Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 7
“The Zygon Invasion”
Posted by Sage
Okay, Doctor Who. Quit mucking about.
I was promised Clara Oswald, full-tilt TARDIS-crazy, taking in all of time and space with the Doctor. There are precious few episodes left before Jenna Coleman’s departure (not-so-friendly reminder that we actually don’t know when that will be), and she’s sending Twelve’s calls straight to her voicemail? I understand that it might not always be practical for the Doctor and Clara to fight the monsters together, but I actually groaned when he instructed his companion to stay and defend her country while he jetted off to the alien-controlled village in Turmezistan in “The Zygon Invasion.” I’m a Doctor Who fan, so I’m a pro at ignoring plot holes. But no one has bothered to explain to me why Clara is maintaining her life on Earth when all the pre-season press previewed exactly the opposite. Worse still, the Clara we spend most of “The Zygon Invasion” with wasn’t actually Clara at all but Bonnie, the high command of the rebellious Zygon splinter group. HEAVY SIGH. At least she’s hot.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Osgood is alive. Kind of.
The episode opened with a flashback to the 50th anniversary special, and Ten and Eleven joining sass-forces to persuade human-Kate and Zygon-Kate into establishing a peace treaty between their species. “The key to perfect negotiation?” Eleven asks. “Not knowing what side you’re on,” Ten answers. Boys, just taking a minute to let you know: I love the new guy, but I still miss you all the time. xoxo, Sage.
Anyhoo, the crux of the peace treaty is secrecy. 20 million Zygons are distributed around the world, with the promise that they’ll stay under cover in their human form. Operation Double is on a need-to-know basis, even within UNIT. And our Osgood is the embodiment of the spirit of the treaty. The Master destroyed Osgood in the Series 9 finale because she was jealous that the Doctor admired her. Her “return” proves Osgood to be even more brave than we or the Doctor imagined. She volunteered to share a “live-link” with her Zygon double, and the result was an entirely symbiotic relationship that left the surviving Osgood “mad with grief” after her “sister’s” death.
As pleased as I am to have Osgood back on screen and sharing the President Of The World’s personal plane, I feel cheated by the circumstances. Osgood became a fan favorite after her very first scene in the 50th, because she was – and Moffat claims is still – a stand-in for the audience. The UNIT scientist was an out-and-proud Doctor fangirl, who charmed the man himself with her brilliance and courage. She always asked the right questions, never hesitated to put herself in danger if it could serve the greater good, and confidently donned the Doctor’s favorite accessories in his presence. Bow ties are cool, and there was no shame in Osgood’s game. Now, she’s another victim of Moffat’s “extraordinary woman” habit, as if we ever needed her to be more than just a really smart, cool human who the Doctor could count on.
The Osgoods explain the treaty in a video that they recorded in case of an emergency, whether that’s one of their deaths or what they call “the nightmare scenario” – the end of the human/Zygon ceasefire. They have a large cube on the table between them that they call “The Osgood Box.” The Doctor left it with them after hands were shaken on the agreement. What’s in it is still up for debate, but it’s powerful enough that the rebels want it bad. Bonnie has possession of The Osgood Box at the end of this episode. We can rule out it containing a weapon (at least in the traditional sense) because the Doctor doesn’t just hand over WMDs to people who already have too much firepower for his liking. In fact, he’s more likely to confiscate those WMDs like the neighbor whose yard became a graveyard of your old frisbees and softballs. (“I keep it now!”)
I used the word “species” above, but I’m sure you noticed that the Osgoods use a different qualifier to describe Zygons and people. “Every race,” they say, is capable of the best and the worst. Because this is a Peter Harness episode; and if “Kill The Moon” taught us anything, it’s that you should be wearing a hard hat to guard against clunky symbolism. “Their shape-changing abilities should not be considered a weapon,” they continue, which basically means, don’t be afraid of people who are different than you. In the words of Cher’s debate teacher Mr. Hall, “Tolerance is always a good lesson, even when it comes out of nowhere.” But the racial undertones of “The Zygon Invasion” quickly take a confusing turn when the conflict escalates. If this story is about the dangers and the injustice of forced assimilation, then who’s in the wrong? Was the Doctor wrong for encouraging the humans and Zygons to choose peace over conflict? Are the rebel Zygons wrong to want to “live as ourselves”? Not every Doctor Who story draws a clear line between good and evil, but let’s face it: the rebel Zygons are seen manipulating human fears with no remorse and zapping quite a lot of people dead. I don’t know why a writer would want to force a metaphor so zealously that simply can’t be resolved in a way that isn’t problematic. Ugh, my head hurts. Can I talk about the planets now?
