Sunday 8 November 2015

Reviews in Time & Space: The Zygon Inversion

Doctor Who s09e08 - The Zygon Inversion

Zygons, Zygons everywhere! Last week this newest season of Doctor Who really hit its stride with The Zygon Invasion, as the human/Zygon ceasefire dating all the way back to The Day of the Doctor began to crumble. The Zygon invasion had already begun, Kate Stewart was at the mercy of a Zygon in Mexico and the Doctor and Osgood were about to be blasted out of the sky but none other than Clara Oswald. Of course, it wasn't actually Clara but in fact a Zygon duplicate by the name of Bonnie. Now we pick things up in part two of the story - The Zygon Inversion, written again by Peter Harness but this time with the added input of Steven Moffat. There will be truth, or there will be consequences.

Bonnie, the Clara Zygon
Bonnie or Clara? Clara or Bonnie?

As Bonnie continues the rebel Zygons plot under the guise of Clara, her mental link with the Doctor's companion takes an unexpected turn as Clara awakens in her pod and is able to throw a few spanners in the works. Meanwhile the Doctor and Osgood are able to survive the destruction of their plane, beginning a race against time to return to London, fully understand the Zygons' end goal and save Clara. All sides confront at the UNIT Black Archives - the place where the treaty first began, as the mystery behind the Osgood box is revealed and representatives from both humans and Zygons stand poised to wipe each other out.

As with all two part stories if the first segment proves especially good then there's always going to be some worry that the second won't quite meet up to the same standard. Thankfully this isn't a worry with The Zygon Inversion, which not only manages to live up to the hype created by it's predecessor but also manages to excel it in terms of momentum, development and quality. Considering the epic scale of the Zygon's proposed plan is (repeatedly reminding the audience that there are 20 million Zygons hiding across the planet), this episode goes for a more low-key approach by focussing on individual representations of each side in the disagreement with the Doctor and Osgood right in the middle of it. There are really strong performances all around, with Peter Capaldi even giving a speech that be considered one of the defining moments of him as the Doctor so far.

The 12th Doctor
Speech time

We've seen a lot of sides to the 12th Doctor so far. The condescending man with little time for apologies, the wizard, the trickster, the jovial guitar playing grandfather - he's been a complex one to pin down that's for sure. But this episode really brought one side of him to the forefront, one that Doctors nine through eleven showed off pretty clearly - the man who lived through the Time War. However the difference here is that this incarnation exudes the same gravitas as the version that fought in the war itself, and each of his words carry that experience.

However the real gem of this episode is Jenna Coleman, not especially for her performance as Clara but instead her turn as Zygon rebel leader Bonnie. The subtleties between the two characters really shine through in the moments where Clara and Bonnie are talking face to face (or, as close to face to face as two characters being played by the same actor can get) with them both oozing different displays of confidence as they try to one up each other during the 'interrogation'. Jenna's momentary stint as a villain feels like it was a long time coming, but it's importance and impact in this story means it wasn't just well worth the wait - it should hopefully be remembered as one of the best performances she's given in Doctor Who.

Kate Stewart
Five rounds rapid.

Another strength of these episodes is that we've finally got to spend some real time with both Kate Stewart and Osgood - two characters who are now considered series regulars but hadn't really done a whole lot to prove their worth. Kate gained her popularity from her position as the Brigadier's daughter, and Osgood from being a Doctor cosplayer. But here we get a proper glimpse into their characters, and in Kate's case its plain to see that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. In addition to the brilliant use of the Brig's infamous "five rounds rapid" line, Kate displays some of the same no-nonsense attitude to alien threats that repeatedly earned her father scorn from the third Doctor. The end of the episode showed that it might take a little less for her to come around of course, but the fact she still needed her mind wiped (and had done numerous times before) suggests that maybe it isn't too easy. Osgood - I'll be honest, personally I'm still not her biggest fan and the cosplaying element will forever continue to irk me. But these episodes have really displayed her as a character rather than just a novelty and deserve to be commended in that respect. Still unwilling to reveal which Osgood was the one that survived and now with ANOTHER Zygon duplicate thrown into the mix, it seems she might actually have some secrets that are just as perplexing as her idol's.

And then there were two...again.

The revelation of the Osgood box was an excellent bit of trickery, even if the concept of there being two of them was something that the more savvy viewer would have been able to guess earlier on. But with each box then opening up multiple options, the struggle starts becoming all the more complicated. The biggest surprise this episode had to offer though was that this wasn't the first time the peace treaty had been under threat, but instead the 15th. 15 different disagreements which had to be quashed, making you wonder how rehearsed the Doctor's speech was. The Zygon peace treaty could easily become something that is ingrained in the fabric of Doctor Who for years to come - perhaps not in the same way as it did here but it'd be hard to pull of another Earth-based Zygon story (or anything involving alien immigration) without some mention to it.

The Osgood Boxes
Deadly deal or no deal

The only thing that's left to say about The Zygon Inversion (along with The Zygon Invasion for that matter) is to watch it if you haven't already. The two-part story hasn't just proved to the strongest pair of episodes of season nine, but also Capaldi's run, modern Doctor Who in general and maybe one day might even sit among some of the all-time classics. The Zygons already managed to prove themselves as one of classic Who's more endearing monsters with only one episode to their name, and now they have a new one to sit comfortably alongside it. Bonnie's words of "there's no point turning over, there isn't anything better on the other side" couldn't have rung more true.

Next week: A brief break from the two-part format in the Mark Gatiss-penned Sleep No More - an episode that at the very least prove interesting as it's going to be presented in "found footage" format.

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