Saturday, October 11, 2014

Walking on Eggshells: An Overanalysis of "Kill the Moon"

Certainly the coolest episode title since "Let's Kill Hitler"

I've read several times (although never from an official source) that Eric Saward, script editor in the 6th Doctor era, had a plan for Colin Baker's 6th Doctor that he never really got a chance to pull off.  The 6th Doctor was supposed to start off repulsive and unlikeable, but that was supposed to lead into an arc where, through a series of events including the death of his companion, the 6th Doctor was going to mellow and begin to remember the kind hearted person he used to be.  Unfortunately, before Saward was able to put this into action, the show came under attack from the BBC, whose controller criticized the show's low-budget cheesy special effects (he was sleeping with Colin Baker's ex-wife, at the time, so take that with a grain of salt), from the fans who didn't like the change to such a mean and pompous Doctor, and from conservative groups, who already thought the show was a little too violent, and now thought it was way too violent.  The production team was forced to pivot and rework the plan for the second season, switching from the arc they had planned to the horribly muddled "Trial of a Timelord" arc.  Had the 6th Doctor's arc been allowed to roll out the way it was supposed to, we might have seen a remarkable transformation in which the Doctor rediscovered his true self.  Approximately 30 years later, enter Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor, who is just as arrogant as the 6th Doctor ever was, but in very different ways.  His new persona hasn't endeared him to everyone around him, and has flat out alienated some people like Danny Pink.  Clara has been accused of making excuses for him, demonstrating a compassion for him that few others share.  Now, even Clara has been pushed past her breaking point, meaning the Doctor is going to have to re-evalutate how he's been acting.  Are we perhaps seeing, about 3 decades later, the introduction of Colin Baker's lost arc in Peter Capaldi's era?

As I watched this episode, 2 things slowly became abundantly clear to me. 1) This episode was not meant as some sort of allegory for abortion.  2) A lot of people are going to think that it is.  Peter Harness, who wrote this episode, is a first time Doctor Who writer, so I don't know his political leanings or anything like that.  I do, however, know that Doctor Who is a left-leaning show, even if Glenn Beck has recently come out as a fan.  Between the number of openly gay people who have worked as writers, show-runners, and actors on Doctor Who, the constant themes of racial equality that have pervaded the show since day one, and the Doctor's adamant dislike for all things military, I think that suggesting that anyone who writes Doctor Who has a conservative bone in their body is laughable.

The morning after the episode aired, I went online looking for the inevitable discussions about this episode and abortion and, wouldn't you know, I wasn't wrong that someone was going to think this.  But what I wasn't expecting was that, on more than one of these websites and message boards I've seen discussing this episode's "metaphor" for abortion, I found actual British people chiming in basically saying "Um, we weren't thinking that at all.  That sounds like it may just be an American interpretation.  Abortion may be a hot button topic, still, in the United States, but it's been legal in the UK for so long, we really don't argue about it anymore."  I looked up this claim and, while these Brits were a little off in that it hasn't been legal in England that much longer than the United States (the UK legalized it 6 years earlier than the US), I did notice that the British legalized it by a law passed through their legislature, unlike in the United States where it was legalized by a Supreme Court case.  I doubt it ever could have become a law in this country through Congress because we're still so evenly and bitterly divided about it here, which makes me think that the British had a little more public consensus on this issue than we did, which would support the idea that it's not really a hugely hot button topic over there.

However, not all Brits think that's just an American point of view, as the Telegraph came up with the same interpretation.  So let's put it this way:  I see the parallels here.  There are parts that are screaming out for this metaphor, but there are also problems.  First of all, if you want to try to look at this as an anti-choice argument, you've got the problem that the Doctor left the choice up to all the people for whom it was appropriate to make the choice, not just all the humans...but all the women.  Danny Pink is conspicuously absent from this episode (until the very end), and even the President of the United States, mentioned in passing as someone who should be making this decision, is a woman.  Nobody said that everyone supporting choice is a big fan of abortions, just that we all believe that having them legal is better in the long run than having them illegal, and that the choice should be there.  Furthermore, this is a creature in the last hour of a 100,000 year maturing process, which would make this pretty much just a baby at this point, so at best you could call this an argument against super-late-term abortions, if anything.  If there is any intent for the metaphor we're seeing, it's not, as the Telegraph's wishful thinking department contends, a "Christian Pro-Life" episode.

