Doctor and overstep the mark into outright cruelty, but the performance always makes it clear that try as he might he just doesn't understand these emotions any more, which makes those moments of tenderness that are there seem particularly well-earned.

      Samuel Anderson also did an incredible job. He had a difficult task in having to establish his character within the margins of the text, but he achieved it with aplomb and I really, really felt it when he took off the Cyberman mask in Death in Heaven. His cameo in Last Christmas was lovely and I'm truly sad that we won't be seeing any more of him.

      But finally the lion's share of the praise has to go to Jenna Coleman, who was award-worthy in every episode this series. British TV has been full of exceptional female performances this year so I expect her to be overlooked come awards season, but she fully deserves to be placed up there with the best. She worked absolute wonders with the material and she feels like Twelve's definitive companion, to such an extent that I don't really want to see him paired with anyone else (although I'd be up for added Shona).

      So yes, I'm extremely glad that Coleman, Capaldi and Moffat will be back for series 9 and I can't wait to experience it all again on here through Phil's eyes and reading all your illuminating comments. See you in August!


  60. Andy H.
    January 1, 2015 @ 5:47 am

    The beach scene from Mummy is wonderful. I especially like how it works as a reprise of the "I'm standing right in front of you" sequence from Deep Breath; Capaldi's bleak delivery of "this is just my cover story. Ha. Ha." comes across just as much as a cry of frustration at not being recognized by someone he loves and might have driven away, and is just as much a metafictional address to an audience not sure of our footing, but is for me more effective for being so quiet and oblique.


  61. Seeing_I
    January 1, 2015 @ 6:57 am

    It WAS a thrilling action sequence, that was also funny. The "action" music and high stakes over something so absurd is part of the joke! πŸ™‚


  62. Seeing_I
    January 1, 2015 @ 7:41 am

    I wonder if Time Heist might not have worked better later, when Clara had a few more things to feel guilty about?

    I also didn't mind the colored gels. Come on, people, this is Doctor Who we're talking about.


  63. encyclops
    January 1, 2015 @ 8:32 am

    The difference between the problematic subtext of "Kill the Moon" and that of "The Unquiet Dead" is that the latter's was noted by one clever, cranky, belligerent, drunk writer with an axe to grind, and the former was noted by, I'm guessing, at least 50% of the viewing audience with maybe 30% more seeing where they're coming from. Though I definitely agree a large chunk of what's problematic about it was unintended, it's not a left-field reading at all. This is more like the depiction of Chinese people in "Weng-Chiang": it's right there in your face, whether you think it's damning or not.

    Personally I can understand and respect your position that it's not. For me, the "choose life" message is in some ways the least of the episode's problems. But it's weird that all of a sudden authorial intent is what matters most in making that determination.


  64. encyclops
    January 1, 2015 @ 8:34 am

    In my opinion "The Two Doctors" is way more fun than "Into the Dalek." Not saying it's better (though I know which one I'd throw on casually), just that I can't remember any moments from "Into the Dalek" I'd describe as "tremendously fun." Might be my Dalek blind spot again.


  65. Jarl
    January 1, 2015 @ 8:41 am

    Mostly the fact that inside a Dalek lives a Dalek adventure with Toclafane-esque Dalek eggs and some classic Doctor-and-military shenanigans. Two of my favorite classic episodes are The War Games and Robot, so I've always had a soft spot for that kind of friction humor. In particular, a star wars-esque dogfight segueing instantly into the Doctor teaching a grown-ass woman how to say "please" is one of my favorite transitions from the new series.


  66. encyclops
    January 1, 2015 @ 9:25 am

    I'll approach this a different way and list my favorite and least favorite aspects of each episode, rather than trying to order them. Mainly because this way is easier. πŸ™‚

    Deep Breath: B
    + "I've got the nasty feeling I'm going to have to kill you." YES. No "look me up" speech, no forced bravado, just cold determination with a little warm regret. Everything from the alley scene onward.
    – Everything before the alley scene, and everything involving Vastra.

    Into the Dalek: C
    + Everything involving Journey Blue.
    – The soldier theme. The forced moral quandaries about the Doctor. When you fight monsters — human or otherwise — people will get hurt. There is no way around it.

