‘THE ZYGON INVASION’/’THE ZYGON INVERSION’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
“Truth or Consequences” – Zygons and U.N.I.T. with the Twelfth Doctor and Clara
We now come to the second half of Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’!
Like I said in previous reviews of Series 9, the first half of the season had some promise with intriguing concepts throughout. However, it’s by the time we get to the second half of the season that things start to get squandered especially by the time we get to the season finale which is a pity.
Now I wouldn’t be against the season faltering towards its conclusion if we had likeable characters and stories that were well-written. But throughout this season, I felt things were rather flat in terms of character development and storytelling. It wasn’t much of a huge thing in the first half of Series 9.
But this is where things got painful for me in the season’s second half and most especially with Clara’s character. Now I know there are people out there who don’t like Clara as much as I do. But I find some aspects to Clara’s character appealing and Jenna Coleman’s performances are really good.
If I was handling Clara’s journey throughout ‘Doctor Who’, I would’ve given her a more consistent arc and developed her character strongly compared to how she turns out in the show. That’s not what happens here but we’ll get into more on this later. By the way, here is some trivia information.
Apparently, Faye Marsay’s Shona from ‘Last Christmas’ was considered to replace Jenna Coleman as the new companion for ‘Doctor Who’ in Series 9 according to a ‘Radio Times’ article I read by Paul Jones. It was conceived by Steven Moffat when Jenna Coleman had intended to leave ‘Doctor Who’.
Whilst this never happened, it does at least confirm that Steven Moffat had different plans for Series 9 and didn’t intend to feature Clara in it before Jenna Coleman changed her mind. It would’ve been nice if Steven Moffat had a backup plan for Clara’s character, but it seems that this wasn’t the case.
Anyway, let’s continue with the rest of Series 9.
‘THE ZYGON INVASION’ (Part 1)
The season continues with the two-part story, ‘The Zygon Invasion’/’The Zygon Inversion’ by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat. Peter Harness previously wrote the episode, ‘Kill the Moon’, in Series 8.
The first episode of this two-parter is all done by Peter Harness whilst the second episode is co-written with Steven Moffat. I’m not so sure why Peter Harness didn’t write the whole story himself.
Anyway, this story is a sequel to ‘The Day of the Doctor’. It follows up on what happened during the human/Zygon ceasefire that was made since the end of that episode. I am glad this gets followed up.
I did wonder what had become of the Zygons since the end of that 50th anniversary special episode by Steven Moffat, thinking that it would never be followed upon again. How wrong I was about that.
The story also follows up on and develops more on the character of Osgood. Ingrid Oliver returns to play Osgood in this two-part tale. Wait! Wasn’t she killed by Missy in the ‘Death In Heaven’ episode?
No, apparently that was a double of Osgood. If you recall in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, there were two versions of Osgood. There was the human Osgood and there was the Zygon Osgood. Confusing, yes!
It’s not exactly clear who was killed by Missy in the ‘Death In Heaven’ episode, but I guess it probably was the human Osgood. I could be wrong of course, but then again this is a tale about identity crisis.
Anyway, before one of the two Osgoods was killed by Missy, both Osgoods recorded a message and commenced Operation Double. Apparently there’s a peace treaty between humans and the Zygons.
The treaty allowed 20 million Zygons to remain on Earth and to live peacefully as disguised humans. The Doctor warned the two Osgoods about ‘the Nightmare Scenario’ should that treaty get broken.
The Doctor also gave the two Osgoods as well as U.N.I.T ‘the Osgood box’. This is to be used as a last resort should the need arise. What’s contained inside the Osgood box seems a mystery even for me.
As a consequence, when one of the Osgoods was killed by Missy, the other Osgood went into hiding and very soon a rogue group of Zygons broke the ceasefire. That feared ‘Nightmare Scenario’ begins.
Thankfully the surviving Osgood sent a message to warn the Doctor about this before she gets captured by a Zygon. The Doctor gets the message as he takes the TARDIS back to present day Earth.
The Doctor soon reunites with U.N.I.T. as well as with Clara Oswald to discover what the Zygons are up to and how their invasion is progressing. But as the Doctor discovers, the invasion has happened.
I do like how this story has a worldwide emergency feel to it. We get to go to various places around the world. These include Turmezistan and Truth or Consequences, which is a real city in New Mexico.
Peter Capaldi delivers a superb performance as the Doctor in this two-parter. I like how he gets into the action of things and uncovers the mystery on what’s going on with the Zygons and their invasion.
I also like how the Doctor has more interaction with Osgood in this two-part story. There didn’t seem to be enough interaction between the two in the series and I’m glad that it gets made in this TV tale.
Ingrid Oliver is equally superb as Osgood in this two-parter. It’s not clear whether she’s the Zygon Osgood or not, but it seems that both were identical in personality and have this certain moral code.
