Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion (1)

Doctor: 'At ease. I'm the president of the world. I'm here to rescue people and generally establish happiness all over the place.'

It seems like only 357 days ago that I was bemoaning the loss of Osgood, in a scene so silly that you could have popped a red nose on it, draped it in a green wig, and called it Krusty. Let's face it: Osgood came to an uncharacteristically unintelligent end. Death by bananas! So I was overjoyed to hear that everyone's favourite Doctor fangirl would be returning. Pity they ruined the surprise by advertising it in virtually every press release from here to Timbuktu.

Apparently, Steven Moffat never intended for Osgood to die, which likely explains why her return felt so straightforward, organic, and utterly perfect. Bringing back Osgood didn't require some elaborate retcon, all it needed was a clip-show from 'Day of the Doctor', mixed with new footage from the Osgoods, explaining how the peace treaty was eventually realised. I'm so pleased they picked this particular loose thread to run with. It was a story begging to be told, and I think Peter Harness—so far—has done a sterling job. What it means, however, is that UNIT have known all along that Osgood was alive. They could at least have told us, the bastards!

Of course, we still don't know which Osgood survived—the original Osgood or her Zygon doppelganger—although the question might be somewhat moot. Osgood is something akin to a hybrid. Sound familiar? The week before last we learned that Lady Me was a human-Mire hybrid. So which hybrid does the Time Lord prophecy refer to? Lady Me? Sam Swift? Osgood? Or are there more hybrids still to come? If it isn't Lady Me, then perhaps Maisie Williams saying that she'd love to return to the show one day wasn't the deceit I imagined it to be. Maybe she won't be back this season after all. Bummer.

Obviously, we were meant to be suspicious of Clara throughout the bulk of tonight's episode. The way she left that little boy with his clearly bonkers parents immediately set the alarm bells ringing, and by the time she was asking Kate Stewart about troop numbers and weapon capabilities, I could barely see the TV screen for the warning flag flapping in my face. So whilst the Clara reveal wasn't entirely unexpected, it did an excellent job of hiding Norlander's true identity. Clara's such a goody two shoes, it'll be a nice change of pace to see Jenna playing a darker character for once. And Bonnie is pretty rotten. She had no compunction about threatening to kill Clara or attempting to blow the Doctor out of the sky.

I'm a little puzzled as to how they're using Clara this year. It's supposed to be her final season, yet they can't seem to keep her and the Doctor together. She spent a good portion of 'The Witch's Familiar' in Missy's company, she was almost entirely absent from last week's episode, and tonight she ended up stranded in the UK while the Doctor went swanning off to Turmezistan. Maybe there wasn't time to do a comprehensive script rewrite after Jenna's eleventh hour decision to stay, but if it was a deliberate creative choice, then I'm not sure I approve. It's going to be hard to pull off a finale with the appropriate emotional kick if they continue to keep her and the Doctor apart.

How successful the in-your-face social commentary was, I'm undecided. I did laugh at the benefits quip (before cringing), but the stuff about faction radicalisation, and the eventual rebellion which led to non-conformity and violence, was perhaps a little too on the nose. But that was the point, right? The story was meant to be understood against a backdrop of political unrest, the radicalisation of British teens, immigration woes, and ISIS trouble abroad. How effectively it deals with these issues, and whether it addresses them with the seriousness they deserve, or whether it simply uses them as a weak framework for an alien yarn, we'll be better equipped to determine after next week's instalment.

But the way UNIT viewed the Zygons was appalling, as was their blow-everything-up attitude—which mysteriously seemed to desert them when faced with a cave full of hostile Zygons. If you can shell the shit out of everything, then you can surely shoot a gun? In fact, UNIT pretty much stank tonight. How many times did Walsh give an order, only to be ignored completely? ('Confirm Strike', 'Strike Aborted'/ 'Kill it!', 'Over and out, ma'am.') I mean, I love having UNIT around, but I sometimes wish they'd be more effective. They way they surrendered at the end was pitiful. Is a cave full of soldiers really going to end up reduced to a pile of sizzling pubic hair?

