Time and Relative Dimension in Spoilers 008: The Zygon Inversion

Spoilers are straight ahead. But if you’re concerned about spoilers, you probably shouldn’t read an article with the word in the title.

It feels like, with a cliffhanger of a terrorist Zygon faction seemingly having eliminated all of our heroes and threatening to take over Earth, I should have more to say about the plot of this episode, but I don’t really. The Doctor saved the day, as we knew he would, and all is well. But that doesn’t mean that this episode wasn’t worth watching. Cool stuff definitely happened.

Doctor John Basil Disco and Petronella Osgood
Doctor John Basil Disco and Petronella Osgood

I really enjoyed how they chose to show Clara’s perspective of being trapped inside a Zygon pod with the tv as her window to her clone’s interaction with the outside world. I also appreciated the realism of Clara being able to fight back against her clone and control her actions. The “immobilized and shunted off screen while my evil clone runs around” gambit can be a lazy one, so it was refreshing to see the show turn it on its head by making the connection flow both ways. The interrogation scene where both Claras measured their pulse was a particularly cool interpretation of this kind of prisoner/jailer relationship and Clara showed some good Doctor-like thinking by making Bonnie keep her alive until after she got her inside the Black Archive.

Why shouldn't the connection be two ways?
Why shouldn’t the connection be two ways?

My favorite companion moments came from Osgood. She’s earned her way into the canon as a companion the way other guest star characters have and then some. The Doctor made my dreams come true by offering her a position on Team TARDIS and she proved her worth yet again by turning it down to protect the Earth. Rationally, I know that this is one of those characters best in small doses the better to savor them, but the 4 year old in me just wants all Osgood all the time. Or at least an Osgood action figure.

The Doctor’s plot to restore the ceasefire was both brilliant and pure him. I’ve seen this episode come under fire, saying that it was too easy for the Doctor to achieve peace, and realistically it wouldn’t go down like that. Laying aside the idea of “realistically” achieving peace with an alien race hiding out on Earth (I mean, maybe, who knows, but if anything like that exists, we don’t know about it and therefore can’t talk about something like this “realistically”), I have to disagree with these critics. All one really has to do to appreciate how difficult the peace was to achieve is to rewatch that brilliant speech he made in the Black Archive. He lays himself completely bare, completely forgives a murderous faction of enemies that could continue to be deceptive and pose a threat, and has to talk down the head of UNIT, which basically exists to kill alien threats. If that’s so easy, you try it. 

Five rounds rapid, bitch.
Five rounds rapid, bitch.

If anything was made easy in this episode, it was done so by Zygella underestimating the Doctor. I would think that anyone who has faced off against the Doctor as many times as the Zygons have would know how he operates. Anytime the Doctor threatens to do something that will kill everyone, it’s a bluff. Anytime the Doctor tells his enemy to do something, it’s a trap. Osgood went so far as to point out things he told Zygella that were all part of his plan, but it took her far longer than anyone else in the episode to figure these things out. If there was anything to bug a Whovian about the episode, this would be it. However, since these tiny flaws ended up with the good guys winning, I’m willing to forgive. I’m just that kind of fan.

Let’s talk for a sec about my man, Peter Capaldi. He is KILLING IT. Murdering. Slaughtering. Destroying. Every line, every speech, every gesture. He is all 12 Doctors at once at all times and sometimes feels more like the Doctor than anyone has in a long time. He makes me think back to Christopher Eccleston’s brilliant turn, which is why this show took hold in the first season, despite cheesy effects and wonky plots. By this time in the series, I think it’s high time for a shot to the arm to reinvigorate the series. Some people were put off by Matt Smith’s constant goofiness. Others disliked how mean Amy Pond could be. Still others walked away from Clara’s sheer pointlessness in the second half of series 7. I know that if you’ve given up on the show, you probably aren’t reading this, but if that’s the case for any of you dear readers, it’s time to come back. Capaldi cannot be stopped and you are going to want to see this.

Does this look easy to you?
Does this look easy to you?

And just to beat a dead horse a little more, THIS is what I’m talking about, when I talk about an episode that deserves to be a 2-parter. These episodes had enough story to fit into two hours. These episodes had a believable, necessary cliffhanger. These episodes made sense together, so much so that I wouldn’t have minded a few weeks off between the two to build tension. And they would have had such a bigger impact if every episode we’d already seen this season wasn’t also a 2-parter when they didn’t need to be. Time to get over the cutesy-ness of that conceit and focus on telling amazing standalone stories. 

We’re into the last leg of the series now, 4 more episodes to go, and somewhere along the way we’ll say goodbye to Clara. I’m excited to see where we go next, looks like another scary one is in the works for next week. See you then!

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