Living Osgood interrupts the Doctor’s “Amazing Grace” guitar solo (Let Me Live, Peter Capaldi, Part 3/?) to alert him to the Zygon crisis. And because Clara won’t answer her damn mobile (EVER SINCE I LEFT THE CITY YOU), Doctor Disco is left alone to address the UNIT-recognized Zygon High Command. Under the treaty, they’re two primary school girls named Jemima and Claudette; the Doctor doesn’t need to see their true shape to know it. (“It’s a splendid way to conceal your blobbiness. But let’s not pretend: you two are very blobby.”) The girls reject the Doctor’s offer of help for dealing with the rogue Zygons, claiming that their race are part of their own jurisdiction. And look: the racial parallel gets weird and uncomfortable again, because these two are eventually destroyed by their own, and, in this case, should have allowed an outside entity who doesn’t share their experience to police them. *headdesk*
Kate Stewart and Jac (the glasses one from “The Magician’s Apprentice”) are frantic at UNIT headquarters. Kate calls in the Doctor, this time on purpose, and shows him a video message from Osgood, who’s been taking prisoner by the rebels. “The war is about to begin,” Osgood says in the canned message. “There will be truth, or there will be consequences.” And that’s a term the Zygons didn’t choose for its theatrical value alone. Clara finally answered her phone after helping her young neighbor Sandeep find his parents. (In their apartment, girl, why were you not suspicious?) She joins the party at UNIT and shows off the banal knowledge she retained from a lifetime of being very, very competitive.
The UNIT gang splits up – remember how I moaned about that above? Kate heads off to New Mexico with no back-up, for no sensible reason. She tried to retrace Osgood’s steps and, in doing so, meets the only other soul who’s brave enough to show herself in town. Obviously, the Sheriff is a Zygon, and I’m suddenly remembering why I quit watching The Following after 6 moronic episodes. Just assume that everyone is a Zygon like Ryan Hardy should have assumed that everyone he met was in the cult, and lots of embarrassing moments could have been avoided. I find “nothing is what is seems” episodes really annoying, because they head off any instinct I have to be fully present in the story. I spent almost every moment of this episode waiting for one Zygon reveal or another, and that makes the full package seem terribly trite.
The episode ends on a massive cliffhanger. And despite all my other complaints about “The Zygon Invasion,” I do like that this story and the rest in this series have had the room to breathe. The Doctor and Osgood learn, to their horror, that the invasion hasn’t just started. The rebels rejected the treaty from the jump, and are in place to completely take over the UK. Kate and another pair of her chic yet sensible heels are cowering in front of a Zygon sheriff in New Mexico. (That whole part of the plot is still “????” to me.) Bonnie has the Osgood box, and a giant fuck-off gun pointed at the Doctor’s plane. Now, wouldn’t this all have gone down differently if everyone had just linked arms and stayed together?
Timey Wimey Observations:
- This is funny, but WE GET IT, OH MY GOD:
- ONE HUNDRED. AND TWENTY SEVEN. MISSED CALLS.
- *child screaming* “Everything’s fine.” Cool.
- The Ghostbusters ooze was a nice touch.
- Poor one out for Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.
- “I thought you didn’t like being President of the World.” “But I do like pouncin’ about in a big plane.”
- “Doesn’t it feel sometimes that things are coming to an end?” “Everybody middle-aged always feels like the world’s about to come to an end.” What?
- “Can you change your voicemail message, please, it’s getting very boring.” = I miss you, boo, call me back.
Kim will be your recapper for “The Zygon Inversion” next week, and here’s hoping it goes easier on her than moon egg abortion did. Let us know how you felt about this one in the comments, especially how hard you want Zygon Clara to punch you in the face. Unless that’s just me, in which case, please forget I said that.