TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Zygon Invasion

First of all, let me apologise for the lack of reviews for the previous two episodes, both Jen and I were afflicted with unfortunate life things and the good Doctor had to fall by the wayside for a couple of weeks! But we are back and what a cracker of an episode to return to.

The Zygon Invasion finds the peace treaty negotiated between human and Zygon back in the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, under a considerable threat. The treaty, forged by Osgood and Osgood (one human, one Zygon), allowed 20 million Zygons to settle in human form all over the world provided they keep their true species hidden. When one Osgood is killed back in the last series, the other Osgood is consumed by grief and the negotiated peace begins to break down. Zygons want their freedom and will stop at nothing to get it. As they repeat throughout the episode, it's a game of 'truth or consequences.'

The idea of consequences is something this series has been playing with a lot where the Doctor is concerned, as decisions of his past have considerably affected his future. Here, it's dealing with a treaty that he oversaw to save both the humans and the Zygon race as well as the death of Osgood and the shaky ground that treaty is based on. The Day of the Doctor was itself along those themes as the Doctor came to terms with his part in the apparent destruction of Gallifrey during the Time War and it makes sense that The Zygon Invasion, a pretty much direct sequel to that episode, should pick up those themes too.

We are not only dealing with that, but the whole episode functions as an analysis on our own society and the fears that we constantly deal with. The idea of a 'secret invasion' has come up a lot as part of the European refugee crisis, that the refugees aren't fleeing because their country is consumed by war and their lives are in danger, but because they're secretly after our benefits/jobs/homes or that they are secretly terrorists on their way to undermine our country through violence. You name it, a tabloid newspaper has printed it. The parallels run through The Zygon Invasion with abandon, from the white and black logo that Osgood sits under during her demand video to UNIT consistently arguing that there was no way the human population would react to the Zygon presence with anything but fear and xenophobia.

That critique of our society is painted in large brush strokes and does get a tad heavy-handed at times, but it gives the episode a greater depth than simply offering up some sci-fi based entertainment. It allows for some wry commentary from the Doctor, whose function has often been to point out some of the more ridiculous and dangerous aspects of human behaviour during his relationship with Earth. And the Zygons want something that feels deeply humane; to be allowed to live and stay true to themselves without judgement. It's pretty ambitious stuff for a Saturday evening family show and really great to see Who again striving to do something more than simply entertain.

This political background provides a solid foundation on which to build the narrative of the episode and to spin out some really great sequences from it. Being the first of a two-parter meant the story was paced better, a recurring theme in this series and it's been much stronger for it. There's an oppressive, paranoid atmosphere to it all so we are aware there are twists coming, but they lose none of the impact for that or guessing what twists they might be. The Zygons' abilities are also utilised for great dramatic effect as soldiers are confronted with Zygon copies of their families, planting a seed of doubt about the reality of the situation. The drone pilot confronted with copies of her family on the steps of the building she's about to bomb offers a neat counterpoint to the inhuman use of drones; it personalises a destruction that is usually kept at a distance.

This series of Doctor Who has been consistently strong and it seizes the opportunity to take on a bigger, global story now that everyone has settled in for the ride. This episode left us on a whopper of a cliffhanger and Jen will be here to discuss how that plays out next week.

Oh, one final thing. Can we get a round of applause for Action Rebecca Front? She was awesome.

- Becky

You can read Jen's review of Before the Flood here.

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