Monday, 27 October 2014

In The S***e Garden

Doctor Who
In The Forest Of The Night
Series Eight, Episode Ten

What's this?  Three new writers in a row?  Praise the Doctor Who gods!

And yet, just getting new people in doesn't automatically mean better episodes.  This week, for example: new writer, lots of plaudits, still turns in the year's biggest duffer.  (With one possible exception.)

The premise is interesting.  Sort of.  What if the world was suddenly covered in trees?  Where did they come from, and how (besides an army of lumberjacks) do you get rid of them?  Okay, forests aren't actually terrifying so much as the things hiding in them, as any fairytale will tell you.  And did I say fairytale?  Good, because we open with a little red-coated girl running through the trees, later to be menaced by wolves, at one point leaving breadcrumbs for others to follow.  LIKE IN A FAIRYTALE.  There's plenty of mileage in there for something evocative and scary; it's just that none of it's realised.  It's the cute kind of fairytale, not The Brothers Grimm.

How Not To Terrify Your Audience:
Introduce an adorable kid and have her point out how lovely
and not scary the situation is.  Preferably before the opening credits.
A world covered in trees could be a post-apocalyptic nightmare, and yet despite the title, it's all set in broad, really quite pretty daylight.  The only things roaming the forest are a couple of wolves and a tiger, appearing in one scene before harmlessly buggering off.  No one seems terribly upset about the whole trees thing, as there are virtually no extraneous people in the story at all – apart from disembodied newsreaders watched by no one, snarking about the whole thing like it's the "And Finally" bit.  If there is an interesting reaction to all this, it's happening somewhere else.  That is surely not the way to do it.

Of course, what really kills it dead is the troupe of kids we're stuck with.  Children don't automatically make a story less creepy – horror movies never tire of proving the exact opposite is true, and anyway, School Reunion worked pretty well.  But these ones fall more into the Nightmare In Silver camp, adding gentle, fluffy edges to everything.  You know no one's going to die or get hurt this week as it'd upset the kids.  The emotional heart of the episode concerns a particular kiddiewink, Maebh, who gained insight into the inner workings of trees after her sister went missing.  (Slightly Dodgy Message Alert: the Doctor tells her that when she hears voices, it's wrong to use medication to shut them up.  Great news, mentally troubled viewers!  You're psychic!)  The connection between Maebh, the trees and the solar flare that's about to roast the Earth is, er, not as clear as it could have been.

Ah yes, that's why there are trees everywhere: to add an "oxygen airbag" that'll absorb the solar flare.  Or something.  Science isn't this series's strongpoint, the moon being an egg and everything, but I definitely frowned my way through this one.  Trees helping to prevent a fire is just hilariously, insanely stupid.  Solar flare + oxygen + trees is literally a perfect fire triangle, it is the opposite of helpful.  Schoolchildren know this.  But what about the places that don't have trees?  When we see it from space, how is the entire planet covered in green, including the oceans?  And what about the timeline?  Clara says she's been to the future, and happened to notice that there was one.  The Doctor shrugs and says it's about to change.  Can someone tell me the rules?  (Apparently mankind will "forget this ever happened", which is a bloody convenient excuse not to mention it again.  We forgot last time, apparently, and just stuck some extra forests into our fairytales.  Yeah, Doc, but last time we didn't have 24 hour news or the internet.)

Huge concepts are thrown away just as fast as they're grown.  How did the trees get so big, and all at the same time?  Because they can communicate with each other, and can grow like that if they want to, apparently.  (As for why they don't do it during other times when it would be really helpful, shut up, that's why!)  Where do the trees go afterwards?  To the land of pixie dust, leaving everything exactly as it was, of course.  Why didn't anyone notice the impending solar flare, including the Doctor?  Because reasons.  I just don't get it.  Was there a sale on bollocks at the Plot Supermarket?  Fairytales are all well and good, although Doctor Who actually isn't one, no matter how often Steven Moffat insists otherwise.  However, even fairytales need a semblance of logic to them.

