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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. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

    Trolley problem, straight up, with a genocide chaser.

    It's not a trolley problem; the alien is the cause of the danger, not a bystander. It's more like Thomson's expanding-baby-in-a-tiny-house defense of abortion.

    Courtney Woods for President.

    Unfortunately, I have a prior commitment to Nobody for that office. Hearing there's still a presidency in 2049 was more depressing than the tidal waves.


  2. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    Callum Leemkuil: Also, what did people make of Clara going against the will of humanity? I wasn't sure how to interpret that, but it seemed weirdly anti-democratic.

    dm: Yeah, that was strangely fascistic of Clara.

    Anti-democratic does not mean pro-fascist. The problem with democracy is that it's too much like fascism, not that it's not enough so. Neither majority vote nor the edict of a dictator can relieve us of our obligations of conscience.


  3. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:21 pm

    I've always thought that the women made the choice and accepted the risks when she chose to have sex

    As Thomson points out, this would also mean that a woman who walks through a neighbourhood with a high incidence of rape is responsible for being raped (and for any fetus that results). That seems like a reductio ad absurdum to me. In any case, the right to bodily autonomy is inalienable.


  4. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    When the whole of humanity says no? Seriously? Are we really that fickle and morally bankrupt?

    Do you think private households would have been allowed to keep their lights on if their government said no? I imagine governments just shot down the power grids.


  5. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

    I found it hard to concentrate on the episode due to extreme arachnophobia.

    But they weren't spiders! They were giant bacteria that looked just like spiders. There ya go, problem solved.


  6. David Ainsworth
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

    "One innocent life for all of humanity? Is that even a choice?"

    If you thought that was the choice then I can completely understand why you didn't like the episode.

    The real choice was: kill an innocent life, or don't, knowing that not killing had the POTENTIAL to end life on Earth.

    There's also a very obvious metaphoric association, with an Earth turned away from the stars and perceiving everything outside the planet itself as lifeless, then choosing to kill the first proof that it isn't. (Never mind all the aliens who already proved to humanity that we're not alone; that's not the story we were being told.)

    It's starting to look like the overall theme of this series may be hope and fear.


  7. Alex Antonijevic
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:33 pm

    I love being so busy that I don't even have time to think about Doctor Who or build up any sort of expectations. All I know usually is the clips from the "Next time" trailer. This season has been amazing so far. It really feels like the show has gotten a complete makeover.


  8. David Ainsworth
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

    How would blowing up the Moon solve the problem as originally stated? They sent the shuttle up with the biggest weapons they had left. This wasn't Bruce Willis going after an asteroid, this was a Hail Mary pass.

    Normal gravity on the Moon pretty much set the stage in my mind that the episode wasn't going to be playing in the realm of conventional science. Given that the show is based around a time traveler with a magic box, I'm comfortable with that.

    As for halting the hatching, the Doctor claimed that based on where the shuttle had fallen the bombs would have killed it. That's the totality of the evidence we have. He was either correct, wrong, or lying, and there's no objective way to know which.


  9. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

    The may-as-well-have-been-a-tea-tray that sealed the breach.

    I may have to rewatch, but my impression was that the thing that sealed the hatch was its own cover that they'd removed in order to get the yo-yo to Courtney.


  10. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:37 pm

    Maybe halfway through the Doctor will say "wait, this sounds vaguely familiar … something I promised to look into … did I ever …?"


  11. Gabrielle
    October 4, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

    I liked it. Was not bothered by any abortion innuendo. I thought that aspect of the episode showed that preserving a life was important. Dr. Who has consistently showed that. I liked other parts of the show, and was pleased to see Clara may soon be outta here!


  12. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  13. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

    "The single best Doctor Who story ever"? As soon as the story finished I texted all of my friends that I knew had watched it about how it was the single most anti-feminist Doctor Who story ever made.
    An unborn creature could potentially kill a species. The decision to kill or leave the baby is left to women. Later on, a decision is made by the 'host' species. That decision is ultimately ignored because, basically, life is always precious.
    In what way can this be defended as anything other than pro-life? Abortion is explicitly brought up. It is explicitly stated as the wrong decision. The character who most strongly represents the pro-choice viewpoint (and not even a particular moral one, she's left with a very logical 'it would probably kill us' argument) is presented as wrong and at the end she realises the error of her ways.
    None of my housemates identify as feminist, but as soon as the episode finished and I said "so that episode was quite…" the response was "so pro-life! what was that? that was disgusting." I am so so surprised by all the people talking about "abortion inuendo" or "pro-life angle"; as far as I'm aware, that was the entire episode.
    This is genuinely the fist time that I've considered not watching the next episode and I certainly won't be reading Dr Sandifer's next review if this is what he considers to be an episode that represents the ethos of the show.


  14. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

    I do appreciate that (under this, to my mind obvious, interpretation) the end brings up how traumatic a decision abortion can be, however, ultimately that trauma is shunted onto the Doctor leaving Clara with a bomb and not about leaving her with the choice.
    Also, this might be quite specific to me, but after (what I consider) the least feminist story ever, to have a character say "if someone can still make you angry then that's why you should stay" sort of brings up domestic violence and sort of dismisses is as "but if you love them…"


  15. HarlequiNQB
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

    It's not often I disagree with Phil on his views of a given episode of Who, but this is an exception. Pleasant enough episode, with some important things tucked away inside (Three women deciding the fate of the world, and the Doctor refers to them by their roles not their gender, and the Doctor's admission to the opposite of fixed points in time), and some truly wonderful performances, but far from the best thing ever I certainly didn't hate it, but 'the moon is an egg, and these bacteria are spiders (with webs even!), and these astronauts are so untrained that one of them isn't even sure of how to activate the bombs his mission was to deliver left me a bit cold.

    That said, the direction of this episode was marvelous; just beautiful looking. Paul Wilmshurst can direct again any time he wants in my opinion, and I'm very happy he's returning for next weeks episode.

    Not sure if this is my favourite season ever (but it's up there), but I do think it might be the most divisive. Has there been a single episode that everyone unanimously loved? I'm even disagreeing with my best friend on a few episodes, and we're traditionally very much in synch. Most odd.


  16. Jarl
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

    As a specific side note, and this does bear relevance to the discussion, "I was only following orders" actually is an acceptable (not morally acceptable, legally acceptable) defense in the situation where failing to follow orders would itself be lethal. If someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to kill someone, you are not legally (again, here distinct from morally) required to ignore that order. And this stands outside of the specific structure of a military organization, this is a species-wide, axiomatic statement. And going in the other direction, killing someone to prevent a murder is likewise acceptable. You are allowed to kill your captain to prevent him killing someone, and you are allowed to kill someone to keep your captain from killing you.

    Within the context of the scene, it would mean that Clara has the right to let the bomb go off, and she has the right to turn it off. The democratic process is surplus to the situation. The rest of the world is free to have their opinion on the occasion, but only the person with the immediate power to act has the right to decide whether or not to act. In other words, I see it as a wonderfully charged hybrid of the "forced to act" narrative and a pro-choice parable.

    That the eggshell dissolves into convenience and the baby flies away peacefully and leaves a fresh moon in its place (in a very oddly filmed moment that has me wondering if that's where those reshoots went) doesn't change the fact that blowing up the moon and destroying the new life inside it, though potentially morally outrageous, would still have been an acceptable outcome. All it proves is that at the end of the day, we're still watching Doctor Who, where "moral dilemma" really means "one correct choice and one incorrect choice", rather than "two incorrect choices" or "two correct choices".

    (The downside to all this is that, as our host says, this implicitly aligns genocide and abortion into different scales of the same issue. This is a tactic many pro-lifers take in the United States, but that might just be me Watching While American.)


  17. Jarl
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

    I seem to recall Moffat saying the Doctor would get around to answering his voice mails this season, so presumably they're finally following up on that great cliffhanger.

    When we got the first proper trailer with the Doctor saying that bit about correcting some of his mistakes, I assumed that would be from Orient Express.


  18. You Know Who...
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

    Yeah, but I'm pretty firmly pro-choice, and, even if I accept that this is a pro-life episode (which I don't), I'd have a hard time accepting that this episode is Bad because its politics are different than mine. Doing so is, at best, questionable, and, at worse, pure fascism. Right?


  19. Cameron Dixon
    October 4, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

    I really haven't decided where I stand on this yet, so all I'm going to do right now is point out that when Clara chooses to let the creature live by pressing the red button, the word "ABORTED" appears on the screen in big block letters.


  20. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

    I agree it was well made and scripted (maybe the best of the series), but if we criticise Talons of Weng-Chiang for its racism then I don't think it's wrong to criticise this for being very anti-feminist. And I think it's difficult to argue that it's a fringe view, considering how many people have very quickly brought it up.
    Basically, if I agree with Dr Sandifer about Doctor Who being a force for social good then I find it difficult to defend this episode.


  21. jane
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

    Wilmshurst is also on tap for the Xmas episode.


  22. Chris
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

    "…that trauma is shunted onto the Doctor leaving Clara with a bomb and not about leaving her with the choice." I didn't see it this way. Clara was (justifiably) furious about being left to make the choice (with Courtney and the captain) without the help of the Doctor, who admits that he was fairly sure that letting the creature hatch would be harmless.

    Also, isn't it pretty much the ethos of this show that any character who says "That's what you do with aliens, isn't it? Blow them up?" is wrong?


  23. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

    Yeah, the character that says that in Doctor Who is always wrong. In this particular episode that character was also the only character who's opinion was largely aligned with pro-choice views. That doesn't exactly change my mind.
    And I'll be honest, the Clara-Doctor fight is one part of the episode I don't remember too well – I was fairly pissed off by that point. I do remember that I thought it was the one point the episode had to redeem itself and turn around (similar to River's criticism in A Good Man Goes To War) but that never came.


  24. Chris
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

    Great evidence that opinions about this season are unusually divided: in the io9 review of this episode, Charlie Jane Anders writes: "All in all, 'Kill the Moon' is a neat idea for a story (despite some scientific plausibility issues) — but I'm not entirely convinced it works as a Doctor Who story."


  25. GarrettCRW
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

    I've been dropping my jaw a lot today, between the college football craziness (and the tangentially related Katy Perry craziness) and an 18 inning baseball playoff game, but the biggest one was definitely for "Kill the Moon". Besides defying the expectations of the preview footage (even if the actual plot was, in its basic form, a pretty standard science fiction plot), the quality of the episode was pretty much out of left field, even for this season. I must admit that I'm beginning to agree with Phil on this season being my favorite ever.


  26. Callum Leemkuil
    October 4, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

    There's a difference, though: Talons of Weng-Chiang is racist. It's as close to "objectively racist" as it's possible to be. This is not even close to objectively anti-feminist.

    First of all, let's look at everything it does that is pro-feminist (leaving aside the issue of whether or not it's pro-life, which I'll try to tackle afterwards): The entire significant supporting cast in this episode is female. There are two male pieces of cannon fodder, but that's all they are. Each of the female characters is a well-crafted character, each with distinct personalities, ideologies, weaknesses, etc. These three women talk the situation over rationally and save the world. At the end, the Doctor is aggressively berated for being patronizing and cruel to Clara in what I saw as a misguided attempt on the Doctor's part to make Clara and Courtney feel special.

    So that's already much more than Talons did for Chinese people.

