*WARNING – contains spoilers*
Wow, what an episode. A dark and cold adventure and the emergence of characters from under their facades. They know each other too well and it has all become too much; the Doctor became a little bit nasty and cruel. We start back in the school this week and Courtney, the young girl from last week, is back. She feels unimportant because the Doctor told her she was not special, Clara is not happy about this. The Doctor agrees to take Courtney to the moon and make her the first woman to walk on its surface. Quite patronising from the start.
The TARDIS arrives in 2049, in a shuttle that is landing on the moon. The shuttle is host to 100 nuclear bombs – we haven’t progressed in 50 years’ time, folks. But something is strange; there is gravity on the moon? The Doctor notices this when three astronauts walk in and confront them. After some wrangling and a bit of yo-yoing from Capaldi, he realises there is something very wrong. Clara rightly points out if something happens to the moon, shouldn’t the magnificent Timelord know about it? He has been to the future. Then he points out that there are blind spots in his knowledge, stuff he can’t know about and choices that he can’t make. We can see where this is going.
After convincing the astronauts not to kill them, they venture out onto the moon in their spacesuits. There is indeed something wrong; the moon is breaking apart. These are the last astronauts left and their task is to blow up the moon to try and save the Earth below. This poses all kinds of problems, but oh well, I suppose. It is soon discovered that the moon is infested with spiders – or as they should be called, bacteria. These vermin are attacking the astronauts and seemingly destroying the moon. The Doctor then decides to jump into a big black pit to see what is going on.
Two astronauts are dead leaving just Clara, the head astronaut Lundvik (played by Hermoine Norris) and Courtney, who is in the TARDIS for her own safety. Unfortunately, Courtney is posting photos to Tumblr of her journey – I imagine that might raise problems in a future episode. Anyhow, so far, so Doctor Who.
Then the Doctor shows up and he has an answer – he knows what is wrong with the moon. It’s not breaking apart … but it is. Complicated, huh? It is actually an egg that has been dormant for 100 million years with the most unique creature, possibly the only one of it’s kind, under the surface. The problem is, it’s about to hatch.
This is where it got really interesting. Doctor, do you have a solution? Well, no… no, he does not. He claims that he cannot interfere in this situation. I suppose it is meant to be a fixed point – like in Waters of Mars. He has to leave this decision to the humans, who have to decide their own future. They have about an hour to decide the fate of the planet. He then waltzes off into his TARDIS and disappears, leaving Clara and Lundvik to decide the fate of the human race.
Clara is very angry at the Doctor and hopes he will come back. The two ladies argue about what is the right decision. Then Lundvik sets the timer on the nuclear weapons; they have 45 minutes. If they change their minds they can press a button to stop the explosion, but if they do they can’t restart the weapons. They then send out a message to the human race explaining the dilemma – if the people of Earth switch off all their lights, they will blow up the moon – Earth can be seen from the shuttle. If the lights stay on, they will turn off the bombs.
The decision is made; the Earth turns dark. They are going to blow up the moon. The clock is ticking down and Clara is frantic. With milliseconds to go she hits the button and disarms the bombs, a last-minute act of faith in the Doctor. A few seconds later he does turn up and ushers them into the TARDIS. They are back on Earth, on a beach looking up at the sky as the moon breaks up and a huge dragon like creature emerges. But with no moon, what will the Earth do? Well, another one does appear (another egg has been laid), so it seems it will be okay. The Doctor gives a long speech about how humans will travel through space and spread and survive due to this very moment.
They then return Courtney to the school whilst he goes to take Clara home. But Clara stops the time machine and confronts the Doctor. She asks whether he knew what would happen. Why didn’t he do anything? Why did he run? He has no straight answer. She calls him out on his callous and condescending attitude and behaviour and flees the TARDIS distraught. At the school, she talks to Danny and says, “I am never going back”. It’s a stark moment and a realisation that the Doctor has become so arrogant and his cruel attitude to Clara has really hurt her, almost destroying their relationship. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
There was some stunning cinematography and set design this week, with the main highlight being the scene in the hangar when the spider/bacteria creatures first attack. In the dark with just torches for light, it was reminiscent of a scene from ‘Alien’; very creepy indeed. There was some great writing and acting and an interesting development in the nucleus of Doctor Who in this episode. The big question is, where next? Was it so revolutionary it totally changed the game like it was claimed it would? No, the Doctor has been cruel in the past. But it certainly has given a boost to the edginess that the show needs.
Next week we’re on the Orient Express and it looks terrific fun – but I won’t hold my breath quite yet. Remember how much Voyage of the Damned sucked?
By David Roberts