Published on November 2nd, 2015 | by Brad0
Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion
For a science fiction series as long-lived as Doctor Who, it’s unusual how rarely it comments on contemporary issues. It does real-world allegories, of course, but they tend to be about broader philosophical points – if this big ridiculous thing were to happen, how would humanity really react? The Zygon Invasion is one of the rare examples I can think of where the show has commented on what’s going on in the world today, with drone strikes, radical insurgents in the Middle East and that general paranoia and suspicion of the other. The Zygons aren’t necessarily allegorical for ISIS, but they’re certainly applicable – as Tolkien would have it – and for my money they did it rather well for the most part.
After a quick recap of the resolution to the Zygon plot from 2013’s excellent 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, we’re brought up to speed on the new status quo – ever since The Day of the Doctor, 20 million Zygons have been living peacefully amongst us. There have been two Osgoods, one human and one Zygon, until The Master killed one of them during Death in Heaven. The remaining Osgood has gone rogue and is somewhere in the USA investigating a Zygon community. She is captured by a Zygon, but is able to get a message to The Doctor warning him of the Nightmare Scenario, a call-sign for a breakdown of the treaty between humanity and the Zygons.
The Doctor, Clara and UNIT split up to fight The Zygon Invasion on three fronts – The Doctor will travel to their base in the fictional nation of Turmezistan and attempt to negotiate with the Zygons and save Osgood, Kate Stewart will travel to America – specifically Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico – to see where and why the uprising began, and Clara will hold down the fort with UNIT in the UK. Our heroes are all divided, just waiting to be conquered.
In order for the radical extremism metaphor to play itself out, The Doctor does spend a lot of The Zygon Invasion on the sidelines. Peter Capaldi has some fun, of course, but there are long stretches where he’s just stood watching whilst Rebecca Front demands her soldiers do morally dubious things but they can’t because the Zygons are taking on the appearances of their loved ones, rendering them unable to pull the trigger. Rebecca Front is really good as the Colonel, and it’s great to see her and Peter Capaldi reunited. To the show’s credit, you never once find yourself thinking of Malcolm Tucker and Nicola Murray. The scene in which one of the soldiers is facing down a Zygon wearing the appearance of his mother is brutally effective, really driving home the horrors these monsters are capable of inflicting when they don’t look big, red and stupid.
Somewhat less successful is Kate Stewart’s trip to New Mexico. Race relations in New Mexico is hardly the most subtle thing you’ve ever seen, but just in case you were wondering, a “no dogs” sign has “no British” added to it to drive the point home. The sole survivor of the Zygon uprising fills Kate in on the details, before revealing herself as a Zygon and attacking her, leaving you to think “well what was the point in telling her everything?” Clara, meanwhile, is leading UNIT on an investigation of strange goings on in lifts across London, leading to a delicious twist as the episode stacks up a few cliffhangers.
The Zygon Invasion and next week’s concluding part, The Zygon Inversion, is written by Peter Harness, writer of last year’s somewhat divisive Kill the Moon. He’s very much one for the heavy-handed metaphor, and there are times where The Zygon Invasion feels like it’s beating you about the head pretty brutally. That said, it also has some excellent scenes of tension, amping up to a pretty exciting cliffhanger. No real clues for my pet theory about Clara this week, but given the way the episode ends, I’m sure we’ll get some fodder for that in The Zygon Inversion. The Zygon Invasion is a relatively strong episode, but it’s also the type of part one where you really can’t judge without part two to properly frame it. Tune in next week!