Well, that was a hell of a lot heavier than yesterday’s episode, and in fact it’s one of the most divisive Doctor Who stories of all time. But before we get on to all that, what’s not up for debate is that this is an absolute thriller. The first half is played for scares and feels noticeably old school, so I was amused to read afterwards that Moffat had instructed Peter Harness to “Hinchcliffe the shit out of it”. He certainly did.
Courtney Woods is an interesting one. I don’t think a stroppy teenager is something the TARDIS team necessarily needs – I was rolling my eyes when she was complaining about the Doctor not thinking she was special – but she matured before our eyes throughout the episode, and she’s really not that bad by the end of it. I probably wouldn’t want her to be around full time, but as a one-off it’s fine as something different.
There’s plenty to like about this episode – the guest cast of Hermione Norris, Phil Cool and Tony Osoba from Porridge/Destiny of the Daleks; killing aliens with cleaning spray; the joke about Lundvik’s gran using Tumblr – and I’d forgotten about all of this, thanks to the big revelation that dominated the contemporary discussion. Regardless of anything else, it needs to be stated that “the Moon is an egg” is simply one of the greatest sci-fi premises of all time – that we all take it seriously despite its inherent hilarity makes this an audacious display of justified confidence.
The issues it brings up are huge and plentiful. The first one is easy: I don’t really care about an alleged lack of scientific rigour that the episode has been roundly criticised for. When the Doctor states a fact, it only needs to be true in his universe – which is clearly not our universe, because our Moon isn’t a big egg – and he should know whether it’s true or not, far better than we do.
The much bigger issue is whether or not the whole thing is an analogy for abortion. I tried to re-examine the dialogue impartially, to determine how much of it is in the text and how much is open to interpretation, and it’s the fact that Clara and Courtney instantly refer to the alien as “a baby” that makes it slightly uncomfortable. There’s even a reference to Lundvik – who’s the only one arguing to detonate the bombs – not having kids of her own, implying that this is relevant to her stance. I tried to separate the sci-fi story from the real world issue, but I just can’t help but see it there.
So if it is an analogy for abortion, the tricky thing is that the characters have to ultimately make a definitive decision about what’s the right thing to do. This is where the earlier talk about babies muddies the waters, because I don’t think for a second that the episode was trying to portray an anti-abortion message. Ultimately, it comes down to the dilemma of one innocent life ended vs billions of innocent lives saved, and that’s a) not what abortion is, and b) something the Doctor has faced before, with little of the same controversy. I totally see why people saw this as a pro-life argument, but I disagree – I think the initial discussion has definite parallels with the abortion debate, but that they’re long since abandoned by the time the countdown to detonation is, ironically, aborted.
Fortunately, when the alien is hatched it instantly lays another egg, which seems weird but hey, let’s just say that this is how reproduction works for this particular species. This allows the Doctor to smugly imply that he knew this would happen all along, and that there was some McCoy-esque masterplan at work. But brilliantly, Clara calls him out on his shit. Her threat to leave seems hollow in retrospect, but it’s a hell of a powerful scene. As I’ve said before, the Twelfth Doctor is always doing the right thing, as I believe he was here by standing back to let the humans decide their own fate, but he’s a bit of a git while he’s doing it, and he deserves a dressing down every now and then.
Despite the numerous and ongoing debates that this episode inspired, I think it’s brilliant that the show is pushing so many boundaries, and giving us so much to think about. It even gave us a scene with Danny Pink where he comes across as quite nice. This series just keeps you guessing.