Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 8
“The Zygon Inversion”
Posted by Kim
All I have to say is thank GOD this episode was kinder to me than the last Peter Harness penned episode I had to recap was. Everyone pour one out for not having to talk about thinly veiled abortion metaphors!
There is a beauty and a frustration (from a recapping standpoint) in the way Series 9 is being presented as six two-parters. It allows the stories to BREATHE but at the same time it’s hard to judge one half without seeing how the story resolves itself. So when the “Zygon Invasion” left me a bit cold, I told myself we were not done with this story yet. Everything hinged on the resolution. And boy…what a resolution we got. These two episodes are truly meant to flow into each other and “Invasion” will benefit from a Netflix binge right into “Inversion”. I find “Invasion” to be a bit clunky, and I probably always will. But everything about it was set up for the gloriousness of “Inversion”, so I can forgive its flaws for the most part. I still don’t think it needed the whole UNIT soldier confronting his Zygon Mum business. Not when we could have been spending time with Bonnie/Zygella. ANYWAY. Sage recapped “Invasion” beautifully, expressing all of her qualms with it. Now I get to recap what will be one of THE defining episodes of Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor. Let’s get to it, shall we?
“The Zygon Inversion” rewinds a little bit, as we flash to Clara’s consciousness waking up in her Zygon pod. This whole opening reminded me very much of “Last Christmas” (remember how that episode is real?) with Clara in a familiar environment that juuuuuuuust this side of off kilter to where she knows it isn’t real (how creepy was that black toothpaste though?). Unlike “Last Christmas”, Clara fights against this environment immediately. She hears the Doctor on the phone with Bonnie, as their consciousness are tied. She turns on the TV and is able to see from Bonnie’s vantage point (I LOVED that). She sees Bonnie aiming her bazooka at The Doctor’s plane and she manages to make Bonnie move, causing the missile to swerve off course, missing The Doctor’s big plane. Bonnie will not be deterred though. Despite Clara’s efforts to control her body telepathically, Bonnie’s will is stronger. She gets off a second shot and this time, the missile hits the plane. Kaboom. So long, Doctor. Bonnie walks off triumphantly, a smirk on her flawless red lips. She’s running things now.
Being that this is Doctor Who though, The Doctor and Osgood escape thanks to the emergency parachutes (The Doctor’s being a Union Jack one because it’s camouflage in England). They land on a beach (thankfully NOT the location used for Bad Wolf Bay because that would be too much for me) no worse for the wear, other than Osgood’s spectacles being snapped in two. The Doctor hands her the sonic sunglasses (because they are prescription, natch) and warns her not to look at his browser history (because he was in the middle of a particularly smutty fan fiction? Head canon accepted). Osgood comments that Sonic Sunglasses are “a bit pointless, like a visual hearing aid” because Steven Moffat KNEW that a faction of the fandom would hate the sonic specs and he can never pass up an opportunity to bite his thumb at fanboys.
Back to the matters at hand, Osgood ponders why Zygon!Clara hesitiated when it came to killing The Doctor. If it were her, she would have killed the Doctor immediately, not even giving him the chance to speak (“Thanks.”). But the Zygon hesitated. Osgood ponders that since the Zygon had Clara’s memory print, she would know not to let the Doctor speak, that he gets all heroic and dangerously convincing when he speaks. I would argue that Bonnie having Clara’s memory print is EXACTLY why she hesitated, even without us seeing Real!Clara trying to stop her. Why? BECAUSE THE DOCTOR IS THE LAST PERSON SHE WOULD EVER KILL. We’ve been hit on the head with that concept over and over this series, so much that I am terrified that we’re going to be faced with it in the finale. Why else would this be a recurring theme? Ugh. I hate everything.
In last week’s recap, Sage shared her annoyance that Osgood, an ordinary girl who was a stand-in for the fans, had been turned into one of Steven Moffat’s extraordinary mysteries. I share this annoyance becauseit’s not about The Doctor meeting extraordinary people or people he needs to solve/debunk. It’s about ordinary people finding the strength within themselves to rise to extraordinary circumstances and it’s been a concept Moffat has missed since he took over the series. Anyway, extraordinary girl though she may be, the one thing that hasn’t changed about Osgood is her HEART and her capacity to empathize. “You’ve gone quiet because I’ve mentioned Clara,” she says. “You think she might be dead.” Osgood KNOWS what it’s like to lose half of herself, having lost her “sister” (I keep wanting to say “seestra” but wrong show!). She knows that The Doctor sees Clara as an extension of himself, that she’s as essential to him as his limbs are, as the very air that he breathes. “Are you okay?” she asks and I HURT because she’s so concerned about his emotional well-being. “I’m still in the hope phase,” The Doctor replies. “How’s that going?” “Hell. Please talk about something else.” This is your obligatory reminder that THIS Doctor is going to be devastated at the loss of his companion and won’t be someone who takes a new one easily. Sure, he often asks people like Osgood to come along with him but that’s BECAUSE he still has Clara. Without her, I’m afraid he’s going to be way less willing to open up his hearts again. I’d like to freeze time please and thank you.
