I have to say it. I hated the Doctor Who episode: ‘Kill the Moon’

 

SPOILER WARNING: If have haven’t seen the latest Doctor Who episode and don’t want to be spoiled, you may want to hold off reading this entry until you have seen it.  Indeed, you might find this post confusing until you have seen it.

There has been some reactions to the episode, from Charlie Ann Andors at IO9, who seemed taken aback but is willing to see where things are going, to fellow blogger, Steve Morris, who is mostly upset about the appalling scientific inaccuracies.

I’ve grown used to Doctor Who being scientifically inaccurate.  I view it as an unfortunate reality of TV sci-fi that most of it is more fantasy than actual scientific fiction, but last night’s episode seemed to go out of it’s way to be garbage scientifically, not just making compromises that most TV shows must make to tell a story quickly and within budget, but violating common sense understandings of things.  Steve does a good job of listing many of the problems.  Of course, it’s possible to engage in Whovian apologetics and explain away many of Steve’s objections, although many seem pretty unsalvageable.

But the thing that drove me nuts last night, the violation of science I found pointless and unnecessary, was all the sound we heard while the characters were moving around in spacesuits in the airless environment of the moon.  Really producers?  It was beyond your ability to just turn off the stage microphones during those scenes?  (The dialog was happening over the helmet radios anyway.)  You can’t even excuse this with the idea that most of the audience would expect to hear sounds since we’ve all seen videos of the Apollo landings.

But the scientific ineptitude of the episode isn’t the main reason I hated it.  As I said above, I’ve grown used to TV sci-fi being a scientific lost cause.  My biggest issues with the episode stems from two things.  The fact that the Doctor was more than just grumpy in this episode, he was a flaming asshole, and the implied morality of how a species should act when its survival is threatened.

First the Doctor being a jerk.  He leaves Clara hanging in a high pressure situation, supposedly with humanity’s future hanging in the balance, because he “was confident she would make the right decision”.

The reason the Doctor supposedly does this is that he feels humanity must make its own decision here.  The problem is that when Clara asks humanity for its decision, they decide to kill the creature.  She ignores humanity’s decision and overrides it.  So, humanity didn’t make the decision not to kill the creature, Clara did.  Clara who was undoubtedly influenced in her decision from her time with the Doctor.  So, the idea that the Doctor really left the decision to humanity is baloney.

As Clara states in the episode, she almost got it wrong.  She was left to make a mind bogglingly consequential decision with incomplete information.  Information that the Doctor had.  She’s totally right to feel tested and judged, and the Doctor’s actions here are simply reprehensible.  It’s a modification to the basic character of the Doctor, who has historically always been eccentric, but basically good and competent on big decisions.

And then there’s the implied message from the episode that humanity would have been wrong to kill the creature.  If humanity had killed the creature, the message seems to be, they would not have explored the universe.  Killing the creature, in addition to being a morally cruel act, would have been shortsighted.  In other words, humanity should have known better.

The fact is that humanity had precious little information with which to make that decision.  Again, it was information that the Doctor had but withheld, that the creature hatching would not endanger Earth.  Withholding that information and then asking them to make a morally pivotal decision in ignorance, should he be surprised that humanity would make the decision that maximized its chances of survival?

The one thing the episode gets right is Clara’s reaction to the Doctor’s actions, which is to be enraged and tell him to get lost.  Maybe this episode was some crucial piece of a character arc that the producers are bringing us through.  I don’t know.  I do know that I didn’t like the Doctor at the end of this episode, and that it’s not going to take many episodes like this to make me lose interest.  In some ways, I’m reminded of Torchwood, a Doctor Who spinoff show I struggled to stay interested in, mainly because I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable.

I don’t mean this to be a criticism of Peter Capaldi’s take on the Doctor, which I generally like.  I see this much more as a problem with the writers and producers.  The writing for this episode sacrificed even common sense scientific plausibility for cheap wonder, and coherence for poorly conceived moral preachiness and character conflict.

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7 Responses to I have to say it. I hated the Doctor Who episode: ‘Kill the Moon’

  1. Steve Morris says:

    Yes, another episode as annoying as this and I will be back in the Doctor Who wilderness, finding more productive ways to spend my Saturday evenings. In my blog I mainly picked up on the scientific errors and basic common sense mistakes and inconsistencies, but the fact that the Doctor behaved like an asshole was perhaps the biggest blunder here.

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    • Agreed. I like Capaldi’s edgier take on the Doctor, but I think they’re taking it too far. Edgy, grumpy, and eccentric match the classic Doctors in a lot of ways. But they appear to be going for anti-hero, and noir isn’t what I think most of us want to watch in Doctor Who.

