As The Zygon Inversion opened on a clone of Clara (Jenna Coleman) firing a missile at the plane holding The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), with the real Clara trapped beneath London in a weird pod prison thing, you could be forgiving for thinking this was going to an all-out battle, let’s all shoot at each other and set things on fire sort of an episode. But it really, really wasn’t. Clever, topical and stridently anti-war, this was Who with a message, and it worked.
According to The Doctor, what people should do ‘in the first place’, before they even think of fighting, is talk. And The Zygon Inversion very much practiced what he preached. Apart from a spot of parachuting and a few unfortunate incidents later on, this episode consisted, almost entirely of talking. Not managing to thwart Bonnie/Zygella from firing the missile, despite giving it a damn good try via their psychic link, Clara found herself locked in a battle of wills with her counterpart, whilst The Doctor and Osgood tried to find their way to her. And that was where the battle of wills really started, as The Doctor effectively refereed between leader of the Zygon rebels Bonnie, and UNIT leader Kate (Jemma Redgrave).
But we’ll come to that.
Meanwhile, the doubling provided a great opportunity for Jenna Coleman to flex her acting muscles. I have a slight theory that she’ll be one of those sort of characters where as soon as she’s gone, we’ll realise how great she was. She’s a grower.
And I know I say it every week but I’m going to do so again. The show continues to be genuinely laugh out loud funny. I’m not sure it’s ever been that until this series, but I like it. A lot. Much of it comes down to the fact that Capaldi’s excellent delivery makes everything feel a little unsteady and unpredictable. In the heavier scenes, this can be electrifying. In the funnier moments, it’s just plain hilarious. ‘Ah London… what a dump!’ being one such example. Both he and the writing work together to take you in directions you never expected to go, all in the space of a line.
There’s a splendid mythology developing around UNIT now, as we re-visited The Black Archives. They always felt a little bit shoe-horned in before, but now they have more of a proper place in the story arc. Speaking of which, is there anybody on the planet who doesn’t completely love Osgood? No, thought not.
We saw more of the same themes throughout the episode as we’ve seen all series, as we met more hybrids and pairings, particularly evident when Bonnie completed the broken Osgood pair, as well as this episode and its predecessor’s titles. Not to mention the ongoing trope of The Doctor solving the problem by talking, at length. We saw it with Davros way back at the start of the series, with The Woman Who Lived and now with Kate and Bonnie, as they both quite literally stand with their fingers on the button, ready to destroy each other.
Whole essays could be written on that scene. I’ll restrain myself, but between the powerful anti-war and pro-immigration messages, the memory wiping, Capaldi’s even-more-excellent-than-usual performance and the striking image of the pair (another one) of the red and blue boxes, we’d have enough to talk about for hours. As it was, it was yet another example of Capaldi’s brand of Doctor. His power is very much in his words – and he intends to use them. The result was seriously powerful stuff.
Others have commented that these last two episodes have been a little boring, perhaps slightly pedestrian, as The Doctor rode in a plane not the TARDIS, and two policeman who weren’t policeman walked slowly down a road and didn’t actually attack anybody…But to do so is to miss the point. They were always supposed to be a little quieter. The Zygons aren’t particularly scary, which is why ‘the enemy within’ angle works so well. And that’s what gave the episode its message – we all just want to get on with life, but disillusionment happens, and we need to talk about it, not just blow each other up like ‘screaming kids.’
And with that much emotional clout, surely the show can only keep getting better and better?
Becky will be here to tell you next week.
P.S I concur. *Applauds for Action Rebecca Front*