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Doctor Who S09 E08: The Zygon Inversion

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Things looked quite grim at the end of last week’s episode of “Doctor Who.” An insurgency in the 20 million Zygons living in hiding among the human race has endangered all involved, be they human, Zygon, or Time Lord. Clara and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart are possibly dead, with the evil Bonnie blowing up The Doctor’s plane with a rocket launcher – what next? Find out after the time and space jump, in my review of “The Zygon Inversion.”

Inverted

As I had mentioned in the last episode, ‘linear’ or ‘chronological’ are rarely words used lately when it comes to cliffhangers in “Doctor Who,” and seeing as we’ve had nothing but two-parters so far this season, it’s becoming more the rule than anything else. As we open on this episode, notably titled “The Zygon Inversion,” we see Clara sleeping and getting up to look at a reversed clock, scrambled letters in the newspaper, and black toothpaste instead of white. Everything is inverted.

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Add to that that she is trapped in her small apartment, and on the TV is the point of view of her double, the insidious Zygon Bonnie, as she targets The Doctor’s presidential plane with a rocket launcher. Not knowing The Doctor is on board, or perhaps, yes, knowing, Clara is able to divert the first rocket launched by shaking the TV. The second one is not as easy, and hits the plane. Of course, the question, before the credits roll, is can everyone in their little pods beneath London manipulate their corresponding Zygons in this way? Or is Clara, once again (and unfairly) special?

Be Careful What You Wish For

One credit sequence and two parachutes later, I get what I have wanted for more than a couple seasons – Osgood as a companion. See the chemistry in just under a minute? It’s perfect. Her glasses are broken, so The Doctor lends her his sonic sunglasses, warning her to not look at his browser history. She chides him that she knows what he’s doing – talking nonsense to distract her from being scared, as it’s one of his known character traits. I love this companion who actually knows how The Doctor operates. I’d better enjoy it while I can. Steven Moffat is co-writer on this one after all.

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In under ten minutes Osgood shows why she would make a good companion, besides the obvious fangirl nerd thing, and the U.N.I.T. connection. She can think. When was the last time we had a companion who could think? Does Captain Jack Harkness count? Ace maybe? Do we have to go back to Adric and Nyssa perhaps? I like Osgood a lot, which is why Moffat’s probably going to kill her again. Man, can you feel my stomach churning as I watch this?

Internal Interrogation

Meanwhile Bonnie is up to no good after shooting down the presidential plane. First she outed a Zygon into his real form and alerted the media. You know how the media goes whackadoo when they see aliens in the Whoniverse, so this is bad. From her inverted apartment in her pod, Clara calls The Doctor, but The Doctor ends up calling Bonnie back. Communication is accomplished easily but the problem is it’s a two-way street. If Clara can make Bonnie do stuff, so can Bonnie make Clara do stuff.

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In her search for the Osgood Box, Bonnie interrogates Clara. Through their pulse, it’s impossible to lie to each other, so Clara ends up telling Bonnie everything. Bonnie now has access to the Osgood Box, in which is hidden a button, a button when pushed will unmask every Zygon on the planet. Mystery upon mystery. Not that hard a mystery though – there are two Osgood Boxes, just like the Osgoods…

Truth or Consequences

What is the obsession with “Truth or Consequences”??? There’s a red box and a blue box, one unmasks all the Zygons, and the other destroys every Zygon. Inside each of the boxes, Bonnie quickly discovers another box, this one with two buttons, one marked ‘truth’ and the other ‘consequences.’ Somebody sadistic liked puzzles. Was it David Tennant or Matt Smith? Because they were the ones who brokered this peace off-screen waaay back in “The Day of The Doctor.”

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With all these buttons about, I can’t help but think of the second episode of this series, “The Witch’s Familiar,” in which The Doctor is confronted with killing Davros as a child, before he does all the evil and genocide in his future. Is this the theme of the season? Did The Doctor(s) create these buttons to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening again? A button for Harry Sullivan’s nerve gas, one for nuclear Armageddon, one for Zygon revelation, and one for shapeshifting negation. The Doctor, in prime game show host-iness, dances out the choices. Somebody has been watching too much Game Show Network late night.

The Lecture

For the third time in this new “Doctor Who” series, writer Peter Harness has done something I really don’t like. He’s lectured me, and lectured me using characters I love who might not usually act and speak in the way he has made them do so. Harness did it last episode, and I mentioned in my review, and he did it last season in “Kill the Moon.” Say what you want about war or abortion, but don’t make fictional shared characters say these things just because you want them to.

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I know what many of you are saying right now – didn’t the original “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone” do much the same thing by overlaying science fiction scenarios over morality plays every week? Yes, they did, but they were much subtler. And they didn’t make me dislike those characters, or make them feel false in doing it. This doesn’t feel like “Doctor Who,” and I’d prefer my science fiction non-politicized.

The Rest of the Story

The button of course is also a throwback to the Time War, and the button that destroyed all the Time Lords and Daleks. That part I kinda liked. I also liked the part where The Doctor asked Osgood to be a companion, but hated where she turned him down. I also wonder if The Doctor’s name truly is Basil, and if Totally And Radically Driving In Space does stand for TARDIS rather than Time And Relative Dimension in Space. See, there were things I actually did like about this episode.

No matter what good or bad has come of the double ending, or the Zygons on Earth, I don’t know that I can get rid of the bad taste in my mouth from this episode. I will have that taste back if I see Peter Harness’ name on a script again sadly. The Men in Black tech and The Doctor treating Kate like Harriet Jones didn’t make me happy either… By the way, did anyone else see The Mire armor in the Black Archive? How did that get there?

Next: Sleep No More!

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About Glenn Walker

Glenn Walker is a professional writer, and editor-in-chief and contributing writer at Biff Bam Pop!. A blogger, podcaster, and reviewer of pop culture in all its forms, he's done stints in radio, journalism and video retail. Ask him anything about movies, television, music, or especially comics or French fries, and you’ll be hard pressed to stump him or shut him up.

Posted on November 7, 2015, in Doctor Who, Glenn Walker, science fiction, television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. For some reason this season (and for that matter last season) just isn’t clicking with me. DOCTOR WHO used to be one of those few TV shows that I would watch at the actual time it aired. Now, I’m content to DVR it and watch it a couple of days later.

  2. In my opinion, this season DOCTOR WHO is trying too hard. First, they make the Doctor stiff, unforgiving and hard. Now he is trying to much to be more approachable. His relationship with Clara seems a bit obsessive also. I don’t know what she has done to earn this entitlement. She seems to always be telling him NOT to do something, rather than to act. I don’t know, maybe I am just not getting it. But I find myself fast forwarding to get to the end and ignore the “filler” stuff. I have tried to hang in there and be a “real fan” but I must admit I am failing miserably. At this point, I have better things to do with my Doctor Who time. That makes me sad.

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