So these are... tree spirits?  Glow-worms?  Thoughts?  Fairies?
Also, trees are sentient.  Enjoy never hearing about that again.
And that's just the science.  Characters deal with all this enormous stuff in much the same way.  Obviously no one really reacts to the trees when they come, apart from the occasional "Wow", because the reasonable reaction would be screaming panic.  (Or it would be if it wasn't all so... pretty.)  But when it looks like the world is going to get roasted by a solar flare, Clara calmly accepts that and sends the Doctor on his way.  What the actual fuck?  Would you accept the death of your species that easily?  Bearing in mind the worlds, realities and whatevers Clara has personally helped save.  She won't even pack any of the kids into the TARDIS because they'd miss their mums too much.  Right, so that's more important than being alive?  Have you not considered using the TARDIS to grab all the mums and dads on Earth?  Or continuing to study the problem until a solution is reached, like you do every week?  Crazy idea.  It usually works.

Maybe Clara's judgement is compromised because of The Danny Factor, which is just as fascinating as ever.  He realises she's been seeing the Doctor on the quiet, and wearily suggests (once again) that she make up her mind.  He doesn't need to travel the universe to see amazing things, apparently.  She wants to be with Danny, so she'll have to lump it and go with him instead.  Right?  Well, obviously not, since she's clearly keen to see the universe and there's bugger all wrong with that, especially since she has the rare distinction of being able to stay home as well.  There's no competition on the romantic front, so what's the big deal?

I'm just not seeing Danny's problem, aside from Clara's constant lying.  It's not wrong to be amazed by the universe and its infinite wonders, because duh, they're amazing.  It's not wrong to like what's in front of you either.  It's not wrong to want both, if you can have both, which she can.  Unfortunately for Mr Pink, if it comes down to a straight choice then Clara made it before she even met him.  She likes travelling.  He has a problem with that.  Okay.  Cheque, please.

As for the Doctor, his edges are inevitably sanded off when you shove him into a group of kids, and giving the TARDIS a SatNav was a bloody stupid idea as well, but he still manages a few intriguing moments.  Admitting that Clara was right in Kill The Moon, i.e. it's his Earth as well, is an important step.  (Okay, he's still an alien, but the Earth is important to him.)  Admitting, after everything that happens, that it would be "awkward" for the Earth to get roasted bounces us hilariously back the other way.  But unfortunately, the plot requires the Doctor to sit back and let nature take its course.  It's not like Kill The Moon, where he deliberately cuts himself out of the equation; the plot just didn't require him to show up at all.  There's something amiss with your Doctor Who episode when the Doctor doesn't need to be in it.  Worse, it turns out no one was ever in any danger.  Thrilling, huh?  Watch it twice.  I dare you.

Next stop: the finale!  Finally an answer to all of our questions!
(Q1: "Who is she?"  Q2: "Actually, who cares?")
At first I thought In The Forest Of The Night was just dull.  Now it comes to it, I'm struggling to find anything nice to say about it.  I thought one of the kids, Ruby, was actually pretty funny.  ("I don't have an imagination!  You can ask Miss Oswald!")  Peter Capaldi seems to enjoy playing off the urchins, which is no surprise at all given the amount of time he spends signing autographs.  The forest looks cool, especially with London landmarks dotted everywhere.  And the pro-environmental message is laudable, even if it's muddled by heaps of idiotic science and pixie dust, and is about as subtle as an airhorn concerto.

In The Forest Of The Night is sweet and pretty, and doesn't have a brain in its head.  It never justifies its barmy notions or makes them work, and when the emotional moments come along, such as the reunion between Maebh and her sister that you knew was coming, it's surrounded by so much candyfloss that it doesn't register.  Still, never mind.  Second time around, I'd nodded off by then anyway.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Time And (Very) Relative Dimensions

Doctor Who
Series Eight, Episode Nine

BOOM!  Best episode in ages.  Thank you, Jamie Mathieson.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been loving Series Eight.  There's the occasional good episode, apart-from-all-the-dodgy-bits, and the Doctor's great when they're not trying too hard to make him unpalatable, but for me, it always feels like a fight to like it.  They're obviously doing a thing this year, and it may go somewhere brilliant, but I haven't been having the best of times waiting for them to get there.