In her Dream State, Clara analyzes the footage of the plane explosion. Her little smirk when she sees the parachutes gives me LIFE. She takes advantage of her connection with Bonnie to make her text The Doctor without her counterpart even realizing it. The Doctor’s phone goes off and when he SEES that he has an incoming message from Clara, he passes the phone off to Osgood because he CANNOT BEAR that this is probably Bonnie taunting him. BABY. Osgood reads the message, which says “I’m awake.” The Doctor initially brushes this off as Bonnie rubbing her victory in his face, but Osgood takes it at face value. “Never really met Clara,” she says. “Pretty strong, yeah?” “She was amazing.” NOPE. I can’t take The Doctor without hope. “No. Not was. IS,” Osgood urges. She deduces that Clara is fighting back in her pod. “She’s trying to take control, piece by piece.” Bless her. “How’s that hope phase now?” “Worse than ever.”
Meanwhile, Bonnie continues going about her evil plan. She forces a human Zygon to reveal his true self against his will. Between Sleepy Hollow and this episode, it was a banner week for DISGUSTING make-up because that transition is horrifying. “I’m going to set you free,” Bonnie smirks, but what she’s really doing is trying to strike fear in humanity because she KNOWS that the first human instinct is to fight back against something or someone who is foreign and they don’t understand. So we’re still sticking to that slightly heavy-handed metaphor then. Good to know. She makes her way to the UNIT headquarters to retrieve the Osgood box. She passes by a mirror, where she sees real Clara for the briefest of moments. At Headquarters, she doesn’t find the box but a laptop. She queues up a video where the Osgoods reveal that they lied about the location of the box because really…would they be so obvious. They urge the viewer to stop looking. “There’s a reason it’s called the Osgood Box. Haven’t you guessed?” Bonnie throws a temper tantrum and destroys the laptop, which is my exact instinct whenever I am met with the spinning beach ball of doom.
Doctor John Disco, clinging to the glimmer of hope, facetimes Bonnie. He tries to get a handle on her plan (“You don’t invade planets without having a plan. That’s why they’re called planets, to remind you to plan it.” BLESS HIS DAD HUMOR.) even though she claims she doesn’t have one. He also calls her Zygella, which marks the second time this series he calls a villain by their actual name instead of the name they chose for themselves. I find that SO interesting because of this moment from “Day of the Doctor”…
CLARA: Look at you. The three of you. The warrior, the hero, and you.
DOCTOR: And what am I?
CLARA: Have you really forgotten?
DOCTOR: Yes. Maybe, yes.
CLARA: We’ve got enough warriors. Any old idiot can be a hero.
DOCTOR: Then what do I do?
CLARA: What you’ve always done. Be a doctor. You told me the name you chose was a promise.
The Doctor knows more than anyone that we are defined by the choices we make as opposed to the circumstances we are given. So why did he refuse to call Ashildr “Me”? Why does he call Bonnie Zygella? At first I was going to say he does this because he wants them to remember who they are but that goes against the whole philosophy of CHOICE. And if there is one thing the Doctor believes in, it’s the power of choice. So I don’t have an answer to this. I just think it’s interesting and something to ponder.
Using her connection to Bonnie, Clara manages to WINK at The Doctor to signal to him that he can’t give up hope on her and he realizes that she can communicate with him nonverbally. He gets Clara to confirm where she is and then takes the chance to warn Clara not to let Bonnie into her memories. It is a very intentional move, one that he points out to Osgood when she calls him out on that. “The mind of Clara Oswald…she’ll never find her way out,” he says with a dazzling grin. Can we discuss how much The Doctor loves Clara’s MIND? This is too much for me to deal with.
