Narratively, it saw the Doctor take Coal Hill School student Courtney Woods on a trip to the Moon following her discovery of his true nature in the previous episode. It also revealed the true nature of the Earth's natural satellite, which had been a fixture of many previous stories.
It revisited the Earth's environmentally disastrous mid-21st century as well as the concept of time in flux, with the Doctor choosing to take a step back and leaving the future in the hands of his human company, a choice that would lead to a severe divide between him and Clara.
The concept behind the episode came to writer Peter Harness in 2011, so initially, it was written for Matt Smith. Harness expressed a belief that the script suited Peter Capaldi more with the Doctor-Clara dynamic playing out better. (DWM 478)
In Coal Hill School, Clara tells the Doctor that her troublesome student Courtney Woods has become worse thanks to meeting him. She's even stolen his psychic paper; the Doctor wonders if it's to get into museums. However, Clara tells him Courtney has been using it to get into clubs. And all of this started when the Doctor told her that she wasn't special; it's very damaging to a teenager's psyche.
Entering the TARDIS, Courtney's already there and has bought travel sickness bracelets in preparation for her travels, which Clara tells her won't happen. After much pestering, the Doctor offers to let Courtney be the first woman on the Moon. When asked if it would make her feel special enough, Courtney excitedly tells him yes.
The TARDIS arrives in the cargo bay on a space shuttle, with the trio exiting in spacesuits. Courtney is not pleased; however, the Doctor notes from the window that they are on their way to the Moon, so he didn't go too far off course. He examines the cargo, explaining the objects around them are nuclear bombs, about to arrive on the lunar surface in 2049.
Three astronauts, Lundvik, Duke and Henry discover them, and, introducing himself as an intelligent and benevolent alien, the Doctor asks if they will still shoot them, but Lundvik says no. The Doctor is glad to hear it, and asks what is wrong the yo-yo he is playing with; Clara tells him it goes up and down, prompting him to congratulate her. The gravity on the moon has likely increased; they should all be floating around the room. Lundvik explains the Moon has put on weight, and it's causing havoc on Earth.
The shuttle lands, and everyone dons their helmets. Courtney exits first, reciting rather poorly Neil Armstrong's speech. Lundvik explains that Mexicans were previously sent to investigate the possibility of minerals on the Moon, but all that was sent back were screams over the radio. The Doctor wonders if they are a rescue team, prompting Lundvik to reveal that this happened years ago; humanity lost its interest in going into space. Even the shuttle had to be put back together from being a museum ride. Her two companions are "third-rate" astronauts.
They find the mining base, and enter; the Doctor tells them that oxygen is still in there, so they can take off their helmets to conserve their suits' supply. However, they soon discover the corpses of the crew preserved in webs and research photos showing deformed landmasses; the Moon is disintegrating.
Henry investigates a cave outside the base and is killed by a large spider, another of which then enters the base and begins menacing the Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik, and kills Duke. Courtney kills it with a detergent and the Doctor works-out that they're germs. Courtney asks to return home out of fear.
Courtney is taken back to the TARDIS, and Clara tells the Doctor she knows the Moon isn't destroyed, having seen it above Earth in the future, but the Doctor's open to the possibility of it being a hologram or something similar. The events happening on the moonbase are a fluxed point in time — he doesn't know what happens, so the moon could be destroyed, affecting humanity's future.
Going to analyse one of the crevices caused by the corrosion, the Doctor, Clara and Lundvik find Henry's corpse, where they are attacked by another spider, which is repelled by the deterring effects of sunlight. The Doctor jumps down the crevice to gather a sample. The Moon shakes and sheds more of itself.
Based on the seismic activity and the amniotic fluid the Doctor finds, he determines that the Moon is actually an egg and, after growing for millions of years, it is now hatching. Lundvik wants to know how to kill the creature inside the egg. The Doctor puts her plan in context — to blow up a new creature with nuclear bombs, something they'll have to explain to their descendants. Lundvik reasons that the Moon's disintegration is causing catastrophic weather effects on Earth, and needs to be destroyed to save the world. Not being from Earth or the Moon, the Doctor chooses not to interfere, insisting that only humans can decide the future of their planet. Courtney wants to return to be a part of the debate, and the Doctor instructs her over her phone how to bring the TARDIS to them. As soon as she does so, the Doctor departs — leaving only Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to make the choice.
Clara thinks they should take the risk, and deal with any possible consequences if/when they happen. Lundvik has only humanity's interests in mind and is prepared to kill the creature to stop the destruction. She activates a timer, after which, she'll detonate the bombs. Ground Control speaks to them over a screen, informing them that Earth's situation is "pretty bad". Clara broadcasts to Earth over the screen, telling them to give their vote. Turning their lights off votes "kill" and keeping their lights on votes "don't kill".
After the timer has elapsed, Earth has voted "kill". Lundvik primes the detonator, but Clara intercepts at the last second and overrides the command, just as the Doctor returns.
Returning to Earth, the Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik watch from a beach as the Moon disintegrates in space, while the massive butterfly-like creature that hatched from it flies away — but not before it lays an egg, which has become a replacement Moon. The Doctor tells Lundvik that humanity from this point spreads into space, enduring to the end of the Universe because they chose not to kill. Courtney realises how special she now is, being one of the three people to allow Humankind to continue. Lundvik is left to make her own way back to NASA.
The Doctor takes Courtney back to Coal Hill School, with her now happy to have had an important moment in her life. The Doctor prepares to take off on another adventure with Clara, but she parks the TARDIS, stopping him. She demands to know what the Doctor knew. The Doctor says he knew nothing, but Clara demands a truthful answer, threatening she'll smack him so hard he'll regenerate.
