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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “Kill the Moon”


[previous: “The Caretaker”]

warning: spoilers!

And then there was the week when Doctor Who threw an MRA-esque tantrum about abortion.

After last week’s episode, reader Danielm80 and I independently came to the conclusion that the Doctor has been engaging in “Pickup Artist”-style behavior toward Clara, including “negging.” This week the Doctor appears to take inspiration from “Men’s Rights Activists,” who believe that straight white men are the most oppressed people on Earth, as evidenced by, for example, the fact that women can have abortions without being legally required to consult with and get the permission of the father of the embryo she’s carrying.

Doctor Who under Steven Moffat has had numerous problems with its depictions of women, but by now venturing into PUA and MRA territory, it is heading down the most vile black hole of misogyny, where the nonhumanity of women isn’t under debate, it’s foundational. It’s entirely possible that Moffat and this week’s scriptwriter, Peter Harness, have never heard the terms pickup artist or men’s rights activist, but they are nevertheless reflecting some very ugly ideas about the place of women in the world — or the universe — that they are far from alone in espousing.

This week, the Doctor and Co. discover that the Moon is an egg, has always been an egg, and has been slowly in the process of developing for 100 million years, which, the Doctor implies, is how old the Moon is. Never mind that we know a helluva lot about the Moon: that it’s actually more like four billion years old (that 100 million figure looks like it could be the result of a misreading of a hasty Googling on the writer’s part), and that its composition is actually very similar to Earth’s. (No wonder the Doctor suddenly has so little respect for humanity: he must think we’re really, really stupid to have misinterpreted all the solid scientific data we have on the Moon.) Also never mind that it would have to be one helluva weird development for the Moon-egg to have remained stable for (according to the Doctor) 99.99999 million years and only put on the bulk of its birth weight in the last 10 years before hatching (and hence increasing its gravity and wreaking tidal havoc on Earth). Also also never mind that the newly hatched Moon chick was somehow able to lay a new egg that is even bigger than the just-born creature itself. How does that work?

Doctor Who doesn’t care about being even remotely in the neighborhood of scientific accuracy? Fine. Let’s talk about the attitudes and the character development this fantastical base is used to explore.

The astronaut, Lundvik, wants to use the nukes she brought to the Moon to kill the “parasite” so that its birth pangs do not destroy Earth. Clara’s not sure what the best thing is to do and wants to talk about their options. Courtney is all “Oh please don’t kill the little baby.” And the Doctor refuses to give any advice or help at all — even though he later all but admits that he knew that everything was going to be okay and Earth wasn’t going to be destroyed — because “It’s your Moon, womankind, it’s your choice.”


Note: Not humankind. The Doctor does not say “It’s your Moon, humankind.” He very specifically says “womankind.” These two women and one girl, they’re not human, not really. At best, they are a subset of humanity, an offshoot, perhaps. And he also doesn’t say “It’s your decision” or “It’s up to you.” He uses a word that is very loaded when it comes to abortion: choice. (And while abortion is not generally a contentious issue in the U.K. the way it is in the U.S. [except in Northern Ireland], British MRAs are just as opposed to women’s autonomy when it comes to abortion as those in the U.S. are.)

The Doctor’s hissy fit here is a petty, spiteful reaction to the situation, and it’s certain not about the “respect” that the Doctor later claims it is (which Clara rightly rejects; it’s more negging). It makes absolutely no sense at all within the context of this story or within the context of the history of the show for the Doctor to suddenly be hands-off like this. It only makes sense in a meta context. It only makes sense when read as: “Because I don’t get to make the decision entirely on my own, I want no part of the decision-making process whatsoever, regardless of whether you would like my input. It’s not our problem — it’s your problem. You deal with it.” And there’s the implied extra bonus fuck-you later: “Even though I obviously would have made the correct decision for you anyway, if you’d simply deferred to my wisdom.”

But no: a woman — Lundvik — dared to believe that this was her decision to make. So the Doctor withdraws completely.

Now, I don’t think the Doctor, as a character, is offering any sort of commentary on human reproductive rights or perceived lack thereof in any of this. But even though what happens here is such a laughably idiotic metaphor for abortion, one that really has to stretch to make its point (ie, no one contemplates an abortion while in labor, five minutes before the baby is about to be born), I can’t see how anything that we see here works except as that bizarre metaphor. From the specific vocabulary of the dialogue to the fact that it’s three female characters who are the ones discussing and ultimately deciding what to do about the inconvenient baby — as if to negate any potential criticism of the abortion metaphor — there doesn’t seem to be any room for another interpretation.

