Kill the Moon

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 8



Kill the Moon: The Conservation of stupidity


Which came first? The bad science or the bad morality?


Image: Clara examines the Doctor's hologram showing what the moon really is. Screenshot from 'Kill the Moon'.The moon's not a balloon. Screenshot from "Kill the Moon". Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.

Here we go again: Another week, another informal essay about what's gone wrong with Doctor Who. We're not yet quite into Torchwood: Miracle Day kind of badness, but if "Kill the Moon" is a sign-post, we might fall into a giant vagina before the end of the season.

If you weren't already convinced that Steven Moffat doesn't give a damn about verisimilitude, or science, or consistency of characterization, or plot, we've got "Kill the Moon" to prove the case.

Yes, the script was written by someone called Peter Harness, but Moffat is the overseer and so must take the blame when things go this far off the proverbial rails. Especially when the political egg (sorry about that) at the thematic centre of the story is as stupidly anti-feminist as this one.

But let's talk briefly about science first, shall we — or rather, about "science".

This really will be quick, because there isn't any to be found.

Physics? We don't need no shtinking physics!

Russell T Davies' Tenth Doctor had a bit more appreciation for science than does our current show-runner.

If you haven't seen the episode, Courtney Woods (Ellis George, who seems to be floundering, probably because her character is now completely different from the "disruptive influence" who stole the show last week) guilt-tripped the Doctor into taking her on another trip in the Tardis. How would you like to be the first woman on the moon? he asks in response to her heartfelt whining.

For reasons the Doctor decides that 2049 is when he'll make young Courtney the first woman on the moon but, for reasons, the Tardis accidentally lands on a tiny space ship en route to the moon.

Anyway, it's 2049 and (except for a recent Mexican space program), humanity doesn't go into space any more. Even though, for the past decade or so, something has happened to the moon: it's getting more massive and really fucking with the tides and all sorts of things.

So this ship, a refurbished American space-shuttle hauled out of a museum instead of an old Russian rocket or Mexican ship (for reasons) is loaded with nuclear bombs, because it's on the way to explode them on the moon in hopes that said Big Bang will stop whatever it is that is happening to it, from happening.

Yes, the story really is as stupid as it sounds.

As we'll soon learn, the moon is pregnant. Actually, it's not a moon at all, but an enormous, 100 million year-old Space Egg. (Why hasn't the Doctor ever noticed this anamoly before? All together now: For Reasons!) A Space Egg that is growing in mass. Amazingly (though I don't think anyone comments on it), unlike other eggs, it's getting its energy (thus getting more massive) via a miraculous white hole which ejects just enough mass to feed the growing space-chicken.

Because surely that's a better explanation than that the Space Egg is just casually violating one of them most fundamental laws of physics, right?

Never mind. The rest of the story's "science" — the giant viruses that act just like giant spiders, the really noisy vacuum, the utter misunderstanding of how gravity works, all serve to make Douglas Adams' pirate planet seem a very model of careful scientific speculation.

Characterization? We don't need no shtinking characterization!

Image: Ellis George as Courtney Woods. Screenshot from 'Kill the Moon'.Ellis George as Courtney Woods: special or just a pathological manipulator? Screenshot from "Kill the Moon." Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.

Remember Courtney Woods, erstwhile charmer and "disruptive influence", someone we feared might be teetering on the edge of delinquency? Well, forget her. The new Courtney Woods is a whiny little manipulator who's spent way too much time with her therapist.

"Do you really think I'm not special? You can't just take me away like that! It's like you kicked a big hole in the side of my life! You really think it? That I'm nothing? I'm not special?"

Thus the Doctor, no longer scoffing, ponders this "argument" and decides to take a trip to the moon. "Is that special enough for you?"

"Yeah, already," quoth Courtney, looking like a cat with a fattest of canaries stuffed in her mouth.

But it doesn't take long for the disruptive influence turned whiner turned triumphant manipulator to turn coward. After an encounter with the aforementioned giant spider-like viruses, Courtney says she wants to go home and gets locked into the Tardis for her troubles. But then, when the plot requires it, she isn't scared anymore, she's just "bored" and posting pictures of the Doctor (and the moon, presumably) to her Tumbler account. (Even though she's 30 years in the future and that future is just about out of satellites and, and, and ... but I said I was done with the "science". Sorry about that.)

After giving up on boredom and listening to the debate on the next set (click here for my stab at a transcript of same), Courtney declares that she wants "to help". After all, the moon isn't a moon at all, but a cosmic egg! "It's a little baby!" quoth our young right-to-lifer. Naturally, the Doctor decides she should be the tie-breaker if things come to a vote.

"Listen, there are moments in every civilization's history in which the whole path of that civilization is decided. The whole future path. Whatever future humanity might have depends upon the choice that is made right here and right now."

Abortions? We don't need no shtinking abortions!"

Image: Giant space chicken is born from the egg that was the moon - what do you mean that doesn't make any sense? Screenshot from 'Kill the Moon'.The moon breaks up, but not to worry! Seconds later the Giant Space Chicken will lay an egg exactly as massive as the one that used to be there! Call it the Conservation of Stupidity. Screenshot from "Kill the Moon." Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.

