Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review (or “UNIT Soldiers Are Fucking Morons”)

I read an interesting point on a forum the other day.

Despite running for 52 years and with a mammoth 270 stories and counting to its credit, people tune in to Doctor Who every week with an unfair level of expectancy. For some reason, there’s this view among some fans that if each new episode isn’t one of the top 10 best of all time, then it somehow is a disappointment.

Some may argue that’s not the case, but I think it is, and to an extent I’m guilty of it too. I’ve seen shows with similar amounts of episodes – Grey’s Anatomy being a good example with 251 episodes broadcast – and don’t tune in expecting the best episode ever, but I personally hold Doctor Who to a higher level of account. If it’s not good, I’m disappointed; if it’s only average I hold it against the writer.

Weird.

And probably not very fair either.

But then I guess part of that is down to the show having such a wide remit. Because you can do anything with it and because it’s so popular among people who have made a career writing for TV, you’d hope there will always be fresh and interesting ideas and high quality penmanship in the scripts.

And then instead Mark Gatiss gets to write another episode…

But the Gatiss-bashing can hold off for another week.

For now, it’s time to review the latest two-part story, The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion.

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review: What’s This One About?

Asylum Seekers and the futility of war.

Thoughts – Let’s Not Dwell Too Much On The Obvious Subtext

I don’t really want to spend my time going into a deep analysis of how the subtext in this one is relevant to the society we live in at the moment. It’s not a new thing (look at The Green Death for an example of

"Listen son, I refuse to answer any personal questions you might have that would prove I'm your mother and not an alien that can change shape to look like her. Just trust me and come inside here; you've got nothing to worry about. Honest."

“Listen son, I refuse to answer any personal questions you might have that would prove I’m your mother and not an alien that can change shape to look like her. Just trust me and come inside here; you’ve got nothing to worry about. Honest.”

another story driven by a moral dilemma in the public consciousness at the time of broadcast) and it’ll be done again.

And it didn’t overshadow the story either. I didn’t come away from it thinking that this was a writer making a political stand at the expense of an interesting plot, but that instead he used current world events to build a story of his own.

The asylum seeker stuff perhaps didn’t resound with me as much as it might with folks in England – where immigration is a far greater issue than it is in Scotland – but I did like the anti-war message at the end. Using the Doctor as an outsider, writer Peter Harness presented a simple but effective point about the folly and futility of war. Peter Capaldi meanwhile acted out that point with gusto. Some are calling it his defining moment as the Doctor, but I just see a great actor maintaining the high quality of work we’ve come to expect from him.

As a story, this was yet another game of two halves over the two episodes. The Zygon Invasion was the globe-trotting action packed one, while The Zygon Inversion was more thought-provoking and low-key. While they do of course amount to single story, if I was to rate one episode over the other, I’d say Inversion was easily the better of the two.

But Sometimes The Writing Isn’t Great

The writing wasn’t of a high standard throughout though, as there were plenty of aspects of this story that irked me.

Take for example the way Bonnie took over Clara. Where do you begin?

For one thing, how did she manage to look like Clara before she’d even placed her in a pod? Because that’s what happened. While Clara was lying unconscious on the floor of her neighbour’s flat, she was already in the other room looking like her.

And then there’s the scene where we the viewers find out that Bonnie actually is Clara; that one was terrible in retrospect. Why? Well think of it like this…

Bonnie – acting like Clara – brings the armed UNIT soldiers down into the underground lair with the instructions to shoot all the pods. She then knowingly reveals the original Clara in the pod before – still acting as Clara remember – suggesting that the Zygons must be growing humans. It was only after Jac reminded her that Zygons didn’t grow humans and then realised herself that Bonnie mustn’t be Clara that she suddenly turned heel and became evil.

I think that’s bad because it was written and acted out for the viewer. Jac was telling us “That’s not really Clara” and once that had happened she was disposed of. In reality, people don’t talk and act in exposition

"Fair do's maw. I'll come in"

“Fair do’s maw. I’ll come in”

for some hypothetical third party who might be watching.

What if the UNIT soldiers managed to kill all the Zygons? How would that have helped her cause?

There’s more examples of the bad writing too, such as…

  • We were supposed to believe that Kate had been killed and replaced by a Zygon, but the truth was that she resolved her sticky situation by shooting the Zygon in the head.
  • The Doctor and Osgood jumped out of an exploding plane, but the only people they meet when they parachute into a town by the shore are two policemen who just so happen to by Zygons.
  • When Bonnie turns that guy back into a Zygon, nobody around him is remotely fussed. Now if we are to assume they are all Zygons too, why does he run for cover like he doesn’t want to be seen?
  • The way the local Zygon leaders are two children; that’s just unnecessarily quirky.

