Thanks to giving out candy, I was late to the start of this week’s episode of Doctor Who. Thanks to the magic of a DVR, I was able to rewind to the start but I came in at the point where Clara was non-chalantly watching an abduction in a barely lit apartment. It was a pretty good scene to start on when you consider that it was aired on Halloween.
So was this week’s episode a proper Halloween episode? I’m not sure I’d go that far but I would say that it was a promising start to the Zygon two-parter.
If you recall what I said after the 50th Anniversary special, I mentioned that the Zygon invasion plot of that episode was just sort of dropped without any real resolution. Yes, they did a quick recap of that at the beginning of this episode but it was better explained here than back then.
So while the peace treaty hasn’t been broken, there are some Zygons who aren’t happy with blending into human culture. As such, they’ve broken the treaty and are planning an invasion from within.
The one problem with that is that this episode is a political commentary masked in a sci-fi episode with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever. It’s pretty obvious from the off that this is a commentary on ISIS and Al Qaeda and other “radical” groups. I mean, The Doctor and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart’s descriptions of the Zygons and the potential impact of their plans have actually been thrown around in discussions about ISIS.
Resolving this issue is going to have to be done with some care. With the writers already clearly establishing the real world parallel they’re going for, I think the resolution can’t be done with some sci-fi magic. If this was South Park, I would have more faith in a smart and meaningful conclusion to the story. If the resolution is to sonic something alien and life returns to normal, it’ll be a waste of introducing the obvious comparison.
Anyway, with a Zygon splinter group taking command of all Zygons and planning an invasion of Earth, The Doctor’s old friend Osgood (who isn’t dead because she has a Zygon clone which means that only one of the two were offed by Missy last season so Moffat managed to write himself out of that corner) sends him a warning and causes him to re-take his position of President of the Earth.
He, Clara and Kate form a three-pronged investigation force that see each trying to figure out what the Zygons are up to but each find themselves in trouble by the end of the episode. It’s a sort of standard but effective horror trope. Everyone gets separated and picked off one-by-one. That’s not a bad thing
The ending of the episode was well telegraphed from when Osgood said that the Zygons could now assume form using people’s memories. Granted, the twist seemed obvious from when Clara stuck her nose into the apartment abduction. One acquaintance thought it was Kate’s assistant who would be the Zygon impostor but that was a bit to cliched and obvious to be the likely case.
That being said, I wonder how many people had that eureka moment the same time that Kate’s assistant did. I think I was about like three seconds ahead of her in realizing that the Zygons instantly transform and don’t grow into the shape.
Though it makes me wonder if the Zygons’ new powers could be a little overpowered. I get that it’s supposed to make it harder on UNIT and company to not start laying waste to suspected Zygons but it’s just too convenient a power. It borders on being too cartoonish for a sci-fi show and it makes the heroes (like the UNIT soldiers who were repeatedly duped) seem like hopeless buffoons. We need a hope spot to carry us into the second part and the only one we got was that the new nameless assistant is the only one with a clue but she’s probably dead.
Overall, I thought this was a really good episode. While we’re only seven episodes into the season, I think it’s safely in the top-half of episodes this season. That being said, if next week just does a deus ex machina wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey ending, this setup episode will be all for naught.
Other random points of note:
- It’s amazing what a little change of camera angle does. Shooting Jenna Coleman from a lower angle so it looks like she’s looking down on you is a subtle enough change to say that she’s evil without turning her into a cartoonish supervillain.
- The Osgood Box seems to be awfully similar to The Moment from the 50th Anniversary show. Anyone else kind of worried that they brought Peter Harness back to write this episode?
- Clearly the President of the Earth was not chosen by the Americans. They wouldn’t have allowed him to be elected if he wasn’t born as a naturalized citizen of Earth. Unless he was a Democrat, in which case they would insist he had to be born on Earth rather than born to a citizen of Earth. That’s how you do political commentary, Harness.
Here’s the part where I preview next week so apologies for the following spoiler: The Doctor doesn’t die on the airplane. Shocking, I know. So he has to face-off with Zygon Clara in order to save humanity in The Zygon Inversion.