Bonnie does exactly what The Doctor intended her to do: she immediately goes to Clara’s pod and demands an audience with her counterpart. Thus, Jenna Coleman gets her chance to do her best Tatiana Maslany and act opposite herself. I love how Jenna Coleman differentiated between the two, making Bonnie’s voice clipped and her posture severe as if Bonnie can’t quite figure out how to really BE Clara. At first, Clara is emboldened by the Doctor’s orders that she can’t let Bonnie in. She’s cocky and self-assured and full-on Doctor!Clara as she taunts Bonnie that this connection between them works two ways. It’s very reminiscent of “Deep Breath” where she tells Half-Face man to go ahead and kill her. She’s not afraid of calling Bonnie’s bluff because that’s exactly what it is. She knows she has something Bonnie needs and as long as she does, she is safe. Also, she would rather die than betray the Doctor, so there’s that. What Clara doesn’t count on is that, despite being a brilliant liar, her heart is linked with Bonnie’s. “The one thing we can never do is lie to each other.” Clara visibly deflates, all her bravado gone. Now there is only fear. Clara tries to give roundabout answers to all of the questions, but that’s the problem with playing “Truth or Consequences” with yourself…Bonnie knows exactly what is going on and Clara is forced to tell the truth. The Osgood box is in the Black Archive, and the Osgoods, The Doctor, and Clara are the only ones with access to it. All Bonnie needs to do is just show up because the door is keyed to each of their body prints. “You can’t give me access because I have access already.” Clara warns Bonnie that this is a war she can’t win. What’s worse is that Bonnie knows that she doesn’t have the right to speak for all of Zygonkind…but she’s so laser focused in regards to her own desires that she doesn’t care. She’s appointed herself to decide what’s right for the rest of her people, damn the consequences, damn what they all claim to want. She knows better. “It’s time we stopped giving them a choice.” Sounds like how political leaders decide whether or not they want to go to war, doesn’t it? (YA BURNT.) Clara warns Bonnie that when she finds the Osgood Box, she will want to speak to her again. “Why is it called an Osgood Box?” I don’t know, show, but clearly you’re trying to tell us something.
Meanwhile, Doctor Basil Disco and Petronella Osgood (“Let’s just stick with what we had.”) track down the Zygon that Bonnie forced to “normalize”. He’s upset and terrified and in the middle of transitioning and it’s SUPER gross looking. “I was happy like this! I’m not part of your fight. I just wanted to live here.” Subtlety is NOT Peter Harness’ game, y’all. The Zygon chooses to kill himself rather than live like this. “There it is, Osgood. There’s their plan. Unmask everyone, provoke fear, paranoia, provoke a war.”
Kate is back on the scene and is presumably a Zygon, given the end of the previous episode. She is under orders to duplicate and then kill The Doctor. Nevertheless, The Doctor and Osgood go with WeDontKnowWhatSheIs!Kate because she claims to know where Clara’s pod is being held. Too bad said pod is no longer there because Bonnie took it with her to the Black Archive. No one questions Clara Oswald at the Black Archive, even when she’s toting a giant Alien pod, so Bonnie waltzes right in. She sees her prize…a red box. But there is a twist. There is ALSO a blue box. Which one unmasks the Zygons and which one destroys them? THERE’s the rub. Bonnie calls WeDontKnowWhatSheIs!Kate, furiously ordering her not to kill The Doctor because they need him alive. The Doctor is all *shrug emoji* because what else did they expect really? Two Osgoods, two boxes. It’s glaringly obvious, now that you think of it. It’s the perfect failsafe.
Bonnie pulls Clara out of the pod, threatening to kill her if The Doctor doesn’t tell her which box unmasks the Zygons. The Doctor immediately says the blue one because you just don’t threaten Clara’s life and expect him to NOT tell the truth. But here’s where the Osgood box gets even more brilliant. There is not just one button to push. Bonnie presses the blue box and it reveals two MORE buttons that say “truth” and “consequences”. It’s all set up to make sure the button presser is ENTIRELY sure of what they are doing. Like I said, perfect failsafe. “Yeah, I know,” The Doctor smirks. Bonnie throws a tantrum and demands that WeDontKnowWhatSheIs!Kate bring The Doctor to the Black Archive post-haste. Kate agrees, hangs up, and then proceeds to gun down her Zygon thugs. KATE IS KATE because nothing can keep Kate Lethbridge-Stewart down. “How did you survive?” “Five rounds rapid.” That sound you just heard was Classic Whovians everywhere screaming with delight. Kate asks Osgood if she is human or Zygon and she simply replies “Me” as she has done to all of the) Doctor’s queries about it because Petronella Osgood is better than anyone.