(As I’ve said elsewhere, women hardly ever get to be people in pop culture. They’re always defined primarily by their gender in ways that men are not. [Imagine if we mostly only ever saw stories about male characters if a guy was being diagnosed with prostate cancer or worrying about his receding hairline!] If only the Doctor — or, really, the scriptwriter who put the words in the Doctor’s mouth — hadn’t specified “womankind”! A dearth of female characters in pop culture, and specifically in Moffat’s Doctor Who, automatically leads us to suspect that when a woman — or three! — does show up, she’s there for a “reason”: not to be a person, but to be a woman. And that does seem to be the case here.)

If there is a contextual explanation for the Doctor’s behavior (which does not negate the metaphor), it’s this: Moffat is consciously turning the underlying concept of the show upside down by transforming the Doctor into an unheroic asshole. Is he trying to drive us away from the Doctor? Maybe we do need to heed the sign the Doctor posted last week: “Go Away Humans.” But you know what? If the Doctor is so fed up with humanity, he should go somewhere else for a while. It’s a big universe. Go pick up an intelligent talking cabbage for a companion.

[next: “Mummy on the Orient Express”]

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  • Tonio Kruger


    On the plus side, this is one of the first Doctor Who episodes I’ve ever seen that featured Mexican astronauts/miners.

    Who are conveniently dead.

    And never seen.

    Though I suppose I should give the writers some credit given that miners actually exist in Great Britain too. I hear they even appear in movies and TV shows too. But I guess Moffat has killed enough British characters on this show so that it’s nice that he gave another nationality a chance to take one — actually more than one in this case — for the team. ;-)

    But seriously, folks…

    Another bright spot: mention of a female President in the U.S.

    Who doesn’t take office till 2049.

    And who might be a certain minor character that we know and love.

    (At least we were spared a Hillary joke.)

    And yes, the pro-life metaphors were kinda obvious, even to those of us who aren’t MRAs or PUAs and don’t aspire to be such. As was the irony of the whole issue being resolved with an abort command.

    So I’m guessing next week we have The Clara and Danny Show.


    We don’t?

    You could have fooled me.

    Of course, this could all be a grand conspiracy to make Karen Gillian’s new American TV show look good by comparison. And judging from the type of reviews it has been getting, it could use all the help it can get.

  • I loved — ie, hated — the Mexican poncho thrown over one chair. So we would *know* they were Mexican.


    At first I was afraid this was going to be the show’s riff on *Deep Impact*/*Armageddon.* If only!

  • Maria Niku

    Phew, good to read this. After reading so many fawning reviews I was beginning to feel very very confused.

  • Stephen Robinson

    One thing I noticed that I’m not sure was intentional or not: The Earth is arguably the “caretaker” of the “Moon/egg,” and the Earth’s “life” is at stake (as evidenced by the natural disasters occurring on the earth). The Earth makes the decision to “terminate” the “moon/pregnancy” bu. t Clara, perhaps as a stand-in for the government, *overrules* this decision, which again is presented as the right thing for her to do, and all is well.

    This, of course, is rubbish anti-abortion rhetoric. “It’s just 9 months of your life.” “You can then give up the child for adoption. Choose life!”

    But Earth makes the logical decision. It chooses its own collective life over the life of an unborn creature that might kill it. This is a choice some women make — even when they’ve committed to having the child. And it’s a painful decision, so it infuriates me that this episode would present it in such a fantastical manner. The creature that was born did not attack the earth, and conveniently left behind another moon, but that is all wishful thinking, just like the thinking that “God” will see the pregnancy through and make everything all right. Clara’s decision was idiotic. It wasn’t based on a higher moral viewpoint. Back when DOCTOR WHO was interested in presenting us with a heroic lead, the Doctor himself would provide that moral viewpoint: “Trust me, Clara! I’ve seen this before. The creature will be harmless and will leave earth alone! It’ll be no threat to humanity once its born!” And we trust the Doctor, so we would respect the fact that Clara does. But Clara isn’t given the information. Instead, she overrules humanity and allows an alien creature that could have possibly destroyed all or most of the Earth’s population to live.

    From a metaphor standpoint, it’s akin to the ob-gyn walking out of the delivery room during the riskiest part of the labor. The mother and her family are left to decide whether to proceed or to end the pregnancy — with no objective medical data to help inform that choice. They make the call and the doe-eyed nurse overrules them. But hey, the ob-gyn walks back in, nice and smug, and says that it was the right choice to make!