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  2. Lydia says:

    I was irritated when I found that there was a hatchling of some creature inside the moon. I mean, it’s a cool story, but really not one to be taken literally (Doctor Who has never taken a story like this!). Now, the moon will forever be an egg in the sky in the show, and I hate that, because it’s not true and it just gets under my skin. When the Doctor left Clara and Courtney, I was thinking,”Is he really going to let them die??” And the whole time, I didn’t know whether Clara would make the choice to kill it or not, because killing it looked relatively like a good decision to me. This episode makes me really dislike how the writers are taking the Doctor — unless he has lost memories from his past three regenerations, he should actually be a very nice person. This episode just kind of killed the show, it seems so far. At first when I saw the trailer, I found some similarities between the giant spiders and a classic Who episode, and thought this Saturday would have a wonderful episode. Doctor Who, for me, is my happy place. Basically, whenever I’m feeling down, I re-watch one or two episodes and it improves my mood. If it continues like this, I don’t know if I’ll continue to watch Doctor Who anymore, because that’s not what it was supposed to be. To me, the Doctor is a wonderful person whom I actually admire, though not so much anymore. I thought Twelve was pretty funny and a little mad (because he’s Scottish :p), but still generally a nice person. This episode causes me to miss Eleven’s polite and hilarious personality, too; it’s just a part of the Doctor to NOT be an asshole.

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  3. uuraine says:

    I agree that this episode wasn’t as good as the other episodes that have been broadcast so far. The Doctor’s not telling what he knows really doesn’t bother me. It’s been done before. Think of River Song, who’s constantly refusing to share what she knows by chiding “Spoilers” when she’s asked. And then there’s Matt Smith’s doctor who never, ever shares with Clara what he knows about how the “Souffle Girl” ends up. In this episode, I think it’s the whole moon-as-egg thing that got me. If the writers needed something important for humanity to decide, I think they could have come up with something less, well, silly.

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  4. Wyrd Smythe says:

    It certainly won’t ever be a favorite episode for me, but I seem to view it a lot more favorably than many do. It’s always been clear to me that Doctor Who isn’t hard SF and frequently takes liberties with science. (I rarely find monsters interesting, let alone scary, but Weeping Angels are excellent monsters and damn scary… but utterly preposterous.)

    So I’ll never fault the show for lack of hardness in its SF. Even its basics are pretty out there: the TARDIS, and the sonic screwdriver, are pretty fantastic in the literal, old-fashioned, sense of the word.

    I think the show’s makers are doing two things: Firstly, they’re making it very clear this incarnation of the Doctor isn’t engaging, loveable, or even nice, like the last two (or even three). This one has suffered for his love of humanity, his lost loves (Rose, Amy, and River), and the impossible girl. This is not a happy Doctor.

    Secondly, they’re trying to take the show in different directions which is really hard when you’re locked in a format. Rose had Micky, Clara has Danny — how do you make that different? How do you shake up the whole Doctor-and-his-companion(s) theme?

    This Moon episode tries to push the envelope. Maybe they didn’t quite pull it off, but it has some interesting and engaging ideas, and sometimes you have to forgive something that reaches for something new and doesn’t quite grasp it. At least it reached!

    As I’ve mentioned to you, I’m not entirely thrilled with the whole season, and I’m not quite sure why. Going back over some of the episodes seems to give me a fresh appreciation for what they’re attempting, though. There may be more there than meets the eye at first.

    Maybe the problem is that we’re being shaken up and our expectations defied in ways that make us uncomfortable? Or maybe they’re just struggling trying to find fresh ground (and not fully succeeding yet).

    As an artist, I have a great appreciation for what they’re trying to do even if, as a viewer and fan, I’m not loving it as much as I have previously. (And I miss River Song.)

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    • It’s been a while now since I watched the episode. Maybe with more distance I’ll be able to regard it in the light you suggest. But my current memory of it still sees it as a confused mess, not competently written, even by the relaxed standards of TV.

      Totally agree on River Song. I’d love to see new incarnations of her. (Many think Tasha Lem was one. Maybe there are others?)

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      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        I’m not sure I can agree Peter Harness wrote an incompetent mess, although I’ve seen a theory that it might have been a script or story he’d developed outside the Whoniverse (which supposedly accounts for the lack of the Doctor’s presence through much of the story). I’m not sure I buy that… I think it was more likely (but what do we know) that it reached for something and missed for most of us. [shrug]

        I wouldn’t mind a new incarnation of River Song, but it was Alex Kingston I had a thing for. I would vote against the Tasha Lem theory, but you never know when it comes to Moffat and surprise reveals!

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