Kate reveals what she knows to be in the red box (other than Blu-rays for rent? Ba da bum ching!) Sullivan’s gas, which is a gas that when released into the atmosphere causes a chain reaction that turns all the Zygons inside out. The Doctor visibly collapses at this reveal…must it always come to one side killing the other? Why does peacekeeping always come with killing? The Doctor begs that Kate allow him to negotiate with Bonnie because he doesn’t want Kate to be responsible for the mass murder of an entire race (sound familiar?). Which begs the question…why did The Doctor put the gas in the box in the first place? It was to protect BOTH species. It’s why there were TWO Osgoods to police the ceasefire. “Keep the secrets and keep the peace.” Kate tosses back that the ceasefire is already failing, so why SHOULDN’T the human race be the first ones to strike? And the world spins madly on.
Thus, we arrive at the black archive and what will probably be the definitive scene of the Twelfth Doctor’s existence. Seriously. When I live-tweeted the episode, I basically tweeted “PETER CAPALDI” over and over again, just adding more and more vowels to his name the longer the speechifying went on. This is Doctor Who at its finest, not needing all the running or the aliens or the special effects, just damn good actors in a room dissecting the human experience. I mean, I would probably watch Peter Capaldi read the phone book, so to hear him give these ARIAS was almost oo much. He just GETS it. He understands The Doctor so completely and thoroughly, it astounds me. I’m going to try to discuss this whole scene rationally, but I can’t promise that I won’t just devolve into fangirling.
The Doctor arrives with Kate and Osgood (please to note how real Clara tried to run to him but was restrained by the Zygons) and you can tell that he hopes that his very arrival will make Bonnie step away from the box. NO such luck and to make matters work, Kate immediately goes to the red box, thus beginning a game of who’s going to press the button chicken. The Doctor snaps, busting into an American Game Show Host accent (LET ME LIVE, PETER CAPALDI) as he mocks the whole situation. THEN he turns on his “I am so fucking serious about this right now” (basically more Scottish) voice, saying ” I did this on a very important day for me and this ceasefire WILL stand.” YOU HAD TO BRING UP “DAY OF THE DOCTOR” DIDN’T YOU? God dammit.
In a confrontation very similar to the one he had with Ashildr, Bonnie turns on The Doctor and blames him for the violence and suffering in the world. The Doctor has NO PATIENCE for this shit. After all, his TARDIS doesn’t work properly and he doesn’t have his own personal tailor. Sure that may not equate with the extermination of a species, but the principle stands. The Doctor may create certain circumstances but the choices made IN them are all on the shoulders of the people (or aliens) making the choices. I said in my recap of “The Woman Who Lived” that suffering doesn’t define us. Shitty circumstances shouldn’t either. A very wise wizard named Gandalf once said “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Shit happens, but what do you DO when it does. Do you lay down and cry about it? Do you lash out and want to rage against the world? Or do you pull yourself up and KEEP GOING? THAT is what defines you. That is the only thing that matters to the Doctor. Shit happens to everyone, whether it’s a faulty TARDIS parking brake or impending genocide. “These things have happened, Zygella. They are facts. You just want cruelty to beget cruelty. You’re not superior to people who were cruel to you. you’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people. A whole bunch of new cruel people being cruel to some other people, who’ll end up being cruel to you. The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive. Why don’t you break the cycle?” DUDE. Also…how how how can Bonnie/Zygella just say “Why should we?” to that? Damn. That’s ICE COLD. The Doctor continues on, asking what it is she sees as her endgame. The funny thing is that Bonnie doesn’t really have one. She’s only fought as far as winning. So what happens when the next Bonnie comes along? Like I said, the world spins madly on.
The way Bonnie and Kate see it, they both have a 50% chance of being right. True, those are pretty good odds but this is not a GAME, the Doctor rages. If you lose in a game, you walk away with slightly lighter pockets and a bruised ego? If you lose a WAR, the losses are far greater. SO WHY PLAY when you have the chance to walk away? “This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk!” Peter’s performance moves from rage to despair to outright begging in a matter of moments. It’s SO fucking masterful, I can’t even deal. (Also, as an actor, I would have loved to have seen Peter’s reaction when he was given this script. What a GIFT.)
DOCTOR: Alternatively, you could step away from that box, you can walk right out of that door and you could stand your revolution down.
BONNIE: No! I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it. I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go, after what I’ve done?
DOCTOR: You’re all the same, you screaming kids. You know that? Look at me, I’m unforgivable. Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.
BONNIE: You don’t understand. You will never understand.
DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!
