Saturday, 7 November 2015

Review: Doctor Who 9.8: The Zygon Inversion

Peter Capaldi delivers the best performance so far in his era.
For some reason, this week's episode felt a lot shorter than the first half, even though I know that that can't be the case. Perhaps it was to do with the pacing or simple nature of the story - resolutions always run faster than build-ups. But there was something else working in this story's favour - it more or less fixed a lot of last week's problems. Curiously enough this week Peter Harness' writing credit was joined by one from Moffat, and opposed to being a negative influence he seemed to balance out some of Harness' harsher methods. Whereas last week seemed hell-bent on causing paranoia and superstition, this episode ran a hard-line message about pacifism that really hit home.
     Clara, stuck inside a Zygon pod, finds herself able to influence her doppelganger's behaviour, and uses this to have her spare The Doctor and communicate with him without her knowing. Kate, who wasn't killed last week, rendezvous with The Doctor as he and Clara guide her doppelganger to The Black Archives, the room where the original ceasefire was built and the "Osgood Boxes" supposedly can mean oblivion or revolution for both Zygons and Humans. Everyone gathered in one room, The Doctor tries to convince Bonnie that war is pointless, and does so using a brilliant speech. When Bonnie finally changes her mind, The Doctor reveals that the boxes were both empty - he removes this information from Kate's mind, but keeps it in the mind of Bonnie, who calls off the revolutionaries and becomes one of the Osgoods.
     The episode focused a lot on pacifism and the victims of war, rather than the previous episode's focus on the paranoia of foreign terrorism. In the first half of the episode we see the painful fate of one of the integrated Zygons, and it strikes all of the crap about "don't bomb them, you'll radicalise the rest" from the first half into painful ignorance. That was then followed by the amazing climax of the episode - I have not heard a speech that good in Doctor Who since The Eleventh Hour, honest truth. Capaldi is a fucking fine actor, and he gave so much to this scene - a genuine sadness, anger, frustration, but also a glimmer of hope that things might become good. He feels genuinely caught up in the moment, and that carried through to me - I empathised with The Doctor more in those few seconds than I have for this entire season thus far. This is how these speeches should be delivered, and how this message should have been from the beginning.
Zygon!Clara (Bonnie) deliberates over the Blue Osgood Box
      Of course, this episode's single-mindedness to race for the resolution did mean that I don't have much else to talk about. Osgood carried on her role from last week as The Doctor's temporary, surrogate companion, eventually becoming a nice personification of a sci-fi idea. After clowning around last week, this week gave Jenna Coleman a lot more beefy stuff, both as Clara and Bonnie, both in and out of her mind. There were moments where Bonnie felt a little cheesy, but we can maybe put that down to her being a big tentacled monster living as a human being. Thinking on it, it's a little too convenient that convincing the terrorist leader to stand down will stop the entire movement - we know from real life that eliminating the head means nothing to radical organisations - but it worked for the story and felt very satisfying.
       I think this is possibly the first time in a while that I can say Moffat saved an episode, but here we are. Doctor Who keeps pulling this nonsense with me where every time I despair about the direction it takes, there's a sudden left-turn and it does something I really enjoy. The Zygon Inversion, true to its name, felt like a reversal of last week. And that was 100% for the better. Now I just wish this whole silly season works its way out right.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The first single-parter of the season, Sleep No More.

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