This week’s Doctor Who, “Invasion of the Zygons,” started with a brief recap of the Zygon peace treaty. The one that was formed during the fiftieth anniversary special “The Day of The Doctor.” We find out that young UNIT fangirl Osgood is still alive, or at least one of her is. After seeing an Osgood get murdered last year it was a surprise to hear the actress was returning. Explained away that her Zygon double and she decided to both live as Osgood and not tell anyone which of them is real and which is the alien, as a symbol of the peace treaty they helped bring about. We see a video message from the two of them explaining the agreement and how fragile it is. As the Osgoods say, “Every race is capable of the best and the worst, and my race is no exception,” and seeing how easily the cease fire could be broken, The Doctor has apparently given them some sort of fail safe. The Osgood Box, as it is called, is The Doctor’s last resort in the event that the treaty is broken. I’m assuming this will loop back around in next week’s part two because the box isn’t mentioned anymore this week.
We do get to see the remaining Osgood running for her life and phoning The Doctor, trapped in a war torn town that is reminiscent of a battle scene from the Middle East. This week showed the return of The Doctor’s guitar obsession, seen thrashing away many times this year, and when Osgood calls he’s jamming out around the TARDIS. The punk rock Doctor thing seems to be sticking around a while and I like it!
The rest of the episode feels like Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets the war in Afghanistan. The Zygons have developed the ability to duplicate not only humans they have captured, but they now can reach into people’s minds and make themselves look and sound like one’s loved ones. This is never really explained in any way, shape or form, we’re just told that it’s true and that is that. A sloppy bit of plot convenience to add a new wrinkle to an old villain.
This episode feels like it will have a political message by the time it’s done but I can’t quite put my finger on what it will be. With the obvious allusions to the wars in the Mid East, the assaults on the New Mexico town “Truth or Consequences” (a real town, surprisingly) definitely feel like Iraq or Afghanistan rather than American soil. This can’t be a coincidence, but the Zygons are so obviously the villains so far that it feels a bit too straightforward for the show. Something tells me that next week we’ll find out some set of circumstances that makes them more sympathetic. Doctor Who loves the idea of the misunderstood alien and it would be my bet that’s where we’re heading. It will be difficult if they do make this turn, the Zygons are set up basically as terrorists now, with sleeper cells hiding amongst us. How they would make them sympathetic I can’t even imagine but I am almost positive that’s where this is heading.
There are some very funny moments this week, the most perverse being The Doctor’s use of a Zygon living computer. Thrusting his hands in and out of its gooeyness to operate it, Clara asks if he’s enjoying himself. The Doctor admits he snogged a Zygon once, and once successful slyly says he still has the old magic. A few times we get to hear The Doctor refer to himself as president of the world again, he even gets his own plane. Oh, and when Osgood, who has traded in her long scarf for question marks, asks why The Doctor doesn’t wear the punctuation preference of his past anymore Capaldi cooly says he does, he wears question mark underwear now. I guess Doctor Who cosplayers will have a new accessory from now on.
By the end of the episode we realize that Clara has been a Zygon for almost the entire episode. This makes a few things she does quite questionable, like telling them about the town in New Mexico. I suppose it was to set a trap but for all she knew they would just bomb the hell out of it instead of exploring on foot. Is there more going on with fake Clara or is this just bad writing? Damn you two part episodes! So difficult to judge whether something is a clever setup or just a misstep until we’ve seen the conclusion.
Lots of moments feel like this, where they could be a good twist but otherwise are bad writing devices. When a squad of soldiers, fully aware of the Zygons abilities, march into a building because they think there’s a chance they are really their loved ones, seems just really stupid. Then the fact they are all disintegrated into the mounds of the electric charged hair we see throughout the episode without getting off a single shot seems ridiculous. If there is no other shoe waiting to drop then this might be the season’s weakest entry. Still interesting and fun for the most part but definitely a dip in quality from the rest of the year. Here’s holding out hope that Part Two will tie things up nicely and pay off some of these odd choices.