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

So what happened?

Waking up inside a dream-like version of her flat, whilst her actual body remains trapped in one of the underground pods, Clara successfully manages to thwart Bonnie’s first attempt to shoot down The Doctor’s plane by tapping into the shape-shifted version of herself and watching events on her television screen. The second time the Zygon rebel commander manages to override her interference, however, and makes a direct hit, but not before Twelve manages to parachute safely to the ground with Osgood. Irritated by the meddling, she continues her plan and chases after one of her ilk who’s been living peacefully as a human on a council estate, transforming him back into his natural form and filming it on Clara’s phone before uploading it to the internet, intending to create panic amongst the human population. However, still able to hack into the facsimile of herself, Clara also manages to use the phone to get a message to The Doctor that she’s still alive. Something she’s able to reinforce by using the pychic connection to wink at him when Bonnie makes a video call to him.

A Zygon being forced to return to his natural form.
A Zygon being forced to return to his natural form.

After viewing the video Bonnie uploaded, Twelve and Osgood head to the shopping centre where it was filmed and manage to track down the Zygon who is fighting his transformation back into an alien. Unconvinced that the pair can help him, he opts to kill himself rather than be publicly outed, much to their dismay. Resolving to find Clara and help her, they encounter two officers and Kate, who they believe to all be disguised Zygons, but when they head underground to the pods where Clara was held captive,they not only realise that the companion has been taken to the Black Archives after Bonnie has extracted information from her about where the Osgood box is, when she kills her two supposed cohorts, they also find out that the real UNIT chief is in fact standing in front of them. Having killed her attacker back in the Mexican town of Truth or Consequences, she managed to come back to the UK and utilise her fake persona to find The Doctor.

Ingrid Oliver on double duty again as both Osgoods.
Ingrid Oliver on double duty again as both Osgoods.

Later in the archives, furious that there are actually two differently coloured Osgood boxes, both with a set of buttons labelled Truth or Consequences, Kate and the Zygon leader go head to head as Twelve reveals that the blue one will either reveal all of the aliens to the human population just as Bonnie wishes, or release a nerve agent that will kill them all; whilst the red one will either pump the same gas into the atmosphere or start a nuclear war that will likely kill all of humanity. As the impasse becomes increasingly tense, The Doctor shares his own heart-breaking experience of making such a decision and implores them both to choose peace over war. Finally they relent and agree to a peace treaty after Bonnie realises that there’s actually nothing in the two boxes after all. The additional catch is that they’ve done this 15 times before and he has wiped their memories on each occasion, which he does again to Kate, but this time allows the Zygon to remember. Later, as Twelve is talking to Osgood and about to board the TARDIS with Clara again, she reveals she’s truly learned her lesson and has transformed herself into another version of the UNIT scientist to replace the one who was killed by Missy in order to guard both the boxes, and balance in the Universe has been restored.

Creep Factor

Marieke: Already low last week, but virtually gone this week. It is the speech factor! This episode is all about the Doctor’s passionate speech which will no doubt become a classic and will perhaps be used to illustrate current real problems too. Capaldi truly knocks it out of the park and delivers his strongest performance yet, in my opinion. There is also the trick factor, the boxes are fake. Well the boxes are real, but the buttons don’t do anything. This is more of a psychological and emotional episode, without an end fight between Zygons and the Doctor and humans, which is both a bold and surprising move.

Danielle: I don’t know. I did find those oddly behaving police officers who were probably rebel zygons a tad creepy. There was also the scene when they were tracking down the poor chap who’d been turned back into a zygon by Bonnie. Ever since watching films like Dawn of the Dead, I’ve always thought abandoned shopping centres were a bit eerie. At the same time there’s something pretty hilarious about someone popping out from behind the tins of processed peas. Pooping your pants in fear and wetting yourself laughing is a conflicting and messy business.

Monster of the Week

Marieke: Still those Zygons. That splinter cell, who are turning on their own to expose them. But maybe the scariest take home from this is that the Doctor has had to deliver this speech 15 times, and counting, i.e. the monsters and what compels them towards the showdown with the boxes keeps on returning and recurring, respectively. So we may hear from those pesky Zygons again. By the way, the Zygon who got exposed against his will looked rather icky. Didn’t think they could get any more gross!

With faces like these, it's understandable why so many Zygons wanted to keep their human form.
With faces like these, it’s understandable why so many Zygons wanted to keep their human form.

Danielle: One of the things this episode did so well was demonstrating how humanity is its own worst enemy too. When Kate was prepared to press either of the buttons on her box, it demonstrated just how easily people are capable of becoming the ‘Monster’ as well and ultimately how committed we can be to stick to an eye for eye, even if it assures mutual destruction. The Doctor is protecting the planet from the short-sighted, indigenous inhabitants as much as he is from alien invasions.

Mystery

Marieke: There was another line about Clara and leaving. I am wondering if we already missed clues or are still waiting for some. And the mystery involves the previous 14 speeches and if #16 will ever happen in one way or the other on the show. There still are Zygons, and unhappiness about their situation will occur again. In a way the situation wasn’t entirely resolved, only contained. What else am I wondering? Are both Osgoods Zygons or not??? Oh well, at least we know it’s ‘Doctor Basil’…

Danielle: I was kind of transfixed by the prominence of the Mire helmet in the scene in the Black Archive. Surely it can’t be a coincidence that it was so visible when Twelve was trying to talk Kate and Bonnie down from pressing the buttons? The question is why was it there when the Doctor Who crew are always so deliberate and precise with their set design? Naturally it casts our minds back to the episode where we were introduced to Ashildr, but does that mean it’s simply a hint that we’ll be seeing Maisie William’s character again? Or was it a more subtle reference to the defeat of a war-mongering race with non-violent means that we saw earlier in the series, linking it back to what The Doctor was trying to repeat with the Zygons? Perhaps it actually points to the sacrifice that Clara may have to make in the same way that the young Viking girl did to save everyone in her village? Maybe it’s all of the above…

Capaldi excelled himself this week as The Doctor.
Capaldi excelled himself this week as The Doctor.

The Verdict?

Where there were disagreements between us last week, both of us were more than satisfied with this conclusion to the Zygon misadventure. It was The Doctor’s speech on the consequences of war and the necessity of peace that was naturally the stand-out part of the episode though, with its excellent delivery and surprising twist which no doubt had viewers glued to the screen. For Capaldi it was a tour de force, finally cementing what he’s about and what he brings to the role for both of us at Fezzy Towers: a world-weary gravitas that befits someone who’s over 2000 years old and has seen practically all eventualities. Coleman also showed a great deal of skill in her dual performance as Bonnie and Clara, and yet again the young companion’s oddly undefinable, yet strong and compelling rapport with The Doctor was at the episode’s heart; something that’s becoming more apparent we’ll miss when she leaves. ‘The Zygon Inversion’ is a great example of television that grows on you the more you think about it. At first glance, the whole scenario with the boxes could be construed as a little lame, and maybe even like a heavy-handed, moralistic version of Deal or No Deal, but in reducing potentially catastrophic decisions down to the pressing of a button, Twelve expertly hammers home the fact that genocidal destruction isn’t actually a game at all. It’s deadly serious. Mindful of that, it was nice to see an ending which involved explosions of words, instead of bombs and spaceships. More of the same, please!

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