    I’ve commented before that by this point in the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctor’s tenure, we both knew and respected these men. Heck, “Father’s Day” aired at this point in the 9th Doctor’s life, the events of which Rose would later reference 5 episodes later when deciding to risk everything to save his life. When can we call the “Let’s try to do the 6th Doctor but even better” experiment a bust?

  • RogerBW

    Yes, Stephen, at this point the most charitable explanation I can think of is indeed “Moffat is trying to do the Six experiment again”. But we’re eight episodes in to a thirteen-episode season and I’d expect to see some sign of change by now.

    The point that really struck me with this episode is that it’s the Doctor who sets the whole thing up. If he hadn’t weighed in, there wouldn’t have been a dilemma in the first place, because Lundvik’s crew wouldn’t have known there was anything to kill.

    (That’s quite separate from the whole “tides do not work like that”, “eggs do not work like that”, “flight in vacuum does not work like that”, “space shuttles do not work like that”, and so on. How was Lundvik planning to land if there hadn’t been a gravitational anomaly, eh? But as MaryAnn points out, you just can’t watch the series now with any sense of logic; you have to deliberately disable part of your mind before approaching it. And that’s no fun for me.)

  • Hank Graham

    What would make the show immeasurably improved, for me, is to have Clara say, OUT LOUD, what you just wrote: If you’re so fed up, feel free to leave!

    It’s really itching me that I am coming to not want to watch the show for a while.

  • LorinGeitner

    I didn’t see any of this subtext.

    Seemed to me it was just riffing on a visual rhyme: that the moon looks kinda, sorta like an egg.

    And the choice presented was ultimately between the known (the earth/moon as we know them) vs. fear. The three women collectively represent humankind as a whole: the hope and naivete of the young, the fear and caution of the middle aged, and Clara, in the middle, ultimately being the deciding voice (and having the moral strength to make the right choice, regardless of what the majority on earth would have preferred).

  • Stephen Robinson

    How is the decision one of what is “known” vs “fear”? What was known was that the “birth pains” of the egg hatching had resulted in natural disasters on Earth (and most likely tremendous loss of life). The belief that the hatched alien would be “innocent” is also as whimsically ignorant as the dogmatic belief that it would be “evil.” Nature is neither good nor evil but it can still pose an existential threat. I’m sure some of the people voting to kill the creature might also be aware of basic patterns in nature. Just one example: some species lay eggs near an available and plentiful food source, especially if the mother isn’t present to provide nourishment — in other words, Earth could have been the first food stop. That would not have been an evil act by the creature but it still would have resulted in countless dead. Fear would be dismissing compelling evidence that the alien wouldn’t harm Earth.

    What I liked about STAR TREK was that Spock often represented cold, rational logic (“needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”) and McCoy represented the best of human emotion (“every life counts”). What made Kirk the hero was that he could appreciate both views and then pull out the third option that satisfies both concerns.

    A classic or, heck, just a “good” DOCTOR WHO episode would have the Doctor working until the last minute on a way to harmlessly transplant the hatched alien to a distant galaxy where it won’t harm the Earth while the humans who represent “fear” attempt to hedge their bets and blow up the moon first. That’s compelling and legitimate drama.

    Also, because the final decision was made by Clara, who wouldn’t have even been present if not for The Doctor (if she was even still alive in 2049, she would have just been one lone light in the darkness), whatever moral statement was made by the writer and the Doctor himself falls flat.

  • I have a number of heartfelt problems with this episode, which seemed to be going so right (in the hard sci fi sense of actually involving some reasonably credible scientific explanations) for a while. So I loathed the scene on the beach – with the bullshit handwaving and the creature flying away. I’ve never felt quite so angry at a Who episode before.

    I have problems with stretching an interpretation of the episode to abortion, when being asked to decide on the death of a creature that may well be harmful to us is a well-trodden Doctor Who path (e.g. Genesis of the Daleks). But you make it quite clear that this is a kind of last ditch effort on your part of trying to make any sense out of the episode. And I am very familiar with that frustration of “this will only make sense when we have seen the series finale and can work out the motivation backwards.” I’m really really getting tired of this.

  • Why was Clara’s choice the “right” one?

    And since when does the Moon look like an egg?

  • I don’t know if I’d call my reaction “last ditch.” The abortion subtext leapt out at me instantly on my first viewing, before I even knew how the episode was going to end.