Then along comes Flatline to remind me that, yes, I do love this programme, and that's why I keep watching it.  Case in point: I missed it on first transmission, so I had to watch it on my phone.  On a bus.  On a Sunday morning.  And it was still brilliant.

Okay, so the TARDIS is shrinking because the 2D guys are "leeching
its dimensions".  How much of this is the Doctor's fault for landing?
For sale: can of worms, unopened.
What's so great about Flatline?  Top of the list, ideas.  As in this week, there are some.  The TARDIS mistakenly arrives in Bristol (dramatic chord!), where it begins to shrink.  Just the outside, obviously – the Doctor explains that it's always the same size on the inside, and that the exterior is a heck of a lot lighter than it should be.  Yay!  Science, and figuring out how stuff works!  But seriously, the shrinking TARDIS is a dead simple idea, and one of the most striking images you'll see in Doctor Who.  The sight of Peter Capaldi gingerly struggling in and out of a tiny wooden prop is going to be a GIF in my head for a while.  No doubt it's all over Tumblr.

Anyway, the reason it's shrinking, and this week's problem that needs solving, is a race of two-dimensional beings trying to make their mark on our three-dimensional world.  That's... actually quite novel.  I mean, Fear Her did something similar, but this time, there's a budget and a decent script!  It's a challenge for the special effects department, but they excel themselves at killing off the (very) minor characters, either by turning them into murals or melting them into carpets.  The whole thing has that eerie ring of Playground Horror, which the best Moffat-era monsters – mainly the Weeping Angels – tap into.  It's The Floor Is Lava, and Your Posters Are Coming To Get You.  Sweet dreams.

Are they evil?  Here comes another plus point: the Doctor doesn't know, and even though they're killing people, he won't make any assumptions.  He's met some pretty weird aliens with funny ways of saying "hello", so he's keeping an open mind.  A wider perspective is a great way to remind us that he's an alien, and that he's been around the block.  In a nutshell, it's good Doctoring.  Peter Capaldi spends much of the episode stuck in the TARDIS, which shrinks to the size of the one on my bookcase, but it's no Doctor-lite.  There's loads for him to do, starting with some of that Learning And Growing that's rather overdue this year.

The simplest way to examine a character is to hold a mirror in front of them.  Trapped in the TARDIS, the Doctor must leave all the meeting and greeting to Clara, who wastes no time in pricking a bit of his pomposity.  (This could have been very irritating.  Thankfully, it's hilarious.)  She also shows him that she's been paying attention.  In order to be the Doctor, or be like the Doctor, you need to inspire confidence in those around you; give them hope; know your enemy, and use their powers against them.  There is a bit more to it – and I don't mean the sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper, although these days they are a big part of it – but Clara covers the bases well enough.  And people quite like her for it.

The Doctor looks on, puzzled that she hasn't "scared them off", as he probably would have.  When she talks rather callously about human lives, he says "Is that what I sound like?"  And when he meets one of the survivors at the end, a hateful old misanthrope who's about as welcome as a blocked loo, there's a definite feeling of: don't be like that.  Character-wise, Flatline is a rescue mission.  His optimism, in the face of apparently murderous aliens, feels like another part of that.

Magic haircut!
Arr, TV shooting schedules be a harsh mistress.
And it's not all about him.  Clara's Doctoring is almost good enough to fudge the Doctor out of the picture completely.  She can't do the bottom line, actual-solve-the-problem stuff, like sending the creatures back to their dimension, or re-3D-ifying flat objects; that's up to him, creating magic solutions without any explanation whatsoever.  (That's a bit annoying, to be honest.)  But she does figure out how to fix the TARDIS, and when it's about to get hit by a train, it's Clara who has the bright idea about how to save it.  Later, she's determined to make the Doctor admit that she makes a good Doctor as well, and he does.

