Ethos Education

Doctor Who: Kill the Moon: What difference does Jesus’ death make?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of what Christians believe about the identity of Jesus.
  • Consider key moments in the ministry of Jesus.
  • Awareness of Old Testament concepts of sacrificial atonement.
  • Understand the significance of Christ’s death as a once-for-all atonement for sin.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon how to make weighty life and death decisions that affect other people.
  • Reflect upon a life and death dilemma from an episode of Dr Who.
  • Analyse Jesus’ words about his own death.
  • Analyse a key New Testament passage explaining the Christian perspective on Old Testament sacrificial atonement.
  • Synthesise learning by completing a worksheet to analyse the similarities and differences between Old Testament sacrificial atonement, Jesus’ death in the New Testament, and a scenario from an episode of Dr Who.


Ask the class to vote in a series of either/or scenarios. For the burning building scenarios you might like to allow some discussion before the students cast their votes. For the imaginary button scenarios, voting first and discussing afterwards may be more interesting.

  • You are in a burning building, with two unconscious people: a baby and an elderly man. You are only able to carry one to safety, and there will not be time to return to the building for a second trip. Who do you save?
  • Same situation as above, but the elderly man is your grandfather, and the baby is unrelated and unknown to you. Who do you save?
  • Same situation as above, but the choice is between a minor celebrity who became famous in a reality television programme, and a young MP who is tipped as a potential future Prime Minister. Who do you save?
  • Ask the students to imagine a button in front of them. They will receive a million pounds for their personal use if they press the button. But pressing the button will cause an unknown stranger living on the other side of the world to be brutally murdered. Will they press the button and take the money, or let the stranger live?
  • Same scenario as above, but this time the stranger’s death will be painless. Will they press the button?
  • Same scenario as above, but this time the person who dies if they press the button is one of their friends. Will they press the button?

Ask the students what factors they considered in making their decisions. How did they decide who should live and who should die in the burning building scenarios. How did they weigh the conflicting demands of personal interest and the life of a third party in the imaginary button scenarios?

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be looking at a film clip where three people are trying to decide whether somebody should live or die, and looking at what Christians believe about Jesus’ death.


Introduce the clip from the Doctor Who episode Kill the Moon. The episode is available on the DVD Doctor Who the Complete Eighth Series (BBC DVD, 2014, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online. Ask the students to think how they would respond to the choice that Clara (Jenna Coleman) presents them with in the clip.

  • Start time:       0.00.00 (beginning of chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.00.45
  • Clip length:      45 seconds

The clip starts with the caption, ‘The Moon, 2049’. It ends with Clara saying, ‘We have 45 minutes to decide.’

Ask the students how they feel about the choice Clara is presenting: the life of one innocent creature versus the lives of everyone on earth. Which way do they think they would decide on the evidence so far (if anyone knows this particular episode, ask them to ignore anything else about the scenario that they know, for now, and to judge this clip purely on the evidence so far presented). How many students would choose to sacrifice an innocent life in order to save the lives of the rest of humanity?

Now introduce a longer clip from Kill the Moon which provides more background to the decision Clara is talking about. Explain that the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara and one of Clara’s students have arrived on the moon. The moon has been gaining in weight, causing chaos with the Earth’s tides. A party of astronauts – only one of whom is still alive – have been sent to the moon to blow it up with nuclear bombs. In this clip, the Doctor explains precisely what has caused the moon to behave so erratically. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the different responses to the Doctor’s news.

  • Start time:       0.24.20 (beginning of chapter 7 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.26.30
  • Clip length:      2 minutes and 10 seconds

Ask the students why the astronaut wants to destroy the baby before it has hatched. Why does Courtney disagree? Would it be right to destroy the as-yet unborn creature in order to preserve life on Earth? What difference does it make that nobody is sure of the consequences – good or bad – of allowing the creature to live? Assuming that destroying the creature would definitely save life on Earth and that not doing so would be disastrous for humanity, how many of the students would choose to destroy the creature? Would the situation be different if the creature were already alive and was able to make the decision for itself?

Ask the students to read John 12:23-33 and answer the following questions:

  • What do you think Jesus means when he talks about a seed dying and producing many seeds (v24)?
  • What do verses 27 and 28a suggest about Jesus’ attitude towards his imminent death?
  • What does verse 32 suggest Jesus saw as the purpose of his death?

Draw out that Jesus was troubled by the thought of what was soon to happen to him, but he was willing to go through with it because it was God’s will for his death to bring new life to others.

Some students might struggle with why anyone would think that Jesus’ death would make any difference for anybody else. Explain that the concept of sacrificial atonement is one that Jesus and other Jews at the time would have been very familiar with. The Old Testament required the people of Israel to offer sacrifices for sin. They would bring an animal without any defects to the priest, and the animal would be killed as an offering for sin. The Israelites had broken their covenant with God by disobeying his laws, but God accepted the sacrifice of an animal as a substitute for the people who had sinned. These sacrifices needed to happen day after day, year after year, because no matter how remorseful the people felt they continued to sin. This practice is where the modern phrase ‘scapegoat’ comes from, as the unfortunate goat paid the price for the sins of the people. If you want to direct students to Old Testament writing on the subject of sacrifice, you could refer them to the early chapters of the book of Leviticus, particularly the first seven chapters.

Christians believe that this pattern of sacrifice for sin meets its fulfilment in the death of Jesus. Split the class into small groups and ask each to read Hebrews 10:1-18. Explain that this passage is a summary of what Christians believe about the Old Testament sacrificial system. You might want to point out that the phrase ‘the law’ is used here to describe this system of sacrificial atonement for sins. Ask the students to answer the following questions:

  • What evidence does the writer give to suggest that the Old Testament sacrifices don’t work? (Verse 2 – if they did work, they wouldn’t need to be repeated again and again).
  • What does verse 3 say the purpose of the sacrifices really is? (A reminder of sins – in other words, something to make the people realise their need for a cleansing that the sacrifices cannot actually provide).
  • What sacrifice does the writer say does work? (Jesus’ sacrifice – verses 10 and 12).

Once the groups have finished, ask them to feed their answers back to the whole class, so that you can make sure that they have correctly understood this part of the lesson.

Ask the students for their view on this critique of Old Testament animal sacrifice. What are the significant differences between a Christian and a Jewish understanding of sacrificial atonement?


Give out copies of the Sacrifice worksheet, and ask students to look up the Bible passages and to complete the table on the worksheet. This will enable them to explore the parallels between the scenario in the clip from Doctor Who, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Old Testament concept of sacrificial atonement. They should also write the three paragraphs detailed in section 2 of the worksheet.


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