  • marcetienne

    This is just another misrepresentation of men’s rights activsits (MRAs). MRAs do not believe “stright white males are the most oppressed people on earth.” We are a movement of men and women of all racial and sexual orientations who believe in equal rights for men and women. Period. We address discrimination against men in areas like fathers’ custody rights, male victims of domestic violence, public benefits, health policies, criminal sentencing, and many other areas, as well as attention to men’s mental health, suicide rates, homelessness, etc. I had to sue the State of California because the laws excluded male victims from state funded domestic violence services, and we finally won after a 5 year battle. MRAs have finally gotten international human rights courts to start addressing discrimination against fathers. Men still make the vast majority of homeless adults, prisoners, work related deaths, suicide deaths, homeless vets, dropouts, etc. and still have higher mortality rates for almost all leading causes of death. Try doing some research before spreading your ignorance about the MRA movement.

  • Stephen Robinson

    Exactly. If it all comes down to “life above all else” then there’s false tension. Why did I watch the rest of the episode?

    Clara didn’t come to a *solution* (though it would be nice if the series protagonist did this once in a while) that saved everyone. She chose to doom the planet Earth… with no logical reason to believe in another outcome.

    When The Doctor gives his “I believe in her” speech in “The Satan Pit,” it has emotional weight because the audience has seen Rose live up to that faith. Similarly to when Martha goes across the world telling stories about the Doctor. *That* man earned the world’s faith in him.

    So from a plot and character standpoint, the ending made no sense.

  • dog8myhmwk

    I’m sorry, but you are reaching for this. It would be easier actually to make a case for the idea that this is an animals’ rights story. Abortion seems far-fetched to me. They aren’t considering aborting it. They are deciding to kill it as it is hatching. It is being born – not still cooking away in its mother’s womb. As a feminist, I am uncomfortable with this interpretation because weak arguments do us no good.

  • Diamondgal

    Putting aside the abortion debate and the egg Moon, as I ended up not watching this beyond the spiders for a variety of reasons, my main observation is that I don’t understand why the Doctor is being written as such a sarky dick. I do get that there is a deliberate attempt to return the Doctor to the preRTD model in that he is a sometimes grumpy alien who doesn’t have time to waste on stupid human concerns but I don’t recall the older doctors needing to be so rude, callous and sneering in their attitude. The sarcasm seems so forced and it is mean spirited in tone. Sure 1 and 3 were short of patience with silly human preoccupations, 6 and 7 coukd be brusque and most of them, especially 1,4 and 6 arrogant and comdescending but Peter Capaldi’s Doctor seems nasty and cruel in his put downs for the sake of it. Having the doctor mention frequently that there is no hanky panky in the Tardis, having him insult Clara to get her goat and be arrogant and condescending is fine but I also seem to recall that 1 cared for Susan, 3 had affection for the Brigadeer, 4 found wonder in the human spirit, 6 loved finding out new things and had a passion about life and 7 treated Ace with respect. Why is 12 being painted in such determinedly negative strokes.

    Capaldi is magnificent but I am not finding the humour and enjoyment so many find in his asides, nor am I finding him a figure of respect. In trying so hard tobe the anti-Tennant or notsomuch-Smith or takeoutthegoofysweeteness-Eccleston, we have lost some magic. The show is becoming like Sherlock to me. Superbly acted, massively in love with its cleverness, confusing sourness for wit and verve and too self conscious of its own reflected glory. I am that one person who dislikes Sherlock on the basis of seeing only the first series and finding it an ampty experience. I am afraid that Who seems to be going down this path. Where is the beating heart of the show and where has the magic gone?

  • Diamondgal

    Massive apologies for the typos as cat walking across keyboard hit send before I could proof-read. I should also add IMO as I can see most people seem to be enchanted by this series and the wonderful Capaldi. I just feel, well, nothing.

  • wushuliu

    Given that this is primarily a kids show with a now global audience I think a certain amount slack has to be given in the interpretation. Moffat is taking the show in a different direction and as is evident from some of the fan reaction this is something that has to be done slowly because people freak out. I think Moffat should commended for even tackling this kind of subtext at all. Bear in mind Mexico fans gave Moffat a standing O recently during the tour so I’m sure they appreciated the flag. That’s a big deal from DW.

    Given the racist/homophobic/sexist posts I’ve read from DW fans re: Danny, Vastra, Clara, female Doctor etc. I for one am happy about the direction of the show. The boyfriend giddily zipping through space thing was 9 years old and time for a change. Time to look back at the 50 years and reassess the character as well as tackling some mature themes, if clumsily.

    I don’t get how anyone can have a problem with this Doctor and not have a problem with the first 30 years of the show. Tom Baker was just as crabby and mumbly as Capaldi and looked a lot creepier in his early days. Hartnell might as well have had a sign on the TARDIS that said get off my lawn and Troughton was all about letting others do the dirty work while he played a recorder. A frickin’ recorder.

