By Will Barber Taylor
In previous years we at this humble website had reviewed each episode of the then new series of Doctor Who individually as they went out. However, in the spirit of the return of the two parters, it has been decided to review the two parters together as if they were one coherent story. Series 9 continues with a review Peter Harness and Steven Moffat’s somewhat mismatched Zygon epic that has a rather obvious “political” message.
The Zygons have been a cult fixture of Doctor Who since 1975’s Terror of the Zygons. One of the few “one time monsters” that made a deep impression, the Zygons didn’t return until the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. In that story the Zygons were forced by the three Doctors (no, not those three Doctors) to sign a peace treaty with the humans. This two parter examines the repercussions of that peace treaty.
The problem with this story is that it is a bit uneven; while the first part is frankly a bit of a mess, the second part redeems the story by concluding it in a fitting way. The core of the first part’s problem is that it seems to be more or less just setting up the second part. We spend almost the entire episode setting up what is going to happen in the next part with no sense of urgency or pacing. To add to this, the rather over the top ISIS metaphors are just…. Silly. Now it is brilliant that Doctor Who is attempting to tackle such a real world threat in a story but it is done in such a daft way that it doesn’t feel even remotely real. For instance, the Zygons send out videos like ISIS showing captives etc. Yet then they do this, their massive orange gurning faces make expressions comparable to a toddler trying to control its own bladder. Why, oh why, did they put that in there?! Instead of making the aliens seem like a version of terrorists, they are more like characters from Scooby Doo.
Another goofy part of the first episode comes when the Zygons capture the leaders that don’t want them to attack the humans, unlike the fringe group. The Zygons leaders are disguised as children and meet The Doctor at a playground. Suddenly, the Zygons appear and grab the kids before driving off in a van. The sheer ridiculousness of the image presented to us is staggering. How are we meant to take them seriously as a threat when they drive around in vans crackling to themselves?! Again, the Scooby Doo analogy seems appropriate.
However, part two fixes the problems of the first part by not involving the gurning children of Mr Blobby but rather a standoff between UNIT, The Doctor and the Zygons. While the Zygon commander (who has taken the form of Clara, so no silly faces) wishes to bring about war for war’s sake, The Doctor attempts to stop her but fails to prevent her from arriving at the Black Archives and finding the Osgood Boxes. The two Osgood boxes have buttons which will either kill human beings or Zygons. So with both Kate and the Zygon commander ready to declare all war, The Doctor gives an impassioned speech talking about the pain of war and that it is something that can and should be prevented. It is a fantastic moment and really saves the story from being a very wobbly one.
Peter Capaldi has several good Doctor-ish moments (“Doctor Disco” being one of them), however, it is in the second part towards the end of the story that he really shines. The Doctor displays so many emotions throughout his impassioned speech, going from anger to despair to incredulity that it feels as exhilarating watching it as it must have been when Capaldi performed it. He brings The Doctor’s full emotions out and you can’t help but agree with everything he says.
Ultimately, The Zygon Invasion/ The Zygon Inversion is an odd mix of a story. It has some good ideas and some good (and one excellent) moments, yet it is let down by some rather silly ideas and some rather stupid instances.
Next time – Sleep No More