    Robot of Sherwood: C
    + Some of the jokes really work. Best robot design in ages.
    – A lot of them really don't.

    Listen: A
    + Most of it is uniformly terrific.
    – Daffy premise. One word, Doctor: moths. Also, we learn the Doctor is indirectly responsible for the death of that boy we meet in "Dark Water," so that's unpleasant.

    Time Heist: C
    + Sci-fi of a kind the show often seems to think is beneath it these days, with potentially fun characters.
    – Less than the sum of its parts.

    The Caretaker: A+
    + All of it is uniformly terrific, particularly the mix of insightful character work with Who-style adventure.
    – The character work it has to do means it can't be just unadulterated fun like "The Lodger." It's doing a lot of heavy lifting at the heart of the season.

    Kill the Moon: C
    + Great acting, great look and feel, as thought-provoking as you could ask for.
    – Terrible science, objectionable subtext, and both do matter. Clara's wrong.

    Mummy on the Orient Express: A-
    + Richest texture in ages, lovely effects and direction and costumes, lots of fun to watch.
    – Shoehorned "soldier" theme. Frank Skinner, either creepy or forgettable throughout; am I really the only one who didn't adore his character?

    Flatline: A
    + Splendid visual concepts, splendidly realized. Everything great about old-school Who done in a totally new-school way.
    – A tad tense for casual fun viewing, just as old-school Who sometimes is. The very smallest of complaints.

    In the Forest of the Night: B-
    + Lots of really lovely Clara/Danny moments. I'll take a brightly lit forest that never seems threatening over no forest at all.
    – Third episode this season with awful science. Some weird loose ends.

    Dark Water / Death In Heaven: A
    + "Dark Water" is an A+. What it does while ostensibly "stalling" beats what most episodes do while not stalling.
    – "Death in Heaven" is more like an A-/B+. Still, that's pretty good considering past finales.

    Last Christmas: B
    + Great jokes. The borrowed stuff from Alien and Inception actually works, though it could just as easily have flopped.
    – Tired of "this isn't real" as a defense and monsters whose abilities hinge on observation (visual or mental). Plus I'm so ready for a new companion.


  67. KMT75
    January 1, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

    Were you anywhere near as offended by "peril monkey" as you were by "hissyfit?"

    Your two opposing views of Kill the Moon:

    "Kill the Moon is an episode where women are given the choice to keep or abort a child, and the male authority figure goes 'this isn't my decision' and leaves. Society then seeks to impose their view, but Clara rejects it, makes her own choice, and presses abort. This decision is correct.

    Kill the Moon is a story where people make the choice whether to abort a baby or not, without the mother having any say (in fact, the mother and her opinion doesn't even exist). Clara, who is not the mother or in any way connected, lets the egg hatch and chooses life. This decision is correct."

    Maybe it's 16 hours of work after 2 hours of sleep but these both read pro life/anti-abortion to me. In both instances you have someone who is not the mother and who is only tangentially connected to the situation imposing her choice (not to Abort, or in the case of this episode's shitty writing and direction to hit a big red button that says ABORT) based on her values. She doesn't care what the people of Earth want, whether it's the ones playing with their lights or Lundvik, who's standing right in front of her. The life of the unborn "child" is the only thing that matters. That's the anti-choice movement. One of their go-to slogans is Choose Life. See, you have a choice.

    Look at Lundvik's (pro-abortion) dialogue. "How do we kill it?" Courtney counters with "It's just a little baby."

    That you have three women sort of arguing the "choice," does not in any way lend this story a pro-choice reading.

    So why isn't a pro-choice story? Basically there are two pro-choice characters. Lundvik and the Doctor.

    Lundvik is unsympathetic in the extreme. You get the feeling that even if it posed no threat she might kill it just for the hell of it.

    Tn there's the Doctor. He is pretty sure that if it was HIS planet and HIS moon he would choose life. BUT, not realizing that terrible writing has made this a consequence-free choice that has to be wrapped up nice and pretty with a bow on it in the next seven minutes, he respects the right of the humans to decide their own fate.

    "It wasn’t my decision to make. I told you. That was me allowing you to make a choice about your own future. That was me… respecting you. Essentially what I knew was that you would always make the best choice. I had faith that you would always make the right choice."