  • Danielm80

    Your premises don’t seem to have much do do with the conclusions you’re making: Some fans are bigots, so we have to like the Doctor as a mean, crotchety old man. Doctor Who is a children’s program, so we should overlook its faults, no matter how glaring they are. People loved Tom Baker several decades ago, so we should love Peter Capaldi now.

    I’m very much in favor of a mature Doctor. That doesn’t mean I have to like this Doctor. I’ve enjoyed plenty of shows with dark, flawed main characters, but the protagonists were much more compelling, and admirable, than the 12th Doctor, who’s abusive for no good reason. Capaldi has given a terrific performance the past few weeks–after what I thought was a shaky start. But no matter how charming he is, he can’t disguise the many serious problems with the scripts he’s been given.

  • Diamondgal

    I certainly admire Steven Moffat for his ambition and his ability to keep the show evolving and I don’t have a problem with an older less touchy feely Doctor but I think the empathy balance is perhaps is a bit óff’. Each Doctor has their own persona but my overall feeling, even with 1, was that there was some light to balance the irascible cranky old man. Maybe I am remembering past Doctors with rose coloured glasses but overall I have found all of them full of wonder and excitement even if the overall mood was sometimes not so pleasant. 4 in particular seemed to have a balance much more to the lighter side than 12 currently has, although clearly he could be high handed and dismissive at times.
    It just seems that the change was very extreme and I am not sure as to the purpose. I am guessing that since Steven Moffat was in the chair when the regeneration cycle ticked over, he has taken the opportunity to give Capaldi’s doctor a strong 1 resonance, but I am not sure I want a show where the lead character is cruel and snarky just for the sake of it. I don’t find that kind of humour amusing (and I appreciate that is why I probably don’t like Sherlock although I can appreciate that it is an excellent piece of television). Clearly I can only speak for myself and I know lots of people really like the mean spirited Doctor which Capaldi is giving us at the moment, but not for me. His performance of course is immaculate so no complaints there.
    Also, I would be doubtful that the sexist and racist comments are coming mostly from people who preferred the younger versions of the Doctor. Isn’t that just the norm for ill informed and prejudiced people to use whatever is at hand to fashion and publicise their own limited view of the world? And I am not sure of the connection between abhorring those kinds of comments and being someone who supports the current representation of the Doctor as an older one. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were lots of posts hating Clara and Courtney but loving crabby Capaldi. I really doubt there is any direct connection.
    The Mexico thing is great though. I haven’t made it that far into the episode and probably won’t bother but it’s wonderful that Steven Moffat has put that in as a thankyou to the fans in Mexico – what a lovely thing to do.

  • I agree it’s a reach… on the part of the writer. But no one has debates about animal rights that sound anything like the dialogue in this episode.

  • Allen W

    While I agree with almost all of your criticisms of this episode (and have some additional of my own), the “womankind” bit was set up in the context of the show, when the Doctor refers to the President as “he” and Lundvik corrects him. I took “womankind” as the Doctor’s snarky attempt at/mocking of political correctness in response. Which is still hella annoying, and out-of-show was probably just the writer’s method of justifying the :”womankind” line in service of the metaphor; but I didn’t see it as “othering” per se.
    As a data point, my wife still doesn’t see the episode as an abortion metaphor. Before I read this page, I thought she was might be the only person in the entire viewership who didn’t see that.
    “100 million years.” I’ve seen a theory that this indicates that the Doctor knew more than he let on, and that every 100 million years, the moon hatches and a new one is laid. Of course, that makes the doctor look even worse.
    As far as issues you didn’t mention go:
    1: The initial problem as established didn’t work on its own terms. Eggs do not, and can not, add mass as they near hatching. Where would it come from?
    2: The “bad solution” as established didn’t work on its own terms.
    – 100 nukes wouldn’t blow up the moon, but if they did, the rubble would still be there, with the same gravity. So the human mission was nonsensical.
    – Once the goal became “kill the creature,” we can plausibly accept the claim that 100 nukes at range 0 might do it. But that still wouldn’t affect any of the gravitational issues. The soul has no mass (despite many early experiments trying to establish the contrary).
    – Killing the creature would prevent the “hatching creature throws chunks of moon at the Earth” issue, but that always seemed to be a tertiary concern.

  • Allen W

    Did you watch through the end of the episode? She kinda did.

  • Beowulf

    This is one reason why I stopped watching.

