At the end of last week's episode, I felt the showrunners had begun to set up Clara's departure from the show. This episode only cemented those feelings, and left me more than a little heartbroken about it. This episode reawakened feelings I had after the Series 8 premiere, where I felt Clara had faith in the Doctor, but didn't particularly trust him. After this episode, I think both of these things may be a little shaky.
The episode begins with Clara, on the moon in the year 2049, making an announcement to the people of Earth. She's telling them that they (we don't yet know who "they" are however), have to make a decision, and that the person who normally helps with these types of decisions has disappeared and Clara doesn't think he is coming back. Ok, so now we know that the Doctor is going to leave Clara at some point during this episode. (Of course, I begin thinking that he has left her to go find a solution as that would not be the first time the Doctor has straight up peaced out during some major incident, only to return in the nick of time). Clara explains to the people of Earth that that a decision between an innocent life and all of mankind needs to be made. We then see Clara is with Courtney, the student from last week's episode who hopped on board the TARDIS with the Doctor for a second. I should have know she would make an appearance again.
After the opening sequence, the Doctor and and Clara are walking through the halls of Clara's school. Clara is explaining to the Doctor that her student, Courtney, is going crazy after her mini-adventure with the Doctor. She's taken the Doctor's psychic paper and is using it to buy alcohol pops and other things that require identification. Clara is upset that the Doctor told Courtney she wasn't special, and Clara believes this is the reason Courtney is acting out. The Doctor is unapologetic and doesn't believe his comment could have created such an impact. Clara implores to the Doctor that someone like him making a comment can really affect a person's psyche. The Doctor enters the TARDIS, and there's Courtney, sitting there, waiting to go on another adventure with the Doctor. She's come prepared this time with travel sickness medication. The Doctor absolutely refuses, saying no vomiting and no hanky-panky are allowed in the TARDIS. Clara keeps trying to get the Doctor to tell Courtney that she is special, but he keeps refusing. Courtney is upset that the Doctor doesn't think she's special, it's really messed her up. The Doctor finally seems to feel guilty so he offers to take her so she's the first woman on the moon. AND WE'RE OFF!
So now Clara, the Doctor, and Courtney are in space suits in a "recycled space shuttle," and there's gravity present which is confusing the Doctor. He notices a bunch of nuclear bombs on this spaceship. The Doctor then looks out the window and realizes that they are in fact, on their WAY to the moon. So the spaceship lands, and the three astronauts show up, asking who the Doctor, Clara, and Courtney are. The Doctor offers for the woman astronaut (who the credits tell me is named Lundvik, but I swear they never once say her name during the episode) to kill Courtney first (rude), and warns that the she'll spend a lot of time shooting the Doctor as he'll just keep regenerating and regenerating. He also tells the astronauts he's a super-smart, time-traveling alien who can help them. (Interesting that Twelve doesn't hide his Time Lordness when Nine, Ten, and Eleven most certainly tried to do so.) While he's explaining this, he's doing a weird little dance which we find out he's doing to test for gravity. They should all be floating, and Lundvik says no one knows why this is happening. But then the Doctor says the moon has put on weight. Lundvik confirms the Doctor's suspicions that the change in the moon is resulting in chaos on Earth with the tides, causing cities to drown and deaths. She confirms they're there to bomb the moon.
The group off to explore the surface of the moon. And sure enough, Courtney is the first woman to be on the moon and embarrassingly butchers Neil Armstrong's quote. (Also, I've spotted 2 American flags and yet everyone is British. I know Lundvik mentioned that the spaceship was once in a museum, but still. You're telling me there were NO Americans willing to go? I'm calling B.S.) The group is walking, and we see an abandoned camp with cobwebs (weird cause spiders aren't supposed to be on the moon, right?), that was constructed by a Mexican research team. Lundvik explains it was a mining mission. She sends one of her men, Henry, back to activate the bombs. He doesn't seem to know what to do or how bombs work and expresses concern about the bombs going off straight away. Lundvik eases his worries by saying the bombs won't detonate until she "fiddles with this thing," the thing being the case she's carrying around. Cool - glad to see we have the most elite team helping out - someone who doesn't know how bombs work and someone who uses the word "fiddle" while referring to bomb detonation. This mission is going to go well.
