Posts Tagged With: kill the moon

The Kasterborous Archives, #4: Slap in the Face – Why Doctor Who’s Domestic Violence Has To Stop

Author’s notes:

Tackling this sort of subject matter is always going to be tricky. In the process of doing so I encountered a few people who thought I was overreacting and one or two feminists who felt it trivialised male-on-female violence. I contend that neither statement is true and that I’m making a valid point – but I would add that this was written before series 9, which seemed to fix many of the problems we’d had. Whether that was down to a general lightening of the Doctor’s character, a shift in tone, or perhaps a growing realisation that casual slapping was both dramatically lazy and downright irresponsible, I’ll never know. The third option is somehow unlikely.

Thinking back, I wonder if I shouldn’t have used the words ‘domestic violence’. But I stand by the content, so I trust you’ll forgive the occasional lapse into sensationalism.

Slap in the face: Why Doctor Who’s domestic violence has to stop

Published: 19 August 2015

Picture the scene. The TARDIS’s lights glow eerily. Up at the console, the Doctor flicks switches, pulls a couple of levers in quiet desperation. Finally, with an anguished sigh, he gives up. “It’s gone,” he tells Clara. “Gallifrey. Completely gone. I’ll never see it again.”

Clara, who is feeling particularly mean this afternoon, gives a nonchalant shrug. “You were the one who lost it in the first place. Can’t leave you alone with anything, can they?” Whereupon the Doctor turns from the console, striding across the floor of the TARDIS and slapping her savagely across the face.

The inclusion of a moment like this is more or less unthinkable. Even if you could write the characters this way, the OFCOM fallout would be potentially catastrophic. The tabloids would have a field day. The Mail’s headline would be a smug “BBC GOES TOO FAR”. The forums would be clogged with debates about whether the Doctor has become irredeemably dark, irreversibly unpleasant, and whether we need to see violence against women represented at this scale – counter-balanced against the views of those who simply see it as a natural progression, a chance for the show to journey into uncharted waters.

You’ve probably already seen where I’m going with this, but just in case it needs pointing out, when the reverse happens – as it does, with increasing frequency – the net result is a string of animated GIFs and YouTube compilations and the sound of much laughter. Because slapping in Doctor Who is something that they seem to do a lot, and while it’s undoubtedly a source of much hilarity to most of the Tumblr brigade, I’m not one of them. And every time it happens, I get very uncomfortable.

There’s certainly been a history of Doctor-companion violence. Perhaps one of the most notable early stories was The Edge of Destruction, with its strangulation cliffhanger and the notorious scene where Susan attacks Barbara with a pair of scissors. It was a stage in the production history where they were still working out tone and it’s almost inconceivable that it would have happened even, say, a year later. Meanwhile, strangulation rears its ugly head again in The Twin Dilemma, as a paranoid, post-regeneration Doctor shouts poetry at Peri before trying to throttle her. I’ve had dates like this, but it’s a nasty scene in a largely ridiculous story, and we will not dwell on it.

Besides, such things seem to be anomalies in twenty-five years of comparatively chaste television, in which the relationship the companion has with their Doctor is seldom discussed openly. For better or worse, a companion-based intensity is central to the dynamic of New Who, and generally you either love it or hate it. The Ninth Doctor famously tells Rose that he doesn’t “do domestic”, but that almost feels like Eccleston himself protesting against the tide of relationship issues that clogged the show both during and after his stint in the leather jacket.

That’s a different debate, of course, but it has fallout. The Doctor is slapped by Jackie Tyler for taking away his daughter. Francine Jones slaps him because she believe he’s a threat. A bolshy, pre-enlightened Donna Noble slaps him because she thinks she’s been kidnapped (and then again when she thinks he’s making light of a serious situation). Martha slaps the Doctor to bring him out of his self-induced fugue.