Now, they're not really overstepping the mark here – this is all within the realm of stuff Clara has learned, and Jenna Coleman is at her most watchable and fun doing it.  It's great fun to put her in this situation.  But it does tiptoe close enough to "problematic" to make me... nervous.  She's not the Doctor.  If she can be, and if anyone can be with the right accoutrements and tone of voice, then we don't actually need him any more, and that's a big fat Red Alert! for Doctor Who.  I know the people making it think Clara is awesome sauce, just like they did with River Song, and they may be right, but I hope they keep that in perspective.

I'm heading for the wobbliest bit of the episode, so I might as well get it over with: right at the end, the Doctor tells Clara that "being good" had nothing to do with being the Doctor.  Maybe it's just me, but this felt like he hasn't learned much after all.  "Being good" is one of the Doctor's primary motivators.  Didn't he just say he was "the man who stops the monsters", and that he's there to protect everyone?  (Copyright: The Christmas Invasion.)  What is that, exactly, if not a big slab of Being A Good Person?  Okay, so Clara is currently better at being "good" than he is, such as refusing to let a person sacrifice his life when there could be another way to achieve his goal, or taking an interest in people.  It's part of the "thing" they're doing this year – is the Doctor "good", or isn't he?  But since that's a yes, in great big neon capital letters of obvious, I wish they'd just let it go.  Especially in an episode where he seems to be learning in the exact opposite direction.  See also, his knee-jerk response to Danny's phone-call.  "Is that PE?  Go and talk to soldier boy."  Oh FFS, are we still on this?  Moments after he speaks to a horrible old man who doesn't have enough respect for others?  It's characterisation whiplash.  Annoying, annoying, annoying.

Also annoying?  A recurring trend in Series Eight where the Doctor realises something a while into the episode that's already completely obvious.  "We've found the missing people!  They're on the walls!"  Wow, what a totally amazing deduction 20 minutes in.  However, eagle-eyed (or simply awake) viewers will have figured this out before the opening credits.  See also, the enormous blow-up of some human skin, that isn't a picture of the desert at all.  Well, yeah, since it looks like human skin, and not like a desert.  Huh?

Scroll up... yes, I definitely said I loved this episode.  Looking at the rest of it, then, and not the ending, or the questionable deductions, or the Doctor's magic solutions: yep!  Loved it.  The monsters are terrifying, but even better, interesting.  (At least in practise.  Okay, fine, in the end they're boringly out to kill all humans and their powers evolve at the speed of contrivance.  But I liked the overall idea.)  The Doctor is on really great form.  Clara, well, I may question the level of Doctorliness she's packing at the moment, in terms of what ominous direction it could take us in, but she's certainly fun to watch.  If it wasn't for her, we might not have the Doctor's Addams Family-esque escape route, which is simply one of the most delightful moments in Doctor Who, ever.  (As is his little victory dance afterwards.)

In the end, they can't resist raining on the parade (and oh look, another arc hint – nope, still don't care), and apparently, neither can I.  But Flatline is still enormously entertaining and at its best, satisfying.  There's enough good to outweigh the bad, which okay, fine, is also still there.  Damn it!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Last Train

Doctor Who
Mummy On The Orient Express
Series Eight, Episode Eight

Well, you knew this day would come.  After twenty episodes, including the one where she was a random Victorian, Clara is finally leaving the TARDIS.  Chin up.  Remember to wave.

Just kidding, obviously.  Did anyone really think this was a possibility?  Episode eight of twelve isn't the time to pull that dramatic cracker and you know it, but they give it a go anyway, sending Clara on her "last hoorah" with the Doctor.  Few but the very young (or the very dizzy) will be on the edge of their seats wondering if she'll stay or go.  This story, really, is about what will happen to convince her to carry on.