What's in the Osgood Box? I was paying attention, but I have no clue. If the name's hyper-literal, then we'd expect to find a third Osgood inside. But unless the box is bigger on the inside than out—and we all know that can't happen (*cough*)—then I'm guessing Peter Harness has something else up his sleeve. Were the relatives in the church human or Zygon? That UNIT dude's mother was so bad at answering questions, that—had I been in his shoes—I'd have shot her two sentences in. And what exactly did Bonnie go back to Clara's flat for? Was it simply to set up the lift scene, or is there more to that story, too? Questions I hope to see answered next week.

Other Thoughts:

—Doctor Disco? Doctor Funkenstein? Twelve really is experimenting this season.

—I'm no weapons expert, but I find it hard to believe that Clara's bazooka wouldn't have had at least some recoil.

—How good were those American accents? They sounded like utter shazbot to me.

—The tumbleweed was terrible. It barely tumbled.

—If I hear another person say 'let Zygons be Zygons' on Twitter, I'm going to flip my wig.

—It was impressive how the Doctor managed to get an authentic wah sound out of his guitar without a wah wah pedal.

—The Zygons sound awfully wet in the lung department. I'm no Doctor, but I'd be surprised if they didn't need a course of antibiotics.

Quotes:

Doctor: 'I snogged a Zygon once. Old habits.'

Clara: 'I used to memorise Trivial Pursuits questions, so I could... win.'

Clara: 'I thought you didn't like being president of the world.'
Doctor: 'No, but I like poncing around in a big plane.'

Osgood: 'Doctor, what are you doing here?'
Doctor: 'Rescuing you. In quite a dashing way, I might add.'


Paul Kelly invented a formative style of slap bass called spankadelia. The technique soon fell into disuse, although the name later became the title of an adult film he most certainly did not feature in -- no matter what his bitter co-star Delia alleges. He also holds the current world record for piloting the fastest toilet. (57 MPH.)

3 comments:

tucsonbarbara said...

Great review!

If by "shazbot" you mean "bad," it should be noted that the UNIT dude and the New Mexico sheriff were both played by Americans. :-)

Paul Kelly said...

Much obliged to you, tucsonbarbara. I was thinking more UNIT dude's mum -- she sounded a bit ropey to my uneducated ears. And of course being American doesn't mean you can do a convincing American accent. British TV is full of English people doing appalling English accents ;)

FlopHairedWuss said...

I liked it but it had a lot of problems. I found the social commentary pretty heavy handed as well, which is why it doesn't really make sense as to why people were confused about the intention. Although considering how often people misunderstand the intention of a piece of media it's not really surprising.

I do wish they would have handled it better though as there's a lot that doesn't make sense. The peace treaty is broken if one person from either side breaks it? What happened to safeguards all-round? There should have been contingencies to deal with this kind of situation and some form of monitoring should have been in effect. Like you said, this is not a good episode for UNIT because they were beyond idiotic here.

Speaking of UNIT being idiotic, that scene at the church was terribly handled. It had the potential to be affecting (and was for a while) and they ruined it by being horribly contrived. If she couldn't 'remember' the answer to a question, ask another. She couldn't even tell him the date of his birth. You do not all go into the church and get killed without even putting up a fight. I was really hoping they'd do something interesting and subvert expectations (a big problem this season), but no such luck. It reminded me of that brilliant scene from Angel where Wesley shoots his Dad without a moment's hesitation and it's then revealed that he didn't know whether or not it was him.

The performances were pretty good overall and Jenna Coleman was fantastic at playing evil. It seemed to me like Bonnie used going home as an excuse to make them find the underground passage and get rid of them. What she got from the room on the other hand might be nothing or might be important. I do agree though that Clara needs more to do this season considering she's leaving. I also like the way Osgood was handled, although there was no mention of where the other one was during Death in Heaven. The hybrid mention felt a bit clunky to me, feels like they're forcing it in everywhere to confuse us. Still not a fan.

I like that they tried to do something different but it has to be handled better than this. Like a lot of this season, this one is a case of unfulfilled potential. Hopefully next week will redeem that.