    I don't see anything condescending or patronizing in that. But the story clearly does.


  68. Peg
    January 1, 2015 @ 3:44 pm

    Again, I would argue that Gatiss' generous gifts to the "ensemble" of a season's shows is often vastly underrated. No–"Robot of Sherwood" is not a freestanding wonder. But looking at it in terms of how it set things up, reinforced things, and demanded things that Moffat and others would need to make the season as a whole work? Brilliant.

    He's like the genius ballroom dancer who you can pair with anyone. He may not show to best effect with Little Miss Two Left Feet–but he will manage to make her look like she's got a left foot and a right foot, and bring them home safe without crashing into the other dancers.

    They needed one show–one–that was so purely frivol that they could later do things like "Last Christmas" and get away with Santa. Something to remind the audience that the series as a whole is NOT attempting to be Babylon 5 or any of a number of other demi-realistic space operas. They needed something part fable, part just-so-story, part Mel Brooks. And they needed it to be good enough to get away with it.

    When you've got something so difficult to do, so easily buggered to hell, and you need it done by someone who's ego will endure the inevitable hisses and boos from the peanut gallery, who you gonna call? Mark Gatiss. He may not be able to turn the stupid work-horse fable of the season into "Kill the Moon," but because he did "Robot of Sherlwood" the poetic reasoning of "Kill the Moon" is better supported and prepared for. Gatiss is just plain consistently good at that sort of thing.


  69. encyclops
    January 1, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

    Even though I think there's probably a much less combative way this conversation could be proceeding, KMT75, where your views of the actual episode are concerned (as opposed to your views of Phil's views of it) I have to say I'm in accord with you.

    When was the last time we had an episode this polarizing??


  70. John Seavey
    January 1, 2015 @ 6:19 pm

    My problem with 'Kill the Moon' is the same as with 'Curse of the Black Spot', which it resembles a lot structurally. It's basically a series of set pieces linked by random bits of word salad from the Doctor, with no piece being related to any other or anything else anywhere ever. So the first section is a Hinchcliffe pastiche with killer space spiders, then the Doctor suddenly hypothesizes that the spiders are bacteria and the moon is an egg. And lo and behold, he's right! And we move on into an entirely different story and the space spider-bacteria simply wander off. It might have a nice aesthetic (although I think you're glossing over just how hackneyed and uninteresting the trolley problem in the back half winds up being) but I think you can do stories that have a nice aesthetic that don't sound like everyone in them is suffering from mild head trauma.

    As always, of course, my fundamental position is that I'm glad you got more out of it than I did–at least in my case, misery does not love company. But to suggest that it has an objective, quantifiable excellence to it that others just don't see is something I'm going to assume is humorous hyperbole on your part.


  71. KMT75
    January 1, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    My initial comment was more snarky than I'd have liked it to be. I apologize for that. It's not like I'm not guilty of turning a blind eye to offensive stuff in stories I like. You mentioned Weng Chiang below. Tomb of the Cybermen and Enemy of the World are two of my favorite stories.


  72. Matt Smitheram
    January 1, 2015 @ 7:33 pm

    Not sure how my first interpretation counts as pro life without bringing in other stuff from the episode to contradict it (just as I believe I can bring content from the rest of the episode to contradict a pro life interpretation)

    My point is that there are a series of creative choices that have been made in this episode that seem to counter the assertion that it is pro life (just as there are creative choices in the episode that counter the assertion that it is pro choice). Maybe these choices exist only because of shitty writing, but that doesn't change the fact that these choices and their implications exist. We critique the text, not what we believe is the author's idealised version of the text (especially as we have no idea what Harness' actual viewpoint on abortion, and therefore what his idealised view of the episode is).

    My point is that, if we are going to call this episode a pro life allegory, instead of an episode with a nonsensical, contradictory stance on abortion, we need to explain these choices

    1. Why does the episode explicitly name the right choice ABORT?

    2. Why does the episode go out of the way to remove all male characters from the story, and explicitly point this out with the line 'womankind, its your decision'?

    3. Why does it explicitly have Clara reject the idea that institutions, like the US Government (the exact sorts of institutions that place laws restricting a woman's choice), have any say in the decision, and the story saying she was right?