Can we talk about how The Doctor wouldn’t even wish the burden he dealt with after the time war on his greatest enemy? He did it in “The Witch’s Familiar” with Davros and he does it again here with Bonnie. The Doctor has known the greatest pain anyone could ever bear. He may not be able to take that burden away from himself, but he’ll be damned if he allows anyone else to know what he’s known. Again, the range of emotions Peter goes through here, from incredulous laughter to the brink of tears. IT’S SO MUCH and if Peter doesn’t win awards for this, I don’t know what other TV awards bodies are watching. Jenna does lovely work here too, both as Clara silently going on this journey with him (because she was THERE and she knows what this did to him) and as Bonnie, ever defiant but with cracks forming in her armor. “Not on my watch” is all it takes for Kate to step away from her box, properly shamed into retreating. “I’m sorry,” she says, choking back tears herself. And BLESS THE DOCTOR, he just turns to her and says “I know.” Nothing else needs to be said, really.
And what of Bonnie/Zygella? She’s come to a realization. The boxes are empty. All of it is designed to be a test. “And how do you know that?” The Doctor asks gently. “Because you’ve started to think like me. It’s hell isn’t it? No one should have to think like that. And no one will. Not on our watch.” A moment of understanding passes between them and they both hold back tears. “Gotcha.” (Being a Lost fan, I immediately went to Jacob passing on the knowledge of the Island onto Jack. “Now you are like me.” And now I’m going to go cry about “The End” and try to find time to write about my top Lost episodes.) Kate says they HAVE to remember that the boxes are empty, that they can’t forget what happened here today. “You’ve said that the last fifteen times,” The Doctor says before wiping her memory. FIFTEEN TIMES, you guys. “Day of the Doctor” wasn’t THAT long ago and yet it’s come to this fifteen times already. How sad is that? What he DOESN’T DO is wipe Bonnie’s memory.
DOCTOR: When they wake up, they won’t remember what you’ve done. It’ll be our secret.
BONNIE: You’re going to protect me?
OSGOOD: You’re one of us now, whether you like it, or not.
BONNIE: I don’t understand how you could just forgive me.
DOCTOR: Because I’ve been where you have. There was another box. I was going to press another button. I was going to wipe out all of my own kind, man, woman and child. I was so sure I was right.
BONNIE: What happened?
DOCTOR: The same thing that happened to you. I let Clara Oswald get inside my head. Trust me. She doesn’t leave.
I love the compassion The Doctor showed here. He was being a Doctor. “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in.” I’ll see myself out now.
At the TARDIS (Totally and Radically Driving In Space), Clara and The Doctor bid Osgood farewell and Osgood FINALLY gets a good and proper inviation to come along. None of this “something for your bucket list” bullshit, he actually says “Do you want to come? All of the future, all of history, and all of the universe?” (And his little GRIN when he does it…he loves Osgood SO MUCH.) Osgood, bless her, says that she has to keep the world safe. Then he asks THE question one more time because he NEEDS to know whether she is the human or the zygon. “I’ll answer that question one day. Do you know when that day will be? The day nobody cares about the answer.” Then she gets her own “Gotcha” moment with the Doctor as a SECOND Osgood appears. (Me on Twitter: YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!) It wouldn’t be right to carry on using Clara’s face, you see. So Bonnie/Zygella picks up the Osgood Cause. She is one of them now, after all. Which is which? That doesn’t matter. “All that matters is Osgood lives.”
DOCTOR: You’re a credit to your species, Petronella Osgood.
OSGOOD: No, Basil.
OSGOOD 2: We’re a credit to both of them.
DOCTOR: Oh, and you should know. I’m a very big fan.
MY HEART. The TARDIS dematerializes and the sisters look at each other and smile. They’ll get back to defending the Earth (SHOUTOUT TO ROSE TYLER) in a moment. But for now…Ice Creams.
In the TARDIS, Clara gently asks The Doctor how he handled the thought of her being dead. “Longest month of my life,” he says and the funny thing is…it doesn’t feel like he is cracking a joke here or trying to toss off just how scared he was. He’s deadly serious. “It could have only been 5 minutes,” Clara says. “I’ll be the judge of time,” The Doctor says sadly and then he just…walks off. Everything about this felt ominous. I don’t quite know what they are doing, all I have to say is this. IF CLARA HAS BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE FUCKING TIME AND THE DOCTOR HAS BEEN BOUNCING AROUND IN HER TIME STREAM BECAUSE HE JUST CAN’T LET HER GO, I AM NOT GOING TO BE HAPPY STEVEN MOFFAT.
What are your thoughts on “The Zygon Inversion”? Let us know in the comments!