The latest two-part Doctor Who adventure is now well behind us, and it continues the hold to the standard for the season. None of the stories this year have been perfect, but they have all been good: solid, enjoyable, gripping adventures with some interesting character work and engaging performances.
This Zygon adventure was full of all those positives, while at the same time straddling some annoying drawbacks that we had no choice but to just endure to get to the good stuff. And on the whole, the good far outweighed the bad.
Let’s scan the episodes quickly:
Good – This story gives us both our best Clara story and our best Jenna Coleman story of the season. It was at first looking like we were getting one without the other, as Clara barely appeared in Part 1, but Part 2 more than made up for it by giving her some very good stuff being very clever and matching wits with a Zygon from the handicapped position of an induced coma. And both episodes were great Jenna Coleman outings, as she played not only Clara but the villain of the story as well. I didn’t find that revelation as shocking as some did apparently, but it was an effective part of the story. This is as close to “awesome Clara” as we’ve had this year.
Bad – Uh, I feel like we could have had a bit more explanation for how the Zygons are able to psychically pull information about their attackers loved ones from their minds. That was kind of a big deal in the story, and it didn’t completely add up. If they can do this, even to someone as far away as that woman controlling the drone was, then why didn’t they realize that Kate Stewart wasn’t one of them?
Good (or at least Interesting) – The way the story built off real-life issues of refugees, immigration, and radicalization. Doing things like this can descend to heavy-handedness, of course, but the Zygon Inversion/Invasion managed to talk about things in a way that was balanced and though provoking. I wouldn’t want every episode of Doctor Who to be steeped in this sort of commentary, but every once in a while it really works.
Good – The global scope of the story, especially part 1, where we had action in London, New Mexico, and the fictional Turmezistan, along with the Doctor flying around the world in his airplane.
Bad – It was ridiculous that all those soldiers in Turmezistan got killed. Why agree to go inside the building when it was blatantly clear to everyone that it was a trap? Why didn’t one of the other soldiers start firing when it was clear that Hitchley was compromised? Why didn’t Walsh just jump around the corner and shoot the Zygon? If the Zygon’s implied telepathic abilities also hypnotized people into being fooled (or something), then why didn’t they use this ability at other times? And why actually bring all the soldiers inside to kill them? Why not just vaporize them there?
Bad – The thing with just having little blobs of hair lying around after Zygons killed someone…was just sort of stupid.
Good – The fun of all the references to the show’s history that are thrown in. Kate talking about “Five rounds rapid.” A portrait of the First Doctor. Reference to Harry Sullivan. And of course, actual flashbacks to The Day of the Doctor including brief appearances by Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt.
However, that said, with the proliferation of references to William Hartnell’s Doctor that we’ve seen in the show, and the fact that its the Third Doctor who is most associated with UNIT, I think it would have been cool if the portrait had been one of Jon Pertwee.
Good – The cliffhanger, with Bonnie shooting a rocket toward the Doctor’s airplane. It’s the fourth great one in a row. Well done, Season Nine.
Good – The use of Osgood in this story. I’m not a particular fan of the character, but I don’t mind her. But what’s really impressive is the way she was brought back (after dying last year). Of course, with everything that happened in The Day of the Doctor, we were all pretty sure that it’d be a whole Zygon thing going on, but rather than just use that as an excuse to return a fan-favorite character to the series, a story was built that her presence was absolutely integral to. More than that, the premise was world-building and clever and felt very significant to the series.
Bad – But on the other hand, the whole thing with the Osgood Box was a little silly. I guess it’s just a fake secret that they put out there in order to sew misinformation and draw the attention of radicals? Has the Doctor really already had 15 confrontations like the one we see happening on screen before us? Does that mean there were 15 other “Bonnie’s” who tried to break down the cease fire? I thought it was somehow the death of an Osgood that provokes these events. If so, then what are all these other unseen crises that the Doctor alludes to?
Bad – And overall, what exactly is Bonnie up to? There’s all this talk about the cease-fire being broken, but hasn’t it already broken down? After all, it seems like the human population of at least two towns has already been killed (one in the USA, the other in Turmezistan). And then Bonnie only gets her attention drawn to the Osgood Box by the Doctor himself, so presumably she was up to something. Maybe the Doctor’s right at the end and she really doesn’t know where she’s going at all. Certainly, that’s how the episode kind of feels. And the biggest question…why is the Zygon called “Bonnie”?
Bad – Bonnie becomes Osgood at the end. Huh? What happened to her personality? When she looked and sounded like Clara, she didn’t act like Clara, not exactly, so that presumably was the “real” Bonnie in action there. But at the end, she just “becomes” Osgood? To keep the peace again? What difference does it make? Bonnie didn’t even seem to be worried about the Osgood Box until the Doctor drew her attention to it. Do the Zygons en masse even know about the two Osgoods? Certainly the humans don’t.
Good – Par for the season, but some funny lines and comments. My favorite was the Doctor calling himself “Doctor John Disco.”
Bad – When that Zygon is changing involuntarily back into a Zygon, why isn’t anyone reacting? People just stare at him like they are in a trance or something.
Good – And maybe good enough to make up for everything else: Peter Capaldi’s performance as the Doctor in that big climactic speech. It’s a little bit all over the show, but it’s powerful. The Doctor, old enough to be my messiah, having lived through and been involved with the worst of the Time War, passionately preaches a gospel of forgiveness. And he actually wins over his enemy for once. Both of them, really, if you count Kate Stewart.
Anyway, in spite of some iffy bits, it’s a worthy addition to the season, and it carries on our series themes. Osgood is referred to as a hybrid. Osgood, Clara and Kate are all “resurrected” in one fashion or another after being declared dead. Here’s looking forward to the next episode (only a day away as I write this), as we hopefully continue this strong run of stories.