Doctor Who 8×07 Review: Kill the Moon

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The premise of the episode was interesting, but the ultimate message of this story was extremely uncomfortable.  The story also (possibly unintentionally) made a comparison to a decision that many women face that can be very triggering and enormously personal.  At first it seemed like a step in the right direction to have such a dynamic cast of women put in the main positions of power in the episode, but when it became clear exactly what was being asked of them I felt it was an extremely clumsy, and potentially offensive, writing choice.  I really don’t know if the writer realized what he’d laid out with his narrative.  It could have been completely unintentional, but what we got was basically a space adventure with heavy abortion related themes and an ultimately pro-life message.

TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses abortion.

DW2It’s not unusual for there to be moral difficulties revolving around alien life and the future of humanity.  The Doctor’s non-lethal nature is a theme that’s been coming up for a long time.  He hate guns, seemingly has a grudge against soldiers, and will do anything to keep every living creature alive if he possibly can possibly do so.  What sets this particular instance apart from the rest is the constant commentary that the life is “unborn” and will “never feel the sun” if they choose to take its life.  This takes it out of the realm of simply saving alien life and turns it into an abortion-like discussion.  The comparison isn’t perfect, of course.  A creature inside of an egg is different from a fetus inside of a mother, but the language used to describe the “baby” inside the moon made the comparison too hard to brush off.  The language used forces us, as viewers, to think of it as an unborn child and you can’t escape the comparison.

I feel like the episode tried very hard to be pro-woman.  It talked about the first woman landing on the moon, which I was pretty thrilled was a teenage WOC.  The Doctor even gets called out for assuming that the president of the United States is a man, which seems like a silly mistake for a Time Lord who has been through so much of space and time to make.  All of the main characters except for the Doctor are women.  It quickly turns to the issue at hand, though, and Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik are given the choice of killing an “unborn” creature and saving billions of lives, or letting it live and taking whatever risks might come with that decision.  Even many pro-life people (though certainly not all) will make an exception if the mothers life is at stake.  In this case the earth isn’t the creatures “mother,” but it’s very existence is still at stake if the creature is allowed to hatch.  The fact that the decision is left up to three women feels less empowering and more offensive as this is a decision that any of them may have to face in their own personal lives.  Instead of it being a personal decision, though, they have to apply their own moral code to the whole of humanity.  It’s pretty horrific.

DW3The three women decide to leave the decision up to Earth, which is a very pro-choice stance to take.  Ultimately Earth is the one that will be affected by the birth of the creature, so it’s up to them to set their own moral code.  Earth decides to save itself and kill the creature, but Clara disregards earths choice and chooses life on their behalf.  It obviously wasn’t an easy decision for her to make and she’s reduced to tears by the end of the episode, but we are still left with the message that life was the right choice.  In this case it was the correct choice and a new moon egg was laid pretty much immediately to help balance out the loss of the moon’s gravitational pull.  If that egg hadn’t been laid right away or the creature turned out to be malicious, the entire planet could have died, though.  Decisions like this aren’t easy for anyone, but the convenient resolution made the moral message pretty weak.  It worked out this time, but it could have easily ended with disaster as well.  I was left feeling like the moral that we were meant to take away from this is that life is always the correct choice.  For some that may be true, but it felt like way too heavy of a topic to address on Doctor Who.

Clara gets appropriately upset with the Doctor at the end of the episode over this whole debacle.  He’s been interfering in her life in less than positive ways for a while now and, honestly, I’m surprised she hasn’t gotten more upset at him over his constant insults.  This time he went way too far, though.  This wasn’t a fair position to put Clara in.  She’s a young woman who admitted that she wants kids and was forced to make a decision on killing an unborn child on behalf of billions of people.  This goes far beyond the typical mental stress one encounters when choosing to be the Doctor’s companion.  It forced her to confront the issue of abortion, which is a very personal decision and not an easy thing for anyone to think about.  Her tears, her anger, and her request that the Doctor leave were completely understandable.  I’d have told this Doctor off a long time ago.  I’m surprised she stuck it out this long to be honest.

I’m completely thrown by the fact that I have to put an abortion trigger warning on an episode of this show.  I really never expected to have to do that.  Alien life versus human lives is something that comes up often, but the language of the episode made it unlike any other moral debate this show has done before.  It’s going to take me a while to process my own personal feelings and I’m not sure if I could ever subject myself to watching this episode again.  Writing this review was hard enough already.  It’s not an easy topic to talk about and I’ve been taken by complete surprise that this show is the one that made me have to talk about it.  I’m not saying this show has never been serious or tackled important topics, but this one?  This is one I was not expecting.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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About the author

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She's contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She's written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.

