TV Recap: Doctor Who, ‘Zygon Invasion’


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Zygon Invasion Plot Summary:

The aftermath of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ has lead to a peace treaty between Earth and the Zygons. In the treaty Zygons are allowed to live amongst humans, but they must assume human form and not reveal their true identity. The treaty is broken when all hell breaks loose in the United States, then areas all around the world. It’s up to the “President of the World” aka The Doctor, Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) of UNIT, and Clara to save the world — and their good friend, the not dead Osgood.

Thank Trenzalore for two-parters.

Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED
Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED

This season/series of Doctor Who has made its bone by crafting longer stories that span over two episodes. Sometimes it works perfectly (see the Missy/Dalek arch from the beginning of the season), while others are a bit tepid (see the previous two weeks of Maisie Williams on the show).

The gimmick of seeing ‘To Be Continued’ every other week could be quite annoying. What happened to all the standalone episodes that made the Tennant and Smith seasons so great? Why can’t they tell their story in the confines of one episode?

For this reviewer the two episode arch model is not just a novelty, but a better way to tell Capaldi-era Who stories. Capaldi’s Doctor isn’t the hyper-kintetic, ‘Let’s solve it now, even if makes little sense!’ Doctor. He’s more methodical, and thus his stories have become more densely layered with emotion, intrigue, and surprise left turns.

No matter how you feel about the two-part system Doctor Who has employed this season, one can’t deny that ‘Zygon Invasion’ is perfect for a two-parter. There is no way they could’ve resolved all these storylines in the span of an hour, and there was no way they could work their way out of those finale moments without continuing to next week.

Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED
Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED

Speaking of the final moments…SPOILER ALERT…what are we supposed to make of the Clara situation?

Before we dive into theories, the writers and director of the series have to be commended for the amazing sucker punch that the Clara we’ve been matching for 90% of the episode is actually Bonnie — a Zygon.  What worked so well is that the UNIT agent, Jac (Jaye Griffiths), placed with Clara was the red herring. She acted to suspiciously that you had the creeping feeling that she was a Zygon. Never did it enter this reviewer’s mind that Clara would’ve been “killed” and replaced by a Zygon.

The reveal of “Bonnie” was executed perfectly. First, there’s the wipe of the cloudy Zygon tank. We see Clara’s face. That right there was a shock. The first thought is ‘that’s the Zygon clone.’ Then Jac

starts yammering and yammering about Zygon behavior — you immediately think, ‘Okay, she’s going to slip and reveal she’s actually the Zygon.’ But not, instead we get a slow, sly smile creeping across Clara’s face, and she’s turns around with utter evil glee in her eyes and utters, ‘Kill the traitors.’

Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED
Photo Credit: © BBC WORLDWIDE LIMITED

Jenna Coleman has never seemed to have more on the series than in her moments as the evil Clara, “Bonnie.” Coleman has always done a fine job as the plucky ‘impossible girl’ and had some nice dramatic moments in last season’s two-part finale. But there’s just been this one-note feeling about Clara – every episode she seems to have the same set of emotions. This is extremely apparent this season as the playbook seems to be, ‘Clara’s excited for an adventure, she’s a little to eager to take danger head on, she gets really nervous about said danger, but in the end talks herself and everyone around her into believing that somehow, someway The Doctor will save the day.’ So, to see Coleman play this gleefully maniacal and cold-blooded character is a huge breath of fresh air. It’s the first time in nearly a year since this reviewer has cared about the fate of Ms. Oswald.

Speaking of fate — Clara’s “dead” right? Is this the beginning of her big write-off? It’s no secret she won’t be returning next season, so this is as good of time as any to begin the process of writing her out, and hopefully providing a new companion.

Then there’s the fate of The Doctor and the returning Osgood (Ingrid Oliver). Now, that missile that Bonnie fired at the Presidential plane seemed to be a direct hit — so how are they going to write around this predicament? Now, it is interesting that The Doctor chose the plane instead of the TARDIS to travel. I have a feeling that will come into play here.

Picture shows: Ingrid Oliver as Osgood and Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Picture shows: Ingrid Oliver as Osgood and Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

‘Zygon Invasion’ was a terrific episode, and was a huge upgrade over the Maisie Williams two-episode run. It worked on every level imaginable. First, they were able to tie into multiple past storylines (“The Day of the Doctor” and the Harry Sullivan storyline). Second, the Zygons have now adapted their powers which make them even deadlier enemies, and The Doctor can’t run the usual ‘this is how we defeat them’ scenario. And finally we got a hell of a twist ending that’s begging us to come back to find out the conclusion. If you’ve stepped on Doctor Who this season because you were dissatisfied with Capaldi’s first year as The Doctor — do yourself a favor and jump back into the series with this episode. Your faith will be renewed.

Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites