When Doctor Who tackles the big issues

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‘Kill the Moon’ (S08E07) just finished airing and I couldn’t stop myself from rushing to my computer to type up a big gushy post about it because MOTHER OF GOD that was the best episode in years.

I think it’s brilliant when Doctor Who tackles big issues, takes the opportunity to teach lessons. The Doctor can’t always be whimsically getting into fisticuffs with a fictional character in Sherwood Forest or saving London from gassy aliens in human meat suits. We come for the awesome, stay for the feels, but a lot of the time, I feel anyway, we endure the whimsy. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s cringe, I’m sure a lot of us can agree like that.

With a show as influential as Doctor Who, it’s great to see the writers actively trying to impart wisdom. You’ve got the character of the Doctor, the most intelligent life force EVAR(!!!11!), we all learn so much from watching his adventures. But what happens when the show decides to tackle a very controversial issue, one that I don’t see humanity fully agreeing on any time soon, possibly ever?

It becomes apparent about halfway through the episode that ‘Kill the Moon’ mirrors the abortion debate. Are you pro-choice or pro-life? Where are you going to go with this, Doctor Who? I’ll admit, I was worried. No matter what side the show came down on, there would be people applauding it, there would be people hating it.

As it turned out, it was handled brilliantly. I don’t know why I didn’t have faith, maybe because of the lack of decent episodes over the past few years, but the show really has restored my hope. The show runners portrayed the crux of the debate cleverly and brilliantly: it’s all about the choice.

What would you do in that situation? A giant thing is going to hatch out of the moon in a matter of minutes, harmless or not we do not know, but no matter what, if this thing hatches Earth has lost a moon. Humanity could very well be doomed. One life to save billions – the choice was pretty easy for me to make while watching. As it was for the rest of humanity, as seen in the episode.

Of course Doctor Who cranks up the stakes to make it interesting (humanity won’t be doomed if you get pregnant, kids!), but if you strip the episode down to its centre the parallels are all there: life will irrevocably be changed if you keep the baby, but if you kill the baby you’re going to have to live with that.

The Doctor is absolutely brilliant in this. He is absolutely right to give humanity the choice of what to do with its own future, its own moon. Just a mark to show how he has grown and changed, how often does the guy step back when a potential death is on the table? And Clara, fuck you for having a go at him for doing so. As much as I enjoyed your empowered speech (“I’ll slap you so hard you’ll regenerate” was possibly the quote of the decade), the Doctor was right. Sure, he could have been a bit less of a dick about it, but this is Capaldi we’re talking about here. He was right to leave you to your decision.

The rest of the episode unfolded perfectly: the three decision makers are left alone to decide and they disagree, so they turn to earth to make the decision. Leaving aside the little plothole where THEY COULDN’T SEE THE OTHER HALF OF EARTH, it is revealed that humanity has chosen to kill the moon. Because of course they did. I harbour no naive optimism about the state of the collective human mindset, we would all totally kill the moon to save ourselves.

So that was humanity’s decision right? The show should have honoured that, right? We voted and all, democracy anyone?

NOPE.

It wasn’t humanity’s decision. Because they’re not the one with the power to decide. The moon isn’t humanity’s baby, it’s Clara’s.

Why Clara, you ask? What makes her important? There were three humans on the moon who could make the decision. Three.

Exactly.

The three on the moon represent the id, the ego and the super-ego, aspects of our psychology that are in play daily, but never more so than when making a very important decision. Courtney, the child, represents the id, the part of our brain that wants what it wants when it wants it, consequences be damned. Courtney never agreed to killing the moon, maintained throughout that it was wrong. The space astronaut lady, whose name I can’t be bothered to Google, represents the super-ego. Acting as the conscience, astronaut lady cannot and will not sentence humanity to death, and is prepared to die on the moon as penance for killing it. But she will not see humanity fall. And that leaves Clara as the ego, the moderator, the one who can listen to the input from the id and the super-ego and who is the only one who can make the decision.

And she does. She takes into account the decision of humanity, essentially the representation of a pregnant teen’s family telling her they think she should abort her baby. And it’s a good thing Clara made the decision to contact them, as they have a right to be heard. After all, Clara’s decision will affect everyone, much like a baby will affect everyone in the mother and father’s lives. But it was always Clara’s choice.

And in the end, what could have been a terrible mistake ended up changing lives. For the better. The teachers of Coal Hill, dude, they’re something special.

And that’s why it was such a brilliant episode. Important issues raised with important lessons we need to remember. And also a bit of comedy, some terribly scary moments for arachnophobes, and an awesome opportunity for character development. And I hope I’m not alone in saying I bloody love Courtney.

I want more episodes like this please, Doctor Who. They don’t have to be all the time, but please do more. More please. Soon please. Thank you for this one, now more.

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