Lundvik and and her remaining crew member explain that 10 years ago, the Mexican team was lost 10 years ago, and there was no space program really available to assist them. Then we hear Courtney scream. THIS IS WHY KIDS SHOULDN'T BE IN SPACE Y'ALL. There's an astronauts spacesuit with a dead body inside, and the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to figure out what happened. He jokes that something was trying to figure out how the man tasted, and the Doctor concludes apparently like chicken. Gross. One of the astronaut crew members, Duke, is able to to find the light and air, so the group can remove their helmets. The Doctor comes across the findings of the Mexican crew, and discovers they didn't find any minerals on the moon. He sees some pictures that show even more tectonic stress than anticipated. This means the moon is cracking apart.
We then see Henry, the astronaut sent to go activate the bombs, fall to the ground as a moonquake hits. He looks down a tunnel and is attacked by a creature. Cool.
We're then back in the Mexican camp, and we hear a similar sound to the creature that just attacked Henry. The Doctor begins looking for it, but the thing is running around like crazy. We see some spider looking thing (guess this is what's making the webs). The Doctor tells the group that the creature is sensing fast movement (how he knows this I don't know). He tells everyone to very slowly work their way to the other exit. As they're working their way out, Duke (the other crew member) shows up and the creature attacks and kills him. The door opens, and everyone makes it in EXCEPT Courtney. Of course. She reminds me of Dawn from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which is NOT a compliment. Then all of a sudden, Courtney is floating. WHAT?! Apparently there was no gravity for a few seconds? I don't understand this at all. The Doctor is able to use the sonic screwdriver to remove the window, and throws his yo-yo at Courtney as a type of life-line, but right as she grabs it, the gravity kicks in again, and she falls to the ground. As the creature thing goes to attack her, Courtney sprays it with household cleaner and kills it. Turns out the creatures are single-celled bacteria, and thus germy? I don't know, I'm not a scientist, but something seems off to me. Whatever.
Courtney tells Clara she's scared and she wants to go home, while Lundvik reminisces about Duke. Courtney apologizes to Clara and says she would like to go home. Clara tries to explain that it is dangerous, but the Doctor responds saying everything is dangerous and that living your life in fear of danger isn't a way to live. The Doctor puts her in the TARDIS to keep her safe. Clara is confused why they need to stay at all, she says she's been to the future and the moon is there. The Doctor tells Clara there are moments in time that he can't see. It's the moments where big things are decided and he can't tell what happens to the moon because it hasn't been decided yet. Grey moments. They are the ones who are going to decide. Lundvik tells Clara and the Doctor they are all the last chance, and Clara very reluctantly agrees.
ENTERING SAM'S THOUGHT CORNER: Ok, so here's where I have an issue. I feel that a lot of people may accuse the Doctor of being callous or cold here. BUT he was very concerned about saving Courtney's life. I struggle with this Doctor. There are times where he is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, but then there are times where there is nothing but worry and concern. He doesn't want people to die. At all. But I think this Doctor may be more practical, a little less idealistic, than previous incarnations. LEAVING SAM'S THOUGHT CORNER.
Clara, Lundvik, and the Doctor are back out on the moon's surface, and the Doctor says the moon is dying, and he needs to figure out why. The Doctor goes to a tunnel to try and find the creatures, and one jumps out to attack the Doctor. They're able to pull it off, and they look down in the crack and there are thousands of the creatures. The Doctor throws a yo-yo down and realizes there is amniotic fluid. He tells Clara and Lundvik to go prep the bombs and keep Courtney safe (See, HE DOES CARE!). Before he jumps down he tells Clara he'll be back. Lundvik questions if he actually will return, and Clara says that if the Doctor says he'll be back, then he will be, though there is exasperation in her voice. As Clara and Lundvik see the spaceship, it falls into a crack. The Doctor shows up then, and the three of them return to the abandoned Mexican camp.
The Doctor pulls Courtney up on a screen and then he begins to explain what is happening. I guess the fall wasn't that bad after all. It turns out the moon is an egg, and the creature is hatching and causing the break up of the moon. The bacteria spiders are just feeding off of the creature. The Doctor thinks the creature is the only one of its kind in the universe. Lundvik, entirely unimpressed, asks how to kill the creature. And you want to call the Doctor cold? The Doctor thinks its wrong to kill the creature, as do Clara and Courtney. It makes sense that the Doctor doesn't want to kill the creature, he is the only one of his species after all, but Clara and Courtney's resistance is interesting.
The Doctor gives Courtney instructions to get the TARDIS back to him. Clara asks the Doctor what they should do, but he says they don't do anything. He refuses to help, saying the Earth isn't his home. He says there are moments where that civilization's history is decided. He says it is Lundvik and Clara's decision, he can't make it for them. The Doctor says he never killed Hitler. Clara begs him not to make a point, but the Doctor insists its her choice. The TARDIS arrives, and before he gets on it to leave, he tells Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik some decisions are too important not to make on your own.