    As for whether or not it's about abortion, I think it isn't. It might look like it's about abortion on the surface, but the closer you look the less that makes sense. First of all, the egg is floating in space around the earth and has the potential to destroy all of humankind. It has no parents. The dilemma is whether to assume that the gigantic, unimaginably powerful alien is malevolent and kill it or assume that it's good and let it live. I find it very difficult to connect these arguments to the issue of abortion; this episode is very much another entry in the "non-malevolent but spooky alien" category of Doctor Who stories like the Sensorites, the Silurians, the Ambassadors of Death, the Empty Child/the Doctor Dances, Fear Her, 42, Planet of the Ood, the Doctor's Daughter, the Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Vincent and the Doctor, the Rebel Flesh/the Almost People, Curse of the Black Spot, Night Terrors, Hide, etc., etc., etc. The only difference is that this one features a potential spooky alien instead of an already extant one.

    If you meant that intention is irrelevant and most people read this as an anti-abortion episode so therefore it has a negative ethical impact, I'd have to disagree with you there. Based admittedly on no evidence at all, I'd be willing to bet that a very small portion of the casual viewing audience connected this to abortion, and even among those of us who like to do in-depth analyses online I'd say less than 50% of people have brought it up. I personally like the idea of changing "egg" to "chrysalis," but I can't blame Moffat and Peter Henning for not thinking of the backlash; all I can say is that I don't see the negative ethical consequences.


  27. GarrettCRW
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

    I'd love to know if the proportion of people interpreting an abortion metaphor is higher for American viewers (where abortion and women's rights are still huge issues) than for viewers in other areas with less sucky (for want of a better term) attitudes towards abortion and women's rights.


  28. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:04 pm

    Did anyone else notice the two prints on Clara's wall by her front door? Both icons of the modern London skyline that have been used by aliens for dubious purposes. One is of the Shard (which was central to her first [in her timeline] adventure with the Doctor; the other is of the London Eye, which was central to the very first episode of NuWho.


  29. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:18 pm

    I certainly agree that it was an episode that's attempting to engage with feminist discourse, but I just can't agree that it actually succeeded in portraying a feminist viewpoint. And if it's a feminist work, then doesn't it make the most sense that the main plot was about an intrinsically feminist issue?
    If A Good Man Goes To War is as close to rape as can be shown on teatime BBC1 then I don't see how an egg being incubated by a planet can't be considered a metaphor for abortion because BBC1's main family show can't actually discuss abortion. And if you view it with regards to that metaphor then it's obviously pro-life.
    I do appreciate not everyone is going to see that metaphor, but as I said, I was watching it with my four housemates, none of whom I've heard discussing feminist issues before and all of whom were uncomfortable with the themes. It's anecdotal, but it's my experience of the episode.


  30. Toby Brown
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

    And with regards to Garret's question, me and my housemates are all British. It just came across that way for us.


  31. Chris
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    "was largely aligned with pro-choice views." I'm having a hard time seeing this. Captain Lundvik's position, which she never really explains in detail, seems like standard utilitarianism–killing this one being will save the lives of billions. And she is quite clear on this point–she wants to kill whatever's inside the egg. It's a bit different than the standard trolley problem, in that she has an active desire to kill (rather than regretfully causing the death of an innocent), and she's willing to sacrifice her own life, and that of Courtney and Clara. Pro-choice views, I think, are usually about a woman's rights over her own body. So it's hard for me to see this as a situation where pro-life/pro-choice arguments apply.

    What I thought of, actually, were situations where democracies eagerly and vociferously assent to bomb other countries, based on inadequate or deceptive information. Did those nukes have U.S. flags on them?


  32. heroesandrivals
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

    I know Phil doesn't want to view this as a pro-life thing and I think he's right — it's a pro-choice thing. It doesn't matter what the world decides, it's up to the person onthe spot to make the decision.
    Look; it's three women in a room. For the first time in the history of the world, by the implicit rules the episode sets up, three women are deciding the fate of the Earth. And the male astronauts are incredibly dim. And POTUS is female. And the decision is about the lunar cycle, and whether or not to end a life before it's born, and couched in terms of whether or not Clara and Courtney might have children on Earth below and the astronaut who explicitly DOES NOT on the other side. Clara and Courtney chance their children on the decision but there one who regrets never having kids is overly etc etc etc.

    It's about abortion. But despite the end decision it's a pro-choice fable. They don't listen to the 'dominant opinion' (which, given that it was caused by the power grid shutting off in blocks wouldn't really represent the will of the people anyway — just a few powerful guys at the top who control the power plants.) Phil likes to talk about how oppressed people cannot gain their rights by petitioning their oppressors — only by seizing them. The ones in the position to choose make their choice, and damn what scared people think, writ large.


  33. Chris
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:50 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  34. Chris
    October 4, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

    In the scene before we see the prints in Clara's apartment, there's an interesting quote from David Copperfield on the whiteboard in her classroom (you get a good view as Danny pokes his head in): “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” Underneath it, the prompt: "How autobiographical is this book?" (The end wasn't totally clear in the shot, though.)


  35. Ricky Bobby
    October 4, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

    The nukes actually had Russian flags on them, funnily enough. Also I'm an American (a Texan no less) and a guy, and I found the pro-life line of bullshit unmistakable in this episode. Between the choice of allegory and the phrasing of the entire debate, I don't see how anyone can be defending this crap. Add in the casual racism toward Mexicans (a poncho and baby cacti in space, seriously?) and the ridiculous level of scientific illiteracy, and I can safely say that this is the worst Doctor Who episode I've seen so far.


  36. Ricky Bobby
    October 4, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

    Anyone else notice the casual racism in the Mexican space base? Of course, every Mexican must travel with a colorful poncho and his baby cacti collection. I half expected them to fend off the spider/bacteria with a pinata they found in a closet or that hull breach to be filled by the sombrero flying out of the corner.


  37. BerserkRL
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

    when Clara chooses to let the creature live by pressing the red button, the word "ABORTED" appears on the screen

    So the episode is pro-abortion!


  38. Adam Riggio
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

    I agree that there is nuance between being against abortion and being against a woman's right to choose. Anti-choice views would see the state have the mandate to punish women for terminating their pregnancies and the medical professionals who provide them the service. Anti-abortion but pro-choice views would respect a woman's bodily autonomy to choose, while considering termination an immoral choice. The state and our communities would protect abortion services and service providers, while you would consider abortion itself a morally blameworthy act. Being pro-choice, you would swallow your disgust in the name of ethical fairness, while being sure that a woman would have to answer for her act in other ways, such as a tribunal before whatever god you or she believed in.

    Melissa's interpretation, however, adopts too many tropes of demonizing and patronizing a woman for her choice of what one considers immoral to avoid being itself a disguised anti-choice position.

    I work through these issues explicitly in my own review of Kill the Moon, which I've written here.


  39. jonathan inge
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  40. Whittso
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

    Well, I'm with Callum and Carey. The pro-life reading feels incredibly tenuous. I was actually shocked when I read it in Phil's review, but the comments thread shows yet again how much smarter he is than me.


  41. jonathan inge
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  42. jonathan inge
    October 4, 2014 @ 10:37 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  43. elisi
    October 4, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

    In short: Intellect and romance triumph over brute force and cynicism.


  44. William Silvia
    October 4, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

    I want to take a science book to the person who wrote this episode, show it to them, and beat them over the bloody head with it.

    A mostly good episode should not be completely ruined by a premise that makes so little sense it makes the entire episode seem like bad fan fiction. Eggs do not pull matter out of hyperspace in order to grow.

    Since I'm fairly certain I've already pissed off at least one person, I might as well throw in the fact that the Apollo 18 monsters here are completely superfluous and only present because so many people still cannot comprehend Doctor Who without an alien monster.


  45. David Anderson
    October 4, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

    I think one problem is that we want to believe that life is free of awkward decisions and morally difficult choices. So on the one hand we react badly to any suggestion that something that's not even born yet might still be a morally significant life, and on the other we suggest that women who are pregnant knew the risks and therefore they chose and deserve whatever happens to them. In both cases it looks like we're saying that moral dilemmas only happen to other people who deserve them.


  46. dm
    October 4, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

    I probably just really, really wanted it to be a tea tray.


  47. jonathan inge
    October 4, 2014 @ 11:43 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  48. Slow Learner
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:35 am

    I just watched the episode, and absolutely loved it. Then I immediately jumped on to see what Dr Sandifer had to say about it, and largely agreed with his take, though I thought it was weird that he was so focussed on discussions of whether to kill an alien egg and potentially save all of humankind as a pro-life fable. Just…what?
    And then I came down below the line to read the comments, and see people not only seeing that fable in the story, but also seeing it as the primary point of the story, to the point that a plot about genocide and risk aversion and three women between them making a fateful decision for humanity…is actually all about how abortions are evil.
    I am now severely baffled, because I'm fairly plugged in to questions of reproductive healthcare, and I didn't get anything like that from the episode. I know people will always have different takeaways from bits of media, but I'm afraid I don't think that one is supported by the episode, I think people have projected it in. And now I'm angry and disappointed, because one of the best and most inspiring episodes of television I've watched in years is being treated as the latest fucking football in the endless American abortion war WHEN IT ISN'T EVEN ABOUT ABORTION.
    I'm really looking forward to the next episode. I'm looking forward to Dr Sandifer's review of the next episode. But I'm going to think twice about reading the comments here again.


  49. GarrettCRW
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:52 am

    I'm also perplexed by the tie to the abortion debate, but I must stress that the various commenters here have earned enough slack from virtually every other post on this blog to allow for one difference of opinion, even a pretty big one as this.


  50. Herms
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:56 am

    There's also the Doctor using a yo-yo to test gravity ala The Ark in Space, though I guess that falls under the general "Hinchcliffe the shit out of it" edict.


  51. Chicanery
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:00 am

    A user by the name of Mr Greene has been reposting comments from here to the AV Club Doctor Who reviews specifically to make fun of those of us who have read it as an anti-choice polemic. The commenters there have taken a liking to referring to us as insane. Lovely folk.


  52. Herms
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:04 am

    During the Doctor's big "2049 is the year humans start leaving Earth to branch out into the stars" speech at the end, I kept hoping it would turn out that this was because after 2049 people needed to leave Earth since now the tides were all wonky and bits of what used to be the moon kept hitting the planet. Partially because this would add some bite to the decision to let the moon egg hatch, rather than the rather consequence-free ending where the space dragon thingy just wanders off and happily leaves a new moon behind. But mainly because "humans colonize space after moon explodes" is the backstory to Cowboy Bebop.


  53. GarrettCRW
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:06 am

    In this case, it's a bit easy to do.

    With that said, context is everything, and I doubt the AV Club commenters have any about the culture of the commenters here, just as we have little real context regarding their behavior.


  54. GarrettCRW
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    How do we know it wasn't wished back with the Dragon Balls? πŸ˜‰

    (Sorry, Herms, couldn't resist.)


  55. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:44 am

    I've never been inclined to demand scientific accuracy from Doctor Who. Although I find the number of unspoken premises in declaring that "eggs do not pull matter out of hyperspace in order to grow" with regards to a fictional giant space dragon hatching from the moon entertaining.

    I do think you're wrong about the spiders, though. They're there to provide a familiar backdrop while the story gets its pieces set up for its back half. They're not there because Doctor Who can't be comprehended without a monster – they're there so there's something to do while elucidating an unusually complex premise/aesthetic for the back half.


  56. Toby Brown
    October 5, 2014 @ 2:29 am

    I can usually let bad science slip through but when the opening mystery is "Why/ how is the moon gaining mass?" it's important to note that anyone with a vague understanding of conservation of mass would realise that this question never actually got answered.


