Kill the Moon
Kill the Moon was the seventh episode in series 8 of Doctor Who. Narratively, it saw the Twelfth Doctor take Coal Hill School student Courtney Woods on a trip to the Moon following her discovery of his true nature in the previous episode. It also revealed the true nature of the Earth’s natural satellite, which had been a fixture of many previous stories.
It revisited the Earth’s environmentally disastrous mid-21st century as well as the concept of time in flux, with the Doctor choosing to take a step back and leaving the future in the hands of his human company, a choice that would lead to a divide between the Doctor and Clara.
Kill the Moon was also notable from a production standpoint. Lanzarote was utilized as a filming location for the first time since 1984 when it stood in for Planet of Fire’s Sarn. The production team played upon this — early drafts of the script were titled Return to Sarn just to mislead those who theorized that this story would feature the return of the Master.
The concept behind the episode came to writer Peter Harness in 2011, so initially it was written for Matt Smith. Harness expressed a belief that the script suited Peter Capaldi more with the Doctor-Clara dynamic playing out better.
In Coal Hill School, Clara tells the Doctor Courtney’s become self-destructive as a result of the Doctor telling her she isn’t special. Entering the TARDIS, Courtney’s already there, and has bought travel sickness tablets in preparation for her travels, which Clara tells her won’t happen. Pestering the Doctor about the effect of his comments, the Doctor offers to make her the first woman on the Moon.
The TARDIS arrives on a space shuttle carrying nuclear bombs, about to arrive on the lunar surface in 2049. The astronauts, Lundvik, Duke and Henry discover them, whereupon the Doctor deduces the Moon’s increased gravity’s been caused by added mass. The astronauts have traveled to destroy the Moon with the bombs. Investigating a disused mining base from a previous, Mexican, mission, they find corpses preserved in webs and research photos showing deformed landmasses; the Moon is disintegrating.
Henry investigates a cave outside the base, and is killed by a large spider, one of which then enters the base and begins menacing the Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik, and kills Duke. Courtney kills it with a detergent, and the Doctor works-out that they’re germs. Courtney asks to return home out of fear.
Courtney’s taken back to the TARDIS, and Clara tells the Doctor she knows the Moon isn’t destroyed, having seen it above Earth in the future, but the Doctor’s open to the possibility of it being a hologram or something similar. The events happening on the moon base are a fluxed point in time— he doesn’t know what happens, so the moon could be destroyed, affecting humanity’s future.
Going to analyse one of the crevices caused by the corrosion, the Doctor, Clara and Lundvik find Henry’s corpse, where he’s attacked by another spider, which is repelled by the deterring effects of sunlight. The Doctor jumps down the crevice to gather a sample. The Moon shakes, and sheds more of itself. Based on the seismic activity and the amniotic fluid the Doctor finds, he determines that what everyone calls “the Moon” is the egg of the real Moon: the creature within. In 2049, it’s hatching, after growing for millions of years. Lundvik wants to know how to kill the moon. The Doctor puts her plan in context — to blow up a new creature with nuclear bombs, something they’ll
have to explain to their descendants. Lundvik reasons that the Moon’s disintegration is causing catastrophic weather effects on Earth, and needs to be destroyed to save the world. Not being from Earth or the Moon, the Doctor chooses not to interfere, insisting that only Humans can decide the future of their planet. Courtney wants to return to be a part of the debate, and the Doctor instructs her over her phone how to bring the TARDIS to him. As soon as she does so, the Doctor departs — leaving only Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to make the choice.
Clara thinks they should take the risk, and deal with any possible consequences if/when they happen. Lundvik has only humanity’s interests to mind, and is prepared to kill the creature to stop the destruction. She activates a timer, after which, she’ll detonate the bombs. Ground Control speaks to them over a screen, informing them that Earth’s situation is “pretty bad”. Clara broadcasts to Earth over the screen, telling them to give their vote. Turning their lights off votes “kill” and keeping their lights on votes “don’t kill”.
After the timer has elapsed, Earth has voted “kill”. Lundvik primes the detonator, but Clara intercepts at the last second and overrides the command, just as the Doctor returns.
Returning to Earth, the Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik watch from a beach as the Moon disintegrates in space, while the creature it hatched (a massive butterfly-like creature) flies away — but not before it lays an egg, which has become a replacement Moon. The Doctor tells Lundvik that humanity from this point spreads into space, enduring to the end of the Universe, because they chose not to kill. Courtney realizes how special she now is, being one of the three people to allow Humankind to continue.
With Lundvik having been left safely back on Earth in 2049 (though she will have to make her own way back to NASA), the Doctor takes Courtney back to Coal Hill School, and Clara demands to know what the Doctor knew in order to leave them with such an important decision, threatening him that she will smack him so hard, he’ll regenerate. When the Doctor explains why he abandoned her, Clara strikes out and stands up to him. She expresses her anger for him leaving them behind on the Moon, and becomes tearful, then even more angry when the Doctor gives patronizing responses to her feelings. The Doctor tries to make it up to her, but Clara is too furious to listen. She tells him that she never wants to see him again or travel through time and space with him again and ends their friendship, leaving the Doctor all alone.
Clara storms out of the TARDIS, which de-materializes. Danny finds her in her classroom, and as he comforts her, she recounts the story to him. Danny tells Clara her relationship with the Doctor isn’t over, because he can still make her angry. Clara asks him how he became so wise, and he tells her that he left the army under circumstances that he only refers to as a “really bad day”.
Returning home, Clara goes into the kitchen pouring herself a glass of red wine and then sadly gazes out of her window at the Moon.