It’s another day and another concluding part to a Doctor Who two-parter as The Doctor attempts to stop a war between a humanity and the Zygons. But this episode comes across as a Doctor Who‘s Greatest Hits Episode.
It seems like doom and gloom has struck the world: the Zygon rebels have toppled UNIT, Clara has been captured and her Zygon doppelganger Bonnie has shoot down The Doctor’s plane as it approached Britain. Now all the Zygon rebels need is The Osgood Box, a device that would end the ceasefire between Humanity and the Zygons. But the Doctor is never one without a plan and survives the plane crash with Osgood. Along with Clara trying to psychically claim Bonnie’s body the trio set out to stop the Zygons from bringing war to Earth.
Doctor Who continues its solid run with “The Zygon Inversion”, an episode that keeps the strong balance between serious tone and a sense of fun that you would expect from the series. Peter Capaldi performance was a microcosm of this, being mostly jovial yet bringing moments of real of darkness and pain. The Doctor starts out landing on Earth with a Union Jack parachute (considering the release of Spectre it must be a deliberately timed reference to the Bond series) and jokes around using a mock American accent as he acts like a game show presenter. Yet as Osgood says, The Doctor uses humor as a coping mechanism and a way to defuse tension for his allies. Capaldi does give a great speech about all the pain and suffering he has faced over his life and his experience of the Time War as Humanity and the Zygons face each other in a stand-off with genocide scale consequences.
“The Zygon Inversion” gives us a double dose of Jenna Coleman as both Clara and the evil Bonnie. When Bonnie revealed herself in “The Zygon Invasion” Coleman ended up having a bit of a sexy quality to her, wearing blood red lipstick and a leather jacket on. In the follow-up both characters have a literal battle of minds, fighting for control over the doppelganger’s body and trying to receive for information. But Coleman was much more comfortable as the Clara persona, a kind girl-next-door type with a cheeky streak then as the vampy villainess. Coleman seems like sweet and kind hearted young woman in real life and acting evil does not come naturally to her.
“The Zygon Inversion” was written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, yet the episode recycles story ideas from previous episodes of the Nu-Doctor Who series. The parallels to the ending of “Day of the Doctor” is justified, but other ideas in the episode makes it feel very unoriginal. These ideas are the alien invaders knocking out UNIT, like in “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”, having The Doctor and his allies being on the run because of the alien takeover – which is similar to “The Sound of Drums”, a dream world where a character needs to break of out it. Clara’s dream trap like the computer simulation in “Forest of the Dead”, getting Humanity and the Zygons to negotiate a settlement similar to the humans and The Silurians did in “Cold Blood” and the Osgood Box being a world destroying weapon as in the Osterhagen Key in the Season Four finale “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End”. It is forgivable for a show with a long run like Doctor Who to rethread some territory from time to time, but the writers should put a bit more effort their scripting.
Compliments needs to be paid to Daniel Nettheim for his direction of Clara’s dream scenes. They have a eerie and other-worldly quality to them, using subtle Dutch Angles in a strange apartment. The moment where Clara and Bonnie have to mentally duel has plenty of tension as they try to outwit each other with Bonnie basically having a lie-detector.
Capaldi was great in this episode, showcasing his ability with comedy and drama. Although “The Zygon Inversion” has some strong moments and turns the war story into a smaller scale event, but it is not the fantastic Doctor Who episode that some reviewers have declared it as.