  57. John
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:27 am

    I genuinely do not remember colorful ponchos or baby cacti. Were those really there?


  58. David D
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:34 am

    My thoughts on this episode are very unformed, and I am new to online posting, but I want to add my voice to what seems to me a really vibrant and vital intellectual arena to discuss Doctor Who – and give credit and many thanks to Dr Sandifer for creating this space.

    My initial unmediated response was similar to his. I thought 'oh my word, this may be [a slightly less definite assertion!] the best episode ever.' Or maybe it's the 'greatest', as Dr S also writes in the comments: there's a difference to be drawn out, perhaps, in terms of the episode as a perfection ('the best') of the series viewed as autonomous, self-referential, self-plundering and thus self-nourishing work of art, as so brilliantly analysed in the original post, versus the magnitude ('the greatest') of its impact as it disperses into the world. This might be evidenced by the discomfort surrounding the pro-life/pro-choice question, issues of feminism, of political versus individual ethics, and the cosmological question of what promoting the 'natural cycle of things’ means – letting the moon-egg even get to a point of hatching has already killed thousands.

    In the latter regard, I'm interested in how the immediate human moral dilemma, getting due interrogation above, and which conclusively reinstates Who as a place for such questions, functions as a classical liberal humanist trope within a consciously humanist series, which is at other moments also deconstructing itself by asserting the indeterminacy of its premises. I think here of the Doctor's stunning acknowledgement of 'grey areas' he can't see, and then, too of the concluding 'reboot' of his knowledge, where he seemed to me to go temporarily 'blind', eyes screwed up, something akin to pain on his face. For the second time this series, I am reminded of King Lear, specifically Gloucester on the beach: 'I stumbled when I saw'. The first time was the scene between the Doctor and the Tramp in Deep Breath, reminding me of Lear and Gloucester, or Lear and the Fool, as well as of Vladmir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot . Jonathan Inge writes above that he views Moffat's oeuvre as 'concerned with absurdism'. There's a rich vein to be explored there.

    But absurdism partakes of a Modernist (humanist, Marxist, psychoanalytical) hermeneutic that there is still 'truth' to be uncovered and made accessible by art. My interest, though, is how the series functions against breakdown of such possibilities. Dr Sandifer foregoes his usual 'lens of history' here, for the sake of being ‘honest and open’: forgive me for saying so, but it’s a hackneyed phrase, and do the two words necessarily complement each other? The news headlines in the UK in the last couple of days have included another beheading by ISIS, protests in Hong Kong, more on Ebola in Africa, the discovery of the body of a suspected Latvian murderer of an English girl, and a woman in Sweden giving birth after a womb transplant. There's nothing easy to say about any of this; I'm trying to understand how it works and what it means to watch Who as one is also (almost) inevitably engaged with the above, and to displacingly quote Lord Grey in 1914, to actually watch on TV in 2014 the lights ‘going out all over Europe.’

    I commented on GB that we don't really get to see the egg-creature, aren't told what it is, aren't given a name, don’t know where it’s come from or where it’s going. (Although it's reptilian/avian, so archetypally other from us mammals.) We don't see it laying its own egg either – an act which fills the hole in the sky, and thus saves all past and future Who that relies/will rely on the moon being there post-2049. It saves our descendants too. That not seeing, that not knowing (a not knowing the cause, but only knowing the effect) strikes me – I really don't know how to put this – as a sort of knot in the stomach, a stitch in the body of Who as it is right now. But a welcome one.


  59. Herms
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:12 am

    With regards to the "grey areas in time" (or whatever they're called), I know our host has mentioned a few times how there are moments throughout Who's history that just make you go "oh, obviously this is how things should have been since day one". For me, the "grey area" explanation was a slightly smaller version of that phenomenon. It's obviously a contrast to the "still points in time" from past seasons, but really, what was the point of ever mucking about with a boring idea like that in the first place? Obviously these "grey moments" have vastly more storytelling potential; they should have been introduced ages ago. All the "still points" ever did was make the Doctor hesitate a lot, or try to leave, or whine about how his hands were tied (even though he ultimately ended up working around the "still point" half the time anyway). With "grey moments" he's got a reason to throw himself into things right from the start. Which, admittedly, is pretty much what he usually does anyway. And OK, really it's just the 1980 scene from Pyramids of Mars, but made into a more general principle rather than just a scary thing that only Sutekh can do because he's so powerful. Still, overall the idea of "moments in time where absolutely everything can change" is inherently way more interesting than "moments in time where absolutely nothing can change". In retrospect that's what Waters of Mars should have been about: the Doctor interacting with a historical moment of infinite potential, rather than him going out of his way not to help people because otherwise History would get very angry with him.


  60. David D
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:12 am

    Jonathan, I reference your post above in my effort below. I have a literary studies background and am also interested in the absurdist (and Absurdist) aspects. I'd maybe see Moffat as moving constantly up and down a continuum between wanting to construct his own myths, legends, fairytales, and both consciously wanting to deconstruct them and their truth-value, and – as a writer saturated in humanist readings of English Literature and the values of English television culture, and a powerful BBC force in the latter – prevent their deconstruction: so a conservative absurdism, not a radical one? (How potently radical 'absurdism' is any more is another discussion.) For me these opposing movements spill out from the programme into Moffat's own absolutist pronouncements about Who and himself, most fruitfully in the discussions about the show's/his feminist credentials. It becomes a kind of 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi!' situation – and Flaubert's is a Realist masterpiece – would any Absurdist writer identify himself with his character or text in this way? (I'd be opening up here a can of worms regarding male writers writing female characters and current lack of female writers on Who if it wasn't already open and emptying fast.)


  61. You Know Who...
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:18 am

    Yes. That. I view a fetus as being a baby (or at least as possessing done degree of babyness), but am still pro choice. Seems more honest to me.


  62. John
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:26 am

    And if it's a feminist work, then doesn't it make the most sense that the main plot was about an intrinsically feminist issue?



  63. John
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:38 am

    Mr Greene is, I believe, a regular commenter here under another screen name, although I can't recall who he is.


  64. Monicker
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:39 am

    Well, it's really only the same sort of duality that underlies the contrasting philosophies that appear in The Aztecs or the prologue to the Crusaders novelisation, and in The Space Museum, where they're uncertain about which path they could choose that will or won't lead to their being part of the display. All these terms and concepts are really just about allowing either approach to be featured in a story, as each has a possible application, depending on what that story is attempting. It's a means of somehow reconciling them – in practice, they're not really compatible, but Doctor Who is mythic, and as such, I think can incorporate either depending on its purposes.


  65. UrsulaL
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:53 am

    If this is an episode touching on the theme of abortion, then it is worth remembering that it is, properly, a woman's choice. And it is a choice she has the right to make either way – either choosing not to carry a pregnancy, or else choosing to carry a pregnancy even at great personal cost and risk, and even if others think it unwise.

    And, as in the episode, it isn't a choice subject to the whims of democracy. Outsiders don't get to vote on whether a woman continues or ends a pregnancy.

    Being pro-choice isn't about what choice is finally made. It's about who has the right to make the choice.


  66. Andy
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:00 am

    You're all forgetting that 'base under siege' stories are fundamentally about British colonialism. πŸ™‚


  67. orfeo
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:01 am

    Nope. Sorry. I've seen review after ecstatic review. And I'm just not agreeing with any of them.

    There are ELEMENTS of this that are as staggering and as wonderful as almost every reviewer is telling me. There are certain scenes that are superb. But a great story is more than a few great scenes strung together. A great story is pacing and thematic coherence and emotional investment.

    In the last few years, a recurring problem with some Who episodes is that the show tries to shove too much into a 45-minute timeframe, with the result that things don't have time to build. This was one of those episodes, and in this case it was a crying shame because the POTENTIAL here was amazing. I think I could really find myself engrossed by a future earth crisis where we have to over our insular disinterest in space. An abandoned base under attack by scary creatures? Classic Who right there. A huge moral dilemma about killing would make for juicy drama. And a companion finally exploding at a particularly difficult incarnation of The Doctor was electrifying.

    But that's 4 powerful ideas all trying to jam themselves into the space of a single-episode story. It's too many. It was inevitable that some of them were going to end up feeling short-changed. I found myself barely caring about the state of the Earth because I never saw it. All I saw was the planet spontaneously engaging in Earth Hour and saving some electricity. And the creatures, instead of being an escalating threat, had to get their killing of non-essential characters out of the way as quickly as possible to leave us time for the individual drama.

    This is the first time this season I've disagreed strongly with Philip's episode rankings. There's stuff here that could have been an absolute classic, but instead I'm left feeling frustrated that the scope was so misjudged.


  68. Andy
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:16 am

    Actually, I think there is a strong argument that Troughton-era base under siege episodes do have a subtext about British anxieties concerning the decline of empire.


  69. 548b456c-3afd-11e4-a474-dbe08f324ad4
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:55 am

    "it is worth remembering that it is, properly, a woman's choice."

    What bothers me though is that Clara chastises the Doctor for giving her (and the other two women) the choice at all. He knew what was right, she strongly implies, and he should have taken that agency away from them. And Clara of course also went against the choice of humanity, instead forbidding the abortion even in a case where it may have saved everyone's life- even most people who identify as pro-life would allow for abortion in cases where the woman's life is in danger. Plus the moon itself is a symbol of motherhood, so to kill the moon is to kill motherhood. The whole thing played as strongly anti-choice to me. Especially because it was a false choice- the alien was presented as a lady vs tiger scenario but instead of making the outcome of the choice ambiguous we are told in no uncertain terms that choosing life was 100% the right and moral course and to do otherwise would be genocide.


  70. elvwood
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:57 am

    That was something I'd been thinking this afternoon too, but I've messed up in discussions on this topic before and so lacked the confidence to weigh in (ironic considering a recent post I made about trying not to let the fear of Getting It Wrong silence me). Anyway, you are almost certainly a more suitable person to hear it from, and you said it clearer than I would have too! Thanks.


  71. elvwood
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:59 am

    (My reply was to UrsulaL, by the way)


  72. SpaceSquid
    October 5, 2014 @ 7:14 am

    Actually, I saw this the exact opposite way; with Lundvik being the anti-choice character, in that she alone demands she has the right to determine the fate of someone else's foetus. I agree with Toby Brown's point above that it's not clear how "A Good Man…" is more clearly about rape than "Kill The Moon" is about abortion, other than the fact that the former episode is much easier to argue is on the right side of the issue than this one is.

    But I think this episode [i]is[/i] on the right side, for the reason given above. Courtney and Clara take the position that they've got no right to make the decision. Lundvik argues the world is better off if she gets to decide who does and doesn't get to be born. The fact that no-one involved in the conversation is the actual mother isn't because it's a pro-life text not considering the mother as important, it's because it's a pro-choice text recognising pro-lifers make that mistake, and realises that those of us who are in positions of authority (however accidental our arrival there) have to stand up and say "You don't get to do this".

    If there is a way to read this episode as pro-life, it seems to me that can only be via suggesting Lundvik is the pro-choice character of right-wing fever dreams, whereby we're not interested in respecting a woman's control over her own body but hoping to usher in an era of enforced abortions as sacrifices to the gods of socialism, whilst we dance around cackling to the light of burning flags and have sex with whoever and whatever we please.

    And maybe is Harness is genuinely that unhinged. That's not the way I'd bet, though.


