‘The Zygon Inversion’, written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, picks up the action from last week. After a narrow escape the Doctor and Osgood are powerless to stop the radicalised zygons from taking over London. Clara is still trapped but finds her mental link with Bonnie goes two ways. Can she stop them from obtaining the mysterious Osgood box?
This is a great conclusion to this two part tale, with Peter Capaldi putting in a show stopping performance that is sure to define his portrayal of the 12th Doctor. In comparison to the globe trotting of ‘The Zygon Invasion’ this is much more insular and intense, with a length key scene taking place in a single room.
This is an epic UNIT story for the modern age.
Spoilers From Here On Out!
Picking up the action from last week we see that Clara is experiencing a dream space of her flat while in the zygon pod. This is a nicely nightmarish scenario with the wrongness of her environment being revealed by inverted letters and simplistic props that reveal the facade of her windowless rooms. The scene was reminiscent of ‘Last Christmas’ and almost expected that all of the season so far to be the work of the head crabs.
Through her telepathic link with Bonnie Clara is able to make the Zygon miss, her hand trembling as she nudges her aim. This proves to be just long enough for the Doctor and Osgood to parachute to safety before the next shot destroys the plane (the death of the pilots and other support staff are quickly glossed over.)
The interplay between Clara and Bonnie is well done and it is a credit to Jenna Coleman that they feel like two distinct characters. Watching Bonnie cruelly enact her plan to unmask the peaceful Zygons is chilling. The scene of one of her victims exposed and forced to hide changes the Zygon from a monster into a pathetic victim.
Having landed on a beach the Doctor and Osgood make a very good pair as they work out what to do. Being a Doctor fan girl Osgood can challenge him on some of his behaviour and actually ends up being a few steps ahead of the Time Lord in working out that Clara is still alive. By emulating the Doctor she almost becomes him in a few scenes (another good argument for a female Doctor).
In one of the most obvious twists it is revealed that Kate Stewart was able to despatch her Zygon attacker and has only been pretending to be one of the aliens. Jemma Redgrave does well in these scenes and it is rousing when we have the flashback to reveal she used five rounds rapid to kill the Zygon in a nice homage to the Brigadier.
Everything in this episode, and indeed the whole story, culminates in a stand off between Kate Stewart and Bonnie the Zygon. Their fingers hover over buttons that have a 50% chance of wiping out their enemies or destroying themselves. Between them the Doctor tries to persuade them to turn away from the path of war and choose forgiveness.
Whatever other flaws ‘The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion’ might have they pale into insignificance compared to the magnificence of this scene. This is everything Doctor Who stands for. The Doctor is the voice of reason trying his best to let people make the right choice.
This can be seen as another attempt at the moral dilemma in ‘Kill The Moon’. There the Doctor placed an important decision in others hands but he was more passive, leaving before the decision was made, and the parties involved didn’t have the necessary information.
Here the Doctor is actively involved and Capaldi’s performance is mesmerising. His flippancy is used to good effect, taking on the persona of a game show host, provoking Kate into realising that this isn’t a game. The Doctor refuses to take responsibility for events with a shrug of his shoulders and compares Bonnie to a petulant child throwing a tantrum because of the injustices of life.
The scene is a little long but necessary to show the back and forth between those involved and maintain the tension as the Doctor argues his way through Armageddon. Jenna Coleman is also particularly good here, as Bonnie, so convinced of the righteousness of her actions unwavering in her defiance.
The turning point is when the Doctor reveals the horror and guilt he experienced during the Time War. It is this that motivates him to prevent others from going through the same thing. This is enough fro Kate Stewart to step away from destruction. Seeing her opposition withdraw Bonnie perhaps is given a glimpse of mercy in her enemy and realises that the box which she killed so many for is empty. There are no easy solutions to her problems and so surrenders.
The reason this works so well is that not only does it give us a great insight into the Doctor, not only does it perfectly echo ‘Day of the Doctor’ where the War Doctor faced a similarly impossible decision but for once forgiveness and hope overcomes the fixation on cruelty and vengeance.
The story concludes with the Zygons living in peace with humanity and Bonnie adopting the persona of Osgood so there are two once again to maintain the peace(even if their race is still a matter of debate). In another tease Osgood turns down the invitation to travel with the Doctor. I hope that she changes her mind in the future as Ingrid Oliver has been a delight.
We end with a sense of foreboding, informed by our real world knowledge that Jenna Coleman is leaving, with Clara bring up that the Doctor must of thought she was dead. He says it was the longest month of his life when in reality it was only 5 minutes. It indicates that should she die her loss will be keenly felt by the Time Lord but as he stated earlier, once Clara gets in your head it is hard to get rid of her.
After last years ‘Kill the Moon’ I never wanted Peter Harness to write for Who again. This two part story shows why you should give people a second chance, in more ways than one. Regardless of how much input co-writer Steven Moffat had this two parter is sure to be a highlight of this season and maybe the whole series.
On the strength of this story I’ve order the Big Finish ‘UNIT: Extinction’ and eagerly look forward to hearing the further adventures of Kate Stewart and Osgood.