Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion

Doctor Who is over for a whole several weeks, alas, and then Christmas, and then it really properly is over for MONTHS, horror, but I stopped recapping in the middle of the season. Apologies to everyone who was reading – I was swamped with work, and it didn’t help that Zygon Invasion also marked the first serious wibble in the season for me. There’s still tons I loved about it, but there were very definitely things I did not. And this is a theme that continues for the next three eps, and then everything is AMAZING again, so, with that warning, onwards:

  • “Once upon a time…” among the many Moffat tropes I love is the one where he likes to cast women as The Storyteller. It’s been strongest with River and Amy, and here Osgood gets a sort-of turn.
  • I’m so judgey at that question mark sweater, even here.
  • SISTERS. The best thing about these two eps is Osgood, the character development she gets, and the relationship she has with her sister(s), and the treaty itself. There is such awesome nobility to her, I bloody love it.
  • Mm, Zygons. They look so good, and it’s a person in a rubber suit. DARN RIGHT.
  • Oh, I forgot how much I love the Doctor hanging out in the TARDIS playing guitar. It is as magic to me. It was, I understand, Peter Capaldi’s idea. I love Peter Capaldi. Fannishly.
  • It’s weird watching this now, it seems so long ago, but at the time, I remember feeling “hurrah, a modern day adventure!” and being ever so pleased at the journey through settings from the beginning of the season.
  • I cannot believe the Doctor calls himself Doctor Disco. But it is a bit great. First time I watched, I thought this bit in the park was one of those set-ups where the Doctor accidentally mistakes human children for leaders of alien race HOHOHO, but no, it’s for real, and that made me v happy.
  • It’s Ros from Bugs! I’m really quite peeved she didn’t get a bigger role in the end.
  • And Colonel Walsh is Rebecca Front, who played Nicola Murray, the minister of state who most often faced off against Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. (If you haven’t seen The Thick of it, DO.)
  • There is something a bit wonderful about how Capaldi says “blobbiness”.
  • Ah, my first moment of wincing: the Zygon rebels’ flag. Doctor Who cheerfully and often engages in political issues. This is good. Doing it with anvil-hammers, and casting any group of humans as aliens (almost always further Othering people who are already Othered), not so much. People, this is the 21st century; this was a cool and edgy new idea in the fifties.
  • The Osgood hostage video might be alright, if it wasn’t for that flag.
  • OH CLARA. And it’s playing Clara’s theme. AND CLARA OMG. It is a bit tricky seeing this after all the things that happen.
  • We’re ten minutes in, and a male who isn’t the Doctor speaks for the first time – every other speaking parts so far (six, I count) has been a woman. This is a massive plus point. It makes up a good bit for the daftness of no other women in the Viking village, and given telly is still 70% male characters, seeing Doctor Who be better than that gives me warm, happy feelings.
  • The male is actually a kid, and South Asian. South Asians make up the biggest ethnic minority in the UK, so it’s always nice, especially in modern day eps to see some representation. (Black representation appears to be much higher in Who, and I can’t help but feel it’s a bit influence by US racial dynamics, where Blacks make up the largest ethnic minority.)
  • I love where they went with the Zygons though, that they’re here, living among us – they copped out with the Silurians. (Oh, a future Earth ep with Humans, Zygons, and Silurians living together? THAT WOULD BE AMAZING.
  • “Radicalisation…in the younger brood.” *wince*
  • Yay, Zygon organic tech!
  • “We never knew which one was real” “Both of them.” “Okay, which one was Zygon.” “Both of them.” See, I wince, and then there’s this, seconds later, and I’m like “fuck yeah, Doctor!” The refusal to make either Osgood the supposed ‘real’ or ‘proper’ “Human” one throughout the story is smashing.
  • “We demand the right to be ourselves…normalise, normalise.” Another major wince – this is, obviously, an ENTIRELY REASONABLE demand. The problem comes when it is the supposed “bad guys” who demand it, and then, at the end of the story, when ‘peace’ is restored it appears to have been done by these same bad guys capitulating entirely to the will and comfort of the majority human population. And what makes it so profoundly uncomfortable is how this right to be ourselves is such a precarious one for so many groups, and yet here it is portrayed as something less important than ‘keeping the peace’. If keeping the peace means depriving people, any people, of their personhood, then it is no peace, it is oppression, it is tyranny, and it should be opposed. And I’m not just talking about hijabs or burqa, this is an issue that affects numerous minority groups in different ways. And it’s one that affects women generally, and the constant need of society to police what we wear.
  • “Isn’t there a solution that doesn’t involve bombing everyone?” Indeed.
  • “This is a splinter group..” Yeah, but one making a valid point – why aren’t those Zygons who want to live looking like Zygons, allowed to do so? “…the vast majority of Zygons want to live in peace.” It doesn’t work when almost all the Zygons you portray onscreen are the war-mongering killer sort. (Also, more wincing.)