  73. jonathan inge
    October 5, 2014 @ 7:31 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  74. jonathan inge
    October 5, 2014 @ 7:40 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  75. David Anderson
    October 5, 2014 @ 7:48 am

    I don't think Clara's problem with the Doctor is that he was giving her the choice. It was that there are responsible ways and irresponsible ways of doing so, and the way the Doctor did it – withholding information and heading off without letting Clara know where he was going – was, in Clara's justifiable opinion, the irresponsible way of doing it.
    It's one thing to say that the final choice lies with the woman whose baby it is. That doesn't mean that the woman can't ask for support from everybody else around.
    (Oh hell – this is just one of the many many ways in which neoclassical capitalist economics and the ideal rational economic agent distort our moral sense.)


  76. Dan
    October 5, 2014 @ 7:51 am

    "The absence of a "mother" hardly contradicts this being an abortion story. Erasing the mother and pretending that the abortion debate is only about a fetus and an evil abortionist that wants to kill it, and pretending that bodily autonomy of the pregnant person isn't at issue is exactly how the anti-choice side represents the abortion debate."

    I suppose if you make that generalisation you must be willing to make the opposite: that pretending in various ways that the body in the womb is of no consequence whatsoever is exactly how the pro-choice side represents the abortion debate.


  77. David Ainsworth
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    Egg hatching = X week old fetus in the womb seems like a difficult equation to make. Even taking a purely pro-choice view of the circumstances, this child is about to be born. I don't know that even strongly pro-choice people would necessarily agree that aborting at the moment of birth qualifies as an abortion, or even that it should be allowed. Is it still abortion when the shoulders leave the mother's body? Is it still abortion when the baby is out but the cord has yet to be cut?

    If those answers are "no," they don't in my mind have anything to do with a woman's right to an abortion. They have to do with where you draw the line from embryo to human being (or Moon moth).


  78. David Ainsworth
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:40 am

    The information that this was originally written for Matt Smith's Doctor would seem to refute Anders' impression pretty completely.


  79. David Ainsworth
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    The existence of alternate dimensions, established in the series on multiple occasions, proves that mass-energy conservation in the Whoniverse has plenty of exceptions. (Let's not even get into the growing-shrinking stories.)

    For that matter, the established existence of artificial gravity in the Whoniverse proves that it would be possible to reduce the gravitic effects of mass, so it's conceivable that the "eggshell" reduced the gravity of the Moon until it started to hatch, at which point the full mass of the Moon's contents could be felt.

    This isn't like those "ice covers the earth" disaster movies that don't understand thermodynamics. I'm pretty confident everyone involved knows that from a this-world scientific perspective, the idea of the Moon hatching is patent nonsense even without all the other touches.

    Frankly, I thought it at least partly a nod to all those cheap TV shows and movies where gravity on the Moon is conveniently Earth-normal.


  80. David Ainsworth
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:48 am

    Given the threads above, it's not purely American viewers who read this subtext as text.


  81. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:49 am

    I find it hard to see how it could work as a Matt Smith story. It needs the fiercer, apparently more callous Capaldi Doctor to make the Doctor's abandoning Clara believable.


  82. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:55 am

    I'm really looking forward to the next episode

    The next episode is also about abortion. It's the Doctor taking sides against a mummy. (I really hope he says "are you my mummy?")


  83. Elizabeth Sandifer
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:55 am

    It would have worked great with Amy.


  84. David Ainsworth
    October 5, 2014 @ 8:58 am

    A few more thoughts after doing some other reading:
    1. The choice here is really the same choice Eleven gives the Silents in "Day of the Moon." Does your species deserve to live? And Clara's explosion afterward is not only spot on, in terms of asking who the Doctor thinks he is to demand she answer that question, but also in terms of the implications of all the other times the Doctor has asked it. Why should we find someone who offers the "monster" a choice and then destroys it if it chooses poorly to be heroic, but be outraged when the same person offers us the same choice and praises us for choosing well? And conversely, why should the two cases be seen as distinct? Did Ten's shock realization about the Time Lord Victorious lead to Eleven's reform, or did Eleven and Twelve pretty much continue the same line?

    2. Danny Pink tells an angry Clara that you're not done with someone while you're still angry. Metafiction? This episode was clearly going to provoke some strong feelings, pro and con, and I wonder the extent to which this conversation is aimed, not just at Clara, but at the viewers.


  85. Janice Wymore
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:10 am

    It's absolutely the most significant point of the entire episode. And she did much more than becoming the first woman on the moon. Using her intellect and compassion she certainly helped in making the final choice. Too bad Clara was too busy thinking of herself and in the context of her job to see that.


  86. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:14 am

    I agree with you there. I watched the episode and it was interesting, but I didn't fully grasp all of the potential symbolism in this episode until I came here and reflected upon it a bit more, especially with all of the discussion and ideas floating about. I definitely got the lights staying on idea, how in reality viewers of Doctor Who would keep their lights on so late at night and in essence 'save the moon'.

    (My initial thoughts were, immediately after seeing the episode, that it was pretty good/okay, not great. However, it has gotten even more interesting upon reflection and reading all of these comments/discussion. I wouldn't call it the greatest Doctor Who episode in my opinion, though, but there's some more potential here than meets the eye.)

    But the episode format was too quick/fast-paced and thin that the structure of the episode had to struggle with all of these interesting ideas and moments, keeping them inside the episode within the time frame. They managed to cover the main bases of all these ideas, themes, and details, but it could have been better served with just a few minutes in terms of expansion.

    However, dwelling on an idea too long could also possibly dismantle the entertainment factor. Most general viewers may not grasp the potential expansion of ideas and dwelling on an idea for too long could cause things to drag a bit. They managed to keep it entertaining and loose enough while bringing in a lot of underlying, potential symbolism. It's only afterwards, considering the episode, that most of these ideas pop up.

    For example, I briefly rewatced the beginning segment, it starts with the image of the moon in the pupil of Clara's eye as she spoke to the audience/Earth about saving an innocent life. I had assumed before the show that Courtney Woods might be in trouble, and then I thought at the beginning of the episode that it might be the Doctor, and then it turns out to be the moon itself. Interesting framing there.


  87. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:22 am

    Another thing–the episode title is 'Kill the Moon' and you expect it to be an 'exciting' title, with monsters and death on the moon. The appearance of 'spiders' makes it even more exciting in the viewer's mind, as it seems to be a reference to Planet of the Spiders.

    (Although I had guessed, awhile ago when they were starting production and filming, and there were rumors of Alex Kingston showing up again, that it might have been killing the moon that had been the computer on the Library planet and bringing River Song back to life. That was my fannish idea.)

    The title is in the vein of how 'Let's Kill Hitler' was provoking, and they even make reference to that with the Doctor telling Clara, "You don't expect me to kill Hitler" in how malleable or not malleable time is supposed to be. But killing the moon turns out to be the wrong move, the wrong assumption, as is the urge to enjoy the entertainment factor in death, gore, and monsters, when in reality the real monster might not be the spiders themselves, but those who want to destroy the spiders.


  88. GarrettCRW
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:56 am

    "David Ainsworth
    Given the threads above, it's not purely American viewers who read this subtext as text."

    That doesn't automatically make it the canonical interpretation. A lot of people, gay or otherwise, have picked up on the subtext in Jem, which Christy Marx has affirmed was clearly unintentional, and it obviously flew under everyone's radar in the '80s.


  89. John
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    Rewatching, there actually is a poncho looking thing on one of the chairs in the Mexican base. I don't see how a Mexican flag or Spanish writing can possibly be seen as offensive. The other two, well, don't seem like a big deal to me?


  90. Nyq Only
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:09 am

    Good, clever but not, I think, brilliant. I enjoyed it but in comparison Listen and The Caretaker held my attention much more strongly.

    As an abortion allegory? If that was the intent then its messages was overtly pro-choice. That the Doctor had a strong preference for the space-beastie to live only emphasizes his higher order moral stance of insisting that it wasn't his position to make the decision.

    The call backs to previous episodes continue. This time the literal shout-out to Lets Kill Hitler but more subtle links to The Waters of Mars. Just looked that episode up because I couldn't remember the name of Bowie Base's commander (Adelaide Brooks) and note that it was set in 2059, ten years after this episode. While it probably doesn't make sense as some kind of continuity the timing looks deliberate.

    Cast was brilliant. The season seems to be leading up to Clara leaving (overtly so this episode) and I think it would be a shame to lose Clara now that she is working so well as a character with a life.

    No robot or cyborg this episode. Not even a subtle one as in Listen.


  91. jack
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    Why not? My grandmother was one of the first people I knew with an internet connection, back in the early 90s. Old people can use recent technology, it's true!


  92. Nyq Only
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:17 am

    …oh, forgot to say that the Doctor's answer to Clara about how she can't assume the moon didn't blow up because she had seen the future was a good one. Without closing any plot doors, the episode made a good stab at rationalizing how and when the Doctor acts while avoiding pre-destination.

    Also the more I write bout this episode, the more I like it.

    1. Listen/The Caretaker
    2. Kill the Moon
    3. Deep Breath
    4. Time Heist
    5. Into the Dalek
    7. Robots of Sherwood – the only humdrum episode so far.


  93. jack
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:18 am

    I'm guessing that most of the people choosing to read it as an abortion debate are American, because in the UK, abortion is nowhere near as controversial.


  94. Matthew Blanchette
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:46 am

    I am he. And I'm sorry; I didn't expect it turn into ridicule. I was just trying to get people to respond; I kept telling people, "Go over there and respond, go over there and respond!" Never happened. πŸ™


  95. Lewis Christian
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:53 am

    FWIW, it was originally pitched in late 2011, and so would've originally been destined for… Series 7A? 7B? I get 7B-esque vibes from the episode as it is, actually.


  96. Lewis Christian
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    It isn't racist at all. Stereotypical maybe. It's the equivalent of the team finding a cup of tea and a bowler hat left there by British people or something. Not a big deal whatsoever. Just visual shorthand to signify, yeah, Mexicans.


  97. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 11:24 am

    A bowler hat? Might not be racist, but it'd be a pretty silly stereotype. How many British people wear bowler hats?

    Now if it were a sign that Steed had been there, that'd be another thing.


  98. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    Hey, the site published my last comment without asking for a captcha! All order is breaking down.


  99. Iain Coleman
    October 5, 2014 @ 11:53 am

    On reflection, I can't agree that this is the best Who episode ever, or even close.

    My problem is that it is made up of lots of bits tat work perfectly well in themselves, but don't ever cohere.

    This isn't the classic case of Doctor Who mashing a couple of genres together to see what happens. It's more like someone took a few different drafts of the same script, each of which dealt with the story in a slightly different way, and random,y cut them all together to create one continuous story.

    For example:

    I was delighted by the starting premise that the Moon has somehow gained enough mass to make its surface gravity similar to the Earth's. What a splendid way to get away with doing a Moon story without lots of special effects and stunt work to get the 1/6 gravity effect!

    I was also delighted by the audacity of the idea the Moon is really an alien egg. What a spectacular and surprising way to subvert a familiar part of the world! I mean, "The millennium Wheel is really an Auton transmitter" has nothing on that!

    But they don't go together. The first idea sets up the mystery – where did all that extra mass come from? – and this mystery is thoroughly emphasised in the first act, with the Doctor making a big physical show of it and even calculating the quantitative scale of the mystery. So the expectation is that this mystery will somehow be answered in the course of the story. But it isn't. Instead, we take a sharp turn into the Moon being an egg, and forget all about the question we spent so much time establishing at the start.

