Being a kids show, I’d have considered Doctor Who ill equipped to tackle the very hardest issues dominating the news at present – terrorism, migration, so called ‘radicalisation’. This, of course, says more about my patronising attitude to children’s programming than Doctor Who, which has just proved how effectively it can challenge the dominant small-minded narratives around security and international responsibility. No punches pulled in the portrayal of an attempted war crime.
I had low expectations for two reasons – despite the triumph of Day of the Doctor, I haven’t been a zygon fan (Terror was rubbish), and though I was bitterly disappointed at Osgood’s demise, I dreaded whatever contrivance would be employed to undo it.
But this isn’t just a returning villain story. This is the story that motivates the Zygon’s invention, their purpose for existing. 20 million Zygon migrants, two races, two cultures, a shared planet. Osgood, the moral nucleus, insists on applying the veil of ignorance that underpins our (rapidly dwindling and increasingly unfashionable) modern sense of social justice to the context of this conflict.
The solution to Osgood’s reappearance is the obvious one – following Day and featuring Zygons it was a safe bet – but because it turns out that this was what Moffat had in mind when he wrote Death in Heaven it works perfectly without diminishing either story (and, in some sense, removing the taint on the otherwise joyful Day). Moffat used Day to set this story up, which, given how much Day already accomplished as an anniversary celebration and a rollicking story in its own right, is quite remarkable.
Ingrid Oliver is as wonderful as ever. Jemma Redgrave is better than ever. Capaldi is at his magnificent best – somehow his zany Doctor Funkenstein schtick suits him perfectly (where the wacky stuff in Under the Lake felt forced) – a place of retreat when he is fearful and apprehensive. The Doctor is surprisingly reticent about intervening. Coleman’s turn as evil Clara is absolutely delicious. Without making the point, it’s a nice touch keeping her apart from the Doctor, who could and should have seen straight through her. (I initially got sidetracked by her iPhone 4S into thinking this was somehow an earlier Clara, from before Danny & Osgood met their fate, but it quickly became apparent she was just overdue to renew her contract. I probably shouldn’t try to date the episode anyway – the episode contains its own reference to the UNIT dating controversy…)
It’s strange seeing Jaye Griffiths – the arse-kicking, ball-busting star of Bugs and Between the Lines in the 90s playing middle-aged and timid, but that’s acting!
I’ve looked on the map and I haven’t found Turmezistan. Maybe I should look outside Wales? I did enjoy the globetrotting in this show – so much so that I’m willing to forgive the tumbleweed. And yes, there are a few other flaws, but for having the gall to call out the conservative consensus on security, question the causes of ‘radicalisation’, show up the mutual agenda of the hawks and the terrorists, and make the case for solidarity between two terrified populations – for all this, I absolutely love this episode.
To top it all, it has a belting cliff hanger. Roll on Saturday.
Addendum 4/11: forgot to add my prediction that the Osgood box doesn’t contain the weapon it’s heavily telegraphed to – I don’t think the Doctor is pro-Trident…