"Clara, don't go.  Who'll wear all those outfits?"
Several years after a throwaway joke in Series Five, the Doctor is finally aboard the Orient Express... in space.  After flipping her lid in last week's episode, Clara comes along too, one last time.  There's a funereal atmosphere between them.  Clara is happy/sad.  The Doctor isn't sure whether to engage with her.  He wants her to be happy, and she's not sure if she wants to go.  It's an emotionally fraught (and therefore, quite interesting) one for both of them.

Peter Capaldi continues to walk a fine line between emoting and maintaining an alien distance.  Is he more concerned with gathering information than saving the lives of his information-gatherers?  Broadly speaking, yes – he's looking at the bigger picture, stopping the killings overall.  He's not worried about the little stuff, like getting upset about it, because He's Not Like Us.  Fair enough.  He also says that "people with guns to their heads don't have time to mourn", but it doesn't seem to me like he'll be doing that at any point.

Right now, fantastic as he is – and he's so good I can gladly watch him talk to himself – it's hard to imagine putting Capaldi on my Favourite Doctors list.  He tacitly admits to being heartless at the end, which fits the "alien" thing he's going for, but there are times when his attitude to problem-solving veers closer to Steven Moffat's amoral Sherlock Holmes than the Doctor.  But we're not quite there yet, thanks to moments like going to wake up Clara, struggling with the idea because it's not what she wants, then deciding not to.  He's not going to stop her leaving if that's what she really wants, and he's genuinely pleased when she wants to stay.  He's also motivated to do the right thing – he might not be upset about a death occurring now, because he can't stop it, but he's driven to prevent the next one.  So there is a heart underneath after all.  (Two, in fact.)

Plus, after casually ordering Clara to bring a soon-to-die passenger somewhere she'll be of more use, he surprises everyone and takes her place.  Chivalry isn't all there is to it – he's convinced he'll do a better job in her place, and he's impatient to get the problem solved.  But heroism is heroism, and that, thankfully, is What The Doctor Would Do.  I get the whole disassociated-alien thing they're ramming home week after week, but I do like to glimpse the old heroic bit as well.  You know, the uh... Doctor bit.

As for Clara, her journey is mostly based on what happened in Kill The Moon, and a week has done little to dull that muddle.  She's ending it because the Doctor left an important decision up to her and the rest of humanity.  Sorry to repeat myself, but to me that seems an odd reason to hate him, and piling emotional fallout on top of it is rather like building on sand.  She spends the episode mulling it over, and calling Danny for moral support (as their relationship is making great strides, most of them sadly off-screen), but she just seems a bit fuzzy-headed here, which is frustrating as it leaves Jenna Coleman without much to sink her teeth into.  (Frankly, this isn't one of her stronger performances.  That super-excited-high-five ending, with the TARDIS charging off into the unknown, could be copy-and-pasted from any other companion.)

Last week's dramatic flounce makes less sense as the episode progresses.  Several people, including Danny, point out that she clearly doesn't hate the Doctor, so what's the big deal, eh?  After this, and seeing the good in the Doctor's actions, she plumps for carrying on.  It's probably just me, but it still feels a little like a coin toss on her part.  Oh well, glad it's over.

"Doctor, we're trapped!"
"Clara, bring your friend here, now!"
"Okay, sure!"
*isn't trapped any more*
But wait, there's more: falsely saying that Danny's okay with it and that it was his idea for her to leave in the first place, she inadvertently dooms her relationship with him in the process.  That's an ominous note to end on, craftily mixed with the same "Show me the planets!" enthusiasm you get when a new companion joins.  Talk about bittersweet.  I'm interested in where it will go, although it might resonate further if I'd seen more of Clara and Danny together, and better understood their attraction.  Fair enough if she's happy to throw away his terms and conditions (it was bossy and weird laying down rules in the first place), but if so, was she really that keen on him to start with?

Yeah yeah, character development's all well and good, but what about the monster?  Well, the mummy is an unnerving addition to the Doctor Who pantheon.  It looks scary (if a bit standard, all bandages and rotting teeth), and the gimmick – see it and you've got 66 seconds to live – is very neatly worked out.  (The director gets loads out of it.)  As for the plot, er, not so much.