    Similarly, there is the problem of the two ticking clocks. OK, on the one hand the space-spiders are pretty extraneous, while on the other hand there's nothing wrong with a gratuitous scary monster in Doctor Who. But when we get into the final act, we have the horde of space spiders racing towards our heroes, and the lunar surface breaking up. Both of these threaten to kill our heroes before they can complete their mission. But you only need one ticking clock, not two, and indeed the scary space spiders just seem to get forgotten about. Both of these elements are fine on their own, but they don't fit together very well.

    And lastly there's the big debate at the end. I thought Clara's idea of consulting humanity by using the lights visible from the Moon was delightful and unexpected. (Yes, it's hardly perfect – she can only poll about a quarter of the globe, conveniently the quarter that contains the most Doctor Who viewers, and as BerserkerRL says it's likely governments would hijack the process, but the best she could really do in a few minutes.) But then that whole issue of democratic decision-making gets forgotten about. That's not to say Clara should have decided differently in the end, but the story made a big song and dance about this and then immediately forgot about it as if everyone concerned had been mindwiped. Much like the Tom Bombadil episode in the Lord of the Rings, you can cut it out completely and the rest of the story is unaffected.

    So there were plenty of good bits in this episode, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts.


  100. Iain Coleman
    October 5, 2014 @ 11:58 am

    I have to agree with Toby on this point. Science or no science, if you're going to make a huge palaver out of setting up a mystery at the start of your story, it's generally considered good form to answer it at some point before the end.


  101. Alex Antonijevic
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

    Yeah, there's a little bit of that scene from Cold Blood where the Doctor steps back and lets Amy and Nasreen negotiate with the Silurians. It's just that when it's something like a bomb, the Doctor can't just stand there at the side, he has to leave them for a while.


  102. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    I don't think Amy should be in both this and "The Beast Below."


  103. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

    It could be pro-choice but still anti-abortion; and if it were (I'm not saying it is), it would still be problematic.


  104. unnoun
    October 5, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

    There are people in the UK who have read it as an abortion metaphor. Last month there were plenty of news articles about abortion controversy in the UK, and the first episode of Spooks was about abortion.

    Stop with the cultural relativism. That's not to say there aren't cultural differences between the U.S. and the UK but as someone who has spent time on both sides of the pond this isn't one of them.

    The main difference is probably one of degree. There's a few more religious nutcases in the U.S. They're louder, certainly, and have more of an impact socially. People actually listen to them. The U.S. is, broadly speaking, much more right-leaning than the UK is.


  105. unnoun
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

    But I don't think you can argue that it's not something that would be picked up on in the UK, or that it's not controversial enough to draw attention.

    I mean, Mary Whitehouse existed. Religious nutcases are everywhere, and some of them somehow become influential.


  106. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    I had an idea, I just replied to someone a little while ago, that the real monster in this story is not the spiders or the creature being born, but the humans who have to decide whether or not they should destroy the creature. The Doctor, in essence, is lumping us with the Silents. It's our decision, our choice, as to whether the creature should live or die and sometimes we can be monstrous in such a manner. In a way, Clara is being confronted with the fact that sometimes humans are monsters and that might have tipped her over the line a little bit.

    And I understand the metafictional aspect of Danny saying sometimes when you love something a lot, even though you hate it at times, enough to make you angry, that doesn't mean you're done with it. Far from it on some occasions. I've felt that way before about Doctor Who, a certain kind of frustration with it at times that doesn't make me abandon it completely. I still come back to it, or different aspects of it, and maybe even will revisit or try to cope with aspects of the show (or books in some instances) that I have neglected or disliked.


  107. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

    The thing about the 'year' bugs me a little bit, because as some people have pointed out, the year itself seems wrong. 2049 is too soon in terms of the age of the actress, Hermione Norris, as her astronaut character saying 'my grandmother posted on Tumblr'. The line is a minor detail and it could just be a throwaway detail or the result of casting.

    It really should not be a problem, though. The 2049 detail is a link to past Classic Who episodes (and even the Russell T. Davies era) set in the near, not too distant future or even some vague parallel present with alien creatures or crazy stuff happening. It could really have been in any era/year, time-wise, but they did choose a time relatively close to our own to link it to our present.


  108. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

    The only thing I can say about the mass and how it relates to the creature is that the creature only started to really grow in size and mass as it approached birth. Maybe its growth in mass had been a gradual process over millions of years that got sped up closer to its birth period.

    You might even say, if you want to use a real-world issue in this story for a weird explanation, that signs of climate change have actually been the result of the creature gaining mass and affecting planet Earth. It is a real-world issue that could indeed become steadily worse in the coming decades so that by mid-century, there may be some major visible effects with slightly higher than average temperature or sea levels rising.

    And the spiders–yeah, that was a bit random at the end there. I suppose they wanted to make it more effectively dramatic and urgent for younger viewers or people who may not be as interested in the moral debate going on. They could have been second-guessing themselves there as to whether or not people would be as interested in the moon creature as in the bacteria spiders.


  109. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

    Oh, that's very interesting here, the idea of control and power and what happens when we assume we have power and control over a given situation, and someone gives us complete control or power over a given situation, or we are left to fend for ourselves. The absence of any other authority figure except for ourselves.

    In a way, this story is about that dynamic, the power vaccum of the Doctor's absence and the ultimate democracy between these three individuals to make a choice without a representative figure or leader. However, it does focus overmuch on Clara here as an 'audience identification' character or just a main character who is more familiar to the audience.

    The situation is built around Clara's role and experience as a companion who has traveled extensively with the Doctor and has personal stakes in the decision. The other two characters have stakes in this decision to a certain degree as well, perhaps Norris's character more than the other two when she has experienced the changes on Earth over the last few decades.

    But that's not to say that Courtney doesn't have a stake here either. She has empathy and concern with the moon creature and wants to preserve it, not to mention the concern she might have with her own life, although she might not be as attuned with what has been going on back on Earth in the last few decades. In a way, you can say Clara is the meeting point between the optimism, hope, and sympathy of youth (Courtney) and the cynicism, experience, and intelligence of adulthood (Lundvik). The short-sighted, inexperienced view versus the long-range, experienced view…

    So Clara can be considered a meeting point between different viewpoints, which is why her viewpoint/understanding/emotion in this instance is the one most highlighted compared to the others, who only get the briefest highlight from their viewpoints.


  110. SK
    October 5, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

    Democracy be damned

    But the final decision is made by democracy. On the moon is an electorate of three, Hermione Norris (kill), Courtney Woods (save) (and honestly, if she is what passes for a 'disruptive influence' in Coal Hill school then every teacher in a North East London comprehensive will be applying there next year) and Clara (the swing voter, who decides the eventual outcome).

    Difficult to see how this is an anti-democracy message, when it all comes down to a two-versus-one vote.


  111. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

    The great thing I love about this site is all of the discussion that goes on and when I start to respond to some of these discussions, I come up with ideas myself that I had never really realized or thought about before, in regards to this episode. It really broadens my consideration of the episode personally.

    I suppose the nature of the episode is really tied into one of the BBC mandates that I think Philip Sandifer highlighted in one of his earliest TARDIS Eruditorum posts, to enlighten the audience as well as entertain them as a public service. This show is targeted at broad-spectrum range of the British public, now gaining an international audience as well, touching upon global issues and concerns. It stimulates debate as it highlights these issues, even to the point of going into moral and ethical concerns.

    Now here is something I really was thinking about bringing up before: is this going to be a reference episode for future newbies to Doctor Who? Is this going to be an episode where fans of the series point it out an say, 'Watch this episode, this is really what Doctor Who is about' and I think, for better or worse, this might be the case. And it highlights not just New Who, but Classic Who as well.

    In terms of political, cultural, and ethical issues, and entertainment value with monsters and weird, unusual sci-fi as well, this episode seems to me to highlight a vast array of stuff that has come up in Doctor Who over the years, in relevance and impact over different eras. Now in recent years, I know that fans of the show have pointed out New series episodes of 'Blink' and 'The Girl in the Fireplace' as being good episodes to introduce a general audience member to Doctor Who.

    But I think Kill the Moon might eventually become the go-to example in such instances. Although it is a little strange in spots, maybe too strange to most audience members. But if an audience member is already a sci-fi fan, then maybe this is the episode to show sci-fi fans to get them interested in the best that Who, across all eras, has to offer. What do you all think?


  112. Richard Pugree
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

    Ok, so I'm pretty late to the party but I just wanted to mention particularly the Doctor's looking through time bit at the end. He supposedly sees "All that is, all that was, all that ever could be" and yet actually he doesn't usually behave like he does. This, along with Doctor-vision from Eleventh Hour, gives some indication of how it might actually work, how he can focus his vision to particular times etc. Maybe time is like a massive magic eye picture to him.


  113. SK
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

    Being pro-choice isn't about what choice is finally made. It's about who has the right to make the choice.

    '[A person does] not have a moral right to make a morally wrong decision. An immoral [decision] does not magically become moral simply because of [who makes it].'


  114. J. L. Webb
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    The best laid plans and all that, eh? Ah well…


  115. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    Oh, and something I just want to mention, hasn't been mentioned elsewhere–have people forgotten about Doctor Who's Runaway Bride? Giant spider with an egg at the center of the Earth and space debris coalesced around it, except this time it's the moon. Most often, Planet of the Spiders is the one referenced in regards to this episode, although you don't have to reach that far back for giant spiders and weird sci-fi.


  116. Iain Coleman
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    It's not so much the science as such, it's that Act 1 sets up a different Act 3 than the one broadcast, and Act 3 follows on from a different Act 1 than the one broadcast.


  117. jonathan inge
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  118. Doctor Memory
    October 5, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

    " (I wonder if we're ever going to actually visit Danny' s 'bad day' or will it remain an unwitnessed mystery for a while)"

    Dear lord, if the lampshade on that line were any larger, it would have been a sombrero. Danny is somehow related to Missy. Likely he died in Afghanistan.


  119. Doctor Memory
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

    Perhaps if our host converted the comments over to disqus…


  120. heroesandrivals
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Meh. The Rani made her servants call her "Mistress" and given the Rani-ish makeup on her I'm willing to believe that Moffat is screwing with the audience by, for once, doing exactly what it looks like he's doing. The fake out is that for once there's no fake out.


  121. Herms
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

    I wonder if the story was originally set at a later date, and they eventually moved it back to 2049 for one reason or another? Maybe to try and link it up with The Waters of Mars? That way, the moon egg incident inspires humanity to spread out into space, so about 10 years later you get the first attempted Mars colony. OK, that's probably far too fannish an idea to be what they were really thinking, but it wouldn't surprise me if the slight chronology problems with the Tumblr joke were a result of it being a holdover from an earlier draft.


  122. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    Oh, that's an interesting idea about Danny being one of Missy's 'flock'. You know, one of the upcoming episodes is called Dark Water and Danny was digging wells in Afghanistan, so I think it is possible we might see what happened to Danny in that episode.


  123. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

    I thought that voice mail comment was in reference to the phone call at the end of Deep Breath.


  124. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

    Oh, personal rankings…(and now I'm really starting to like this series. Even Time Heist is pretty good. Someday I'm going to do a series ranking, just for fun. And before I began getting involved in all of these discussions about 'Kill the Moon', it was lower in my estimation, but now it has crept up. I suppose I've gotten even more excited about this series now.)