Some of these are understandable within the context of the narrative, even if we could question the writers’ decision to subsequently make light of them (the Doctor and Rose share a joke about Jackie on a rooftop, while a reeling Tennant remarks “Always the mothers” while he’s getting up). But that’s television. The comedy value of a good slap in the face is, apparently, worth its weight in gold, whether it’s Tasha Lem in Time of the Doctor, or Clara’s assault on the Cyberplanner Doctor in Nightmare in Silver. It would be churlish to single out Doctor Who for this sort of thing. It happened practically every week in Friends. It goes back to the golden age of television and beyond. Every short film Leon Errol ever made would end when his wife hit him over the head with a vase.

Perhaps comedy slapping has its place, given the right characters and context. But there’s been a shift over the years from a literal slapstick – the Eleventh Doctor hitting himself for his own stupidity – towards a darker, violence-as-reaction ethos, and perhaps that’s what makes me uncomfortable. I’ve mentioned the mothers, but the rot truly sets in when Matt Smith enters his second series: River’s reaction upon seeing an apparently resurrected (but actually two hundred years younger) Doctor is to slap him. She does it again when he fixes her broken wrist. Clara’s about the most violent of the lot, particularly when she’s working with Capaldi: thoughtless behaviour is punished with physical abuse in both Last Christmas and Into the Dalek, while she threatens, in Kill the Moon, to “smack you so hard you’ll regenerate”.

“But surely,” I can hear people arguing, “It’s OK, because the Doctor’s an alien?” And yes, the Doctor’s not human. He’s already demonstrated amazing resistance to injuries. He’s probably got a healing factor. He’s like an abrasive, declawed Wolverine, so that makes it OK. Besides, thumping non-human life forms isn’t a problem: if Han Solo’s response to being captured by the Ewoks had been to punch one of them in the face, I’m sure that would have been entirely acceptable to most children. It’s a poor analogy, but it illustrates that the line’s very hard to draw. To what extent do we disavow the actions of a character on the grounds that the humanoid patriarch they’ve thumped has two hearts instead of just one?

“Or,” the argument continues, “he deserves it, right?” Well, yes, of course he does. The Twelfth Doctor’s an alienating (in a quite literal sense of the word), clinically detached sociopath, at least in his worst moments. He says the horrible things we’re all thinking, only the little switch inside his head that stops you saying them out loud doesn’t seem to be working. That’s a perfectly justifiable reason for casual domestic violence. He deserves it in the same way that provocatively dressed women presumably deserve to be raped.
Why even question the motives of the one doing the slapping, when the one being slapped is so obviously asking for it?

I watch quite a lot of Jeremy Kyle on the weekday mornings I’m folding laundry instead of writing, and a couple of months ago one particular guest recounted the time he was locked in his flat by a girlfriend who supposedly beat him. The authenticity of his narrative was ultimately disputed, of course, but long before that happened Kyle had taken the audience to task for laughing. “If this was the other way around,” he said, “and if a woman was sat here and a bloke had locked her in a flat and she’d been forced to jump out and injure herself you would not be laughing. You would be saying he is a complete nightmare, he should be locked up and that’s disgraceful, but somehow if it happens to a bloke that’s funny. That’s not funny.”

If I could say that the show were making a valid point about this sort of thing, I’d probably be more tolerant. But it doesn’t: moral debate is sandwiched into inappropriate contexts where it is dealt with poorly and rapidly (Kill The Moon again) or, more often, sidestepped entirely. So by turns we’re supposed to laugh, or shake our heads in dismay and mutter “Well, he was asking for it”. We laugh because it’s a powerful Time Lord being brought down off his pedestal by a weak and feeble human. And we shouldn’t, because when it’s supposed to be funny, it usually isn’t, and when it’s supposed to be angst-ridden, it just comes across as nasty. Besides, it’s not just the Doctor. In Asylum of the Daleks, Amy slaps Rory twice. At least that’s consistent. Amy spends most of that story being an absolute bitch, whether it’s the arrogant smugness that pervades the early scenes, or the tirade of fury directed at her ex-husband for considering himself the wronged party (“Plastic man standing outside in the rain for two millennia? Pah. I THREW YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE I CAN’T HAVE YOUR BABIES!”).