  • Stephen Robinson

    I’m honestly flummoxed by the arguments that the 12th Doctor is anything like the 4th. Did anyone at the time really think the rude 6th Doctor was anything like the 4th? The 4th Doctor could be moody — that was part of his charm — but the 12th isn’t moody; he just has the one mood.

    And I don’t like the interpretation that an “alien” nature means behaving like an ass. It should also mean wisdom. Vastra is more appropriately “alien.” The Doctor has traveled the universe for more than a thousand years.That’s like an American who travels through Europe for decades and still refuses to learn the customs and mores of each place he visits. That person is simply a jerk, and that’s how the Doctor is being portrayed.

    What I loved about the 5th Doctor was his maturity. He was a wise man. I miss that.

  • Stephen Robinson

    It’s worth adding that the 1st Doctor was intended to be mysterious figure, personally focused and anti-heroic at best. Barbara and Ian were the actual protagonists. (For instance, it’s Barbara who wants to change history for the better in “The Aztecs” — the Doctor himself could give a crap and usually just wants to return to the TARDIS and escape the current danger). It’s not until the “Dalek Invasion of Earth” that we start to see the Doctor become more overtly heroic. Yes,the Doctor could still be crotchety but never as overtly nasty as the 12th Doctor, and ironically, I’m reminded of the 10th Doctor’s line in the Moffat-penned “Time Crash” that this was the kind of behavior of an immature person.

    If the series wants to present a Doctor like the 1st, it becomes necessary to greatly restructure the series. Barbara and Ian didn’t trust the 1st Doctor at first, but they also didn’t travel with him voluntarily. This “forced” relationship allowed for a mellowing over time. Now that the Doctor has more control of the TARDIS and his companions are friends and not stowaways or stranded passengers he’s trying (but failing) to return to their own time, the creators are “stuck” more or less with giving us a Doctor that a reasonable person would want to spend time with and would trust with their lives. This was the big flaw in the 6th Doctor and Peri relationship. No sane person would have stayed with him past “The Twin Dilemma” (and they arrived in her present day — 1984 — in the next episode, so she could have left him then).

    And of course, the 1st Doctor had a major “human credential” — his granddaughter, who he doted on. He might be a jerk to Barbara and Ian but his affection for Susan was never without question. He never made jokes about her weight, for example.

  • Stephen Robinson

    Anti-abortionists do spend a lot of time on late-term abortions or even on abortions where the “life of the mother” is at stake. Thus, the rhetoric about deciding to kill a life form as it’s being born is not that far removed from some very recent anti-abortion rhetoric.

    And having the human race/Earth/the mother ‘choose’ to terminate the hatching in order to preserve its own life (based on all the information it had) and then have that choice overruled by one person (Clara, acting as the objective party) is troublesome. What was the higher point then? Humanity sucks except for Clara? Heck,even the prisoners in DARK KNIGHT “voted”not to kill the other hostages..

  • Chris Lockard

    I use to enjoy your writeups of Doctor Who, and while I share some of your criticism on the way Moffat runs the show I’ve come to a point where I just no longer value your opinion on the matter. Looking for subtext in everything, in this case the idea that Moffat and Harness are writing about abortion just seems so far out there because it is. If anything the subtext is the idea of the greater good, is one life worth less than billions of lives simply because it poses a threat to those billions of lives through no fault of its own. And hence the Doctor has confidence in Clara to make the right choice because he knows that Clara values innocent life just as much as he does.

    The back part of the episode seems to address all the concerns you’ve been hurling at this Doctor since episode one. Clara pretty much says everything you’ve said about the Doctor’s arrogance, narcissitic, sarcastic personality. In otherwords, his assholeness is being addressed as a plot point in the show. Maybe we should wait till the season ends and we have a final view of the whole story arch before we case judgement of what Moffat has turn the Doctor into.

  • Danielm80

    So this is the Oat Bran theory of Doctor Who? If we eat the entire box of cereal, we’ll get a prize?

    It doesn’t bother me that the Doctor is an asshole. Some of my favorite shows are about assholes: House, Breaking Bad, Sherlock, and even a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory. My problem is that the 12th Doctor isn’t an entertaining asshole, or even as interesting as some of the supporting characters on the screen. I’d rather watch a series about one of them.

  • amphibian

    The idea that abortion is about “killing babies” is a vile slur any pro-choice position should reject. If a woman has an abortion for medical reasons, and the child survives, she has no right to kill it.

    Protecting her autonomy is about ending the pregnancy, and the risks to the foetus that come with that are just down to how human reproduction works.