    Kill the Moon
    The Caretaker
    Deep Breath
    Robot of Sherwood
    Into the Dalek
    Time Heist


  125. heroesandrivals
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    I've always thought that the women made the choice and accepted the risks when she chose to have sex

    The notion of choice is key here — the same anti-abortion groups try to deny availability of birth control so she can't choose to take that, despite the fact birth control pills have nothing to do with abortion.
    Yes: those groups are about taking a woman's choice away, and then they defend themselves by saying "well, she choose this!"
    High hypocrisy.

    I still think this is an incredibly, incredibly sloppy pro-choice episode. Sloppy to the point that it should not have made it to stage in this form. The problems here should have been so blindingly obvious at the readthrough (sooner, but especially so at the readthrough with so many people watching it) that it baffles me that there was no attempt to paper over what was going on here, to offer any sort of guidance to the accidental messages being sent.


  126. TheSmilingStallionInn
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

    One last thing here—I think Doctor Who sort of mentioned this before in Warriors' Gate or in one of the Fifth Doctor's serials, maybe even Time Flight—the idea that you flip a coin to make a really tough decision between two choices that seem about equal or you cannot determine between. If you flip the coin randomly and land on a decision that you personally disagree with, then go with your gut and ignore the coin. This episode could be playing on that idea a little bit. Clara flipped the coin by asking people to decide, and when they made a decision she personally disagreed with or felt was wrong, she went against their decision and chose the opposite path. Not exactly the best analogy here, but I couldn't help thinking about that.


  127. Jesse
    October 5, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

    I watched it an evening late, and I see over 200 comments have already appeared here. Sorry, I'm not going to read them all, or at least not tonight. But I will pop in to say I enjoyed it. I certainly don't think it's the best Doctor Who episode ever, but "The Moon is an egg" has got to be in the running for best Doctor Who plot twist ever.

    It is of course anti-abortion. The fact that it takes this stance in the course of an episode that wears its feminism on its sleeve (female president, passing the Bechtel Test with flying colors, Clara telling off the Doctor for how he treats her, etc.) is the flipside of Phil's remark that "the joke is that the episode as a whole is a decisive move towards the classic themes of science fiction they espouse." The fan debates will be interesting.


  128. brownstudy
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

    "Then we got the Doctor's speech about Earth's future among the stars, delivered with sheer magic by Capaldi (his performance, though frequently at the margins of the plot, gives me nothing but joy). "

    I thought the brilliant bit of direction about that line was that I was expecting him to say that to the astronaut — instead, as he walks toward the camera we see the back of Courtney's head. He's talking to the child about her future, which was just great.

    Stray thought 1: Matt Smith's was the Doctor who lied. Do we have a strong enough lock on Capaldi's Doctor to be able to say what his Doctor does?

    Stray thought 2: the scripts and episodes seem to be presented in an intended order, rather than re-scheduled and presented out of order as in seasons 5 and 6. There really seems to be a progression from episode to episode.


  129. Nightsky
    October 5, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

    @Melissa: The problem I have with your position (that women necessarily consent to pregnancy when they consent to sex) is that it attempts to set up a kind of non-revocable consent that's at odds with basically all the rest of our medical ethics.

    I'm on the bone marrow donation registry; haven't been called up yet. But if I were matched with a recipient tomorrow, I could refuse to donate. I could revoke my consent even if they were wheeling me into surgery. Even if I were the only match possible for the recipient, who would certainly die without the transplant, I could refuse, and no one could do a thing except try to change my mind.

    The only purpose of the bone marrow donation registry is to donate marrow, so I must have consented at some point. Whereas people have sex for lots of reasons, only one of which is procreation. Consenting to sex is not remotely the same thing as consenting to pregnancy–and even if it were, even if we granted that a woman consented to possibly hosting a developing life within her body at the time of sex, why should she not be allowed to withdraw consent? (Remember that I was allowed to withhold my marrow from a recipient who would surely die.)

    People may think that I'm an asshole for not donating my marrow. They are free to do so. But the alternative to our system of revocable consent is state coercion of a medical procedure unnecessary for my health at some risk to myself. That, to me, is monstrous.


  130. Pôl Jackson
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

    Am I imagining it, or is there an intentional "Maiden, Mother, Crone" setup in this episode?


  131. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

    So were Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus a democracy?


  132. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    A decision's being morally right and one's having a moral right to make it are two distinct concepts. To say that I have a moral right to do X is to say that a) others are morally obligated to let me do X, and b) it is morally permissible for me, or an agent acting on my behalf, to enforce that obligation. That's perfectly consistent with X's being itself morally wrong.


  133. BerserkRL
    October 5, 2014 @ 9:53 pm

    Stop with the cultural relativism.

    I don't see how cultural relativism is related in any way to this dispute.


  134. Anton B
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:12 pm

    I'm not sure why a lot of people are continuing to refer to the character played by Ellis George as Disruptive Infuence. Her name, and the name she is referred by and to by every character in the show is Courtney Woods. Her teachers might call her 'a disruptive influence' and it was indeed the subject of a one-off gag in The Caretaker but that is not her name.
    I find it odd after all the hoo-ha last week about racism (perceived or otherwise)and this week's shitstorm around Feminism and the right to choose that people are not allowing a woman of colour her real name but persist in using the title given her by her oppressors.


  135. Anton B
    October 5, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

    It's blatant.


  136. Nyq Only
    October 6, 2014 @ 12:04 am

    If it was pro-choice and anti-abortion that would be anti-problematic as it would intentionally undermine the anti-pro-choice movement which likes to portray pro-choice as 'pro-abortion' i.e. that somehow to be in favor of women choosing what happens to their bodies requires a person to a single position on the ethics of abortion rather than a range of ethical stances.

    My son caught onto the nan/tumblr issue. He would be 49 in the year the episode was set and it took him a moment to see himself as that age. Having done so he thought it was not unreasonable that his nan might post pictures on Tumblr. She doesn't, but she is a heavy internet user.

    The character would be of a similar age now as my son.


  137. Nyq Only
    October 6, 2014 @ 12:08 am

    Forgot to mention. When Clara stops the bomb the countdown shifts from the time to saying "ABORTED" πŸ™‚

    I'm beginning to think our host was correct. Was there ever an episode as brilliant as this? Look at this thread!


  138. John Peacock
    October 6, 2014 @ 12:11 am

    I wonder whether the stabilisers on her bike was her belief that if she just put things to people straightforwardly, they'd make the right decision: the Guardian reader's view. What being forced to make the decision (and the tough choice wasn't the dilemma itself, but choosing to make the choice) did to her was that it cut that faith in fundamental human goodness out from underneath her. Which made her understandably angry.

    Which all seems a bit Ayn Rand, I must admit. But the point isn't that Clara is some extraordinary hero, but that she's not – her heroism stems from her ordinariness in extraordinary situations. She's just has a different perspective from all the voters – up close and very personal.

    It is about how one mediates between emotional naivety (Courtney) and cold rationality (Lundvik), when the choice is binary, yet neither position is in itself persuasive.

    If it is about abortion, it's a lot more complex than most metaphorical representations of that subject I've seen and, indeed, more reflects the thought processes as I've understood them of actual women I've known who've undergone the procedure (even if they made a different decision in the long run), which has always seemed morally complex (a complexity which is exploited enthusiastically by the anti-abortion campaigners, who thankfully provide us with an island of absolute wrongness).

    The factor that gives pause is that the debate over abortion is about a woman's power over her own body, but in this case, there isn't a mother and there isn't an own body. The debate here is about intervening in a process which is dangerous to our species but which is otherwise incidental to us, and the conclusion is to err on the side of not tampering.


  139. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 1:33 am

    Pure alchemy. The alchemical egg – The Philosopher's Stone.


  140. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 2:11 am

    Totally blatant yeah, intended.

    This episode is indeed magic.


  141. Lewis Christian
    October 6, 2014 @ 2:26 am

    A bowler hat? Might not be racist, but it'd be a pretty silly stereotype. How many British people wear bowler hats?

    You know what I'm getting at though.


  142. Kit Power
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:32 am

    Really feeling the need to weigh in on the morality question here, because…

    ..the show cheats. Really quite outrageously. Because it's Doctor Who, and in Doctor Who, it's always the wrong choice to kill the thing, right? Doctor Who in general and Moffat Who especially specifically and explicitly rejects the notion of there being a such a thing as a 'lesser of two evils'. It effectively denies such binary choices ever exist, positing instead that the only correct response to 'do shitty thing A or crappy thing B will happen' is to say, 'balls to that, I'm going to do super clever thing C which slices the Gordian knot in two and then high five everyone because that is how I roll'.

    And you know what? I'm cool with that version of the story. Really. I think a kids show that invites its audience to be wary of false dichotomies, and that says that sometimes, often, really really thinking about a situation can turn a problem on its head is a show that has its moral centre in the right place. The world doesn't always work like this, but it does often enough that I want people to be aware of it, and engaged with that kind of thinking.

    But that's not this episode. No, this episode is straight up 'Definitely commit genocide or maybe… allow genocide to happen' because it's entirely possible to suppose that a consequence of the moon 'hatching' is the death of life on Earth. All life.

    And, sorry, but that's not a difficult moral choice. It's a hard choice, but it's not difficult. In 'real life' I have a fundamental and irreconcilable division with anyone who doesn't kill the moon, in the problem as set. The idea that anyone could gamble with the life of an entire planet, just to preserve a single life, no matter how unique… That freaks me right the hell out, to be honest with you. Don't get me wrong, it's a great dramatic situation, it makes for good fiction. It's just not an actual stumper, for me.

    Except the show cheats. Because it's Doctor Who. And BECAUSE it's Doctor Who, we know killing the creature is wrong. We know it's wrong, so we know not killing it will be the right choice, will not destroy the earth. So even with all the above in my head, as I'm viewing the show, I'm willing them not to push the button, and cheering when they abort the bombing and the TARDIS shows up. So I'm left in the position of rooting for a course of action that in 'real life' I would consider to be morally wrong, because I know in Doctor Who world, allowing the Space Dragon to be born will never be a Bad Thing, no matter how dangerous it looks.

    Was that weird for anyone else? Clara's decision was right, but was only right because she's in a Doctor Who story. Which means that the rage she opens upon the Doctor at the end was exactly my rage as a viewer, because, yeah, stop pissing about, man. If you knew it was probably safe, you had a bloody moral duty to Clara and the others to say so. What kind of asshole puts someone through that emotional wringer unnecessarily? And this 'grey areas of time' bollocks was just that: Bollocks. By which I mean, the entire show is clearly about The Doctor showing up at such 'grey areas' in time and in ways great and small influencing events. It's what he does, what he's always done, it's the reason he ran away in the first place, right? Because he wasn't content to just observe? Because there are monsters and they must be fought?

    I have to say this, too – I don't think I'd use the word 'enjoy' to describe S8 so far, but the last two, and especially this one, have engaged me in a way the show hasn't for a good long while, and IN ways that it may never have. So I'm glad of that.


  143. Jesse
    October 6, 2014 @ 4:01 am

    It's an honorific.


  144. Daibhid C
    October 6, 2014 @ 4:36 am

    I watched this thinking "I want to like this. I am not the sort of person who objects to a Doctor Who story because its central conceit is ridiculous. I just wish I felt the story knew how ridiculous the central conceit was, and wasn't trying to make a Big Serious Episode out of it."

    I've got nothing against Big Serious Episodes either, but the concept can't support it. I would love to have a debate about what the right thing to do would be in a Doctor Who situation, but not when the situation is "What if the Moon was a giant egg". Who cares what anyone would do in that situation?