I’m not advocating a reduction of violence. I approach many of these situations – inevitably and unavoidably – from the perspective of a parent, but that doesn’t mean I think the show is too unpleasant. I recently showed The Deadly Assassin, arguably the peak of 1970s unpleasantness, to my eight-year-old (and was thrilled when, just last week, he remembered an obscure detail while forming an analogy). The most sensible response to stories that cross your own particular line of acceptable viewing is to simply not watch them.

But I am worried about the show I’m watching. Perhaps Series 8 was Capaldi’s Twin Dilemma moment, borne out across twelve weeks, and the lighter touch hinted at in Series 9 will mean Clara no longer needs to react in anger. Or perhaps not. Perhaps this is the way Moffat and the producers choose to do things; a sort of counterbalance to the sexism charges thrown his way last year. But I know we live in a world where The Sun spearheads a campaign to highlight battered women with one hand and dismisses a marital assault charge against its (female) editor as “a silly argument” with the other. I know it’s a world where domestic violence against men is granted less credence than its (admittedly more common) antipode. Once again, that’s another debate for another day. But above all I know this: it’s not the sort of thing I want to see in Doctor Who.

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Can we fix it? No, it’s the chameleon circuit

When I’m doing freelance stuff, I have to immerse myself in the press to find out what everyone else is reading – what’s trending, what’s popular and what people are going to want to see. It means I have read rather more than I’d have liked about the iPhone6, the Ebola virus and the ISIS thing – all important issues (well, except for the first one, unless you happen to be Steven Fry) but media saturation about how crap the world is can get you down.

Metro – for whom I write regularly – have a spider fixation. Stories about the autumnal arachnid invasion are all over the newspapers at this time of year, but 2014 coverage seems more extensive than ever, presumably because some of the spiders appear to have evolved or at least been immersed in the sort of growth formula that mutated the Ninja Turtles. If you read my ‘Kill The Moon’ review, you will recall the particular hangup I have about certain eight-legged creatures of the hairy kind, and we will not dwell on that, except to say that I have still not quite forgiven Chris Woodson (not his real name) for repeatedly shoving page eight of the biology textbook in front of my face during those GCSE science lessons. Emily calls me a wuss, and she is right.

However, I did this. Obviously.

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Meanwhile, Bob the Builder is in trouble, having been given a trendy new image in the wake of a new series, causing the sort of outcry on social media that makes headlines, at least when bored journalists have nothing else to write about (if we cared as much about terrorism as we seem to about TV remakes or The Great British Bake Off, there would be no wars). Facebook and Twitter ‘exploded’ with criticism, with various social media users saying that the BBC had ‘ruined their childhood’, which depresses me partly because it makes me feel very old, but mostly because it has nothing to do with the BBC at all. This is usually established outright in any news report or Wikipedia article, but it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s not really a big deal, I suppose, but it’s typical of the sort of casual misunderstanding that plagues the British public, who are, I’ve decided, largely quite stupid, or at least more stupid than I am, and that’s saying something.

If this is a little harsh, consider the Peppa Pig story that broke a few weeks ago when an obviously satirical video generated headlines, memes and general outrage, including extensive coverage in several national newspapers who frankly ought to have known better. (That’s non-negotiable. Either they fell for it, or they knew it was a spoof and played off the fears of the British public; either way it’s irresponsible journalism.) This sort of thing doesn’t stop people spreading images round the internet even after all the fuss has died down, because they’re incapable of reading or researching. Most of these folks – some of whom I would tentatively call friends – aren’t stupid, or even nasty. They’re just lazy, and they’ll hear what they expect and want to hear. You know the sort of person I mean; the sort that doesn’t realise that The X-Factor is rigged from day one, who finds it hard to distinguish between a soap opera villain and the actress who plays them, and who actually thinks that there has never been a better Doctor than David Tennant. I’m being harsh again, but I get tired of having to explain this shit over and over simply because social media is only good at spreading the wrong sort of news. I am a naturally forgiving person – perhaps too much so – but people who propagate rubbishlike this should have to shampoo my crotch.