  • “You start bombing them, you’ll radicalise the lot.” Urgh. Anvils, anvils everywhere.
  • Truth or consequences is a neat line though. Ah, and Clara provides the answer of where it is, and this time watching I know she is a Zygon.
  • “This is your country: protect it from the scary monsters, and also from the Zygons.” Some of the words to make this not awful are there, but the actions, all the actions and responses, ARGH.
  • “No, but I like poncing about in a big plane.” OH, it’s like the third Doctor if he told the truth about stuff.
  • “There was an attempted Zygon invasion before, seventies, eighties” Eeeee!! Yes, weak for the old skool refs. That was Terror of the Zygons (also featuring ALL the Scottish stereotypes) in 1975, but UNIT dating.
  • “One of our staff was a naval surgeon..developed Z-67, a nerve gas.” NO HARRY WOULD NEVER DO THAT.
  • I do like the bit in the lift then underground, all a bit spooky and nicely lit and stuff.
  • You know which parts of the world don’t have made up countries? Western Europe,and North America…and Australia, I assume. I’ve never heard of someone making up a country and pretending it was a bit of what is actually Australia. Most often, I encounter made up countries of Africa, Asia (esp ending in -stan), and kingdoms/principalities of Central or Eastern Europe. JUST SAYING.
  • “The Doctor, Doctor Funkenstein.” WHAT IS THIS??? I don’t know, and I feel guilty for liking it.
  • I did get a little thrill as Capaldi and Front appeared in the same scene.
  • Lol, actual tumbleweed!
  • I am v sad that Kate does not get to meet up with Scully at any point in her US adventure bit. Scully could teach her how to be sneakier.
  • I have no idea if that’s a real American accent or not. Sometimes I find the BF US accents convincing.
  • This bit where the not really American is pissy at the Brits turning up in her town with no jobs and no money and being “odd” is…not the worst thing in this ep because it feels like an attempt to reach across the divide.
  • Ah, the really really rubbish bit, here it is. I wonder if it’ll seem less stupid this time…
  • (Oh, and we’re half an hour into the story and there’s finally a man who’s not the Doctor who gets more than two lines, also the first white man who’s not the Doctor in the whole thing. It’s SO NICE being pandered to like this. Is this how men feel about telly all the time? It is great. Also, if somehow you are threatened that UNIT are now almost all women, IT’S OKAY, all the UNIT stories in the seventies had almost all men – go watch one of those.)
  • …see, these are soldiers. They are *UNIT* soldiers, UNIT soldiers who are familiar with the existence of the strange and weird, even if they haven’t neccessarily encountered it. They are aware of the Zygons’ ability to shapechange. They know perfectly well they use that ability to attempt to confuse them. AND YET despite all this, they NOT ONLY refuse to fire, which might JUST be understandable, but the officer in charge refuses to insist on having questions answered and WORST OF ALL, despite being FULLY INFORMED AND AWARE OF THE DANGER he goes into the church AND SO DO THE REST OF THE SOLDIERS. W. T. F. WHY?? Why do they all march in, without even a word of protest, their CO yelling at them not to? Why not retreat if they won’t fucking fire?? These are the worst UNIT soldiers ever, and Benton used to be fooled by someone yelling “look behind you!”
  • It takes a lot to break my suspension of disbelief, but this church fiasco was one of those things.
  • Yay, Osgood! Much yay on hearing her voice, yes.
  • “Rescuing you, in quite a dashing way I might add.” He so fancies Osgood.
  • Ah, the questionmark conversation! …he is so flirting with her. I forgot how good the Doctor and Osgood team-up was.
  • The Zygons, on the other hand, had a well decent plan with the sneakiness and trying to get UNIT to open fire on the kidnapped people.
  • “Those were the old rules.” Ah, so easy to update continuity.
  • “We want the world.” Yeah, now *that’s* an unreasonable demand.
  • Oh, the reveal here, and I didn’t realise originally till the proper moment and Clara’s evil smile, and it was A BIT GREAT. Though confusing that…UNIT are traitors? I could see that if the Zygons consider Earth their home and they are all like Earthers now. And if you’re against them, you’re…yeah, this is v confusing. Occam’s Razor, Bonnie’s just calling everyone against her a traitor.
  • The benefits joke is a GOOD AND POINTED ONE. Again, there are some window-dressing words that try to make this better, but at its heart, there is the horrid thing where Zygons who want to live as Zygons openly are portrayed as The Bad Ones and if everyone doesn’t conform perfectly then the peace (or tyranny, if you prefer) is threatened and that is more important than accepting differences amongst the appearances of the various sentient species now on the planet.
  • Eeeee! The Zygon prisoner pronounced it “Doc-tor!” just like Broton did way back when.
  • The not!American talking about how it started – about the kid who couldn’t properly conform cause it hadn’t learned how. It’s a bit heartbreaking. Ak – it’s so frustrating, when the ep reaches to be better and doesn’t quite make it.
  • Oh no, eveyone’s dead!
  • I give this five out of ten Zygon pods – lots of bits and stuff I enjoyed, but incredibly frustrating and clueless just too often.
  • Onwards to the next ep!