  145. inkdestroyedmybrush
    October 6, 2014 @ 8:18 am

    now that the furor has died down on the abortion debate (and for the record, i DON'T think that there was subtext there intentionally) I'll get straight to the heart of the matter: That episode was so bad that i'm not sure i want to keep on watching this series.


  146. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    Courtney Woods is amazing!


  147. Lewis Christian
    October 6, 2014 @ 9:04 am

    A bowler hat? Might not be racist, but it'd be a pretty silly stereotype. How many British people wear bowler hats?

    You know what I mean though πŸ™‚


  148. Nate
    October 6, 2014 @ 9:54 am

    I agree with Phil's assessment that this is absolutely a pro-choice statement, but what seems to me to be the bigger theme at play is a criticism of the way in which power is arrogantly forced onto women by men in the name of "liberation." It's a critique of the sort of carnivalesque feminism featured in "Let's Kill Hitler" (which is explicitly referenced), the sort of feminism that seems to be the default in a program whose protagonist is an aged white male, and by extension in a society that is still largely dominated by aged white males. Clara is rightfully outraged by the suggestion that women are only autonomous when the men have left the room, and her outrage is a call for something beyond what the show has been attempting in recent years.

    The episode suggests that what is most crucial to the feminist cause is dialogue, not the artificial passing of power (however well-intentioned) that the Doctor attempts. It's not a matter of whether or not women are able to make difficult decisions without men; of course they are, and Courtney and Lundvik are shown to have no trouble making theirs. But Clara does have trouble, and the Doctor's refusal to help her when she ask him to is, as she puts it, patronizing. It's not a matter of men leaving women to carve their own path, but of men showing enough respect to the women they care about to lend a hand when requested. It's exactly the step forward the show has been reaching for, and its most fiercely feminist statement to date.


  149. Anton B
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:50 am

    Danny is somehow related to Missy. Likely he died in Afghanistan.

    While that's an intriguing speculation I don't really see how you make the connection. Yes we 'know' by inference that Danny killed a woman or maybe more people because a commanding officer pushed him too far but we haven't seen any of Missy' s 'flock' anywhere but in the 'afterlife' or the 'Nethersphere' as they prefer to call it. So Danny being dead would be a good twist but I don't see any evidence for it in the series so far.

    I agree the lampshading of Danny's backstory is obvious but how Moffat is going to pay it off is less so. Because Moffat.


  150. Anton B
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    K9 called Romana 'Mistress'

    Clara: you can call me Clara.
    Courtney: I prefer Miss.


  151. encyclops
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    "if someone can still make you angry then that's why you should stay"

    What he says is "you're not done with them." Meaning there's unfinished business, not that she should stay. Danny very much wants her to ditch the Doctor.


  152. Froborr
    October 6, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

    No love for the glorious visual pun at the climax there–a vote with 100% turn-out?

    Anyway, I think the question of where this episode falls on the abortion debate depends on one critical question: who is in the role of the mother and who is in the role of the government?

    If the incubating mother whose destruction is threatened by the impending birth is the people of Earth, then that makes the trio of women with their fingers on the button the government that represents them, and the story falls pretty firmly on the side of misogyny.

    On the other hand, if the people actually in the room are the mother, then the people of Earth are a distant electorate making rules about decisions that aren't theirs to make, and the episode falls equally firmly on the pro-choice side.

    I think, however, that the pro-choice reading works better, because the display on the bomb quite clearly states that the choice Clara and Courtney make is the choice to "ABORT."


  153. encyclops
    October 6, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    I'm surprised no one has brought up the downside of inspiring humanity to spread out into the stars. Clara has just transformed the tomb of humanity into the cradle for the Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Yes, they'll be saving themselves and creating — for themselves — a "sci-fi utopia," which will also create for many, many planets in the galaxy an imperialist dystopia, examples of which we've seen throughout classic Who and a smattering of new Who. I think the look on Capaldi's face as he talks about this is very deliberately ambivalent; he loves this species, he's glad they'll survive, but he knows they're going to cause all kinds of problems for all kinds of other species as they colonize new worlds.

    I'm astonished that it's even a question whether there's an intentional abortion subtext here. It's got all the subtlety of an 18-wheeler. What exactly that subtext is saying is the interesting part. I confess I'm still not sure I know what that is, nor how I feel about the episode in general.

    I do feel that this is the right kind of episode for this show to be doing; it's about something, it's thoughtful, it takes people and ideas seriously, and it's invested in being beautiful as well as attempting to be truthful. That the deck is stacked very heavily in favor of the creature not only not being dangerous (much of life is innocently and unintentionally deadly to other life) but actively helpful (laying another egg in orbit rather than just flying away) makes the dilemma less than compelling to me; that is, particularly in Steven Moffat's Who, everything is secretly nice, so Clara would have to be a bit of an idiot not to go with that assumption by default. Also, the science goes out of its way to be ridiculous, and while that's not what Doctor Who is for, it's particularly egregious here and a bit of a turn-off.


  154. Jesse
    October 6, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

    I think the question of where this episode falls on the abortion debate depends on one critical question: who is in the role of the mother and who is in the role of the government?

    I don't think so. The show made an argument that preventing the birth is wrong. Who made the choice doesn't enter into it; preventing the birth is presented as the wrong choice, period. That fits an anti-abortion moral argument. It doesn't fit an argument about who has the right to decide.

    I think, however, that the pro-choice reading works better, because the display on the bomb quite clearly states that the choice Clara and Courtney make is the choice to "ABORT."

    That's the show being playful—they aborted the decision to abort. The main thing that moment proves is that the issue of abortion was indeed on the authors' minds.


  155. Iain Coleman
    October 6, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

    No love for the glorious visual pun at the climax there–a vote with 100% turn-out?

    Hah! I didn't catch that. But I did note that, in the middle of the most Scottish series of Doctor Who ever, attempting to resolve the plot with a referendum is particularly apposite.


  156. BerserkRL
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

    I agree with Phil's assessment that this is absolutely a pro-choice statement

    Yes, but that's not the issue. The issue is whether it's anti-abortion.


  157. BerserkRL
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    Which all seems a bit Ayn Rand, I must admit.

    I think I'm missing something. What's the Rand connection?


  158. BerserkRL
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    If it was pro-choice and anti-abortion that would be anti-problematic

    I disagree. Being pro-choice but anti-abortion is still an antifeminist position. Telling women they're morally obligated to serve as an incubator for a fetus may be less objectionable than seeking to enforce that alleged obligation, but it still treats women as nurture objects for others' uses.


  159. heroesandrivals
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

    The lights went off in huge blocs, a city at a time.
    That wasn't people voting, it was politicians shutting down the power grid.


  160. BerserkRL
    October 6, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

    Here's something I wrote on behalf of an abortion fund I work with, in answer to a pro-choicer who objected to our calling ourselves pro-abortion:

    "Of course there are senses of 'pro-abortion' in which we're not pro-abortion; e.g., we don't urge abortion on women who don't want one. But we ARE, in an important sense, pro-abortion, not merely pro-choice. We're not just fighting for the right to have abortions, we're trying to raise money for abortions. (By contrast, I would defend the right of Nazis to publish their propaganda, but I wouldn't try to raise money to help publish it.) Obviously we think it's a GOOD thing if women who want abortions actually get abortions, or we wouldn't be trying to help pay for them to do it. I don't think we should apologise for abortion or convey the impression that there's anything shameful about it. We're not just defending the right to choose, we're defending a particular choice."


  161. jonathan inge
    October 6, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    Good points.

    After much thought, I must conclude, as others may have, that the whole exercise really was for Courtney's benefit.

    The Doctor knew Courtney would become president.

    "What are you 35?" the Doctor asks her. 35 is the minimum age requirement for US presidency.

    "She (the US president) hasn't even been to space. Hasn't been to another planet. How would she even know what to do?" Although at first it appears he assumes the president is male. But the Doctor was playing coy. Just as when he didn't want to tell Courtney she was special. He decided to take her to this moment in order to Kazran Sardick her.

    The Doctor turned the TARDIS invisible. He saved them by sealing the breach a la deus ex machina.

    Courtney observes the debate and "voting process." She learns things aren't always nice and to make the hard decisions (even those that aren't the popular ones).

    "And in that one moment, the whole course of history was changed. Not bad for a girl from Coal Hill School." The Doctor focuses on Courtney, not Clara.


  162. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

    "I think that what just happened was an act of magic carved out of television. It was art and alchemy."

    Oh my golly I absolutely loved and adored everything about this episode, and that's me understating. I watched it rapt with my partner on Saturday night late. She's not being dragged along for the ride, we are both ardent Who lovers. And was great to sit there with the lights off, the show in the autumn again and the waxing moon above, all yellow and pale.

    What a beautiful "act of magic", in the most literal sense, where the Maiden, Mother and Crone, the Triple Goddess choose not to Kill the Moon (ok – even though they don't all agree – 2 out of 3 anyway). The Moon, the symbol of the feminine and the crucible for the Great Work, the container for the journey of death and rebirth hatches, cracks, and the Philosopher's Stones reveals its gift – even still the nature of that gift is a mystery, not having a name and only seen from a distance. It is revealed though that it is a part of a cycle as a new egg is left behind – and humanity's journey moves into a new stage as a part of this process, and their expansion is possible. And yes, as stated above by encyclops, this journey has a darker side to it, and an effect on the galaxy. There is though always a price to pay for magic, for any exchange and though the Doctor can see that, he inspires them nonetheless, as the journey is theirs and the responsibility is theirs.

    Thank you deeply Phil for this essay and for such a brilliant series of reviews/essays so far. Have really enjoyed seeing the morphing of review based work into something deeper and Capaldi has been growing. Good work and really on board with you about how wonderful this episode is.

    So many amazing scenes from Capaldi and Coleman. My favourite ever.


  163. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:20 pm

    "They don't listen to the 'dominant opinion' (which, given that it was caused by the power grid shutting off in blocks wouldn't really represent the will of the people anyway — just a few powerful guys at the top who control the power plants.)"

    Yes really agree with this – changes the whole tones of those scenes in a brilliant way, thanks!


  164. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

    The cracking open of our own eggs that hopefully makes us more enlightened as our psyche takes flight.


  165. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

    With you John Peacock – this tale is working in the mythic realm and and it's interesting to see this journey (as stated above by jonathan inge in another thread) of Moffat moving away from fairytales into mythic/religious tales.


  166. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

    DM: "probably the first entirely feminist televised Who story since Survival."

    Absolutely and what a corker (or screw topper).


  167. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

    A Good Thing indeed.


  168. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:02 pm

    Yeah, totally, Iain and Janice it's what the episode is about really.


  169. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

    Aye I think this series is reaching the point of being my favourite ever season of Who form both classic and new. All of it – and that would even only be for Listen, Deep Breath, The Caretaker and Kill the Moon. What a set of four, wow.


  170. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  171. Daru
    October 6, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

    Slow Learner: "one of the best and most inspiring episodes of television I've watched in years"

    Oh yes.

    I do love the comments and commenters here though, what ever way the opinions go, as this place is one sane oasis in the comments-list hell that exists on many sites.


  172. Anton B
    October 7, 2014 @ 2:36 am

    And of course by the 51st Century "Hey! Who turned out the lights?" Will become the fake-democracy shaming slogan of the Anti-Pro-Life Explorer Astronauts. Kinda puts a whole new spin on Doctor Moon in the Library doesn't it?