And you’re probably going to see this sort of thing on a far-right Facebook page at some point:

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Anyway. We were discussing the character’s new look yesterday, and one of us – I think it might have been Thomas – pointed out that it was a bit like regeneration. And, you know, one thing sort of led to another.

It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

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God is in the detail (part xviii)

Rather late with God Is In The Detail this week – it was our tenth wedding anniversary, and some things are just more important than Doctor Who. Besides, it gives me an excuse to show this.

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‘Kill The Moon’ was a tricky one to do, largely because quite a lot of it is set on the surface of the moon, where there is nothing of any interest to look at. However, inside the Mexican base there are numbers. And we love numbers, because they show us the HIDDEN SECRETS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO THE ARC.

First: here’s Clara and Courtney.

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Ignore the massive white pencil next to Courtney’s left shoulder and have a look at the 517 (printed, rather bizarrely, on what seems to be a car registration plate). 517 refers to the last episode of ‘The Creature From The Pit’, starring the Fourth Doctor, whose IMMINENT RETURN we’ve discussed in some detail a few weeks back. However, season 5 episode 17 also refers to the first episode of ‘Enemy of the World’, in which the Doctor plays on a beach in his long johns and tries to build a sandcastle. (I’m not kidding, this really happens.)

The enemy of the world in this instance is clearly Clara herself, who saves the moon at the possible expense of humanity – and the story’s finale and Salamander’s ultimate fate (which I will not spoil) UNAMBIGUOUSLY mirrors what’s going to happen to Missy. Both stories feature actors from Emmerdale. The two also share an uncanny duality in that ‘Enemy’ was written by a man named David (Whitaker) under the direction of a script editor called Peter (Bryant), while ‘Kill The Moon’ was written by Peter (Harness) under the direction of David (P Davis). In the meantime, the whole thing calls to mind the alternative poster art that Gareth and I constructed for ‘Enemy of the World’ at the tail end of last year.

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Now have a look at this intense conversation with the Doctor and Clara.

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In the background you’ll see the letters UDF. All innocent enough until you do this.

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Regular viewers will recall that the concept of fans has arisen twice in recent years – possibly more, but there are two that are of particular significance. In the first instance, the Fifth Doctor casually dismisses his successor as ‘a fan’ in ‘Time Crash’ – a story that indirectly references Blinovitch (mentioned in ‘Kill the Moon’) by having a man interact with his own timeline. The second obvious example is ‘The Unquiet Dead’, in which the word is misconstrued by a Victorian gentleman who asks the Ninth Doctor “How exactly are you a fan? In what way do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?” The gentleman in question was Charles Dickens. More on him later, although if you were watching carefully, you may know what’s coming.

More numbers now. Look. It’s the final countdown. (And you didn’t say that, you sang it.)

Moon Detail (7)

If we take the seven lines of dialogue being uttered at this moment during the past seven episodes, we get the following:

“It says lunch, but not when and where.”
“How?”
“Such a pretty thing. What a queen she would have made.”
“Do me a favour. Take my advice. When you get home, stay away from time travel.”
“My face fits. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must take the Teller to its hibernation. You two, dispose of our guests.”
“If it comes back Thursday night, are you sure about that? ‘Cos you said the chronodyne is unstable.”
“We just need to make up our minds, that’s all. Well, you know him.”

(Episodes: ‘Deep Breath’, ‘Into the Dalek’, ‘Robot of Sherwood’, ‘Listen’, ‘Time Heist’, ‘The Caretaker’, ‘Kill The Moon’, in that order.)

Curiously this also works backwards.

