"That was me... respecting you." "Oh my God, really, was it? Yeah, well, respected is not how I feel."
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor takes Clara and Courtney to the Moon, and leaves them to make a big decision.
REVIEW: Did we learn nothing from Nightmare in Silver? Maybe something about not bringing kids along on adventures? No? Well, truth be told, Courtney makes a far better impression, though not a great one. Her inclusion, along with Hermione Norris (who, in Spooks, showed she was great at being hard-as-nails yet filled with regret, which is the essence of her character Lundvik here), creates a classic tri-generational dynamic between the three women the Doctor leaves to sort things out. They are the Fates, deciding Earth's. The concept of motherhood and the duty of care is certainly one of the themes, explicit in Clara's duty to a student and her anger at the Doctor's paternalistic abandonment, and implicit in their dilemma of whether or not to kill a giant baby. If this is partly about abortion (and that allegory doesn't stand up to scrutiny all the way through), then we should look at the Doctor's departure as strictly pro-choice, but should also compare it to Danny's absolute support of Clara in the epilogue - he's there for her, but won't interfere, while the Doctor simply wants nothing to do with the choice and offers no support system.
Of course, the episode also continues Clara's journey as a would-be Doctor. Left to her own devices, she must play God herself and, just as the Doctor would have, rejects the selfish choice made by humanity. But then, how fair is this choice? Billions of lives against a single one, no matter how unique? I think humanity - or at least, its governments; the way the lights go out in large chunks speaks to massive power shutdowns, not simple folks shutting off the living room lights - probably had it right by erring on the side of caution. Clara is caught between (in Fateful terms) the one who spins life and so chooses it (Courtney), and the one who cuts the thread and chooses killing (Lundvik), and must become the "allotter", the one who chooses how long the thread of life is. Ultimately, the giant chick must be allowed to spread its wings. Capaldi is a force to be reckoned with, sure, but Jenna Coleman is a terrific actress too and gets to show off her stuff here. The way the impossible choice wreaks havoc on her emotions is actually quite moving, and her anger at the Doctor at the end is powerful. As usual Doc12 gets his human psychology completely wrong, and disrespects her in trying to respect her. He's trying to push her out of the nest - that metaphor is à propos - but fails as a friend. It's Doc7 and Ace all over again. Perhaps the Doctor knew the Moon was fine, and certainly once the choice is made, his memory could "update" (confirming notions we've been discussing about unfixed points in history since at least World War Three) and he'd know its consequences. Maybe he traveled to the future and saw there was still a Moon there. It's not clear, nor is it meant to be. And the fact neither we not Clara can trust his statements is part of the problem for her.
While new writer Peter Harness shows great promise in the character and theme departments, he almost sinks the whole enterprise with so terrible, terrible science. His premise is absolutely ludicrous. It started off nicely enough, with a well-realized Moon thanks to the Lanzarote location (last seen in Planet of Fire), atmospheric lighting, and horror movie sequences in the vein of Alien. And then the Doctor identifies the moon spiders as giant germs with gravity shifting powers and it all goes to pot. We're meant to believe the Moon has always been a giant egg with a creature gestating inside, and that this creature - which I almost want to call the Great Bird of the Galaxy - not only doesn't create a tidal and meteoric double-whammy, but also lays an identical egg seconds after its birth, an egg larger than itself to boot, in time to keep The Moonbase and The Seeds of Death in continuity. It's absurd fantasy, which might have worked (even if the rest of the story wouldn't have) if it'd been set on another planet, but keeps pulling the viewer out of the experience this close to home. Speaking of The Moonbase, the giant germs offer the chance for Courtney to play Polly and kill monsters with cleaning fluid, but why would disinfectant have the same effect of giant germs it has on real ones? There's a question of dosage here. Not to mention that I doubt very much eggs get heavier as they mature. That this is now (or has always been) the reason humanity goes to the stars is, if you'll pardon the pun, over-egging the pudding, though it might just be for Courtney's benefit so she feels "special". And no matter how powerful Clara's departure scene is, hindsight has revealed that despite her absence in the trailer for the next episode, she's still with the Doctor in Mummy on the Orient Express, which cheapens it. Just another sin to add to the pile.
THEORIES: Has the Doctor left us to make "big decisions" before? Almost certainly. It perhaps explains why he didn't interfere with the 456 crisis in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or the subsequent immortality-for-all of Miracle Day. Think of Doc11's meeting with Homo Reptilia where he sat humans down at the negotiation table and left them to it. It's a similar idea. Of course, there are many more examples of the Doctor taking or trying to take that decision power out of our hands, but he was a kid back then.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's good until the premise starts getting revealed. Too bad, because the thematic, literary and character-driven underpinnings of the episode are actually quite strong.