As I’ve said all season, it feels like Stephen Moffat is deconstructing the character of the Doctor to answer the question, “Am I a good man.” I have a feeling after the events of “Into the Moon” that Clara’s answer would be slightly different than the one she gave a few weeks ago. She’s probably gone from uncertain to convinced that this new Doctor isn’t really a good man after all, but instead a dark, manipulative character.
It’s interesting to imagine how this story might have played out with other modern Doctors. It’s easy to see the David Tennant or Matt Smith Doctor figuring out a way to save the alien creature that is hatching from the moon. In fact, I felt like there were call backs to Matt Smith’s second episode and the space whale with the Doctor’s speech about finding a new name after he’s forced to kill the space whale because that isn’t what the Doctor is or does. Contrast that with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor who is initially enthusiastic about the discovery but then takes a hands-off approach on the decision on whether or not the young alien hatchling will live or die. It even gets to the point that the Doctor abandons Clara and Courtney, leaving them to make a momentous decision without his advice or wisdom.
In some ways, “Kill the Moon” felt a bit like Torchwood’s “Children of Earth” in that we are presented with a situation to which there is no right solution — just varying degrees of wrong. Seeing the Earth people be of one mind to kill the creature rather than risk the possible destruction of Earth was a chilling one. Coupled with Clara’s conflict over what should be done (I almost wish there had been one single light left on to give us some hope) and her impulsive decision to save the creature, there were moments in the final few minutes that almost felt suffocating.
And yet, unlike “Children of Earth,” the Doctor arrives in the end to say that everything worked out as it should. Humanity has its moment to look upward and be awed by the universe again. This story sets into motion the future Earth empire that we’ve seen in other stories with humanity spreading out to the stars.
Of course, it does bring up the question of what did the Doctor know and when did he know it. Citing a grey area and certain points in history that can’t be altered ,the Doctor refuses to give Clara the assurance that everything will work out, regardless of what her decision is. It brings up the interesting question of whether or not he’s testing Clara, knowing full well how everything works out. Or if he’d have come in to save the creature had Clara chosen not to abort the countdown.
It leads to a final scene in the TARDIS that echoes Ace’s anger at the Doctor in “The Curse of Fenric.” In both cases, the Doctor is keeping details from his companions and allowing them to make decisions, observing them and possibly testing them. And in both cases, the companions figure this out and blow up at the Doctor, demanding answers. And while Ace demands answers mid-story, Clara’s wrath comes in the form of rejecting the Doctor and telling him not to come back. Whether or not she’s truly done with the Doctor remains to be seen. Danny believes she isn’t because he can still make her angry. And I have a feeling that the Doctor may try to win Clara back — or at least have her parting with him be under better circumstances.
It should be an interesting ride to the end of the season.