‘Doctor Who’ On The Moon: A History

The Doctor in 'Kill the Moon' (Pic: BBC)

The Doctor in ‘Kill the Moon’ (Pic: BBC)

You can’t blame the writers of Doctor Who for seeking inspiration from Earth’s moon from time to time. Frankly, when the entire universe—now and always—is your playpen for making up dramas, you’re going to occasionally cast about you for inspiration, seizing upon anything you can see and starting from there. We’re just lucky no one has seriously pitched an alien race that looks like a laptop on a desk with a big empty white page on its screen, although it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

Plus the moon is endlessly mysterious, being our nearest celestial neighbor, affecting our tides and climate, and acting as a surrogate sun for nighttime use.

So, here is a reasonably concise list of the times the Doctor has gone to visit the moon, or referred to the moon, or being involved in a thing that is influenced heavily by the moon. I say reasonably because a) this only applies to TV stories and b) I might’ve missed one, or two.

Let’s see, shall we?

(Note: as we’re delving into an incomplete archive, some of these clips are merely decorative)

“The Moonbase”

Having arrived in the Whoniverse riding a planet called Mondas that is a twin to Earth, the Cybermen next appear walking on the surface of the moon, in the year 2070 (so, only 57 years from now). Their attempts to take over the base are foiled by the Second Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly, who fight back using, among other things, nail varnish remover.

“The Invasion”

In which, among other things, the Cybermen have a weapon on the moon, and they’re shooting it at the Earth. The Second Doctor doesn’t actually visit the moon to sort it out, but it’s OK, he’s been there before.

“The Seeds of Death”

Back at the other end of the 21st Century, there’s another moonbase, or possibly the same one, and this time it’s been invaded by those rotten Ice Warriors, who are dead set on an Earth invasion. The Second Doctor. Jamie and Zoe, who must be getting fed up of all of this lunacy (*winks to side-camera*), sort it all out in the end, of course.

“The Silurians”

Even when the Third Doctor was exiled to Earth, the moon continued to crop up as a plot device. In this case his first meeting with the Silurians, an ancient lizard race that hid underground when they saw the moon heading Earth-wards, before it settled into orbit. And now they’re fed up because these ape-descended humans sprouted up and took over while they were away.

“Frontier In Space”

There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-in in this particular adventure, but one detail that does emerge is that, in the 26th Century, the moon is being used for a penal colony. The Third Doctor is sent there after being accused of helping the Draconians attack Earth, a sentence so harsh it’s practically draconi…oh.

“The Masque of Mandragora”

Another story in which the moon is an active participant in the plot. This time it’s a lunar eclipse in 15th Century Italy, which is misinterpreted by the locals for darkly ceremonial purposes, amid an attack from the Mandragora Helix. Luckily the Fourth Doctor is on hand to generally thwart all the bad stuff.

“The Greatest Show In The Galaxy”

Contains a werewolf in a circus, whose condition is triggered by artificial moonlight. Does that count?

“Tooth and Claw”

And if it does. Here’s another one, all up in Queen Victoria’s regal grill.

“Smith and Jones”

In which the Tenth Doctor is inside a hospital that has been stolen by rhino-faced space-cops called the Judoon and plonked on the moon so their target can’t get away. Simple, really.

“Kill the Moon”

How much more moon-y could this one get? They’re on the moon, with moonspiders, they’re trying to stop the moon from destroying the earth and at one point the Twelfth Doctor goes mooning off, leaving Clara to work out what to do for the good of humanity and generally showing off his dark side.

And the obvious exception:

“Day of the Moon”

TV footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing may be in Day of the Moon, the space-suits worn by the Apollo 11 astronauts may be in Day of the Moon, but is the moon in Day of the Moon? It is not. Had it been called Night of the Moon, everything might have been so different.*

*Because the moon comes out at night, obv.

Go on then, what did we miss?

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser is a British writer, broadcaster and the the author of the book Stuff Brits Like. He is Anglophenia's resident Brit blogger, having written BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog, the Top of the Pops website, and for NME, the Guardian and elsewhere. Favorite topics include slang, Doctor Who and cramming as much music into Anglophenia as he can manage. He invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic
View all posts by Fraser McAlpine.