Comments

  1. Are you from the USA? I hear you’re obsessed with the ethics of abortion over there. Not really a debate in Britain, it’s generally considered nutjobs who go all pro-lifey. I think the implications of the only one of its species versus the only home for the human species is probably more in the forefront for the British, but *shrug* ymmv.

    1. “It’s generally considered nutjobs who go all pro-lifey.”
      Yeah, just dismiss and insult people who don’t think like you, Skadi. Deny them a voice in the debate, actually deny the fact there is a debate in the first place. Thanks Skadi but maybe the whole world does not have to share your every opinion.

      1. No, it’s just your opinion is stupid, “nutjob”.

        I really don’t have to give you reasons why, just google abortion and don’t click on any religious sites. You’ll find better arguments than “Jesus says it’s a no-no”

  2. I just couldn’t take the episode seriously so I couldn’t get upset. I’ve felt this way for the last few episodes. My entire reaction to the Moffat era has been “Eh bleepity Moffat and his bleepity moffatization of everything.” I feel like he just doesn’t care about Who because he has Sherlock.

    I’m ready for a showrunner. We’ve gone from bad to painful.

  3. I think Moffat needs to relinquish the reigns of Doctor Who as soon as possible!
    This has been a mostly bad season, with only a couple good episodes.
    He can focus on Sherlock and whatever other projects he has going on, and let someone new, preferably someone more RTD like, focus on Doctor Who.

    1. I agree. This episode wasn’t written by him, but still, as showrunner you’d think he’d have veto power over something so offensive. And yet this episode made it to the screen.

  4. Honestly I never even noticed that this show could have possible hints of abortion/prolife issues before I read this article. Doesn’t anyone think that abortion themes might be a bit of a stretch? Think about it. Doctor Who is and was created as a kind of ridiculous, childrens show. Not exactly the kind of show to tackle controversial social issues such as this! Besides, none of the women who had to make the decision were actually the mother of the alien baby. This could be seen as different though because of the fact that this is an egg, and as such does not endanger the mother’s life, but instead the lives of the people on Earth.

    Personally, this episode was one of my favourite doctor who episodes ever. (im not saying you have to agree with me) A lot of the merits of this episode were left out of this review in favour of instead talking about the could be / could not be abortion themes of the episode (I think you might be reading into this one just a bit too much.) Kind of disappointed that this article was more of a airing of greivances than a review on the episode’s plot. (that scene here clara calls the doctor out on all his crap was killer + the historical tumblr references were fantastic.) Credit should be given to the writer who wrote this episode! (it wasn’t steven moffat, just to be clear.)

    1. I am well aware it wasn’t Moffat. And no, with the constant use of “unborn child” and references to the fact that the “child” will “never feel the sun,” it’s hard to NOT see the comparisons to abortion. And I’m not the only one who read it this way. As a woman when I hear the words “unborn child” it’s hard to NOT immediately jump to the idea of pregnancy and issues involving when life begins. When it comes to “killing” an “unborn child” the comparison to abortion is pretty clear, even if unintentional. Perhaps as a man (if you are cis and using your real name here) it’s note something you’d immediately think of. But as a woman with a uterus these words make it hard to NOT think about it.

      And I covered the difference between an egg and a pregnancy in the article so I don’t know why you feel the need to point it out when I alresdy have? Unless you didn’t actually read it and felt like arguing without realizing I’ve already covered the point you are arguing about.

      -Angel

  5. I don’t think the problem was Doctor Who talking about abortion as much as how Doctor Who talked about abortion.
    It’s Doctor Who, so of course they couldn’t kill a baby creature – potentially dangerous but maybe harmless – in its egg. For the writers/producers/etc, abortion was probably not the main theme of the episode. I really don’t think they wanted to give an opinion, pro-life or pro-choice. Comparing the creature with a baby (and consequently its death with an abortion) was just a way to make us care.
    But knowing that they wouldn’t kill the creature and knowing they were doing a parallel with abortion, they should have been really more careful about the message they were carying. That’s where the episode is problematic.

    1. Pretty much yes. I don’t know if it was intentional. But for a lot of women the wording made it really hard to ignore. It’s not like protecting alien life is new on this show. But the WAY this one was talked about put it into a different category, intentionally or not.

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