    If Moffat meant for that conflation to happen, then yes, that’s terrible.

    But that a sci-fi show has a debate about rights for planet-sized newborn aliens that doesn’t sound anything like a “normal” animal rights debate in real life is hardly that off-the-wall.

  • Stephen Robinson

    I agree, and I’d also add that for me, SHERLOCK has a strong, healthy relationship (John and Sherlock). I don’t get the sense that Sherlock looks down at John and he certainly doesn’t insult him for “humor” value. (House and Wilson was also a solid friendship.) The 12th Doctor and Clara is a very dysfunctional relationship — mostly because it doesn’t stand up on its own. With previous Doctors who “inherited” companions, I could imagine Sarah Jane Smith and the 4th Doctor meeting and getting along or Adric and Nyssa still choosing to go to the 5th Doctor for help, and so on. This is a relationship dependent upon The 11th Doctor making a last ditch plea to Clara to help the 12th. Unlike “Bells of St. John,” I can’t imagine this Doctor being someone who, if Clara met without knowing a previous incarnation, she’d have stuck around with for as long as this.

  • The idea that abortion is about “killing babies” is a vile slur any pro-choice position should reject.

    Yes, it is. And yet, “killing babies” is *precisely* the rhetoric than the anti-abortion position uses. This episode sets up that straw man argument so that it can knock it down.

    This episode is not about the rights of a newborn anything. All of the debate is over whether it should be allowed to be born at all.

  • Jamie

    She isn’t the only one who sees the abortion subtext. It’s fairly glaringly obvious if you look at the facts of the episode. Also, not that this has anything to do with it, but many people are seeing it. I certainly did. I saw it even before I could process the fact that it bothered me. But check around online and you will see that this isn’t the case of a handful of people grasping at straws to suit their own agendas, but a very real subtext that is laying right there for anyone to see. It’s also not the first time I’ve felt that Mr. Moffat and others involved in the show, have attempted to reduce women down to nothing more than their reproductive organs. And I’m not the sort to go looking for this kind of thing in shows I watch. It just sticks out.

    I don’t mind so much the Doctor’s overall ‘mean’ personality this time around. Though I can understand fully why quite a few people dislike it. I do hope he has some sort of character growth some time this series, though.

  • amphibian

    I know “killing babies” is the rhetoric used by anti-abortion campaigners of a certain type.

    I just struggle to find it plausible that the writer behind “Press Gang” and “Coupling” would share that kind of Tea Party-style outlook.

    I’ve got a lot of misgivings about Moffat on gender, but I don’t think it follows that any use of “this alien *might* kill us all if it hatches” tropes on his part must be anti-abortion statements.

    Hangovers from his own struggle with the idea of parenthood, as per “Coupling”, maybe, but that doesn’t seem to work the same way.

    Though I’d agree that should have been thought through, based on the
    likely reactions of audiences used to the US abortion debates.

    Anyone know his views, reproductive choice-wise?

  • Gee

    So I’m not a regular Doctor Who watcher and have seen fairly little of
    it. But very early on in the show (the only clues I had was that the
    moon was getting heavier and breaking up) I yelled, “OMG the Moon is a
    giant space egg for a giant space whale-type alien and they have to
    decide whether to kill it or not, and the mean lady will want to kill
    it, but actually it turns out they shouldn’t because it is harmless and
    everything’s fine!” CALLED IT. Is Doctor Who becoming that predictable
    and trite??

    A few minutes later I yelled, “WAIT — is this
    episode just one big abortion metaphor??” I can’t believe there are
    people who didn’t see that. It’s all the vocabulary used — three women
    have the CHOICE whether to “kill the baby” (except of course only one
    choice is the right choice and it’s the one that the dude tells them

    There were two teeny things I liked. I liked that the
    woman astronaut did not actually really turn out to be a mean
    pro-abortion bossy lady. The episode makes it clear it thinks she’s
    wrong and she is chastized for it, but I don’t think she’s really
    protrayed as a bad person and she does even get her own non-man-related
    motivations and arc: she’s wanted to go to the Moon all her life and
    when she does go she has to blow it up. But then she gets a second
    chance with the new Moon. And the second thing I likes was Clara
    chewing the Doctor out at the end. She basically said what I was
    thinking: you don’t get to hang out on Earth passive-agressively
    judging people but refusing to help. Either take responsibility for the
    people you effect or go away.

    I have a bit of hope for the next
    episode, since IMO the best ones have always been genre ones that
    explore fun places/times (It’s Robin Hood!…with some Doctory stuff in
    the background), so I am hoping for something like that for the Orient

  • I don’t think it follows that any use of “this alien *might* kill us all if it hatches” tropes on his part must be anti-abortion statements.

