12 Great Moments From The Zygon Inversion (Part 1)
Mark McCullough picks out 12 faves from the 8th episode of Series 9.
I have a bit of a bone to pick with the two men who brought us this week’s episode, but it is a nice bone to have to pick. When faced with an episode that good, it becomes next to impossible to settle on twelve moments. When faced with one moment which makes up a third of the episode, this becomes even harder (and explains the fact this article is split into two parts this week). Moffat and Harness may have made my life difficult, but it was more than worth the small hardship for what was easily the best episode the show has ever produced. Quite simply no episode that has gone before has even come close (calling it 10/10 doesn’t even do it full justice, as I have used the score for other episodes). With that in mind, I hope you’re prepared for what might end up as a very long read ( It actually ended up being my longest single article just getting over the five thousand word mark, hope it’s not too boring for you): I have a lot of great stuff to say about this one!
12. The Opening Sequence
With last week’s stellar cliff-hanger, this week was left a lot to do to satisfactorily resolve it. To do so it opted for the unusual approach of a change of tact, addressing Clara’s situation first, and essentially use the same cliff-hanger again going into the title sequence. What I loved about the scene with Clara was how it was creepy, giving a definite sense that something wasn’t right (massive kudos to the episode’s director). Not only that, but it was very claustrophobic and left the viewer questioning exactly what was going on. Interestingly enough, it was never actually explained why Clara was in a house or how a Zygon pod created such an illusion. A minor thing, but probably the only fault anyone could pick with the episode. Something which particularly impressed me with the scene was how they integrated the cliff-hanger back into it through the means of television, newspaper. Given that the rest of the episode is a commentary on human society, it’s not too big a leap to assume that this too is a reference to the over-reliance on technology to keep up to date with events.
11. Bonnie Reveals the Zygon’s True Nature
What’s not to love about a scene that allows Jenna Coleman to deliver an exceptional performance as an evil character? That is of course looking at things from a purely superficial value, and if I focused on that I would miss the key aspect of the scene, but fear not, there’s a full moment on Jenna later. This scene was very important, I can’t stress that enough, because it solidifies everything that the first part of the narrative told us. We could have been forgiven for thinking that the concept of good Zygons was little more than optimism on the Doctor’s part. This scene proved him right and showed us that there are those who want to live in peace, and they are being done a disservice by their own kind. In short the scene served to nullify my only real criticism of the first part of the story. Show me a ‘good’ Zygon and I’ll easily believe there are twenty million more, if not, you’ll struggle to convince me that what I am seeing is any different from any other invasion showcased by Doctor Who. In terms of how the Zygon is played, it’s all very human. Running from something he is scared of, hiding from it, getting embarrassed about his true from and running and hiding again. I felt this did a lot to cement the similarities between the species and actually did validate the possibility that the two could live in unison.
10. Foreshadowing Death
Now let’s address the elephant in the room: the obvious foreshadowing of a certain character’s death. So far this series there has been numerous references to the imminent departure of Clara Oswald with a lot of emphasis put on how important she is to the Doctor. Given the fact that as an audience we know that Jenna nears the end of her time on the show, we are probably a lot more aware to anything which suggests her departure. Perhaps what was missed here then was that foreshadowing also seemed to be directed at the Doctor. Surely with the comments that Capaldi will be in the role for a considerable time, I am reading too much into things, I don’t think Moffat actually would kill off the Doctor (again) but who knows. What is for certain is that we did within this narrative get a short glimpse of how the Doctor will cope following Clara’s departure. The simple answer is: not very well at all. This is something which will have to be addressed at some stage following Clara’s exit, and if this week is a hint of what to come, there is a real possibility that next season could contain some of the most fascinating characterisation of the Doctor to date. Given how strongly Capaldi’s Doctor has developed so far this year, that is an absolutely mouth-watering prospect. It’s a sign of an exceptional episode that it doesn’t just entertain you in the here and now, but also leaves you very excited for what is to come.
9. The Doctor is a Big Fan
This moment is included because I’m a soppy git, and love a good heart-warming scene like this. Since we first met Osgood in The Day of the Doctor, we have known that she practically hero worships the Doctor. We saw her denied an opportunity to travel with him in Death in Heaven because she was murdered by the maniacal Missy. Now she has the high pressure role of guardian of the peace between the Zygons and Humans. In general things hadn’t been going very well for poor Osgood, and I have felt a lot of sympathy towards her over the last few years. It was very nice to see the Doctor offer her an opportunity to travel with him again, but not out of what appeared to be pity this time, this time she earned it.
The scene in which it happens is actually quite an interesting one when viewed in light of the whole episode. Firstly the Doctor sending Clara back into the TARDIS strikes me as odd, there was nothing that was said to Osgood that couldn’t have been in Clara’s presence. Unless of course the Doctor decided that Clara shouldn’t know whether Osgood was really Human or Zygon. That bring me to the next question, why was it so important for the Doctor to find out that he felt the need to press for the information after it had become irrelevant? Perhaps this was just a ploy by the writers to introduce Bonnie as the new Osgood clone, either way it worked very well and reinforced the true message of the episode which I will discuss in more depth later in the article. Also worth noticing in this scene is the mirroring of words. The Bonnie Osgood (assuming she was the second to appear) uses the Doctor’s words back to him “Gotcha”, whereas the Doctor repeats the comment made to him by Osgood, “I’m a big fan”. I do think the Doctor’s comment had a double meaning, it means he is a fan of not just Osgood as a person, but everything that she and her duplicate stand for.