Osgood gets to share more of an adventure with the Doctor as well as share her expertise on Zygons, U.N.I.T., the Doctor and being a scientist. It makes Osgood more of a complex character than before.
By the way, from what I’ve read, Steven Moffat created the character of Osgood as a ‘love letter to ‘Doctor Who’ fandom’ as he’s a huge fan of cosplayers. A nice gesture, I will give Steven Moffat that.
However I don’t think it should be reflected in how he writes ‘Doctor Who’ stories. Osgood’s a good character no doubt and is well-performed by Ingrid Oliver, but is that an ingredient for good writing?
By the way, the Doctor mentioned to Osgood that she was a hybrid of both human and Zygon in this story. There’s that word again! Hybrid! I wonder what it means. Can it have some significance later?
Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart in this two-parter. I like how Kate gets to take a commanding role in this story, being more like her father especially as the Doctor interacts with her.
Kate goes to Truth or Consequences in New Mexico where she meets Gretchen Egolf as Norlander in a Sherriff’s office. Norlander soon turns out to be a Zygon as she is about to knock out Kate Stewart.
I have to say, I’m glad we got to see more Zygons in this story compared to ‘The Day of the Doctor’. This is where we get to see more what the Zygons are like and how dangerous they are as an enemy.
There’s a really tense scene where U.N.I.T. soldiers surround a church in the village in Turmezistan and the loved ones of those soldiers come out. It turns out to be a trap as the loved ones are Zygons.
The Zygons as the loved ones lure the U.N.I.T. soldiers inside to kill him. This is despite Rebecca Front as Colonel Walsh with the Doctor telling the soldiers not to be fooled by the Zygons, making it tense.
Now there’s nothing wrong that scene. It’s grim, effective and horrible to see. But wouldn’t it be more effective if one of the U.N.I.T. soldiers had opened fire and the Zygons attacked in utter rage?
The Doctor of course rescues Osgood from the basement of that church before they manage to capture a Zygon. They interrogate the Zygon while he’s strapped to a chair on board a U.N.I.T. plane.
Meanwhile, Jenna Coleman as Clara is joined by Jaye Griffiths as Jac, Osgood’s replacement. Jac made her first TV appearance in ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’. Both Clara and Jac find this Zygon base.
It seems there’s a Zygon base underneath London that has a look similar to the interiors of the Zygon spaceship in ‘Terror of the Zygons’. There are also some humans being kept inside some Zygon pods.
One of these humans happens to be…Clara?! It then turns out that the Clara that’s been seen throughout this first episode of the story isn’t Clara at all. It’s actually a Zygon calling herself Bonnie.
You know, as much as Series 9 isn’t really one of my favourite seasons of ‘Doctor Who’, this was something I didn’t see coming. In fact, I believe this Zygon two-parter is the best story of the season.
The first episode ends with Bonnie (not Clara) opening fire with a rocket gun at the U.N.I.T. plane containing the Doctor and Osgood on board. How were the Doctor and Osgood going to escape this?
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 3 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Fan Show Finest’ featurette and ‘The Zygon Invasion’ trailer.
‘THE ZYGON INVERSION’ (Part 2)
The second episode begins with the real Clara in her Zygon pod dreaming she was back in her flat. I have to say, the real Clara’s scenes where she’s dreaming waking up inside her flat are my favourite.
Clara senses something is wrong when she finds not everything as it seems in her dream state. She soon discovers via the television in her flat she can see and hear what Bonnie is seeing and hearing.
Fortunately Clara gets to save the Doctor and Osgood inside their plane by making Bonnie miss her shots with the rocket gun. Whilst the plane does blow up, it gives the Doctor and Osgood an escape.
This is where I need to talk about Jenna Coleman’s performance as Clara and Bonnie throughout this story. Jenna’s brilliant in both performances and I was mesmerised by her playing a heroine and villainess.
I found it tense when Bonnie was so hell-bent on seeing her villainous schemes play out in exposing all the Zygons on Earth and starting a war with humanity. You can feel the angry hatred from Bonnie.
Bonnie easily loses her temper when she doesn’t get what she wants in acquiring the Osgood box to start the war. She doesn’t acknowledge there’s Zygons who want to live peacefully opposed to her.
It’s really good acting on Jenna Coleman’s part and it’s probably one of her best performances. Even when Bonnie is talking to Clara in certain scenes via mind contact, it is really gripping, engaging stuff.
However, there is a downside to this aspect of Jenna Coleman’s performances as Bonnie and Clara. Whilst Bonnie gets a meatier villainous role to play, this reduces Clara’s character as being sidelined.
Again, we have another example of Clara not getting a stronger character journey in Series 9 as we could hope for and like. I mean, Clara does have her moments in this two-part story via her Zygon pod.
For example, Clara has some control over Bonnie to send a text message to the Doctor and Osgood without making her aware of it. She also makes Bonnie wink to send signals to the Doctor via phone.
