|This is the moment I say “mea culpa” to everyone in the world. I completely, utterly, and totally didn’t pick up on something that was about as obvious and on the nose as anything that’s been on television in…ever. This weekend’s Doctor Who episode, “Kill the Moon,” featured a storyline and images and themes and discussions that were so blatantly referencing a hot-button issue that it should have been painfully evident to me while watching it. And yet it wasn’t. At all. I watched it two times. I wrote a review that didn’t even mention this subtext and simply went on about how good an episode I thought it was. Then, once what I had missed was pointed out to me, I felt embarrassed, and uncomfortable, and disturbed, and deeply troubled, both as to why and how I could have missed it, and why and how it was put on television the way it was. But now I can’t unsee it and can’t unknow it, and I can’t in good conscience not talk about it.
This is a very spoilery issue, so if you’ve yet to see “Kill the Moon” and don’t want to be spoiled, please do not continue reading.
The entire crux of “Kill the Moon” is that the moon itself is actually an egg containing a nearly-hatching celestial creature, and nobody knows what will happen once it does indeed hatch, whether it will destroy the Earth or not. The Doctor arrives there with Clara and her student Courtney and meet a female astronaut named Lundvik and her two aging male co-pilots. They both of them get killed fairly early on and so we’re left with the three women and the Doctor; an interesting set-up.
Once it’s discovered what the moon is, that it’s an egg about to hatch, Lundvik asks how they kill it, thus saving the moon, and hopefully the Earth as well. The Doctor balks at her question and decides, instead of trying to convince her not to want to destroy it with all the nuclear weapons they bought, he leaves the three ladies alone to decide for themselves, despite Clara’s tearful frustration. They put the issue to a vote (of very shaky logic) to the people of the Earth that if they turn their lights off, they’ll kill the creature and if they don’t they won’t. Then they wait and as the moments almost tick down to zero, both Courtney and Clara hit the button to stop the bomb and the Doctor immediately arrives to show them the impact of their choice.
Even typing that, I feel like the biggest idiot for not seeing just how closely it hews to the debate of pro-life versus pro-choice. It’s right there. If it were an outraged person it would have punched me, and should have. The episode’s chief moral dilemma is whether or not to literally abort a child before it’s born. There’s even a line spoken by Clara that says “You can’t blame a baby for kicking.” There are many comparisons between the moon and a chicken egg, for crissakes.
The episode’s writer, Peter Harness, left Twitter unceremoniously not long before the episode aired, probably foreseeing, or being instructed to foresee, a backlash that would have likely befallen him. The problem is this: the show might be trying to say that there was a choice being made, but it can’t help but come down on the side of life. The fact is the decision is left up to three women of different age ranges (Lundvik even asks Clara at one point if she hopes to have children one day) and it’s Clara, the most motherly and of child-bearing age, to make the ultimate decision. Courtney is clearly on the side of letting it live, and Lundvik is clearly on the side of not letting it live, and is practically vilified for it.
The Doctor completely leaves, allowing, I suppose, the women, or “womankind” as he refers to them, the chance to choose the fate of the planet, and of this creature. Is he allowing them the choice or is he merely abandoning them when they need him the most? Is the Doctor, the protector, the medical person, just completely removing himself from any responsibility in the whole thing? Yes, I think he is, and I think Clara believes this to be the case, hence her yelling at him, even though he says at the end that he trusted her to do the right thing. The “right thing”???
We also have a moment where a vote was cast, and an overwhelming amount of people on the Earth chose to destroy the creature, and not risk the lives of all the humans on the planet, but they are ultimately overruled then by two out of the three people with their fingers on the button of the bomb. Just because it worked out for the best doesn’t mean it was their choice to make; a small group of people chose the fate of all the people who vocally expressed their opinions the other way, removing the idea of choice or of voting about it in the process.
How are we supposed to take this any other way than the program saying that it’s never a good idea to have an abortion, or that people can’t be in control of their own fate about such things, or that the medical professionals don’t want anything to do with it and can offer no help? It’s intensely troubling; whichever way you fall on the debate. And, please do not use the comments below as a forum for debating the issue itself. PLEASE, this isn’t trying to stir that kind of talk, it’s merely pointing out what happened and that it is, any way you look at it, a troubling piece of storytelling.
Once again, I apologize to everyone for having missed this. I am absolutely ashamed for having let it roll over me without a second thought, and I want to thank those women on Twitter who brought it up to me Saturday night as politely and intelligently as they did. I want them and everyone to know I wasn’t shirking the debate, or downgrading its importance in the discussion of the episode, it just simply didn’t occur to me, and that’s something I’m going to have to think about.
If we are to discuss anything in the comments, I want to know whether or not you think Doctor Who and its production acted responsibly in tackling a topic such as this the way they did. It’s certainly very rare for a show that tends to lean pro-science 99% of the time to be so muddled and not scientific about the way it dealt with this.
Thank you all for reading, and again, many apologies.
This guest piece was written by Kyle Anderson, a long-time friend of The Three Who Rule here at Radio Free Skaro. We are privileged to be asked to host this article about the latest Doctor Who episode Kill The Moon. Kyle is an irregular guest on Radio Free Skaro, most recently appearing on Episode #432; you can also find him on twitter at @functionalnerd.