    It is these sorts of things that make me doubt that the abortion subtext is firmly pro life, instead of utterly confused, contradictory and meaningless. When it has all that pro life stuff you described (which, as I have said, I agree with) and all the stuff I just mentioned (and some other stuff that I can't remember on the top of my head), I can't accept Kill the Moon as an allegory for either side. The subtext is there, but is utterly meaningless. Especially considering, after reading Clara's speech many times, and closely examining the word choice, Clara seemed to want assistance, but not someone making the choice for her.

    On your descriptions of Clara, the thing I was frustrated with is describing her as having a 'world class hissy fit'. You can disagree with her points, but especially in a world where female characters are called bitches for doing the exact same thing as everyone's favourite anti heroes and other similar shit, you can disagree without disrespecting her for expressing herself.

    On the point of the episode being polarizing, I love having episodes that are polarizing and create debates. But I am disappointed, in Kill the Moon's case, the reasons why it is polarizing. As I said above, everyone I have talked to about Kill the Moon seems to have a completely different idea of what the choice was supposed to be about. It seems polarizing merely because no one can agree what the episode is actually about (abortion, wonder v fear, trolley problem…)


  73. encyclops
    January 1, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

    I'd agree that one thing "Kill the Moon" fails to do is cohere.


  74. David Anderson
    January 2, 2015 @ 12:33 am

    You can make any story mean anything if you're happy to dismiss any contradictory evidence by using bad writing and direction as an explanation.


  75. Aylwin
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:02 am

    Frank Skinner, either creepy or forgettable throughout; am I really the only one who didn't adore his character?

    No, you're not. He was so not-quite-right that in that Tardis scene at the end I started thinking he was going to be unmasked as the villain.


  76. Jarl
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:29 am

    Plot-wise, she was a runaway (and that implies some serious problems either with her, the family, or both) but thematically she's returned by the faeries because that's what good faeries do. Of course, if we're to take it seriously, we could read it as bad faeries returning a changeling.


  77. encyclops
    January 2, 2015 @ 10:13 am

    Personally, I don't think this story is badly written. I'd say that if it was intended as a pro-life fable, it needed at least one more draft. If it was intended as a pro-choice fable, it needed at least one more draft. If it was intended not to raise any abortion-related subtext in anyone's mind, it hella needed at least one more draft. I think it would be astonishing if that subtext were entirely unintentional, but even if it were, I think there's enough "evidence" in it that none of these readings is an attempt to make a story "mean anything." I think most of the takes I've seen in the comments here and on the original post where we beat this topic to death are not out of left field, and I don't think you have to agree with them to find them reasonable.

    But yeah, I don't think this is poorly written (or directed). There are too many excellent scenes, and even if I think Clara is ultimately in the wrong when she yells at the Doctor at the end, it's a finely written point of view, finely acted and directed. And really, I think the point Harness appeared to be going for, which I think is where most of us agree he was headed, is a pretty wonderful one: the rejection of fear, despair, and xenophobia in favor of hope, courage, and xenophilia. I can get behind that.

    The problem is that Harness has stacked the deck in such a way that it ends up being rather the rejection of known facts, common sense, and reason in favor of blind faith, ignorance, and cowardice. I'm not just talking about what's known outside the story — stuff like how mass and gravity work, the difference between unicellular and multicellular organisms, etc. — but what's known within the story. Clara has every reason to be pretty sure she's dooming the human race to extinction because she can't bear to kill an unknown creature which, even if it's not actually hostile, might (like so many forms of life right there on earth) inadvertently destroy the planet by the involuntary processes of its existence. But of course it doesn't, because magic.

    This may not be "bad writing" but it's frustrating that the same story couldn't have been told in a way that either allowed Clara's choice to have some consequences or else constructed the dilemma in a way that allowed for a little more reasonable doubt on both sides. And honestly, probably just one more draft might have fixed it.


  78. KMT75
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

    "1. Why does the episode explicitly name the right choice ABORT?"


    "2. Why does the episode go out of the way to remove all male characters from the story, and explicitly point this out with the line 'womankind, its your decision'?"

    It is worth noting that womankind, in the form of Clara, isn't particularly thrilled about having to make such a big important choice without any input from an older white man.