The train is crammed with experts, gathered expressly to investigate the mummy.  When the Doctor figures this out (25 minutes in), the Orient Express transforms into a lab, losing its holographic passengers in the process.  You've got to wonder, once they're aboard, what's the point pretending they're on a pleasure jaunt?  How many of them will die before they get any work done?  No wonder several trains full of people have already died without results; whoever's organising this must be completely insane.  (I'm hoping that's an arc plot, like the yet-another-soldier-reference, since the Doctor doesn't rush off at the end to find the people responsible.)

Once they're on the case, the "experts" aren't much use.  The Doctor mostly chats with the chief engineer, played with enjoyable archness by Frank Skinner, but all the actual geniuses seem strangely mute.  The solution comes only when the Doctor faces the mummy, and talks until he stumbles on the answer.  Holmesian it isn't; possibly because the episode spends 25 minutes on the wrong track, there isn't time to piece it together at the end, so it feels like a lucky guess.  Jamie Mathieson is another new writer for Doctor Who (yay!), and he provides plenty of great dialogue, especially for the Doctor, but the structure is definitely a bit askew.  There's a feeling of the writer figuring it out as he goes (Oh, it's a lab!  Oh, the mummy's a soldier!  Oh, surrendering makes it go away!) rather than having it laid out from the start.  The final leg of the adventure, i.e. getting off the train and rescuing everybody, is dumped on us via epilogue.  Another casualty of the false start, perhaps?  The scene in question, with the Doctor laying out his not-entirely-amoral plan, is scintillating, so I don't mind.  Capaldi is, in general, a bit of a rockstar here.

I liked Mummy On The Orient Express more than recent episodes.  It has a monster defined by strict rules, which for once don't get compromised.  It's exciting in short bursts, though overall it does wobble a bit.  The solution is a bit flat, especially when the Doctor's supposed to have a massive thing about hating soldiers, which strangely doesn't warrant a mention here.  The guest cast are a delight to watch, as ever, although a surprisingly high percentage of them die.  (Mind you, with the "Heaven" arc, maybe none of them do?)

Most importantly, the Doctor and Clara put most of their awkwardness behind them, which is a relief, although they immediately set a course for more.  It feels like a middle-of-the-series, taking-stock kind of episode in that sense; one to revisit later, when the dust has settled.  Until then, I had a good time watching it.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's Only An Eggy Moon

Doctor Who
Kill The Moon
Series Eight, Episode Seven

There's a simple test to see if you'll like the latest Doctor Who episode, Kill The Moon.  Are you ready?  Listen to these four words.

The moon's an egg.

If you just winced, or made pantomime vomit motions with your fingers, Kill The Moon is going to annoy you.  Of course there's more to it, some of it just as contentious as the egg thing, but there will be a portion of viewers who just won't get past the whimsypoo.

Oh my god, New Writer!
I forgot those were a thing!
Now, Doctor Who has had some pretty wacky ideas about planets in the past.  We've had the Earth forming around a spider's spaceship; Earth having a long-lost twin planet; the arrival of the moon sending a race of lizard people (who were here before us) into panicked hibernation.  Suspension Of Disbelief is in the rules, and always has been.  But the moon as an egg?  I dunno: for me, that's a bit of a stretch, sci-fi bordering on fantasy.  While we're on the subject, this ain't one for the scientists in the audience, although it does sometimes try to be.  Kill The Moon hops light-footedly between asking exactly the sort of common-sense questions I want answered, and trading in the laws of the universe for gumdrops and rainbows.  It's one of those episodes where you find out your own personal tolerance for flim-flam.

It begins at full pelt, which is what I like to see.  Clara and co. are already on the moon, sending an appeal to Earth.  Should they kill a massive potentially-dangerous life-form, or let it live and brave the consequences?  We have 45 minutes to decide.  For a moment I thought we were in for a countdown episode, like the similarly futuristic (and, y'know, rubbish) 42.  Turns out we are not – it's just one of those begin-at-the-end-then-cut-back-to-the-start openings they do in movies when the opening isn't strong enough.  But one thing's for sure: this is an Impossible Choice episode.  And those make me distinctly nervous, because Doctor Who isn't very good at them.  (It's usually a case of, Dramatic Option A, or Dramatic Option B?  I know: Hitherto Unmentioned Option C!)

