RECAP & REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘The Zygon Invasion’

So what happened?

In a throwback to the 50th anniversary episode, we were reminded of the peace The Doctor helped to broker between humanity and the Zygon race, which allowed 20 million of them to remain in the UK so long as they didn’t attack people, or show their true identities to the indigenous population. As a part of that, he entrusted Osgood and her Zygon twin with the Osgood box, which was only to be used in the event that the ‘Nightmare Scenario’ and they went back on their agreement. Flash-forward and we see the remaining version of the former UNIT scientist (we don’t know which one) hiding out in the Sheriff’s office in the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, who just manages to alert The Doctor before she’s taken hostage by a member of the Zygon splinter group who refuse to be told they can’t take their natural form.

Getting her message, Twelve tries to get in touch with Clara, but is unsuccessful. Instead he leaves her a voicemail and attempts make contact with two high ranking Zygon commanders who’ve taken the form of two young schoolgirls. Approaching them in the playground, he’s left shell-shocked when they are taken by members of the splinter group. Meanwhile his companion has been distracted by the plight of a small boy called Sandeep in her block of flats who was concerned by his parents going missing. Investigating for herself, she’s surprised to find them there and leaves after they bring their son, kicking and screaming, back into the flat. Finally listening to The Doctor’s message, she heads to UNIT headquarters and meets him there, arriving to see a video depicting the kidnapped Zygon commanders being executed by the radicals, and Osgood being forced to read out their plans for invasion. Telling Jac and Clara to stay put and protect the U.K., he instructs Kate to investigate the New Mexican town her former employee was taken from, and takes his President of the World plane to Turmezistan where they’ve discovered she’s being kept.

Claudette and Jemima: the two Zygon commanders who were kidnapped and later executed by the splinter group.
Claudette and Jemima: the two Zygon commanders who were kidnapped and later executed by the splinter group.

Once there he butts heads with UNIT Commander Walsh (played by Capaldi’s former The Thick of It co-star, Rebecca Front) over whether or not they should bomb the village where the Zygons are holed up. The argument becomes academic, however, when the drone operative can’t bring herself to press the button when two of the aliens to shapeshift into her husband and son. A similar thing happens again when Walsh and Twelve take a swat team to the church, all of whom are tricked into putting down their weapons and entering the building by pretend versions of their family members, only to be transformed into neat piles of dust by the aggressors. Following after them, the duo soon realise that Osgood is being held under the floorboards and start to rescue her, but are interrupted by an unlucky Zygon who’s quickly scuppered by the bombing raid and taken by The Doctor to gain information from.

In the interim, Kate has found a solitary survivor in the form of Sheriff Norlander who tells her that a group of Brits came to the town, acted strangely and then began to transform into reptilian-like creatures before attacking the residents. Eventually it comes to light that the sheriff isn’t all she seems either and we leave Kate about to be turned into her very own pile of dust. Meanwhile Clara and Jac are checking out why a small, blanket-covered body was being dragged into the lift by Sandeep’s parents back at the flats, and soon discover that it’s been tampered with.

Bonnie (played by Jenna Coleman) blowing up The Doctor's plane.
Bonnie (played by Jenna Coleman) blowing up The Doctor’s plane.

Back at the UNIT office they realise that these Zygon controlled lifts have been popping up across the city, and after instructing an armed team to accompany them they head deep below London where the aliens have created a pod colony. It’s there that ‘Clara’ turns on Jac and shows her the real companion inside one of the pods, revealing herself to be the Zygon commander, Bonnie, who first took over her identity back when the real Clara first went to investigate Sandeep’s missing parents. With mass genocide on her mind, she returns once again to the UNIT office, fielding a call from her cohort telling her that Kate has been killed and takes a missile launcher to the coast of Britain where she can see The Doctor’s plane returning. After making a call to let him know that his friends are dead, she launches a missile and we see an explosion as she gleefully looks on.

Monster of the Week

Marieke: A splinter cell of Zygons who have woken up, or at least decided to not be peaceful and threaten to kill. And they actually carry out those threats. I still think the Zygons look a bit ridiculous, like walking incomplete squid with faces, but they are truly menacing. The electricity death zap is not very nice, but it is shape shifting that truly makes them frightening. The idea of a few Zygons trying to convert the rest is a clear metaphor, completed by the Doctor’s ‘benefits’ quote. It was all too obvious and thrown in the viewers’ faces and I am not sure if that was very clever. Either way, there is a continuation from the Doctor special and I think the flashback made Whovians squee a little again.