    "3. Why does it explicitly have Clara reject the idea that institutions, like the US Government (the exact sorts of institutions that place laws restricting a woman's choice), have any say in the decision, and the story saying she was right?"

    Doctor: … I can’t make this decision for you.
    Clara: Yeah, well I can’t make it.
    Doctor: Well, there’s two of you here.
    Clara: Well yeah, a school teacher and an astronaut.
    Doctor: Who’s better qualified?
    Clara: I don’t know! The president of America?
    Doctor: Oh, take something off his plate. He makes far too many decisions anyway.
    Lundvik: She.

    " … after reading Clara's speech many times, and closely examining the word choice, Clara seemed to want assistance, but not someone making the choice for her."

    What would assistance from the Doctor look like? If he stayed to "support" her what would that support entail? As quoted above she wants someone to make the decision for her. When the Doctor refuses, she tries to get the people of Earth to make the decision for her.

    Re: hissyfit

    Her speech actually meets several different dictionaries' definition of hissyfit. She asks him what he knew and he tells her. She wants to know why he left and he tells her. Both his explanations ring true and are pretty sincere. She's too emotional to listen to any type of reason ("Shut up! I am so sick of listening to you.") and takes a few cheap, nasty shots at him (Honestly, do you have music playing in your head when you say rubbish like that?" and "You can clear off. Get back in your lonely … your lonely bloody TARDIS) just to try to hurt him.

    @encyclops "The problem is that Harness has stacked the deck in such a way that it ends up being rather the rejection of known facts, common sense, and reason in favor of blind faith, ignorance, and cowardice. I'm not just talking about what's known outside the story — stuff like how mass and gravity work, the difference between unicellular and multicellular organisms, etc. — but what's known within the story. Clara has every reason to be pretty sure she's dooming the human race to extinction because she can't bear to kill an unknown creature which, even if it's not actually hostile, might (like so many forms of life right there on earth) inadvertently destroy the planet by the involuntary processes of its existence. But of course it doesn't, because magic."

    I would say that's a great definition of "bad writing."

    "Because magic" is one of the reasons I was so disappointed with Series 8.


  79. KMT75
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:25 pm


  80. William Silvia
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:42 pm

    I have been taught from a young age that looking at a computer monitor with the lights off is going to make my eyes even worse than they are, so I've held to that whether it's true or not.


  81. William Silvia
    January 2, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

    It took until this comment for me to figure out what that "Thing" line meant, because when I hear the word "Thing" in 2014 two quotes battle in my brain: "One small thing for a thing, one giant thing for a thingy thing" and "Zhu Li, do the thing".


  82. Matthew Blanchette
    January 2, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

    Same. What the hell were people seeing in him? He was so off-putting… :-/


  83. David Anderson
    January 3, 2015 @ 9:18 am

    On your reading, does the episode endorse Clara's argument against the Doctor, or does it reject Clara's argument and endorse the Doctor's position?

    If the episode rejects Clara's position – if it thinks and wants the audience to think that Clara is being emotional, and taking cheap, nasty shots, and that the Doctor's arguments ring true and are pretty sincere, then the speech ceases to be any evidence that the episode is pro-life. The Doctor was right to leave the women to make the choice; Clara's objections are unreasonable.

    On the other hand, if the episode agrees with Clara that she ought not to have been left to make the decision, then the episode genuinely presents her objections as reasonable and genuinely presents the Doctor's explanations are callous and patronising. In which case, all that stuff about 'hissyfit' and 'too emotional to listen to any kind of reason' and 'cheap nasty shots', all that comes out of your head. For some reason or other you believe it's there because you want it to be there.

    Either way, your argument falls apart.


  84. John Seavey
    January 4, 2015 @ 10:07 am

    There is, however, a pro-choice reading to be had. Clara asks for the advice of the entire planet Earth on whether or not to keep "her" baby (and yes, she's not the literal mother, but symbolically, the fact that the three people making the decision over whether to destroy the embryonic moon are all women is pretty clearly implying a "maiden, mother, crone" subtext, and Clara is the middle one of that triad) and in the end, she makes the decision disregarding all that advice. She chooses. The fact that she chooses not to abort doesn't make it less pro-choice; the whole point of the pro-choice movement is that nobody's opinion matters but the mother. And in this case, symbolically at least, Clara is the mother.