“We just need to make up our minds, that’s all. Well, you know him.”
“If it comes back Thursday night, are you sure about that? ‘Cos you said the chronodyne is unstable.”
“My face fits. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must take the Teller to its hibernation. You two, dispose of our guests.”
“Do me a favour. Take my advice. When you get home, stay away from time travel.”
“Such a pretty thing. What a queen she would have made.”
“How?”
“It says lunch, but not when and where.”

The solution of this mystery is clearly pending, with its significance only fully revealed when we look at the series as a whole, but clearly lunch is going to be involved. Presumably sandwiches.

 

Now, here’s another conversation, this time between the Doctor and Lundvik.

Moon Detail (2)

Notice the Spanish writing on the container. ‘FILTRACION DE AGUA’ can be rearranged to form, among other things:

– A Frantic Dialogue
– A Fagin Elucidator
– Fugal Eradication

Never mind the references to the contemporary writing style, and ‘The Next Doctor’ (that last one) – we’re back with the Dickens again. However, more significantly, it can be rearranged to form ‘Clara, unified goat’, which suggests that we’re CLEARLY not done with the impossible girl timeline fracture story yet – except that this time it’s going to involve farm animals. Well, she was in Emmerdale.

Now, here’s this:

Moon Detail (4)

In which, just behind the Doctor, you can see 23/77 and 23/80. The twenty-third episode aired in 1977 is the first episode of ‘Image of the Fendahl’, which features a supposedly shattered planet stored in a Time Loop – a clear reference to an episode we mentioned above.

1980 is a little more difficult to establish, because strike action at the BBC meant that one story was unaired, and thus the number of broadcast episodes stops at eighteen. However, if we take into account the number of scheduled episodes, allowing for a parallel timeline in which ‘Shada’ was broadcast, then episode 23/80 was supposed to be episode three of ‘State of Decay’, CLEARLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY referring to the moon’s imminent collapse here.

There’s more. You’ll recall that episodes in the First Doctor’s run have specific titles, loosely collected under the story titles that were later assigned. (Hence, the first four episodes that detail Ian and Barbara’s adventures with the Tribe of Gum are collected under the title ‘An Unearthly Child’, which actually only really refers to the first episode of the story.) Taking the numbers 23, 77 and 80 and applying them to actual episode numbers in a chronological sequence, we come up with stories from ‘The Keys of Marinus’, ‘The Chase’ and ‘The Time Meddler’. However, it’s the episode titles themselves that prove most interesting:

023 The Screaming Jungle
077 The Planet of Decision
080 A Battle of Wits

Now, watch what happens when we rearrange all this.

“Of the decision? A screaming battle of wits. The jungle planet.”

Which describes that last scene in the TARDIS, and also serves as a CLEAR INDICATION that we’re going back to Deva Loka, WHICH THE FIFTH DOCTOR VISITED in ‘Kinda’, and which we mentioned the other week. That’s assuming, of course, that Clara manages to mend the bridges she’s burned with the Doctor. Perhaps she just needs time to think, in her classroom.

Moon Detail (8)

Oh look. Dickens!

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Review: ‘Kill the Moon’

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When I was ten, I had a nightmare that burned itself into my conscious mind the way an afterimage is said to burn itself into the retina. In it, our local primary school had been converted into a zoo, and the small ICT lab (consisting, in those days, of two BBC micros and a Logo turtle) had been turned into the tarantula enclosure. I can remember with vivid detail the horror of approaching one of the glass cases to be confronted with the sight of a colossal hairy beast, the size of a badger, ascending the glass case, filling it, and my terror and screaming as I ran to the doors – and found them locked.

Since that day, I haven’t been able to look at one. I have to leave the room in the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spider-centred pictures in the vein of Eight-Legged Freaks or Arachnophobia were an absolute no-no. There are even scenes in Moonwalker that make me cringe. It’s a stupid phobia, and I have never been able to fully explain it or deal with it. For the most part it doesn’t get in the way; I just have to be careful at wildlife parks. That said Emily and I came close to blows in a darkened cinema when she leaned over during the Shelob’s Lair sequence in Return of the King, and asked if I was OK, just before running a hand up my arm.