While I may be pro-choice, I still find the thought of abortions squiggy, so to clean the mental palate, here's an adorable picture:

Just don't think about puppy abortions!

Moving on...

That being said, I would not have made the same choice Clara did.  An entire planet of people, my people, are about to be destroyed, and all I have to do is kill one creature that I'm not even entirely sure is intelligent?  Yeah, I probably would have hit detonate a long time before they decided to in this episode.  And, the more I think about it, that's why I feel like I can relate to Clara's anger so much here.  There was no 3rd option of hiding Earth in its own little pocket of space time.  It's a terrifying predicament, and knowing that I would have hit the button when I didn't need to, that makes me all the more furious at the Doctor for not giving Clara that information and forcing her to make that decision on her own.

I thought it was interesting that the episode talked about Earth having lost interest in space travel, as we all know we have right now.  As much as we will always love our sci-fi, we aren't so big on sending anyone into space anymore.  Here's the thing:  Why are there so many British astronauts in the future on Doctor Who?  To date, England has produced 6 astronauts ever, and they all went up on other country's ships.  What, they suddenly start becoming the dominant country in the space program in the future, along with, according to this episode, Mexico?  The Mexican Space Agency, in case you're wondering, was, in the real world, formed in 2010.  They don't have a rocket yet.

In a deleted scene, the Doctor removes the whale they left on the moon.

I still haven't seen enough of Courtney Woods yet to really form a strong opinion on her one way or the other.  Mostly, it felt like, in this episode, Courtney's main role was to be the victim of the Doctor's abuse.  One of the 11th Doctor's defining traits was that he was really good with children, but Courtney's not really a child, she's a teenager.  And this isn't the 11th Doctor, it's the 12th.  Admittedly, the 12th Doctor showed some of 11's magic with children when he met young Danny Pink back in "Listen," but he's shown a distinct lack of common decency, let alone charm, when dealing with pour Courtney.  He tried to give a little bit of comfort to Courtney by dropping little compliments about how "special" she is, but the truly revealing moment is the one that comes when he proves he doesn't understand how old Courtney actually is.  I think this is another one of the symptoms of the Doctor being a lost, angry, scared man who is taking it out on those around him.  If this is the story of the Doctor's redemption, I can't wait to see where it's going.

My girlfriend would like me to let you know that she figured out what Danny's "bad day" was at the end of the episode.  I figured it out before she pointed it out to me, but she'd still like me to let you know.  His statement, when comforting Clara, that he had had a bad day was clearly foreshadowing.  There's no way that someone would put that line in there unless it was setting something up.  More than likely, he's been on his own adventure with the Doctor, and the Doctor just managed to drop both Clara and Danny off from separate adventures at the same point in time.  It might also explain why Danny doesn't really seem as inclined to try to get Clara to leave the Doctor as he might have been last week.  He understands her frustration, but he also understands that she still cares about the Doctor, and he won't let her forget that.

The preview of next week's episode interestingly avoided showing us who the companion would be.  I could probably look up the cast list for next week (I've seen it before, but it was a long time ago so I don't remember) and then reveal it here, but that's a spoiler I'd rather not give you.  My guess is it'll be a one-off companion, or else it'll be Danny Pink's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that he referenced at the end of this episode.

Missy is absent from this episode entirely, leaving us with only one arc to look at:  the arc of the Doctor's relationship with Clara.  She's angry at him, with good reason, and I'm wondering what happens next in their relationship.  I'm hoping we do see a slow progression of the Doctor finding himself again.  My biggest question is, what has made this Doctor so much more unfriendly and abrasive?  It's something that's been bugging me since Moffat announced that the 12th Doctor would be a little rougher, a little meaner:  Why?  He just saved Gallifrey, even if it's still hidden away somewhere.  This should be the lightest his soul has felt since the Time War, and instead he's gotten bitter and petty.  Perhaps old age is really getting to him.  Perhaps moving beyond the number of regenerations he's supposed to have is making him sour and cranky.  Peter Capaldi's performance is brilliant, and because it's brilliant, I can see something in the Doctor that is really scared and really crying for help.  It's the most vulnerable we've ever seen him.  I want to walk into the screen and get the poor guy some help.

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