For reasons, both Courtney and Clara decide that a Giant Space Egg's right to life trumps that of billions of human beings.

Never mind that, as the rightfully frazzled Captain Lundvik says, "It is killing people. It is destroying the Earth."

Teenaged Courtney has decided it's a baby and Clara is in awe of its sheer size. "[T]his must be the biggest life-form in the universe!"

I guess 10 billion human lives are an awfully small price to pay for destroying something so cool. And besides, as the Doctor had already noted, if Lundvik deploys her 100 nuclear bombs, the creature will "never feel the sun on its back."

What is there to say? "Kill the Moon" is in essence an anti-choice screed in allegory's cheap disguise. Only, like its science and like its characterizations, even the allegory is stupid.

Although the Catholic Church might insist (or have insisted) on primacy of foetus over mother when the choice was the survival or one or the other, not even the Church has ever valued an influenza-carrying foetal chicken over the survival of the human race.

The situation as given asks that we take seriously a debate pitting the lives of every man, woman and child in the world against one (admittedly unique, according to the Doctor. And presumably miraculous) Space Chicken of unknown provenance.

Asking us to choose life, this story actually insists that we choose death, because all the evidence available to the characters says that letting the egg hatch will result in the suicide of the human race.

The mind doesn't boggle, or reel. It plotzes.

For the love of God, Mr. Moffat, go! Take your idiot plots and take your nonsense-science; take your arbitrary characters and your repugnant politics, and go!

Spread the word!

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Was everyone this pissed about the star whale episode, when everyone thought Amy had chosen to end the torture of the star whale over the lives of the rest of humanity? I see both episodes as having the moral that, when the "enemy" in the story is not purposefully threatening human life and humans have to choose to kill it or let it live, they should choose life. (Yes, I know that's a pro-life slogan, but I mean it in a non abortion way. I mean it in a "the Doctor protects life whenever he can and he wants you to, too" kind of way.)

Re: Life

Was everyone this pissed about the star whale episode ...

Personally, I didn't think much of "The Beast Below", but it's been a long time, so i can't tell you why at this point. I will point to Sabotabby's comment on this very post to your attention, since she, at least, thought it an environmental fable and certainly wasn't pissed about it.

I see both episodes as having the moral that, when the "enemy" in the story is not purposefully threatening human life and humans have to choose to kill it or let it live, they should choose life.

I see how that could be a reading of "Kill the Moon" (and probably "The Beast Below"), but I think it's still a pretty dumb moral. I know it's only a science fantasy program, but I think there should be a little more support given to self-preservation as a moral value.

Sometimes a space whale is just a space whale

I'm chiming in late, but it came up in conversation today, so.

The physics are terrible. No argument here. But I don't watch DW for the physics.

It's not, however, an anti-choice allegory for a multitude of reasons:

1. It's not even A Thing in the UK. Like the abortion debate has been settled, outside of extremist religious nutters, it is not a divisive cultural issue, etc. It's just not a thing you'd make a TV episode about. And even it was, as terrible a writer as Moffat often is and as problematic as he can be around issues of gender, I really don't think he'd be sneaking crypto-anti-abortion allegories into a show. He's fail, not evil.

2. It's a Space Whale story, not a Mystical Pregnancy story. There's no parents, there's no sex, it's just a thing that always was, and it takes the shape of a beautiful, otherworldly creature. Space Whales are environmental allegories, about humans trampling nature that they don't understand, not birth allegories.

3. Assuming it was about reproductive choice (which it's not!), it's still more complicated than that, as the question of reproductive rights for a black, criminalized teenage girl is radically different than it is for a young, middle-class, white woman. Historically, white women have had to fight for the right not to be parents; women of colour have often had to fight for the right to be parents. Having Courtney at the centre of it radically changes the dynamic, not that I think that this was what Moffat was intending at all.

Eh I enjoyed it. Not as much as last night's episode, but still quite a bit.

Re: Sometimes a space whale is just a space whale

(I like that you used the subject-line, by the way.)

Anyway, I thought I'd make an actual post on this issue, but god alone knows when that might happen. So how's 'bout I do it now?

1. You say anti-choice isn't a thing in the UK, but The Telegraph begs to differ.

2. It's not a spacel-whale, "it's a baby!" When the characters talk about the the monster (there, I said it) being babies and say "You can't blame a baby for kicking", even when they have every reason to think said kicks will, er, wipe out the human race, it's an abortion metaphor.

If it was meant to be an environmental allegory (fuck, I hate allegories anyway), then it was a terrible one. Again, the characters had every reason to believe the allegory was going to, y'know, wipe out the human race.

3. I say you're giving credit for too much subtlety on the part of S. Moffat, at al. Criminalized black women can also be anti-choice and, more to the point, she was an actress mouthing the words of a privileged, douchy, white male.

4. Finally, one of the other reasons I took it as an anti-choice message was that I took the moon-babby to be the Earth's baby; letting the people of Earth vote on the decision made that take kind of explicit for me. And having the born-again Clara and Courtney making Earth bring the "baby" to term against its expressed will sealed the deal for me.

That's my opinion, I feel very strongly about it, so I must be wrong. :)

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