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion

  1. SO MUCH YES TO THE CHURCH SCENE. Drove me absolutely nuts. There is no excuse for that other than “because plot” and it wasn’t even a good plot.

    That being said, I quite liked this two-parter overall, despite the ham-handedness of bits of it.

    1. Despite my Quite Expansive complaints, I do overall enjoy it too. And not just cause of Capaldi. I am amazed at the Church scene. There was no actual reason they all had to be so stupid either, the Doctor could easily have slipped away from the soldiers to get back alone to the Black Archive.

  2. I think you’re entirely right about the letdowns in the episode’s politics, with one slight quibble: I’m not against Doctor Who being explicitly political. It needs to be responsible and careful about using the “ripped from the headlines” approach, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t do so. Let’s write a story that’s explicitly about the Doctor overthrowing a blatant Margaret Thatcher analogue. Let’s write a story that is blatantly about the Iraq war and literally have the characters that represent the Politicians who started that war be literal giant green babies in flesh suits! For me, both of those stories are enhanced because they’re so overtly political. There’s something to be said for the pure, direct, power of refusing to be subtle about making an important political point in art. Margaret Thatcher was a horrible person. Tony Blair’s role in starting the Iraq war was despicable. I think any work of art making those points can be as direct as it likes. Even here, I feel like the sense of vitality provided by the “ripped from the headlines” approach really makes the powerful scenes crackle with that little bit of extra tension – as an example, the church scene, which I admit I loved. I’m not saying it made sense: I feel like there’s a logistical explanation in there somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can provide it. But there’s sense of wrongness to it, in the music, the way it’s written and played, that I find oddly compelling.

    But now I need to acknowledge the issue, why this doesn’t work where “The Happiness Patrol” succeeds. It punches down. It doesn’t mean to, its heart is clearly in the right place. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest its better than parliament current approach to foreign policy- I love the way it handles Osgood, I think the “Sit down and talk!” section of the Doctor’s speech is wonderful, dramatically and politically (note that this, and the blame for firing the first shot, is directed at Kate, not Bonnie), and I love that the story is willing to redeem Bonnie. But ultimately, I don’t think “more progressive than David Cameron and the Right of Labour” is really great praise. It is, as you rightly say, othering groups that are already othered. And it portrays the Zygons’ actually reasonable demands as “extremism”.

    I thought both of these episodes were terrific drama, filled with moments that were highlights of the season. I loved that Doctor Who was willing to do some explicitly political drama for the first time in ages, and I hope it does so again. But I hope that if it does, it handles whatever issues it approaches better than it did here.

    1. YES. I’m nodding along to all your commment here (and a marvellous comment it is). I should’ve said, I’m not adverse to Who directly tackling political issues of the day either. I mean, I bloody love Curse of Peladon, and everything Malcolm Hulke writes, and Happiness Patrol is glorious. And saving the world by blowing up 10 Downing Street was a lovely bit.

      Good point on the first part of the argument being directed at Kate, and, yes, the Bonnie redemption was an excellent touch, and meant that the story lifted quite substantially at the end.

      OH, I am DELIGHTED to find someone who loved the church scene! That’s brilliant! I mean, I do think it’s dreadful, but am always delighted to find fans of the more maligned parts of the show. Tis most cheering!

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