But worst of all there’s the scene outside the church in the first episode.

The Scene Outside The Church

Ok, so you’re a trained UNIT soldier on a mission to rescue one of your co-workers from a church that you know is filled with Zygons, a species you’re well aware can change its shape to look like anyone, including the people you know and love.

When you get to the church something looking like your mother comes out to meet you on the steps.

Initially you’re not fooled by this, and her claims that she is real and your commanding officer is really a Zygon seems ridiculous, but to be sure – and the behest of your commanding officer – you’re told to ask her

Oh My God!!! How will Kate get out of this one?! Answer? Shoot him in the head mate.

Oh My God!!! How will Kate get out of this one?! Answer? Shoot him in the head mate.

some personal questions just to make sure it definitely is a Zygon. After all, if it’s your mother, she’ll know the answers to them.

So you ask …

“Date and place of my birth?” – after all, any mother would know that and the Zygon wouldn’t.

It answers…

“They brought us here; there’s using us against you. I’m scared.”

Ok, so maybe that’s not answered the question, but rather than ask for clarification – because this is a life or death situation – you decide you should ask another one instead…

“Name of my favourite teddy bear?”

It answers…

“Sorry mate, I can’t remember, but I tell you what; come inside this building and I’ll prove we are who we say we are. Honest”.

So what do you do? Do you…

a) Ask her another question; if she’s your mother, she will know something about you.
b) Decide that she’s clearly bullshitting and shoot her.
c) Conclude that she must be your mother, and then walk into an ambush and die moments later.

Nobody would pick C. Nobody.

Absolute garbage.

Random Observations

  • So when did Osgood become such a fan favourite? The press and reviewers were getting their metaphorical cocks out and having a massive wank over this character’s return?

    Osgood is back. I'm so terribly excited. Hold me back.

    Osgood is back. I’m so terribly excited. Hold me back.

  • Personally I can take or leave her, but I’d err on the side of leaving her because she is the physical embodiment of fanwankery, even down to the clothes she wears.
  • I imagine the line about Osgood hearing about two different meanings for TARDIS was fanwankery too.
  • And so was the name dropping of Harry Sullivan. How did he manage to create that anti Zygon gas anyway? They all died?
  • Oh, and how about the ‘Five Rounds Rapid’ line? Fankwankery overload!!!!
  • It was a little bit too convenient that Clara was able to control Bonnie in such a simple way. In spite of just being a school teacher, Clara seems to be the most incredible human being to have ever lived.
  • Well…apart from Rose Tyler of course. She was able to build a device that allowed her to travel between dimensions, in spite of never even going into Further Education.
  • I’d have preferred it if Clara explained she knew that Truth or Consequences was a town in New Mexico by saying “Cactus Jack mate, innit”.
  • Hey look, Peter Capaldi gets to act alongside another star of The Thick of It.
  • The line about Clara being dead for a month is obviously going somewhere…

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review: Final Thoughts

To go all the way back to my point from my introduction, this is quite clearly not one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time.

There was plenty to nit-pick and really, some of the writing was just ludicrous, but both episodes still entertained me.

Is that enough? Yes, I think it is.

While I hold Doctor Who to a higher standard and will call it like I see it in my reviews, the key is whether or not it was good enough to enjoy watching and not whether it’s as good as The Talons of Weng Chiang or Blink.

So far this season hasn’t delivered anything close to a Top 10 story, and I don’t think it’s hit the heights of most of last season, but it’s still been good enough for me to appreciate.

But will I be able to say the same thing next week?

After all, it’s Gatiss…

Calls to Action

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a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

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One Response to Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review (or “UNIT Soldiers Are Fucking Morons”)

  1. Under your Fankwank column there was also a pointless reference to Battlefield after the one to the Daemons and, I’m led to believe but haven’t rewatched it yet, to Revenge of the Cybermen. Whilst the latter I approve of, as being subtle, the former was just pointless and makes scenes in this story derivative of another and not its own memorable beast in making new memorable scenes. The same with Harry Sullivan and the picture of William Hartnell.

    Isn’t this what happened in the eighties? The show ate itself. That’s how I’m feeling about Osgood too. It should be all about the kids now and not the “fans”.

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