The Doctor, Clara, and Courtney Woods (Clara’s student) take a trip to the Moon in 2049. There they encounter a team of scientists sent to investigate the cause of massive tidal floods on Earth and discover that the Moon is breaking apart. Not only is the Moon breaking apart, but the Moon turns out to be a massive egg that is in the process of hatching a unique life form. The Doctor leaves the humans – Clara, Courtney, and the Captain of the mission to make the ultimate decision; to kill the moon or let it live.
Clara approaches the Doctor about her student Courtney Woods and her recent spiraling behavior. The Doctor took her out in space and apparently told her that she wasn’t special, leading her to steal the Doctor’s psychic paper and use it to cause the mundane variety of trouble. The Doctor denies this, but as Clara and the Doctor enter the TARDIS, they find Courtney prepared with cleaning supplies and motion sickness prevention, ready to prove herself on another adventure. Clara tells the Doctor to tell Courtney she’s special, but instead the Doctor takes her to be the first woman on the Moon. Instead, they end up on a shuttle stocked with nuclear bombs that is just landing on the Moon, with three scientists in attendance to investigate the cause of spontaneous massive flooding on Earth. The Doctor immediately notices that there is normal Earth gravity on the Moon and hypothesizes that the Moon has put on weight – but how or why still requires investigation. First they discover that the Moon is infested with giant spider-like bacteria, and that this bacteria is living off a massive store of amniotic fluid beneath the surface of the satellite. The Doctor scans beneath the surface and discovers that there is a giant creature at the core of the Moon – that the Moon is actually an egg that has taken hundreds of millions of years to hatch, and that it is in the last stages of hatching. Rather than staying to help, the Doctor claims that this is a moment in history that has not been decided and that it is up to the people of Earth to make the ultimate decision – to kill an innocent life, or to risk the unknown and let it live. Clara sends a transmission to Earth, telling the inhabitants of the situation and to send them a signal regarding their decision; leave your lights on to let it live, turn them off to kill it. Over the course of an hour, all the lights on Earth go out. In the final seconds of the count down, Clara defies the Earth’s decision and stops the bombs from going off. The Doctor returns and shows them Earth in the aftermath – that the creature flies off peacefully, leaving another egg/moon behind it. The Doctor is proud of Clara for the decision she made and that his trust in her was a symbol of his respect. However, Clara feels condescended to and resents the Doctor for putting her in what she feels was the position to prove herself to him. She leaves the TARDIS and tells him never to come back. When Clara tells Danny about her experience and tells him that she is done with the Doctor, he tells her that if she weren’t still angry he’d believe her. He says that as long as she’s still angry, she still has something to say to him.
Both sides have a very valid point in this episode. Clara is angry that the Doctor leaves her to make this huge decision for Earth, especially since the Doctor claims it isn’t his choice to make when its a choice he’s made for Earth many times in the past. At the same time, the Earth isn’t his planet, and leaving the decision in Clara’s hands is a huge statement of trust in her judgement. Of course, Clara’s take on his motives is partly right as well. The Doctor claims it was a gesture of respect, while Clara feels its was a condescending test to see if she made the right choice according to the Doctor’s values. And that’s what makes her really mad – that after all this time the Doctor seems to look down on her and has to test his faith in her.
And if the preview for next week’s episode is anything to go by, Clara is not along for the ride. While she might appear in the episode somewhere, perhaps a look at what her life is like without the Doctor, the Doctor seems to be on a solo adventure. Which I actually find pretty exciting, because these last few episodes have focused a lot on Clara and incidental companions. It might be nice to get a Doctor-heavy episode where he can really chew up some scenery and show us what he can do on his own. At the same time, his interaction with the people closest to him tells us a lot about who this Doctor is, especially compared with the previous Doctor. A man alone is a vacuum, but we can tell a lot about how a man interacts with the people around him. How will this Doctor interact with people without his filter, his carer, and his conscience? If Clara is indeed out of the picture next week, it will be an interesting experiment.
I also want to point out, once again, Capaldi’s penchant for the childish gleefulness his Doctor takes in the bizarre, the unique, and the wondrous. When he discovers that the Moon is an egg, he is almost as excited by the fact as he is about telling everyone about it. I love that aspect to Capaldi’s Doctor – that he’s old and ornery with fierce eyebrows and an alien aloofness, but at the heart of him he still has a spark of wonder that overwhelms his stoic facade. Its adorable and infectious. It makes us want to appreciate the wonders of our own lives and universe more completely, to really experience and observe the damn cool things that are right in front of us. I mean, I just went to Yellowstone for the first time and was properly amazed by the vastness and ability of the geothermal pools and features of the park, brewing right beneath my feet. The Earth that we live on is an incredible, complex, and mysterious place full of wonders that we don’t properly appreciate – never mind the infinite wonders of the universe! I’d like to take the time to be properly amazed like that every day of my life by the simple miracles of nature and science, and that’s part of what makes the Doctor such an inspiring figure. He takes real joy in the things around him and revels in the unknown rather than hating that which he fears.
I can see where Clara is coming from when she feels like the Doctor is looking down on her. And like I said, he probably doesn’t know he’s doing it, but to a certain extent he is – he’s acting as a superior being handing down a moral test to a lesser species. And Clara has every right to be angry about that. It would be one thing if the Doctor weren’t constantly making these kinds of big moral, ethical, and historical decisions for the Earth all the time, but he is, and the fact that he declines to this time has less to do with his professional detachment than a sudden whim he’s had to test Clara’s moral fitness. At the same time, he claims it was a gesture of respect – and handing Clara the power in a situation like that should also be incredibly empowering. When Clara confides in Danny about her experience, she seems to be seeking affirmation for what are clearly some mixed feelings. And she’s right to feel two ways about it, because the Doctor handed her the power in making an important decision, but he did it for what were ultimately smugly superior reasons. We will likely see Clara again before too long, but how their relationship will change and on what terms they will ultimately part is anyone’s guess.
In a careless fit of whimsy, the Doctor showed Courtney – a young Coal Hill student and a disruptive influence – his TARDIS and took her into space, which prompted Courtney to suffer a severe bout of travel sickness. Feeling embarrassed by her reaction to the wonders of the universe, she starts acting out more than usual in school, using the Doctor’s stolen psychic paper as a fake ID to acquire alcohol. Clara approaches the Doctor, telling him that his careless attitude toward Courtney and the affect he’s had on her makes him responsible for her. They find Courtney in the TARDIS, equipped with the tools to prove herself a worthy space/time traveler. Rather than give Courtney pep talk she needs, he recklessly takes her on an adventure to be the first woman on the Moon, because Courtney wants to be special. She gives it a good go, but it almost immediately overwhelmed by the danger when things turn bad. The Doctor tucks her away in the TARDIS for safety, but when she finds out the details of the Moon Egg and the questionable safety of the Moon Baby, she rallies and wants more than anything to help what she sees as an innocent creature. While the Doctor may have been careless about his choice of company, Courtney proved herself to be among the best representatives of the human race, more than making up for her “spillage” in the TARDIS, and proving just how special she actually is. When it came down to the line, she knew what mattered and delivered despite her fears.
This season is getting pretty serious. I’m starting to fear that the new Doctor will alienate everyone and end up a lone traveler – until the next companion comes along, anyway. It seems that every Doctor must go through a personal crisis where he somehow oversteps himself and must learn a lesson at a terrible price – and considering his age and intelligence, its probably pretty hard to keep his priorities and ego in check. He’ll probably lose Clara’s friendship, which will prompt the Doctor to take a long look at himself and question how he treats people, which in turn will change the dynamic between him and the next companion.