It’s hard to resist titles like that: even when they’re misnomers.
This weekend, on Doctor Who, we got to see “Kill the Moon” and the mess — the real mess — that came from it. And I’m not talking about the moon crumbling in 2049.
For me, the episode started off fairly slowly and, quite honestly, in a very predictable manner. The Doctor, Clara, and the young girl from “The Caretaker” episode Courtney Woods decide to travel onto the moon: so that Courtney would feel like she’s special and not just the misbehaving young girl that threw up on her first time in the TARDIS.
Then we find said company on a space ship where scientists have gone to the moon to blow it up with explosives because it is endangering the Earth below. Of course you have your obligatory monsters and a truth about the moon, that is the moon and yet not, that you begin to glean almost right away when The Doctor calls the aforementioned monsters — the spider creatures — bacteria.
Then humanity has a historical decision to make and …
The Doctor says screw this, leaves Clara, Courtney and the scientist Lundvik to decide whether kill a potentially innocent in order to save the Earth or take their chances with its survival, and leaves them. Just like that.
You could already tell that there was a conflict coming to a head in this episode and, as I said before, it is not the moon: unless you consider The Doctor’s ego and Clara’s self-righteous indignation as small orbital satellites in and of themselves.
The episode begins with Clara wanting to make The Doctor confront the fact that he made Courtney feel like she was “not that special.” Of course getting The Doctor to do anything, even on a good day, is slightly less difficult than herding a thousand cats. It also presents another conflict. Clara is not a tutor or babysitter any more. She is not a character is “born to save The Doctor.” She is a teacher and she has a responsibility to her students, including Courtney. The issue is that The Doctor does not, in fact, have a responsibility to Courtney or anyone despite Clara’s relationship with him: save for being captain of his own ship and being in charge of the safety of everyone in it. It is this tension between them that only gets worse as the episode progresses.
Much like The Doctor perceives Time and its eddies at the best of moments, and with further description of this Time Lord sense in the episode, you can see this moment coming a mile away. Courtney being exposed to danger is a failing on both The Doctor and Clara’s parts: The Doctor not being aware in this incarnation of what a child can perceive and Clara for, frankly, not telling Courtney to stay on the TARDIS sooner after they landed on the moon and she got what she wanted: being the first woman on it. Certainly, when straits look dire Clara gets another reality check when, in asking Courtney to call her by name, Courtney prefers to keep calling her “Miss.”
Make no mistake: Courtney is a child and Clara is supposed to be her teacher. They are not friends in that way. Clara is the adult and has to make her own decisions and take her own responsibility. And it seems as though that, by extension and according to The Doctor, so does all of humanity.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. While I do believe that The Doctor genuinely thought humanity should consider the moon’s fate, and that Clara exemplifies humanity in his eyes, there is a fairly large part of this that was the result of him being quite fed up with Clara’s attitude: at least in regards to their dynamic. The events that reached their crux in “The Caretaker” with regards to Clara, Danny Pink, and The Doctor, as well as Clara’s professional and traveling lives definitely affected The Doctor’s decision here.
The fact is, it’s quite clear that The Doctor is tired of babysitting children and, by extension, humanity. He may even be resentful of how Clara tried to hide Danny Pink from him and initially involve him in their dynamic against his knowledge and will. Perhaps he thinks that Clara still unfairly compares him to the Eleventh Doctor who, let’s face it, coddled Clara quite a bit or at least comparatively so. Perhaps he is fed up with Clara thinking he should take responsibility for sorting out her own priorities.
And Clara, at least how she has been written since The Doctor’s Regeneration, is also fed up. She can’t seem to deal with this new change of personality. In addition, what he does to her in “Kill the Moon” is just a large scale version of what he did to her in “Deep Breath”: seemingly abandoning her and breaking their trust. Her angry monologue at the end of the episode hits a lot of points home as to how this Doctor treats humans and what his place should be on Earth: at least from her perspective.
It’s painful to watch. Both characters seem to have regressed into immaturity and misunderstanding. I remember once thinking that The Doctor had grown up a lot since his early travelling days, but he is now more of a throwback to those more immature times. That said, I think that Clara has had to grow up for some time now. Travelling with The Doctor isn’t all fun and games and indulging his Companion’s whims. He asked her to act like an adult on behalf of humanity. And she did.
And it cost them.
Perhaps, in the end, it’s best that The Doctor travel alone for a while. He clearly has things that he needs to do and others seem to just be getting in his way at the moment. And as for Clara, she knew to some extent the potential consequences of traveling with The Doctor. She could have left him any time when she started her career and her relationship. I think that she has to ask herself just what she wants from him just as, conversely, The Doctor should give her some space to make those decisions.
It’s not a one-sided situation and I hope that when it comes up again, it’s dealt with in a mature manner without one side expecting the other to simply apologize.
That said, I think Danny Pink has been the only character who has been acting even close to rational between the three of them: becoming the voice of reason for this episode and I want to see more interaction with him. Even though the relationship between Clara and The Doctor was the highpoint of this episode for me, I truly appreciated that Bechdel moment where three women: a school teacher, a student, and a scientist decided the fate of the Earth and for some time talked only about the consequences.
I can be snide and make a reference to the title of a Heinlein book and state that “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” but sometimes it is something simply that heralds the end of the day and the promise of an interesting night.