“The Zygon Inversion” Review

Almost flawless up until the last 2 minutes, but with a careless epilogue that undid much of the good work. I said last week that Osgood was the moral nucleus to this story with her refusal to identify as either Zygon or human.

After I wrote about it, I heard Tansy Rayner Roberts make such a spot-on observation on the Verity Podcast.

“I’m actually getting offended on her behalf that so many people are having that…quite intrusive debate about whether she’s the human or the zygon one. She’s established about her identity that she chooses not to identify as one or the other and everyone else needs to shut up about that – that trying to kind of put her in a box.”

Revealing which one is Osgood also cheapens Death in Heaven because if we need to know which one died and which one survived either the death or the survivor must matter less. It’s worse still to make Osgood replaceable (and subsume Bonnie’s individuality at the same time) why should we care about any given Osgood (we can just get another…?) They even go to the lengths of identifying which is which with the Michael Foot glasses. It’s a big reset on Osgood, and the depth her character has developed.

But that’s a side issue to Osgood’s identity. Osgood’s identity is more than a device to engineer a renewed ceasefire. It’s a choice about how she (with her sister) chooses to define herself, it’s how they chose to live. It doesn’t just matter that Osgood tells no-one, it matters that we – the viewers – don’t get our prurient curiousity sated, because in pandering to this the programme makers have validated the idea that we are entitled to know, that we don’t need to challenge ourselves on that, and our knowing matters more than how Osgood chooses to identify.

Unacceptable.

I’m very disappointed. But up to that point, I had a great time with this episode.

It delivered on the cliff-hanger in spades, with the clever Life on Mars stuff giving a plausible delay for the Doctor to escape, without depriving us of an impressive explosion! The Kate escape is a little more of a cheat, but “five rounds rapid” is compensation enough.

Jenna Coleman did a brilliant job in this not only in relishing the evil Zygella but in giving a clear distinction in her performance as Clara.

The interplay between the Doctor and Osgood was even better following their Barry plane crash.

“Bullet between the eyes, first thing. Twelve times if necessary.”
“You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
“I’m a big fan.”

Best of all is how oblivious, or uncaring she is to the Doctor’s uncharacteristic quiet as she analyses his reaction and predicts his thoughts (“please talk about something else”).

The story is as at least as dark as last week – there’s a zygon suicide.

And then we get Capaldi going full Malcom Tucker on Bonnie for a full 10 minutes; and of course he’s brilliant, a simplified summing up of the case against the cycle of terror, and the vacuous hypocrisy of choosing violence. I don’t know if I was quite sold on Bonnie’s conversion, but this is Doctor Who, the story couldn’t have gone any other way without the warmongers winning.

I called it that the Doctor wouldn’t have left Z-67 in the box (nor did I believe he’d leave any other WMDs, such as the trigger for a nuclear bomb under the Black Archive) but I did like the way it was left to Bonnie to realise the boxes were empty. Kate’s reaction – and the Doctor’s reaction to her – was so in character, and ace.

(By the way, what is it with the Doctor and buttons? It’s funny how I’d never reconsidered the Tenth Doctor’s first act in The Christmas Invasion after seeing the Moment in Day of the Doctor. “I literally do not know who I am…how am I going to react when I see this, a great big threatening button. A great big threatening button which must not be pressed under any circumstances, am I right?” Given at this point he thinks pressing a big button wiped out his own race, he must really find buttons irresistible…)

All in all, a two-part helping of brave and brilliant Doctor Who. Just such a shame about the epilogue.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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