It’s not all spiders, though, it’s just tarantulas, and even then it’s only really the black-and-orange ones. The others I can just about handle. Just about. I will admit that this evening was the first time I’ve seriously considered the back of the sofa as a possible alternative viewing location for Doctor Who since the first time we watched ‘Blink’. Because while ‘Kill the Moon’ was uneven, preachy and occasionally, dull, when the spiders were on, it was downright terrifying.

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The last time we had a Young Person in the TARDIS, it ended in disaster, largely because Eve de Leon Allen’s character treated the whole adventure like a day excursion in The Dumping Ground. It also suffered from chronic editing failures when the Doctor foolishly appeared to leave his vulnerable charges in an incredibly dangerous place while he went off exploring – with Gaiman’s explanation as to why seemingly abandoned on the cutting room floor. ‘Kill The Moon’ neatly sidesteps such silliness by casting someone who’s actually pleasantly watchable (Ellis George, whom I’d be happy to see again) and also by confining Courtney to the TARDIS before she has a chance to outstay her welcome or get kidnapped, allowing her to emerge in the final act to say a couple of important things. She sounds like she’s in a human ethics debate in a GCSE RE lesson, but I can just about live with this given the possible alternatives, even if the Doctor’s explanation of the fallout to her intervention (President? Really?) is mind-numbingly tedious. Having a supporting teenager that you actually don’t want to confine to their room until the episode is over is a welcome rarity, to the extent that I can live with the Tumblr stuff, even though it’s probably got its own page by now.

The first thing you notice about ‘Kill the Moon’ is the striking visual design. The Doctor and his companions stride out onto the surface of a dead world that is mostly rendered in black and white, while their own suits appear to have been saturated. It looks weirdly artificial but somehow it works – as if you know that the moon is dying, to use the Doctor’s own words. Crevices and chasms are effectively rendered, and the sky looms in the distance. It looks like how the moon would look in one of those inspirational desktop wallpapers you find on Google, but for once that really doesn’t matter.

Interiors are functional and sparse, all dim lighting and conveniently placed crates and desks for when the monster-of-the-week shows up. The attack of the spider – the story’s undoubted high point – takes its visual cue from Alien, as everything since 1979 generally does. It would be churlish to criticise Paul Wilmshurst for not trying to fix something that never broke in the first place, and even though I was half-waiting for a shot of the spiky tail, the whole thing worked beautifully.

Unfortunately, that’s about the last time it did. It’s a strange coincidence that ‘Kill the Moon’ mirrors Apollo 13 in that it spends most of its second half trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. You can’t entirely blame Peter Harness for this – he clearly had points he wanted to make and an arc in which he needed to fit them. For a first time writer, he nails both the Doctor and Clara with uncanny precision, and creates a sympathetic antagonist in Lundvik, even if the accompanying astronauts are underdeveloped red shirt fodder (and a criminal waste of Tony Osoba). The jokes are kept to a minimum for what is basically a serious episode, and for the most part don’t grate, although it probably wasn’t necessary to have the Doctor spout Patrick Troughton’s catchphrase.

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Still. When the credits rolled, I felt cheated. Ethical debates in Doctor Who are nothing new, at least post-2005. But this is a Saturday evening family show and resolutions always have to be tidy. ‘The Unquiet Dead’ neatly sidesteps the question of whether it’s wrong to allow the Gelth to inhabit the corpses of Cardiff by revealing their purposes as malevolent at the eleventh hour. ‘Kill the Moon’ also neatly echoes ‘The Beast Below’ by imposing a fierce moral quandary upon its leads: the destruction of a gargantuan, innocent creature, or the possible massacre of thousands.