  173. Anton B
    October 7, 2014 @ 2:52 am

    And of course, in this context, the Doctor knew what being 'The First Woman on the Moon' would entail (even if the outcome was a 'grey area' to him) and just how special that would make her.


  174. jane
    October 7, 2014 @ 4:17 am

    Narrative substitution. Which, in part, effectively critiques Act 1.


  175. jane
    October 7, 2014 @ 4:25 am

    It would certainly play into Amy's issues of abandonment and fertility.


  176. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:24 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  177. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:30 am

    What's the alternative? A Doctor Who that teaches children space is disease and danger, wrapped in darkness and silence? A xenophobic return to the days of bases under siege? Is that what we do with aliens? Kill them? No. Doctor Who must be better than that. We go forward, make mistakes and hurt people. Just as the young viewers will go through their lives.


  178. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:35 am

    So the complete opposite opinion from Phil and the rest of us then.


  179. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:45 am

    Could you clarify for me? Is there a reasonable Pro-Abortion position I am unaware of? Pro-Choice means that in each situation a person gets to choose. Which is what happened here.


  180. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:52 am

    Democracy had been dead since the gracchi brothers were killed by the Optimates. But regardless of that, Earth sent three people to the Moon to carry out a mission. It doesn't seem that far out of wack with their desires that three people make that decision. The three are just a little more diverse. Than three middle aged white people.


  181. encyclops
    October 7, 2014 @ 8:35 am

    Kit, I'm with you on the show cheating, and that's why I can't really get behind this episode. That's also why the science matters. Whether you're thinking real-life physics or just what's presented to us on the show, everyone involved has every reason to believe that allowing the creature to hatch means mass extinctions. The only way for this not to be true is for the creature not only to be benign but for all its life processes to defy the laws of nature which no one has any reason to doubt within the story. Further, this means there's no way for me to get invested in the drama, because all that's happening is that things are magic because they're magic. So yeah, that was weird for me too.

    As for what the Doctor knew, I'm not convinced I fully know the answer to that question. My reaction is still that Clara is the asshole here — understandably, but not correctly. But it depends heavily on what the Doctor knew. I believe him that he didn't know all of it, and that his hunch that it was "probably safe" was just that, and that he'd given them all the information he could and left it up to them. The Doctor may be knowledgable, but that doesn't make him wiser than anyone else when making a moral decision.

    Or maybe he just didn't want to find a new name, given what he said last time he was poised to exterminate a unique creature.

    I'd agree with your last paragraph entirely. There's very little pleasure in this season for me, but plenty of interest.


  182. encyclops
    October 7, 2014 @ 8:50 am

    The alternative is a Doctor Who that teaches children reality is sometimes benign and sometimes dangerous and that you have to think and observe carefully to figure out which is which and how to deal with it. And that sometimes decisions are difficult, and you can't depend on them always to magically work out perfectly. And that aliens may not always treat us the way we want to be treated, but we have to treat them the way we'd want to be treated and always make an attempt to do the right thing. "We go forward, make mistakes and hurt people." Exactly. And sometimes we go forward, do the right thing, and get hurt. Reality is messy. That's fine. Teach us how to cope with that.

    That seems like a perfectly reasonable alternative to me. It's really the only alternative that makes a drama worth watching.


  183. Theonlyspiral
    October 7, 2014 @ 9:40 am

    I think on the whole that is what this episode does. Carefully make the choice she feels is right despite the danger. Clara is not diagetically conscious she's in Moffat's Doctor Who, so basing decisions on that is ludicrous.

    It's a television program, with protagonists, aimed at children. On the whole they should get it right more than they get it wrong. It's not real life, and we should be looking to Doctor Who to raise our children. Doctor Who shows us wonder, let the real world show us how terrible man kind can be.


  184. encyclops
    October 7, 2014 @ 10:01 am

    The fact that Clara doesn't know what kind of show she's in makes the decision she takes much worse. The episode lets her get away with what ought to be murder and rewards her for being basically irresponsible. The only way I can respect her decision (the thought process, not the outcome) is if I assume she's reasoned that the Doctor wouldn't leave the three of them to make it if he thought there was any chance that they'd exterminate the Earth, which in a sense is being conscious of what kind of show she's in.

    It's a television program, with protagonists, aimed at children.

    I respectfully disagree. Much of the children's television and literature I read growing up contained what I'd consider a healthy mix of wonder and danger, with plenty of difficult decisions that didn't always leave everyone unscathed. Even Doctor Who used to be like that (and to be fair, at least we have the "bacteria" and their victims in this one, though the episode makes it easy to forget about them). I think the terribleness of the real world (and, indeed, the wonder) is a perfect reason to help children learn to mediate that by reading the literature we give them.

    By all means allow them to get it right. Just don't mislead them into thinking everything will always work out just fine as long as you're nice, and that the decisions you make on faith are always going to be better than the ones you make by observation and reasoning.


  185. Seeing_I
    October 7, 2014 @ 11:43 am

    @ JONATHAN INGE: No apparent clues to who Missy is or her relation to the Doctor. She calls him her “boyfriend.”

    I found it noteworthy Courtney insists on calling Clara "Miss". Hmm.

    Also I wonder what is up with the mummy episode…Clara is mentioned in the press synopsis but she's nowhere to be found in the photos.


  186. Seeing_I
    October 7, 2014 @ 11:50 am

    Why must everything be so zero-sum? Doesn't pro-choice imply that NOT having an abortion is one of the possibilities?

    Also this is Doctor Who. It is ALWAYS going to come down on the side of not killing something.


  187. Jesse
    October 7, 2014 @ 11:52 am

    Why must everything be so zero-sum? Doesn't pro-choice imply that NOT having an abortion is one of the possibilities?

    Sure. And the episode makes it clear which possible choice it thinks is correct.


  188. Froborr
    October 7, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

    So since Blogger appears to have eaten my comment from Sunday, I went ahead and wrote an expanded version on my own blog. I examine the three sides of the "is it about abortion?" question and come down tentatively on the "it's pro-choice" side, but I definitely see arguments for both the other two perspectives (on the episode, I mean).



  189. Jesse
    October 7, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

    Much of that controversy seems to fall into three camps:
    • The episode is taking a strong anti-abortion, misogynistic stance.

    I think it's anti-abortion, but I don't think it's misogynistic. There's no hatred for women here, and if anything the episode makes a point of treating its female characters with respect. So I don't see misogyny, unless you think moral opposition to abortion is innately misogynist—and I don't think that's a sustainable position.


  190. 5tephe
    October 7, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

    Very late, I know.

    But I think my wife hit the nail on the head with this one. The moment it finished she turned to me with a sour frown and said "I don't think men should be allowed to write stories about abortion."

    Hyperbole, sure. But it does go straight to the heart of an issue that Phil had raised before: no matter how much of an ally you are or try to be, if you're male you just don't get as much of a say.

    And to say that the episode's reading as an abortion analogy is a "two step process" or not the intention, is either bizarre or further evidence that perhaps there should be a few more women involved in the core creative team on Doctor Who. The interpretation was certainly clear enough to the commenters here and elsewhere. And you can't tell me that this episode went through the entire production marketing and broadcast process without several of the hundreds of people involved pointing it out.

    I think the episode is aware and deliberate in bringing the issue up. I think it tries very hard to be pro choice, feminist, and humanist in its approach. And I think it fumbles it badly.

    Written by a man. Show-run by a man. Directed by a man.

    If you're going to tackle these issues (and I think Doctor Who should), then you have to do better. Both textually and materially.


  191. Ken Finlayson
    October 8, 2014 @ 2:09 am

    Another in-joke to add to dm's list: the Doctor refers to a prototype Bennett Oscillator. The Oscillator was first named in "Ark in Space".


  192. jonathan inge
    October 8, 2014 @ 9:36 am

    Kill the Moon = Ghostlight


  193. brownstudy
    October 8, 2014 @ 10:45 am

    Sorry if this got posted twice…

    Here's Paul Cornell's 5 favorite things about the episode: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/10/paul-cornell-doctor-who-kill-the-moon

    My favorite quote from his post: "The Doctor didn’t take a democratic vote. He bet only on Clara. She doesn’t think of herself as having a uniquely infallible point of view enough to be comfortable with that."


  194. encyclops
    October 8, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    Thanks for the link! There are a couple typos whose correct versions I'm still not sure of, but I liked reading Cornell's points. I also liked the main article it links to: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/10/i-dont-feel-supported-right-now-doctor-who-qkill-the-moonq It makes the point, which I agree with, that it's tough to evaluate who's in the right in this episode without being certain how much the Doctor actually knew.

    I think I'm in a very small minority when I say I did not enjoy watching the Doctor be "taken down a peg" by Clara. Maybe I was just too sucked in by the idea that he was doing the right thing: leaving this decision to (textually) the Earthlings and (subtextually) the women, having presumably imparted all the information he could without venturing into unfounded speculation. Maybe I was just dismayed that Clara's position was that he should have stayed and helped, that he shouldn't have trusted her to make a wise decision on her own, that she needed help from the Great White Man-God to do the right thing. I wanted her to be able to stand on her own and do it herself, because I felt implying she couldn't was a betrayal of what the episode seemed to be saying about the strength and capability of women. The only way I've been able to make it work for myself is to think of her not as saying "I couldn't make this decision on my own" but "nobody could make this decision on their own — it's too big to do without a friend's love and support," which is or ought to be compatible with any reasonable form of feminism.

    So I can see where they're both right — the Doctor was right to step out of the decision, and had the best of intentions in doing so, but he could have done it in a less cold and abrupt way, and Clara wasn't wrong to feel hurt by it.

    All that said, I'm already done with the Doctor's companions and enemies critiquing his ethics. I think his flaws in this department are frequently exaggerated, and I'm more interested in where the Doctor goes and what the story of those places and times will be than I am in whether the Doctor always manages to save the universe in the most courteous possible way.


  195. 5tephe
    October 8, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    I'm with you on that reading encyclops. One other thing to consider: if we ate looking at the three women representing women, and the Doctor representing men, then the way he left is Jay a little too close to "Not my problem. I just got you up the Duff, you can deal with the consequences, thanks. "

    So it's easy to see why Clara is angry about it from that perspective.


  196. ferret
    October 10, 2014 @ 3:43 am

    minor point perhaps, but screw-cap wine isn't cheap any more than LED lightbulbs are cheap. They don't use screw-caps to be cheap, they use them because they're an improved technology, a better choice – they will not ruin your wine with TCA or TCB the way cork so often will, especially if you are buying expensive wine with a view to cellaring it. Last bottle of wine I had with a cork in it wasn't at all expensive – although I was surprised as it had been years since I last saw one regardless of price.

    Was Clara's wine expensive? Probably not, but it has nothing to do with the object keeping the bottle sealed.


  197. BerserkRL
    October 11, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

    I really hope he says "are you my mummy?"



  198. BerserkRL
    October 11, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  199. BerserkRL
    October 11, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

    I really hope he says "are you my mummy?"



  200. ferret
    October 11, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

    I agree with pretty much everything you're saying, although it is odd that the "I can't interfere, it's not my planet it's your planet" only ever seems to come up in regards to Earth. Sure, it's due to these arguments having more resonance with us in terms of Earth rather than planet Zog – but in-universe it's a bit weird.

    Really, the Doctor is espousing a very Gallifreyan philosophy of interference that he allegedly ran away from, but it only seems to apply to Earth.


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