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.