8. Osgood lies about the Osgood Box’s Location
Not an awful lot to say about this moment other than it was a key one for Osgood’s character. Consider the character we have been presented with in previous episodes, scared of her sister, reliant on her inhaler. Without being horrible, she really didn’t come across as a very strong person. This scene totally changed that and gave her character a new depth. The strength of character and resolve to know that you are going to be captured, to know you’re going to be interrogated (which let’s face it, we all know means tortured) yet to still hold your grounds and lie takes a lot of willpower. Something I really like about the scene was how Osgood took it as an opportunity to taunt her capturer about the existence and nature of the Osgood box. It was absolutely priceless too to see Bonnie’s reaction to the whole scenario, smashing the laptop and stamping on it. In essence this is what saves Clara’s life too as it makes her the only lead for Bonnie to find the Osgood Box.
7. Bonnie tells the Zygons that they are safe
One of the key scenes in the episode comes shortly after the Black Archives’ scene. This one is a lot more simplistic and less reliant on the dialogue to deliver an emotional impact. This scene is not one made by the writers, rather the visuals on display by the director and the accompanying score by the ever impressive Murray Gold. In fact the extent of the dialogue is “Zygon High Command, the ceasefire is back in place. The rebels are standing down. You are all… safe.” The impact of the scene comes from the delivery by the Zygon and the pause just before safe. You can tell from this that she genuinely believes that it is true meaning that the Doctor’s actions in the Black Archives had indeed been enough to change her mind. Surprisingly this was the only scene in the episode which was able to bring a tear to my eye, however that might be down to the tension in the scenes beforehand. This was essentially the victory scene of the episode, one person changing their mind not to commit an atrocity. Proof that the right piece of advice at the right time is capable of saving world.
6. Osgood as a Companion
With Clara incapacitated for the majority of the episode, the role of companion for the episode was left vacant. This was filled by Osgood, a fan favourite who many have claimed to have the undefinable attribute of companion potential. It turns out that the fans were right, Osgood did an amazing job as the Doctor’s companion and I feel it would be a real shame if we didn’t get to see her have another go at it at some point. As per the trend this week I have a collection of points I want to make about this ‘moment’.
She proves that she knows the Doctor extremely well, perhaps better even that some of his companions. Her humour complements his, but she realises his motivations behind it, “You’re talking nonsense to distract me from being really scared. It’s one of your known character traits” Once she said it, it was so obvious that this is what the Doctor has been doing for a while, but I never once considered it to be the case. She shows that she is highly intelligent in that she is able to work out from subtle clues such as a text and the Zygon missing that Clara might still be alive and exerting influence over Bonnie. Yet she is very sensitive in how she approaches the issue with the Doctor, “You’ve gone quiet because I mentioned Clara. You think she might be dead.” And even drops it when the Doctor asks. She is also shown to be alert when she immediately suspects that Kate and the UNIT soldiers are Zygons. It’s great to see a fan favourite getting some much needed development which will only serve to endear her to the fans even more. It’s quite telling too that the character’s first name is not revealed until now, it is as if the Doctor asked out of guilt for not asking before. Ingrid Oliver was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the episode. I would say stand-out performance only one of her co-stars managed the difficult task of bettering her.
5. Five Rounds Rapid
One of my criticisms of the first part of the story was that Kate seemed awfully incompetent when in Truth or Consequences. This was in fact a running theme of the series as the narrative in The Magician’s Apprentice failed to do her justice too. That trend ended this week as Kate finally got the chance to prove that she was still the character we loved from Death in Heaven and The Power of Three. Granted many people had guessed that Kate had survived the encounter in New Mexico, and was impersonating a Zygon commander. That said it was still an epic scene which showed the character’s best attributes, and her willingness to do what needs to be done, even if she knows the Doctor will not approve. This is touched on again in their conversation seconds later about the possibility of using the nerve gas to kill the Zygons, it is interesting that Kate had her memory wiped when the Osgoods didn’t. Perhaps this explains some of the odd behaviour. Later in the episode however we learn that she will talk a big game, but she could never actually bring herself to cause massive harm to another species, particularly in the presence of the Doctor. Kate has really developed into a key aspect of the Moffat era of Doctor Who and would be a character I would welcome back with open arms. In fact, even better she is a character like Sarah-Jane or Captain Jack who I would consider to be strong enough to carry a spin-off, so I hope that is something that the powers that be may consider in the future.
4. The Zygon Suicide
Since the beginning of the Capaldi era, the show has continued to ramp up the trend of covering increasingly dark topics in recent years. This week in an episode that managed to cover a lot of material, to a very high level, we see the darkest incident that the show has ever covered: a suicide. It’s great to see the show being brave enough to tackle such a mature topic, and to do it so well. I think Harness has found a niche within the Doctor Who universe, telling stories which strongly represent the real world. Kill the Moon had the debatable abortion parallels (which I have covered in a recent article) now The Zygon Invasion/Inversion tackles the topic of terrorism and the impact it has on people’s lives. This suicide scene allows him to examine the impact on the victims of terrorism, those whose people act against their will claiming to do so in their interests. The tragic thing about the Zygon displayed in this narrative is that it just wanted to live in peace (something I am sure is true of the majority of people living in ISIS occupied areas), and had this basic right taken from him by those looking more. Because of this, the actual suicide scene itself was very believable as it needed to be given the sensitivity of the topic. The only questions that such a scene might raise is the appropriateness for the children within the audience. I would argue that it was acceptable, and there are much worse things shown on TV nowadays. However I am quite interested to see opinions on this one in the comments section.
Continues tomorrow, with the top 3.