    I think it's a confused and muddled metaphor no matter which side you're on, and it probably was unintentional. But the episode isn't crap because it's a pro-choice/pro-life metaphor. It's crap because it's lazy, slapdash word salad that ends with the kids on the island being saved by Moe. πŸ™‚


  85. encyclops
    January 4, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

    It seems to be very difficult to craft a satisfying pro-choice story that doesn't end with choosing life. Take Juno, for example. Or "Papa Don't Preach." The only example I can think of offhand that ends in abortion is Alien 3.


  86. storiteller
    January 4, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

    I haven't seen it, but I've heard the movie Obvious Child is very good on the pro-choice front:


  87. Unknown
    January 4, 2015 @ 8:23 pm

    Is "being pro-choice is patronising" an argument any pro-life person has ever made ever? I've never heard it.


  88. EvilBug
    January 5, 2015 @ 2:40 am

    @John Seavey

    Symbolically, Queen of England is the mother of all UK citizens. Doesn't make the idea that she must personally decide who gets aborted and who doesn't.

    It's dumb story that advocates preserving one unborn life while putting billions at risk. It's pro-life on stupidroids. At least in real world pro-life is one life against one comfort (rarely life).


  89. John Seavey
    January 5, 2015 @ 7:14 am

    I'm not saying it's not dumb: See previous point, about how whether you read it as pro-choice or pro-life it's still a muddled and clumsy metaphor. I am the last person anyone wants to go to for a defense of the quality of the episode, full stop. But it could be a really dumb pro-choice metaphor or a really dumb pro-life metaphor, depending on how you read the clunky and confusing symbolism of the hamfisted and slapdash trolley problem that bores you to tears in the back half of the episode. πŸ™‚


  90. Katherine Sas
    January 5, 2015 @ 10:04 am



  91. Web_Weaver
    January 8, 2015 @ 12:40 am

    I also watched the episode through a Crone/Nubile/Maiden lens. However, as is implied by my substitution, I don’t see Cara as a mother figure.

    I think there were two reasons for this. Clara is portrayed as a governess/teacher figure who has not yet had children. Indeed, whether she will have children is an issue that may be explored. Also, it is a moon story and it is directly playing to the Moon = Feminine and Moon = Goddess myths as well as the Ouroboros image due to the apparently seamless asexual reproduction. Such myths don’t play into the feminine being reduced to motherhood.

    Both of these reasons should make the story fascinating and engrossing, but sadly I found the story messy and contradictory. I also disliked the flat cinematography on the Moon’s surface on an aesthetic level and the gravity plot felt like a convenient way to avoid wire work or CGI.

    The story tries to marry science and mythology to create a sense of wonder, but if it achieves this at all (it plainly does for some) it does so by totally mangling the science. The jeopardy is totally false in the first instance. A change in the mass of the moon really wouldn’t enact a significant change on earth and the change itself would have to be magical unless a very large amount of mass was being turned into waste heat. Even if the Moon cracked open and the contents flew away we wouldn't be majorly disrupted.

    To give the story perhaps more credit than it warrants, I think we are supposed to conclude that the killing of the moon was a false choice only proffered to the population by politicians placating them. I am sure if this really happened (obviously not feasible) the moderate view of the scientists would be drowned out by the widely held misunderstanding of how tidal forces work. For the record they are weak and subtle and only have a big impact on water due to there being so much of it sloshing around. My main concern with the science is that the astronauts don’t seem to question the received wisdom.

    As to the thorny issue of abortion, the reading is going to depend on the reader because pro-life and pro-choice arguments are neither tidy nor directly opposed. Both arguments reject the premises of the other and so it is not a debate that can be explored objectively. The episode makes no attempt to be objective or to fully explore the issue, it just uses it as a hard to resolve dilemma and I am not convinced it takes sides.


  92. Web_Weaver
    January 8, 2015 @ 12:47 am

    The science is so confusing I mangled it too! I somehow have the Moon loosing mass above.

    To correct myself, the added mass could only come from magic or energy from the sun being turned into mass.


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