Doctor Who: 908 “The Zygon Inversion” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
Last week’s episode, ‘The Zygon Invasion’, left us with a massive cliff- hanger; Clara was revealed to be replaced with a Zygon duplicate, Kate was supposedly dead, UNIT had been taken down and the Doctor and Osgood were thought to be aboard a plane targeted by a missile. It’s fair to say ‘The Zygon Inversion’ had a lot to resolve.
The beginning of the narrative was certainly unexpected. It was almost like the start of a completely different episode. We saw Clara waking up in her apartment but things weren’t what they seemed to be. It was made quickly apparent that we were observing Clara’s mind as she was trapped within the Zygon pod in suspended animation. I will admit this scene, and all consecutive scenes, reminded me how brilliant Clara is. She is clever, brave, and able to think outside the box whilst remaining calm as she tries to outsmart her enemy. She is in many ways the perfect match for the Doctor and has proved this time and time again during her run.
Using her will, and determination, Clara managed to link with the lead Zygon rebel, known as Bonnie, and manipulates it to her advantage. She ultimately gave the Doctor enough time to escape his doom and also informs him that she isn’t dead but rather held captive. The scene in which Bonnie attempted to gain information from Clara was certainly one of my favourite Clara moments. Her confidence alone showcased how much Jenna Coleman brings to the show and it will be sad to see her go at the end of this run. It certainly has been a shame to see most of this year’s episodes wasting Coleman’s talents. At the very least, when she has been written for accordingly we have had some of her best moments.
It was surprising to see how much ‘The Zygon Inversion’ was different to its predecessor ‘The Zygon Invasion’ in terms of style and format. Last week’s episode was fast moving, filled with thriller aspects and a global sensation whereas this week we had a slower paced episode, focusing on some really dark issues through extensive dialogue scenes. It was surprising to see how this approach managed to maintain the quality of last week’s narrative. The slower pace didn’t dampen last week’s global scale but instead added in a new layer for Peter Harness to play with, along with the help of head writer Steven Moffat.
One of the elements I loved most about this week’s episode was the continuous development of our favourite Doctor-fan Osgood. Ingrid Oliver really does shine in this role and always brings a unique charm, through being a fun, loving character that we can all relate to. She’s the super-nerd that doesn’t get the attention she deserves essentially. But in this two-parter she was in many ways the driving force of the narrative and added in many twists and turns. I am grateful that Osgood has been allowed to return because her death last year was unexpected and depressing. We didn’t want her to die, she’s too sweet and innocent. At the very least she got to become the Doctor’s companion, just for a bit, and what a companion she made. Maybe if Maisie Williams isn’t up for the job we could give the job of companion to Oliver because I think she would make a good Coleman replacement as well. She brought something different to the role through her intelligence and understanding of the Doctor. It delivered a great chemistry between her and the Time Lord.
I still love how her identity is in mystery, though I’m still under the impression that the real Osgood died at the hands of the Master and the two remaining Osgood’s are Zygons. But who “nose”. Knowing Moffat he’s probably got something special under his sleeves which he’ll throw at us out of the blue in the near future and shatter my theory, making me see everything I thought I knew in a completely way.
I loved that Kate Stewart continued to have character development. I did worry that Kate was easily defeated at the end of last week’s episode but, as predicted, she escaped her own trap and posed as a Zygon in order to infiltrate the enemy and rescue the Doctor. We even had her quoting the Brigadier’s famous line “five rounds rapid” which was a nice little nod to the past. There was a moment of worry when her character became extremely hostile, almost a contradiction of what the Brigadier would have taught her. But in the end she was first to realise, after the Doctor’s speech, that her approach was wrong and stood down with an apology.
It was sad to see Rebecca Front’s character killed off as I felt she had great potential within this second half. I suppose her death, and all the deaths seen within the first half along with everyone on the plane, just showed how high the stakes were in this narrative. It also demonstrated how grim the episode was and that death was a big part of the impact. I simply loved, from a writing perspective, how the UNIT officers were killed off in ‘The Zygon Invasion’. They were all cruel. The soldiers that were tricked into lowering their weapons due to believing the Zygons before them were in fact their loved ones. Then Jac and her men were surrounded by the Zygons after it was revealed that Clara was a Zygon duplicate.
It seems that Moffat isn’t afraid to kill off interesting, or likable, characters within this new era. That Moffat appears to have gone. The days of characters returning through timey-wimey incidences is less common now and good people now stay dead. Look at Danny, Osgood (to a certain extent) and now Jac. I know some characters have dodged the bullet at the last second, like Kate, Missy and Ashildr, but most of these characters have had good reason to stay alive. The latter in fact suffered in her resurrection through her prolonged life.
In some ways I haven’t enjoyed this year’s run, whether that be because of my changed taste in genres and characters or because I generally haven’t enjoyed Doctor Who as much as previous years. I’m hoping that changes upon a re-watch, once the DVD boxset comes out, but what I can say is that the themes within the show are certainly getting better and the character development continues to shine.
Now, for the best part about the episode; the Doctor. Peter Capaldi raised his game yet again for his fantastic speech during the climax. What I loved about this scene, and the speech, was it all tied together to showcase how far the Doctor had come since his return 10 years ago. The scene almost served as a “New Who 10th Anniversary Special”. Both manipulation and heart went into the decision making of the Doctor’s plan to prevent the cataclysmic war between humanity and the Zygons. We had two boxes, which both contained two buttons. It became a gamble as to which button should be pressed and what the outcome would entail.
Genocide or peace? These were the questions placed before both Bonnie and Kate. The Doctor’s speech brought about a unique moment of inspiration. Most speeches like this are normally hypocritical but in this case the Doctor spoke with wisdom based off experience. As I imagined the Doctor spoke about his days during the Last Great Time War and what he had to do to both survive and bring about peace. Capaldi was outstanding due to the layers of emotions he delivered. It really was stunning, a testimony to both Moffat and Mark Gatiss for picking this fine actor to play his childhood dream role.
What was interesting was how Bonnie was brought down to size through the Doctor’s words showcasing its plans as nothing more than childish and without any real reason or depth. Even Bonnie’s outcome falls flat because Bonnie doesn’t truly know what it wants and it shows through the Doctor’s own explanations and comparison. The sheer anger, and authority, that the Doctor spoke made it perfectly clear that the Zygon was wrong and that anything it had suffered was nothing compared to what the Doctor had suffered.
The boxes, and the buttons, both represented the Moment, the mystical weapon that the War Doctor was faced with on the last day of the Time War. The dilemma placed before him was on a completely different scale to what Bonnie and Kate were facing. The Doctor had to make the definitive decision for peace, ultimately nearly destroying both his enemy and his own race. This made Kate’s and Bonnie’s situation almost meaningless in comparison and also showed them that their original resolves were wrong. They learnt, like the Doctor, there is always another way.
To top this scene off the Doctor explained that the main reason Bonnie changed its mind was because of Clara. Clara was the same person that got into the Doctor’s head and made him change his mind in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, making him finally realise that he could change his worst day and find redemption. This simple element showcased how important Clara is to the Doctor. She is a huge part of his life and when she goes I really don’t know how the Doctor will cope.
‘The Zygon Inversion’ was a fantastic instalment which really showcased how brilliant Capaldi is as the Doctor. What I loved most about this two- parter was that it completed the Zygons story which started back in ‘The Day of the Doctor’. The Doctor was once again brought to the Black Archives in order to help the two races find peace through clever manipulation and a voice of reasoning. Well done Moffat, you’ve turned yourself around and reminded me what you can do when you’re at your best.