    I don’t think it follows, either. I’m not saying that *any* use of this basic plot *must* be an anti-abortion statement.

    But in this case, in the particularly way that plot is written here, I don’t see any other way to interpret this.

  • the mean lady will want to kill it

    The mean *childless* lady, the episode made clear to point out.

  • Tonio Kruger


    That image the Doctor shows to Clara and Courtney midway through the episode looks suspiciously like the type of image one could see on a sonogram.

    The dialogue that followed did not exactly persuade me that the writer was not reaching for an abortion subtext. Even though the whole “moon is an egg” theory was a tad ridiculous, even by Irwin Allen* standards.

    However, your mileage obviously varies.

    * Irwin Allen was an American producer who was once known for producing cheesy science fiction shows such as Lost in Space. Later on, he got famous for producing cheesy disaster movies.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I suppose those who hate the idea of abortion subtext in this episode could always see it as an answer to the age-old question: Why does the Doctor not do anything about global climate change / slavery/ Communism / Fascism / ethnic cleansing / etc.? Unfortunately, I suspect a great many people on this forum would find this episode to be less than persuasive in its answer to that question.

  • Tonio Kruger


    The episode makes it clear it thinks she’s wrong and she is chastised for it, but I don’t think she’s really
    portrayed as a bad person and she does even get her own non-man-related motivations and arc: she’s wanted to go to the Moon all her life and when she does go she has to blow it up.

    Moreover, she has to make due with antique equipment and woefully unqualified assistants. That part was rather sad. And unfortunately, more convincing than anything regarding the Doctor’s “moon as egg” theory. Especially in today’s political climate.

    I wonder what position the writer holds in regard to the recent cutbacks in the U.S. space program?

  • Tonio Kruger


    Actually, the American expression is “shoot the moon.” But I’m guessing they did not want older viewers to confuse this episode with an old Karen Allen movie. :-)

  • Tonio Kruger

    Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
    –Kelli Clarkson and er, that Frederic Nietzsche fellow…

  • Cerulean Spork

    likewise – “The Doctor, The Widow, & the Wardrobe” was a Moffat penned ep where biological motherhood was the sole reason for having a woman in a central role ( that plus WW2 nostalgia ) & the only real power a woman has in his stories beyond being a sort of “muse” in the modern sense of a good woman who inspires a man (oh for a muse of fire!)

    ( i have other ideas of what he is doing here w the fairy tale theme & esp the mexican thing & danny but they wld sound daft wo several hours to go over my notes – but i think he is rather ticked off at some other artists for going ahead & making their own doctor who / sherlock holmes fanfic that criticizes his elitist tropes & getting away w it )

    also it isnt like there arent antiabortion MPs & ministry officials or that the fact that NI has its own stringent antiabortion rules & is part of the UK or that the ad hoc solution for lack of abortion in ireland has been to export the ‘sin’ to britain . . . or that america is this isolated place whose believes & cultural exports are ttly unknown in the UK & the rest of the world!!

    so ‘but its ttly different over there , wld moffat & co even know abt that ?’ is kind of a naive counter argument to ‘this is the very special episode abt abortion” i think

  • I’d love to see the show address such matters, even if only obliquely.

  • ChrisH

    Could it just be that this doctor is a self-righteous dick who chose the most horribly inappropriate way possible to demonstrate to Clara what it’s like to be him and have to make hard choices?

  • Jurgan

    What was that crap at the beginning with Courtney?

    Clara: “Tell her she’s special!”
    Doctor: *Shrug*

    Whatever happened to “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important?” The Doctor may not be comfortable with social graces for whatever reason, but he knows very well how important love and acceptance are to humans.

    As for the rest of it, I think you covered it. The episode was confusing and weird, and the Doctor was a dick by not telling everyone what he knew from the beginning. He claimed he was “respecting” humans by not telling them what to do, but he was lying to them by omission, as well as overriding their decision at the last minute. Did Clara cancel the explosion because she thought it was the right thing to do, or because she heard the Doctor coming back? “The Doctor Lies” is Moffat’s personal mantra, but there was no point to these lies. I’m also surprised you didn’t notice/mention that the whole dilemma is basically a rehash of The Beast Below with a coating of abortion politics.

    Also, having humanity “vote” on what to do with the egg by turning there lights on or off makes no sense. There were only 45 minutes- what about the people for whom it was daylight? Do they not get a vote? Not to mention people who don’t have electricity.

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