Clara is forced to decide between the life of an innocent or the fate of humanity, and the Doctor decides to bow out.

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Credit: Adrian Rogers/BBC America

For anyone feeling the episodes starring the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) have felt rather generic, this episode is for you. The Twelfth Doctor’s disinterest, callousness, and unsympathetic attitude toward everyone else becomes almost full-on sociopathic, something none of the other Doctors even came close to. It’s hard to believe that this episode was originally written for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. More than a few people have noted that they don’t like Twelve’s attitude compared to the previous doctors, in between all the praise Capaldi’s Doctor has been receiving in general. Those few are allowed to wear smug smiles on their faces for a while now. They’ve earned it.

In the cold open, Clara makes a plea to the planet about making a choice between an innocent life and the fate of humanity as a whole. It switches back to the start of this little snafu with Clara chastising the Doctor for telling already-troubled Courtney Woods that she is not special. They meet her in the TARDIS, where it seems that she has quite unceremoniously become a new companion. Both women argue with the Doctor about what he callously told Courtney until he relents and takes her to become the first woman on the moon. For some reason, that means going 40 years in the future instead of 240,000 miles up.

The trio find themselves aboard a shuttle loaded with nuclear bombs. The shuttle crew, naturally confused about three stowaways on their ship loaded with nukes, threaten the Doctor. Standard operating procedure for space crews, it seems. Despite being a situation which we’ve seen him in many times before, this Doctor’s reaction is surprisingly different. The Doctor basically welcomes the threat and instructs the captain to shoot Courtney first, since it would be traumatic for her to see her guardians to be gunned down first. Oh, and he’s also a super genius time-traveling alien who’s there to help so if they still want to shoot him, they can go right ahead. Of course, they don’t. We can’t even call it the Doctor calling their bluff either—he was just extremely confident. He also doesn’t seem to have any intention of hiding the fact that he’s a Time Lord like Ten and Eleven did in similar situations.

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The captain, Lundvik, fills the trio in on the situation: The moon has suddenly gained an extra 1.3 million metric tons—which is how it has normal Earth gravity—and is falling apart. It’s causing massive tidal waves on Earth, destroying cities, and killing millions, and its destruction threatens to destroy the planet. The group travel to an old Mexican research base whose astronauts went missing a decade ago. They find the base covered in cobwebs, so Lundvik sends her crewmate Henry back to activate the bombs. Henry seems to be more like an old man pulled out of a retirement home and suffering from dementia—the kind of character you’d usually find as a punch line. That he apparently doesn’t even know how to activate the nukes central to their mission only makes his inclusion more questionable. But, regardless, off he goes. The Doctor, seeing this, asks if he’s the best Earth could send and Lundvik claims “secondhand space shuttle, thirdhand astronaut.”

In the station the group finds the body of one of the Mexican astronauts, cocooned long ago in the cobwebs of some strange entity. They find the control room and get the lights, air, and systems working, and the Doctor finds that the Mexicans found the moon devoid of minerals, and that the moon is slowly beginning to crack apart due to tectonic stress. Another earthquake knocks out the lights and also knocks Henry—who has not made it back to the shuttle yet—off his feet somewhere far away. Somehow he hasn’t made it back in all this time, clearly demonstrating why you shouldn’t pull astronauts for world-saving missions from the old folks’ home. He peeks down a tunnel and immediately gets attacked by a creature.

Back at the Mexican station, Duke is off getting the power working. The others are confronted by one of the creatures responsible for the disaster at the Mexican base: some kind of space spider with red LED’s on its joints. The Doctor inexplicably deduces that its vision is based on movement and instructs everyone to move very slowly but Duke enters at the time, unaware, and is attacked by the creature. Everyone else tries to run away, but Courtney gets trapped in the room with the creature, which she dispatches with some bacterial cleaner that she brought along.

This causes the Doctor to realize that these laser space spiders are really germs—single-celled bacteria as he specifically identifies them. (Biologists, try to keep from throwing things at your screens.) Lundvik, Clara, and Courtney are all suitably freaked out by the attack and are going through emotional crises, but the Doctor’s callousness is out in full force—he becomes absolutely unsympathetic to their emotions. Clara is the emotional stronghold of the entire group; she holds it together against all the turmoil around her and an increasingly unsympathetic Doctor.

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They put Courtney in the TARDIS for her own safety and to calm her fears, and the Doctor explains to Clara that they can’t just leave due to the notion that the moon exists in the future so they’re unnecessary here. The Doctor explains that this is one of the gray areas in time that could change the future, making any future moon a replacement, or a hologram, or something else. The events of this moment will dictate the future.

