Kill The Moon is an odd episode. When it worked, it really worked and produced some of those tense or emotional sequences that we've come to expect from New Who. When it didn't work though, it was muddled and ever so slightly dull. There was simply too much going on in the episode, as if the writers had sat down and thrown loads of ideas into the ring and couldn't bear to part with all of them. The result is that it's a difficult episode to get a handle on, one that doesn't seem to have a thread running through it other than to test Clara and the Doctor's relationship to the utmost limit.
To begin on a positive note, it's about time Clara snapped. Whilst their witty exchanges have been amusing, there's always been a sense that Clara and this version of the Doctor aren't quite meshing. There's the consistently awful complaints about her appearance for one thing. He's been nasty on occasion, but never quite this vindictive and to have a companion call the Doctor on his less than stellar behaviour and actually storm away from him is something quite refreshing. The Doctor's experiment, letting Clara and her fellow beings decide on what to do about the moon-egg situation, was particularly cruel, even if it was carried out with the best intentions. Clara's final rant at the Doctor allowed Jenna Coleman to continue the fantastic work she's done this series and really let loose.
Leading up to that moment, there were also some nice elements to the moon story. The sequence where the group find the old Mexican mineral mine as well as a nicely cocooned Mexican astronaut was well done. It had a strong Alien feel about it in the way it showed the decay of the station and the noises of the germ spider creature lurking in the shadows. The use of sparse lighting, heavy shadow and the sound effects was effective, producing a good shock with the death of the second British astronaut. This in turn had more than a dash of xenomorph facehugger about it with the acid-like burn in the centre of his chest.
However, once the narrative became more focused on the fact that the moon was an egg, it really lost its way. The first absence of the Doctor meant that his second departure felt less effective and really, we always know the Doctor will be back. Clara's choice and her debate with the Captain was decent if not particularly sharp, but there was little tension there. New Who is too sympathetic to lifeforms accidentally causing destruction for Kill The Moon to suddenly change the pattern. Aside from the regular rogues' gallery, there's rarely any out and out bad guys now. There's always some hidden sympathetic side to them that the Doctor discovers before the episode is out.
The addition of Courtney also didn't help matters. The prospect of Clara having to look after a student in the TARDIS is an amusing one, but unfortunately, the character fell a little flat. The initial 'don't you think I'm special' conversation with the Doctor felt a tad forced and the chemistry between the cast felt off. I can't dismiss the importance of Courtney's inter-generational appeal though; it is good to have characters of various ages appearing in the series, but it didn't work out so well on this occasion.
Kill The Moon was the very definition of a mixed bag, reaching some of the heights that this series has soared to with its character development whilst also hitting a few wrong notes with the story on the way. The next episode looks very promising though and Jen will be with you for the trip on the Orient Express.
You can read Jen's review of The Caretaker here.
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