Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Story 249 - Kill The Moon

In which Clara coerces the Doctor into offering schoolgirl Courtney Woods a trip in the TARDIS. This arose after his rudeness had upset her and Clara felt her self-esteem needed a boost. The Doctor elects to make her trip a visit to the Moon, and she will be allowed to become the first woman to set foot on Earth's satellite.
It is the year 2049, and the TARDIS materialises in the cargo hold of a space shuttle, but the Doctor points out that they are actually travelling towards the Moon when Courtney seems unimpressed.
He is shocked to discover that the shuttle's cargo appears to consist of a number of nuclear bombs.
They are confronted by the shuttle crew of three. In command is Lundvik and she is accompanied by colleagues Duke and Henry. 
The Doctor has been playing with his yo-yo, but explains that he has been using it to make gravity checks. It transpires that the Moon's gravity has altered. It has increased, and this has been causing all manner of catastrophic disruptions on Earth. 
Lundvik has been sent to destroy it. 

At this time, the human race has lost interest in space travel. Duke and Henry are older men - the only experienced astronauts Lundvik could find. This shuttle had until recently been a museum exhibit.
On landing, Courtney is permitted to set foot on the lunar surface before Lundvik. 
The group heads towards a small mining base which was established by a Mexican expedition. Contact was lost with them some time ago, their last transmission appearing to be a scream.
They find the base and discover that it is covered in web-like material. The crew are found to be dead, their bodies wrapped in the web. The Doctor examines their records and declares that they had discovered that the Moon was on the brink of disintegrating.
Henry is sent back to the shuttle but comes across a cave in which he notices movement. He is attacked by a huge black spider-like creature.
Another of these attacks the others in the mining base, and Duke is also killed. Courtney has been carrying a bottle of disinfectant and when she uses it on the creature it is destroyed.

The Doctor realises that the spider creatures are actually germs. Courtney is sent back to the TARDIS when she no longer feels safe here.
He decides to go out onto the lunar surface and explore. He finds Henry's desiccated corpse by the cave and ventures inside to explore. 
The cave is much bigger than when Henry found it. Cracks and crevasses are opening across the lunar surface as it starts to break up. The Doctor discovers millions of the spider germs, and realises that they must be living on the body of some gigantic living creature.
He contacts Courtney in the TARDIS and tells her to insert a DVD into the console, and this brings it to the mining base. Once she has arrived, the Doctor tells everyone of his findings.
The Moon is actually an egg, millions of years old. A vast winged creature is about to be born from it - something which the Doctor suspects might be unique in the universe.

Clara is shocked when the Doctor suddenly announces that he can no longer remain here. A decision must be made that he should not influence. The outcome affects Earth and the human race, so the humans here present need to make the choice. He enters the TARDIS and dematerialises.
Clara and Lundvik realise that they must choose between destroying the new life-form to save the Earth, or risk allowing it to be born. They have the nuclear weapons brought to the base, but the shuttle then plunges down a crevasse. Lundvik wants to use them to kill the creature, but Clara worries that they would be potentially committing genocide, and there is no guarantee the birth will destroy the Earth. They decide that the decision is too big for the three of them and so contact Mission Control on Earth - asking for a message to be spread to those night-time regions. If the people of Earth want the creature destroyed, they should switch their lights off - which should be visible from the base.
As the Moon begins to break up, the vote is to kill - but Clara stops the countdown to the bombs at the last moment. 
The TARDIS reappears and the Doctor has them transported down to the planet's surface.

They witness the destruction of the Moon as the dragon-like creature is born. This fails to cause any serious disruption to the planet, and moments after it has gone they see that it has left an egg of its own - a new Moon. The Doctor tells them that they have made the right choice, and it was a decision that only they could have made. As an alien, it was not his choice to make.
Alone in the TARDIS later, Clara lets the Doctor know in no uncertain terms that she hates how he just abandoned them and forced them to make a potentially terrible choice. He does not seem to be aware of the trauma he put them all through. She cannot see why he could not have told them what was going to happen. He might be an alien, but he had made the Earth his home for many years and should have been involved in the decision.
Realising finally that she cannot relate to this latest incarnation of the Doctor, she announces that her time travelling with him has to come to an end...