The Doctor explains that he knew the egg was harmless, but it wasn't his place to choose the fate of humanity. Clara expresses her anger at him for leaving them behind on the Moon, and becomes tearful, then even angrier when the Doctor gives patronising responses to her feelings. The Doctor tries to make it up to her, but Clara is too furious to listen. She tells him that she never wants to see him again and ends their friendship, leaving the Doctor all alone.
Clara storms out of the TARDIS, which then dematerialises. Danny finds her in her classroom, and as he comforts her, she recounts the story to him. Danny tells Clara that her relationship with the Doctor isn't over, because he can still make her angry. Clara asks him how he became so wise, and he tells her that he had a "really bad day".
Returning home, Clara goes into the kitchen and pours herself a glass of red wine. She then gazes out of her window at the Moon.
- The Doctor - Peter Capaldi
- Clara - Jenna Coleman
- Danny - Samuel Anderson
- Courtney Woods - Ellis George
- Lundvik - Hermione Norris
- Duke - Tony Osoba
- Henry - Phil Nice
- McKean - Christopher Dane
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin|
|Director of Photography
BBC Wales VFX
Andy Pryor CDG
Original theme music by Ron Grainer • With thanks to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sur-Film Production & Services S.L., Timanfaya National Park • Conducted and orchestrated by Ben Foster • Recorded by Gerry O'Riordan • Mixed by Jake Jackson
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- Locations on the first Moon are the Mare Fecunditatis, the Sea of Tranquility, the Sea of Nectar, the Sea of Ingenuity and the Sea of Crises.
- Prior to 2039, Minera Luna San Pedro was established to search for minerals.
- The Moon's egg weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
Cultural references from the real world
- Clara had given a lesson about Charles Dickens and David Copperfield at Coal Hill School before she and Courtney travelled to the Moon.
- Courtney has a Tumblr account, from where she uploads pictures she's taken during her trip. Lundvik says that her grandmother had a Tumblr.
- This episode's original broadcast was followed by a teaser for the second series of fellow BBC Saturday night drama, Atlantis, confirming that it would premiere on 15 November, the week following the Series 8 finale of Doctor Who. Atlantis' first episode, The Earth Bull, was bookended by the initial stings promoting The Day of the Doctor.
- During the writing process, showrunner Steven Moffat told writer Peter Harness to "Hinchcliffe the s** t out of it", in particular, the first half of the episode. (DWM 478) This referred to the period when Philip Hinchcliffe was the series producer (1975-77), which is remembered by fans as especially frightening.
- 6.91 million (DWM 480)
Myths and Rumours
- The Doctor will return to Sarn. The was speculation following the announcement that series 8 would film in Lanzarote, which was the same country used to represent Sarn in Planet of Fire. Lanzarote instead doubles as the surface of the Moon.
to be added
- The Doctor refers to his regeneration cycle. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
- The Doctor says "When I say 'run', run", a saying favoured by his second incarnation. (TV: The Power of the Daleks et al.)
- The Doctor previously propounded upon the life-producing qualities of amniotic fluid in his fourth incarnation. (TV: City of Death)
- Earth of the mid-21st century is worse for wear environmentally compared to the start of the century. (TV: The Waters of Mars, Aeolian)
- This is not the first time the Doctor has faced a terrible choice about millions of innocent humans or an innocent alien lifeform. (TV: The Beast Below)
- The Seventh Doctor previously encountered the Process, another creature that hatched from an egg resembling a moon. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible)
- The Doctor deliberately chooses to take a step back in the face of a potentially apocalyptic event, leaving humanity to choose the future. The Ninth Doctor initially took a similar approach upon witnessing what appeared to be humanity's first contact with alien life. (TV: Aliens of London)
- The Doctor previously used a yo-yo to assess the gravity in his fourth incarnation. (TV: The Ark in Space)
- The Doctor spies a prototype version of the Bennett oscillator, using it to deduce that the year is 2049. He has previously indicated that a modified version of the Bennett oscillator was from the late 29th to early 30th century. (TV: The Ark in Space)
- Clara mentions the previous time the TARDIS disappeared and the Doctor said it would "turn up". (TV: Cold War)
- When Clara is asked if she has loved ones on Earth, Courtney suggestively teases "Mr Pink," referring to her knowledge of Clara's relationship with Danny Pink. (TV: The Caretaker)
- Lundvik likens the chunks of falling rock from the moon to "whatever killed the dinosaurs". What killed the dinosaurs was, in fact, a freighter from the 26th century, which had been warped back in time 65 million years before crashing into the Earth. (TV: Earthshock)
- The Doctor tells Courtney where to find a pile of DVDs in the TARDIS, and that putting one into the console will bring the TARDIS to him. He also states that if Courtney doesn't hold onto the TARDIS console, it will leave her behind. (TV: Blink)
- Humanity had lost interest in space travel by the middle of the 21st century. (TV: The Seeds of Death)
- Danny understands the Doctor "pushed Clara too far", as he said the army did with him. (TV: The Caretaker)
- The Doctor tells people to watch their language after using the word "bloody", including his companion. The Tenth Doctor told Wilfred Mott not to swear when he said this word in front of him. (TV: The End of Time) In the U.K., the word is considered a mild profanity; in other countries including the U.S. and Canada, however, it is not.
- The Tenth Doctor previously intended to take Rose Tyler to the Moon so that she could become the first woman to step on its surface. (PROSE: I Am a Dalek)
- The Doctor says he's "never killed Hitler". (TV: Let's Kill Hitler)
Home video releases
DVD and Blu-ray releases
- This story was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Doctor Who: Series 8 Boxset.
- The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
to be added