The Doctor, Clara, and Lundvik go to the lunar surface to try to find the source of what’s killing the moon. They find a chasm which seems to be seeping amniotic fluid, which the Doctor promptly jumps into. Ed. Note: No detail was skipped in that last sentence. The impulsive and impatient Twelfth Doctor will literally jump into a chasm to see what’s there. But it’s okay, he somehow meets back up with the other two when their shuttle falls into a chasm, along with Courtney and the TARDIS. The three go back to the base where the Doctor pulls Courtney up on the video screen so that she can be part of the conversation (the TARDIS has survived much worse than a fall, ye of little suspension of disbelief).

At the station, the Doctor reveals what’s really going on: the moon is a gigantic egg. The cracks are happening because what looks like a dragon is hatching from the moon in what sounds like some kind of ancient myth come true. How it seems to have suddenly gained 1.3 million metric tons is still a mystery though. Faced with this information, Lundvik is all for blowing it up to save the planet. Clara and Courtney are surprisingly gung ho about not killing an innocent creature despite its existence killing a ton of people and throwing the world into chaos.

The Doctor promptly leaves, claiming “Some decisions are too important not to make on your own.” He calls the TARDIS back, kicks Courney out, and leaves the three women to decide what to do because he feels like he has no horse in this race. Not his planet, not his race, not his problem. And Clara is also a big girl now, so it’s all on her. No, really. That is what happens. The Doctor did that. This is sure to cause some pretty big outrage among Doctor Who fans since this is the complete opposite philosophy of pretty much every other incarnation of the character. Clara is, naturally, pretty damn upset about this. As she should be. It’s incredibly hard to believe this was supposed to be an Eleventh Doctor episode considering he does the complete opposite of this when it came to the Space Whale.

And thus we get the cold open of the show. Clara gives the world 45 minutes, the point at which the dragon will hatch, to decide whether to kill the creature or kill themselves. Unsurprisingly, the world quickly chooses to kill the creature since, you know, one life vs. a few billion lives and utilitarianism is a pretty hard philosophy to argue with sometimes. But, at the last second, Clara saves the creature, thus dooming all of humanity. The Doctor reappears and brings the three women back into the TARDIS.

NEXT: The Doctor debriefs before his dressing down

On Earth, the Doctor shows them the dragon hatching in the sky. Contrary to what was previously established, the egg does not break apart and begin falling onto the planet. It instead disintegrates harmlessly as the dragon is born and flies away, something which the Doctor has apparently known would happen all along. The Doctor reveals that this marks the point in history when humanity takes to the stars to discover all its wonders after finally seeing something “it didn’t want to destroy.” The Twelfth Doctor really does not seem to have a very high opinion of humanity in this episode. He sounds downright judgmental about it. But, hey, he at least gives Courtney some reason to feel special about it. And, at some point during his speech, a new egg moon got laid to rest for another few million years. So there’s still a moon and, apparently, always will be as these dragons are birthed.

After the Doctor and Clara drop off Courtney, Clara explodes at the Doctor. She is utterly sick of his nonsense in this recent adventure. His entire attitude, his actions, his demeanor, his attitude regarding humanity, and all the things he did to everyone else—Clara can’t hold it in at all anymore and explodes in anger at him. The Doctor, for the first time in a long time, is utterly speechless. He tries to excuse what he did as being some kind of tough fatherly love but Clara isn’t hearing any of it. She tells the Doctor to go away as she leaves the TARDIS. Throughout Doctor Who history, other companions have become upset or angry at the Doctor, but not like this. In her classroom, Danny comes to meet her. He sees in her face that the Doctor has pushed her past the breaking point and he understands completely, inferring that it’s the same reason he left the army. Clara restates that she is finished with the Doctor because of how angry she is, but Danny wisely notes that she’s only truly going to be done when he can’t make her angry anymore.

And, really, it’s hard not to side with Clara on this one. Not only did the Doctor say some pretty bad things about humanity, but he also threw Clara into the deep end of a huge moral choice with false information. He basically put her through some intense trauma for what basically amounted to little reason at all. It was a huge step beyond the callous but amusing nature we’ve seen in the episodes leading up to this. For the first time ever, the Doctor was the antagonist all along and Clara is understandably furious with him. While the core story of the episode may have been haphazard and shaky, the characterization between Clara and the Doctor is sure to have some serious consequences for the rest of the season.

Episode Recaps

The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER)
Doctor Who
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