Kill The Moon was written by Peter Harness, and was first broadcast on Saturday 4th October, 2014.
It had originally been intended as a story for Matt Smith's Doctor.
Harness had been a writer on the English version of the Scandinavian detective series Wallander, and had adapted the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell for the BBC.
In 2005 he had also adapted the MR James story A View From A Hill as a "Ghost Story for Christmas", so no doubt Mark Gatiss would have been one of those who recommended him to Steven Moffat.
It was decided that the first half of the story should be a scary sci-fi / horror tale, but that the second half should concentrate on a moral dilemma, and the pressure this places on the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. Clara had been very much living a double life, right from her first meeting with the Eleventh Doctor, where she was only ever a part-time TARDID traveller. Since joining Coal Hill School this double life had become much more complicated, especially once Danny Pink arrived on the scene.
The rest of this series would examine the consequences of her being unable to stick to her intention to leave the Doctor - her double life having become a form of addiction.

How much you like or dislike this story depends on your opinions about the science on show. For many it was just so awful that it couldn't be simply shrugged off, and it really ruined their enjoyment of the episode.
Right from the start, Doctor Who was supposed to have an educational remit running alongside the family orientated action adventures. The modern series has tended to ignore this, preferring to have what will make an exciting story take precedence over proper science or history.
After the atmospheric first half, we are expected to believe that the Moon is an egg, and it is about to hatch into a giant space dragon - but no-one on Earth knows this. 
All that is known is that the satellite has increased its gravity, and this is causing all sorts of catastrophes on Earth. It seems the best way to solve this problem is to blow the Moon up. 
Now blowing the Moon up would not mean it simply vanished without a trace. It would break into fragments, some of which would be very big indeed. Many of these would come crashing down onto the surface of this planet. A lot would remain in orbit, giving the Earth a ring system. There is also the impact of what the Earth would be like without a Moon.
The Moon holds Earth in relative stability in space - providing the tilt which we currently experience. Without this stabilising influence our tilt would vary greatly, so we would have periods with no seasons, and other times when we had extreme long-lasting seasons, even ice ages.
The other big issue is - how exactly does the space dragon lay an egg the same size as the one it has just emerged from?

The guest cast is a small one - comprising only the three members of the shuttle crew. Lundvik is Hermione Norris, Henry is Phil Nice and Duke is Tony Osoba. The latter had featured in the series twice before - as the Movellan Lan in Destiny of the Daleks, and as Kracauer in Dragonfire
Norris was best known for her role in Spooks. Phil Nice had featured as a hiker in the opening episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
Ellis George once again portrays Courtney.
Overall, definitely a game of two halves - an excellent first half followed by a nonsensical second. Clara is particularly annoying here, and we all hoped that this signalled the beginning of her departure.
Things you might like to know:
  • With the lunar surface scenes filmed on Lanzarote, this episode was given the working title of "Return to Sarn" (Lanzarote having been the location for the Peter Davison story Planet of Fire, which was set on a volcanic planet called Sarn). However, this was simply a joke by the production team.
  • Harness was advised by Moffat to "Hinchcliffe" the story in its first half - a reference to the series during the producership of Philip Hinchcliffe, which was regarded as being a very scary era.
  • Thanks to this story, all of the earlier stories which prominently featured the Moon have actually been set on the new one - The Moonbase, The Seeds of Death, Frontier in Space etc.
  • The moral dilemma of balancing the life of a single creature against the fate of millions is actually a retread of an earlier story - The Beast Below. Both even feature the companion going it alone to take the final decision.
  • And as early as 2005's Aliens of London, the Doctor had signalled that there were times when he would step back and allow humans to decide their own fate.
  • The Ark in Space is referenced twice - with the use of a yo-yo to investigate local gravity, and the mention of a Bennett Oscillator, which Tom Baker named after the story's director, Rodney Bennett.
  • Much reduced in the finished programme was the notion that Courtney would go on to marry someone called Blinovitch - presumably the scientist responsible for the Blinovitch Limitation Theory, which was the get-out clause used by the 1970's production team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks to explain why the Doctor, or anyone else, couldn't simply pop back in time when something went wrong and try again. It was first mentioned in Day of the Daleks.

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