It does have Clara stand out in some form, especially when she becomes an influence to Bonnie’s character at the end. But again, Clara’s still stuck in her Zygon pod as she seems to be a victim in this.
I would’ve liked it if Clara had an active role to play in this story where she outside her Zygon pod more and not a damsel in distress by the Zygons. But still, Clara can be smart when she is able to be.
It was tense when an ordinary looking human man gets chased by Bonnie before being into a Zygon against his will. This is Nicholas Asbury as Etoine who is a very scared Zygon throughout the episode.
It was tense when the Doctor and Osgood tried to help Etoine in his distressed state when shifting from human to Zygon at times. It was also so gut-wrenching when Etoine kills himself in the process.
Eventually, the Doctor and Osgood get caught by Kate Stewart (presumed a Zygon) with two Zygons disguised as soldiers. They get brought down into the Zygon nest/base underneath to look for Clara.
But Clara’s pod is not there as it’s been taken by Bonnie and two Zygons to the U.N.I.T. Black Archive where the Osgood box is. It may be that the Doctor and Osgood are going to be attacked by Zygons.
The Doctor and Osgood however are saved by the Zygons…from Kate Stewart. Yeah, it turns out Kate Stewart wasn’t knocked out by a Zygon in the previous episode as she had pretended to be a Zygon.
Again, I didn’t expect to be outwitted twice in this two-parter. First with Clara turning out to be Bonnie; then Kate Stewart turning out she pretended to be a Zygon. Pretty clever twists! Well done!
Anyway, at the Black Archive, there are two Osgood boxes on the table, one red and one blue. This had been deliberately planned especially since it was two Osgoods who formed ‘Operation: Double’.
Inside each of the two boxes, there are two buttons to press. They’re marked ‘Truth’ and ‘Consequences’. This is a phrase that keeps getting repeated throughout this Zygon two-part TV tale.
Eventually, the Doctor, Kate Stewart and Osgood arrive at the Black Archive where they confront Bonnie with the Zygons holding Clara hostage out of her Zygon pod. Two opponents got to each box.
There’s Bonnie representing the Zygons at the blue box and there’s Kate representing the humans at the red box. Both are ready to press the buttons at their ends. And thus we have the greatest scene!
For all the criticisms I’ve made about the Steven Moffat era and considering it an average period of ‘Doctor Who’, this is one of the best things in the Peter Capaldi era. This scene from the Zygon two-parter!
It is a scene where the Twelfth Doctor delivers his anti-war speech. It is a scene where the Doctor talks constantly to persuade Bonnie and Kate Stewart not to press the buttons and commence a war.
Even for me, I hung on every word Peter Capaldi was saying in that speech of his. The scene felt very well-written for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. It defined everything that the Doctor should be as the hero.
Here is the Doctor, not using weapons to defeat his enemies, but using words. Words that mean something! Words that spell out everything that is great about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor during his era.
The Doctor uses his experience of what it’s like to fight in a war and expresses how much regret he had over the lives lost because of his own involvement. He uses it to make Bonnie change her mind.
The scene itself is pretty long-winded, I grant you. But the scene needs to be long in order for the Doctor to persuade an opponent of his who is so intent on war-seeking no matter the consequences.
I don’t think I’ve seen the Doctor like this since the David Tennant era. From that scene, I hoped the good old days of the new series were finally coming back. That we would have stronger storytelling!
Even Jenna Coleman as Bonnie who argues against the Doctor at every instance when he tries to persuade her not to press the button had me mesmerised. Even Jemma Redgrave as Kate was great.
But it’s Peter Capaldi who steals the show, making his Doctor stand out despite all the inconsistencies that have gone on before and after this scene takes place in his era. It is pretty good.
I liked it when Kate Stewart closes her red box after hearing the Doctor’s speech to which he thanks her for. Eventually, Bonnie gives in; closes her blue box and does not start a war, changing her mind.
The Doctor then wipes Kate’s memories of this incident as before in ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Bonnie’s memories are still intact though. It’s decided she will be protected and forgiven in the end.
Eventually, Bonnie restores the ceasefire between Zygons and humans before she assumes the identity of another Osgood. Both she and the other Osgood work together and keep the world safe.
‘The Zygon Invasion’/’The Zygon Inversion’ is definitely one of the best stories from Series 9 if not the best. I’m impressed by the twists and turns in this as well as the Doctor’s anti-war speech in this.
Jenna Coleman also impressed me as both Clara and Bonnie throughout this two-parter. It’s such a shame that Series 9 went downhill afterwards, since I had hoped the season would get better later on.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of ‘Series 9 – Part 2’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s ‘The Zygon Invasion’/’The Zygon Inversion’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette.
On Disc 4 of ‘The Complete Series 9’ of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Zygon Invasion’/’The Zygon Inversion’ – Doctor Who Extra’ featurette can also be found on there. There’s also ‘The Zygon Inversion’ trailer.
‘The Zygon Invasion’/’The Zygon Inversion’ rating – 9/10
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