Danielle: Whenever the Zygons make an appearance, I always think they kind of look like out of control female genitalia with a face. That probably says more about me than anything else, but anyway… Yeah, it is the idea of the enemy within that makes them, for me at least, quite effective as Doctor Who baddies. Unlike my Fezzy friend, I’m not entirely sure that the alien/immigrant parallels were too over the top or unsubtle. It is after all a family show, so the odd sledgehammer of obviousness is ok in my book.

Zygons: not the most attractive of creatures.
Zygons: not the most attractive of creatures.

Creep Factor

Marieke: As stated in ‘Monster’, it is the shape shifting which is the creepiest factor about the Zygons. The fact that they are living amongst us and can ‘wake up’ any second. The scene with the soldier and his ‘mother’ was poignant and sad, although I did find it stupid for all of the soldiers to follow them inside the house. Unless she was secretly everyone’s mother. And then there was Clara. Or should I say Bonnie? I cannot say it was a big surprise that Clara was inside the mechanical Zygon incubator egg, but it did turn the episode upside down. I have to add the Zygons’ eggs lair looked exactly like you would expect a breeding ground to look and it definitely added a slimy sensation to the creep factor. The two little girls who were big Zygon leaders were the most creepy. Ever since The Shining little girls just can’t be trusted, can they? But this was also a brilliant find and the conversation between the Doctor and the two girls was hilarious (look at their faces!).

Danielle: The scene in the lift was pretty damn creepy too. I’m not a fan of enclosed spaces anyway. Even the thought of kids being dragged into them and then disappearing isn’t exactly a happy one. Neither is slime behind the control panel. Or underground haemorrhoid-like, holding pods. Urgh! Equally disturbing was The Doctor caressing that Zygon computer to get it to work. Stop it, dude! That’s just weird!

Osgood and The Doctor discussing whether or not it matters if she's the human version, or her alien counterpart.
Osgood and The Doctor discussing whether or not it matters if she’s the human version, or her alien counterpart.


Marieke: Oh there is that term again… Hybrid! Ashildr/Me was one. We have had Doctor/Donna. Will Clara be one? Will Bonnie play an important part? Will we found out more about Osgood? What role do hybrids play in this series? Will Ashildr/Me and Osgood meet an play Scrabble together? The mystery thickens and we can only hope the resolve will be satisfying. I have to say I am still wondering where Missy is, though…

Danielle: I suppose the mystery for this week is how Twelve is going to get himself out of this fine mess and somehow save Clara. It’s a toughie. Also, what exactly is in the Osgood box? Is it the weapon that The Doctor stole from UNIT headquarters that has the ability to kill zygons? Probably. But, yeah, ultimately the hybrid theme is being played out over and over again, and so is bound to have some sort of significance. I’m still inclined to think it’s pointing towards River’s arrival at Christmas, but could there be something more to it than that? Could we find out something more pertinent to The Doctor himself? About his past and his links to his home planet, Gallifrey? Or indeed his future?

Quote of the Week

The Doctor, a warning why the Zygons shouldn’t reveal themselves in their natural form in the UK:

“There are already people there, they’ll think you’re trying to pinch their benefits.”

Familiar Face

Ingrid Oliver as the two Osgoods.
Ingrid Oliver as the two Osgoods.

Ingrid Oliver made a much anticipated comeback this week, but is she the real Osgood or her peace-loving Zygon twin? Furthermore, does it really matter? We’re not sure if we expected to see her again after Missy’s zap moment (zapping is a big thing in the Whoniverse), but Osgood seemed to be a big fan favourite so we’re sure many fans were delighted to see her again. At the same time it was hardly just a cameo either, rather Oliver’s character was integral to this week’s action. Will she stay, or will she go again?

The Verdict?

There was a bit of a difference of opinion here at Fezzy towers. Whilst we both agreed that this was a heavily didactic episode that did little to hide the Zygon/immigrant comparisons that mirror very current debates on freedom of movement and entitlement to a country’s resources, there was no consensus on whether or not, tonally, ‘The Zygon Invasion’ was too heavy handed or unsubtle. Where we did find common ground, however, was that it was a vast improvement on Peter Harness’ episode last year, (which we discussed here). This outing was of course a bit confusing at times as we tried to figure who was the person and who was the alien, but it seemed to be a solid story in this Who series. Also it was nice to see another continuation from an earlier story. Plot holes do not have to be sinkholes! Perhaps the most interesting thread this week was Bonnie’s storyline, her shapeshifting into Clara and the big bazooka shaped cliffhanger that she facilitated. Once again we’ll have to wait until after ‘The Zygon Inversion’ to pass full judgement on the two-parter. By the way, are we the only ones thinking that the ‘rock doc’ and his guitar thing has gone from cool to being a wee bit annoying and repetitive?


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