The moon is cracking apart.  When the thing inside hatches, it will send chunks of moon smashing into the Earth, not to mention the chaos that might be unleashed by the newborn creature.  Plus, no moon = disaster in general.  On the other hand, the creature might be benevolent.  Chunks of moon might not smash into the Earth.  And maybe we'll be all right without a moon?

Hmm.  The case Against is noticeably flimsier than the case For, which is probably why humanity votes to Do What The Title Says.  (Although how blowing up a mega-fetus with 100 nuclear bombs is going to avoid a shower of moon chunks, especially with only seconds to spare from it hatching, is a bit of a grey area.)  The voting thing sounds great, but doesn't quite work in practice.  People on Earth don't have all the facts, only the people who hear Clara's message will vote, and then only the people facing the moon.  It could be 50/50 and she wouldn't know.  In any case, they seem to vote No, and Clara decides to ignore them.  Fortunately, all is well.  The thing hatches, the moon chunks disintegrate.  We even get to have our cake and eat it, because the thing lays another egg, of – one presumes – roughly the same mass as the original one.  Everything's tidied up, with humanity spurred on to explore the stars into the bargain.  How lovely.

Except for all the bollocks.  The moon chunks disintegrate because, says Clara, "The moon isn't made of rock and stone, is it?  It's made of egg-shell!"  Er, no, it's made of egg-shell that's made of rock and stone.  It's an egg, but not a chicken's egg.  The moon is definitely rock!  People have stood on it!  So it's a stupendously lucky break that we didn't get flattened after all.  Plus we've got a new moon – which is an even bigger bag of bollocks, because something can't possibly contain something that's bigger than itself.  (With the honourable exception of TARDISes, which have consistency with the laws of Doctor Who, and even the occasional explanation.)  If Moon 2.0 isn't roughly the same size, or isn't on quite the same orbit, humanity's surely looking at a whole new host of problems.  As for Clara's natty observation earlier on – that nobody in the future ever mentions how the moon turned out to be a bloody great egg, hatched, and got replaced by another one – that still stands.  Are all moons secretly eggs?  Who's laying them, if this life-form is (as the Doctor suspects) the only one in the universe?

Is it a Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice thing?
For me, it stops being analogous when there are chunks of moon
threatening to crush all life on Earth.  I'm thinking: Unintended Subtext.
Like I said, it's down to your own personal tolerance for flim-flam.  You're meant to find it heartening and sweet that Clara voted Yes, and that humanity is inspired to explore space, after all that post-vote awkwardness.  It helps to bear in mind that this is a future where we've given up on space exploration and alien life for some reason; assuming you can get your head around how and why, given the constant arrival of aliens in Doctor Who's version of Earth, it is sort of nice to set humanity back on the right path.  Also intended to make you smile: the moon isn't what you thought it was.  I'm in Camp Thinks It's Bollocks But Can Understand Why Some People Think It's Sweet.  It is a grumpy place.

There's more to the episode than the Impossible Choice That Kind Of Takes Care Of Itself, i.e. the setup.  It takes a while for the characters to figure out what's going on, although the opening teaser, the episode title and an early scene where the Doctor describes a sizeable creature as "bacteria" do sort of give it away.  The setup is all fairly standard Scary Space Station: astronauts are sent to investigate the troubled moon, only to find gravity, cobwebs and corpses.  The gravity is one of the sciencey bits I'm glad somebody brought up – and it's a major plot-point.  The cobwebs are the work of the "bacteria", aka giant spiders that eat intruders.  (I'm not sure that's what bacteria would look like on a larger scale, but Suspension Of Disbelief...)  It's all suitably creepy, though it gets totally defanged once the Impossible You-Know-What shows up.  The spiders just cease to be important, and obviously the tone warps away from Planet Scary before the end.  It's fun while it lasts.