The problem with the star whale was resolved by Amy’s ability to think outside the box. In ‘Kill the Moon’, the Doctor does it by hiding inside the box, leaving Clara to deal with the consequences by hosting the biggest interactive TV event since Eurovision. “Hello Earth,” she says. And then, as paraphrased by a friend of mine, “You don’t know who I am or what I’m talking about and mostly don’t speak English, but if you want me to blow up the moon turn your lights off now.”

And everyone does! It takes a few seconds, but the entire planet switches off. There isn’t one visible dissenter. Not even a cluster of them in one of the liberal parts of London. Everyone’s out for self-preservation. Either that or there had been a massive power outage, which is presumably the sort of thing that happens when you’ve got tsunamis and cyclones ripping continents in half because the tides are all shot to shit. Or perhaps everyone in the part of the earth they could see happened to be asleep. If this had happened in 1966 (and the idea, to be fair, is no more ridiculous than the sort of thing that the First Doctor was liable to encounter) there would have been some spoken confirmation over a scratchy radio, before Ben and Polly took opposing sides in the moral dilemma and the Doctor scratched his chin. But visual cues are far more powerful – who said they had to make any sense?

When all this is over, and when the Doctor has conveniently reappeared and transported Clara and the others down to Earth, where they can casually observe the moon’s destruction (and rebirth) from possibly the most unsafe location imaginable, there is the fallout scene. Clara once more threatens violence (which is once more OK, because the Doctor’s being a bastard) and then becomes seriously angry in a clip that’s destined to be recycled endlessly on YouTube playlists, BAFTA nomination videos and those bloody irritating animated gifs that people seem so fond of. She loses her rag with a volatility that we haven’t seen before, and then storms out of the TARDIS and straight into the arms of a boyfriend who saw all this coming, and warned her about it last week. Danny’s appearance is fleeting, but important, and while I could have done without the veiled smugness it’s a refreshing change that he doesn’t come across as a maladjusted dick.

It’s a powerful moment, if only because it emerges to a certain extent out of left field – Clara’s spent so long making excuses that it almost feels as if she’s forgotten what we’ve known for a while. For her to suddenly turn on the Doctor, and so quickly, is such an anomaly that I can’t help thinking its importance as a ‘game changer’ has been overstated, and that she’ll be back in the TARDIS far sooner than the Coleman-free trailer for ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ would have us believe. Things might be a little frosty, but I can’t overcome my cynical hunch that writing in a massive barney is more about ratings than character development – that closing scene is going to be the focus for many a review and column over the next week or so, and one can picture Moffat rubbing his hands in glee at all the press attention.

And that’s a shame, because the first half of ‘Kill the Moon’ – which Harness was instructed to rewrite so they could “Hinchcliffe the shit out of it” – really is quite good. The spiders are a bit of a Taran wood beast, but they were so effectively realised that it really didn’t matter that there was no interesting reason for them to be on the disintegrating satellite. The tension is cranked up gradually, and the occasional shocks, while mildly predictable, work very well. Only later, when the spiders are gone and the only monster is the one in the grotesque polka dot shirt, does the episode crumble faster than the moon did. Once again – and for the second time in the space of a month – we have a story that is at its best when it is frightening, and at its weakest when it is trying to be profound. It’s a curious schizophrenia that is not becoming, nor particularly effective.

It’s not that Doctor Who shouldn’t talk about important things. It just needs a little subtlety, which this episode does not have. It’s telling that when the Doctor is monologuing about humanity’s future, Clara stops him to ask “Do you have music playing in your head when you say things like that?” – an accusation we could quite easily level at her when she’s being similarly melodramatic a few seconds later. The whole narrative is basically an excuse to shift their relationship on a couple of notches, before the inevitability of the separation that is coming, but to do so within the context of what is to all intents and purposes a debate on abortion frankly seems a little crass. It’s as big and bloated and overblown as the moon that Clara sees through her bedroom window at the episode’s close: visually sumptuous, but already cracked beyond repair, and with no prospect of anything new and interesting awaiting after its end.

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