SAM'S THOUGHT CORNER, AGAIN: I know that a lot of viewers probably feel that this is where the Doctor is truly cold and uncaring. He claims the Earth isn't his planet (a fact Clara brings up later), and thus he has no say. However, we know the Doctor cares deeply for humans, at least Ten and Eleven did. But I don't think the Doctor is wrong here. Part of the Doctor's continuing philosophy is he can't and won't make huge decisions. This may not be a fixed point in time, but he can't always be there to save everything. It isn't his race. And I get it, he's carrying the guilt of destroying the Timelords and the Daleks. He's made that decision before, and it is not his place to do it again. This time it is Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik. Maybe I'm thinking of it too harshly, but it was Clara's decision to travel around with the Doctor, but sometimes, she is going to need to deal with the consequences of this decision. (And I love Clara and I think she's amazingly strong and tough.) EXITING SAM'S THOUGHT CORNER.
Lundvik decides she's going to detonate the bombs. Clara in the meantime wants to discuss what would happen if there was no moon. Lundvik tells Clara the chunks of the moon will destroy the Earth like the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs. The three debate more, but Courtney still has the belief the Doctor may return. Clara's faith is completely shaken. Lundvik is able to contact ground control, and here we are, with Clara asking the people of Earth for their vote. She explains everything, and tells the people if they think they should kill the creature, they should turn their lights off. And so as the countdown until detonation goes on, Clara and Courtney watch and see the lights of Earth turned off. Right as the bombs are about to detonate, Clara hits the abort button. And then the TARDIS appears, and the Doctor has the three women get on board.
The TARDIS lands on a beach in time to see the moon disintegrate ad the creature is being born. Clara asks if the Doctor knew what would happen. The Doctor says, "You made your decision. Humanity made it's choice," and Lundvik reminds him that they ignored humanity. Lundvik asks what happens next, and some Batman-esque music starts happening. The Doctor tells them that in the late 21st Century, humanity starts exploring space, and that humans endure until the end of time. He says that the birth of the creature caused humans to want to explore again. Courtney then notices that the creature laid a new moon egg. The Doctor then encourages Lundvik to thank someone, and that someone is Clara. SHE saved the day. SHE made the hard decision. He's trained her well, which reminds me of Danny's concerns at the end of the last episode.
They're back in Clara's time, and Clara is upset. She wants to know what the Doctor knew. The Doctor says he knew that creatures don't destroy their nests, and he had faith Clara would always make the right choice and he smiles at her. He's proud of her. She got to make this decision, and she got it right. But Clara isn't having it. She's so upset. Now the Doctor is worried. Of all the people in the universe, he doesn't want to upset Clara. He says he genuinely didn't know what was going to happen, he was trying to respect her and allow her to make her own choice. Clara says she almost messed up and that she was scared, and that her friend shouldn't do that to her. She reminds the Doctor that he walks among them and befriends humans, so he can help when they need it. But he stands by his decision and says he was helping by leaving. Clara is done, she tells him to leave and not to come back.
Clara is in her classroom, trying to deal with what just happened when Danny comes in. He sees it, the thing he was worried about, the Doctor pushing her too far. Clara tells him the story, and he says he's had the look before. He loved the Army until one day he didn't anymore. Clara claims she's done with the Doctor, but Danny says the Doctor can still make her angry, and you're not finished with anyone if they can still make you angry. He tells her when she is calm and can tell the Doctor she's done, then she'll actually be done. It's a sweet moment between the two of them. The episode ends with Clara returning home, and staring out her window at the moon, looking at the thing that caused her to question everything. What a reminder to carry around the rest of your life.
Concluding thoughts: I know a lot of "Doctor Who" fans are going to be extremely upset by this episode. They will feel that Twelve is a radically different Doctor than Ten and Eleven. Yes, he's different, but I really don't have a problem with him leaving the decision to Clara. The Doctor shouldn't be responsible for all of those decisions. I think he can provide them with the most information possible, but to make those decisions for humanity seems to be cheating a bit. But I think the more interesting thing to have happened is the idea that Clara's faith in the Doctor is fundamentally shaken. In the premiere she didn't trust the Doctor, but she believed in him. Through the next five or so episodes, that trust came back. But now, both her faith and her trust are gone. However, the Doctor believes in Clara, which I think is important. The companion-Doctor relationship has flipped a bit, and therefore will make Clara's inevitable departure that much more devastating for the Doctor. Strap in kids, I think this may be the most painful companion departure so far. (Sorry Rose!)