It's also fun to watch Peter Capaldi investigate things, with his now traditional lack of giving two hoots about anybody else.  He does at least try to rescue Courtney (the disruptive schoolgirl from last week's episode), though it's still up to her to save her own skin.  There's a hilarious bit where he suggests the astronauts shoot Courtney and Clara before himself, which is more about making them think again rather than employing a couple of human shields.  He's crotchety, funny, and has a glinty-eyed glee at the discovery of new life.  All very right, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, I've had some trouble enjoying Capaldi's take on the character this year; he's often rude in a way that suggests he's a horrible person, rather than a non-human one, and we've got a dozen-or-so previous Doctors for context.  But he is, mostly, quite Doctorly in this one.  I don't, for example, have any problem with him leaving Clara and co. to decide the fate of the moon.  It's not the first time he's left Earth's history up to the humans, whether it's deciding if they can co-exist with lizard people, or letting history take its course because of Fixed Points.  His choice of phrase, "time to take the training wheels off your bike", is horribly patronising, but it's still a human decision, and it should be up to the humans to make it.  So Clara's dramatic meltdown at the Doctor over this is, I think, rather uncalled for.  Leaving them in danger (with the moon collapsing, spiders approaching, suicide a possibility) is a bit of a bastardly thing to do.  But leaving the decision up to humanity, and up to Clara, isn't.  And that's mostly the bit she's mad at.  Kill The Moon's brutal, emotional climax – those two falling out – is sadly a bit of a muddle.

"But... you can't leave.  It's not the finale yet."
Where the Doctor isn't to my liking this week is simple: Courtney.  The reason she's on-board the TARDIS is to make up for the Doctor telling her she's not special, and sorry, but that's go-to-the-back-of-the-class bollocks where the Doctor is concerned.  The Doctor thinks people are special.  He's interested in, and cares about, humans.  He doesn't think we're insignificant, and he doesn't think our lives are meaningless if we haven't been to the moon.  That's not seeing the Doctor from a new angle, that's wrong.  There are recent examples of him saying the exact opposite – saying he's never met anyone who wasn't important in A Christmas Carol, explaining how each life is precious in The Rings Of Akhaten – and yes, Matt Smith counts as him, since it's all the same ruddy Time Lord.  It's one thing to make him grumpy, or even a bit of a misanthrope, but actual contempt for the qualities of individual people is not the Doctor.  Take it away.

So, the Doctor is a mix of the very good and the very wrong.  Clara's... fine, although Jenna Coleman's cry acting isn't her greatest strength, and it's odd that she's chosen now to throw a tantrum and pack her bags.  Here's a bit you probably didn't see coming: I quite like Courtney.  She's not actually necessary to the story (apart from carrying some handy anti-bacterial spray), and it's bizarre to gain a new companion on such a whim, but at least she's not obnoxious like the last couple of TARDIS kids.  Her delivery of several lines, especially "Night night", made me laugh.  The astronauts are overly whimsical and pretty much just fodder, with Hermione Norris doing the requisite arguing-with-the-Doctor bit; it's not a great role because most of the decision making falls on the Earth and then on Clara.  Adelaide Brooke she ain't, but at least when she challenges the Doctor's authority, she prompts Capaldi's hilarious retort: "You say run, then!"

Kill The Moon is an Impossible Choice episode, and the Impossible Choice is always the most important bit.  And it's not that well handled.  Not enough seems to be at stake, especially when you add all the bollocksy stuff about egg-shells and new moons.  As usual, the problem resolves itself, and the emotional fall-out doesn't make total sense.  But there are times when it feels like it's got its head screwed on (Clara continually asking questions), and times when it does something drastic that's actually in keeping with Doctor Who (him leaving us to it).  It feels like the most consistent episode of Doctor Who for a while, even if it has an annoyingly consistent supply of damp squibs.