Doctor Who’s take on immigration and equality concludes with ‘The Zygon Inversion’ – a stripped back (and this is both a good and a bad thing, which we’ll get to in a moment) tale of outing, assimilation, and angst. Peter Capaldi has never shone brighter.
We’ll get the bad out of the way first. Last week’s episode zipped across the planet with a lengthy cast list, whereas this week is all about London, and there’s only ever two Zygons in sight.
I get that it will be expensive to create the Zygon costumes, but I’m pretty sure we saw more than two in 2013’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Hell, we saw more than two last week!
It just renders the threat minimal if the good guys are only pitted against a sparse number of bad guys. Likewise, the limited setting scales down the anté – it feels as though only London is at stake now, whereas last week the entire world was up for grabs.
Even just one or two scenes in other locations, with a few more CGI Zygons thrown into the mix, and ‘The Zygon Inversion’ would be sublime.
But that’s not to say it isn’t great, because it is. Like the opening two-parter, I think this may go down as a classic. There are a few moments that stall the action – such as the incredibly slow Zygon police officers, or the fact that Kate just happens to turn up at the right moment to trick the Zygons, and even the fact that once Bonnie outs one of the Zygons nobody on the estate is particularly bothered than an alien is in their midst (this is where Russell T Davies excelled; he often layered images of mass panic and multiple news reports to make the threat globalised) – but everything else shines.
Take Jenna Coleman, for example. This may be the third time she’s been turned into a monster (twice as a Dalek), but it still works. The scene in which she faces off against herself is a standout – Coleman somehow manages to make two distinct characters that look and sound different.
I know that some have found the notion of the original Clara being able to influence the dream state hard to believe, but you have to remember that she’s faced the Kantrofarri/Dream Crabs in the past – she knows what she is doing. Suspend disbelief, and this segment is brilliant. Coleman is going to be a miss when she departs shortly.
Likewise, Ingrid Oliver is just brilliant as Petronella Osgood. Though, I don’t think she should become a companion – her knowledge rivals the Doctor exponentially, and in some scenes this week it feels as though the Doctor is her companion.
I’m so glad that we never really found out whether Osgood is human or Zygon – like I argued last week, it doesn’t matter. What does is the fact that she cares for both races, and it’s this empathy that helps carry the otherwise heavy material.
But it’s Peter Capaldi who is the standout star of ‘The Zygon Inversion’. The 10-minute standoff with Bonnie is just sensational. Capaldi is angry, determined, emotional and sincere all at once, but it never feels forced or contrived.
The emotions that the Doctor is experiencing all feel real, and it’s very clear to see why this is a direct followup to ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Despite saving his people, the Doctor is still feeling guilt at his actions of butchering Gallifrey.
Imagine the emotion when he is finally (please?) reunited with them. I defy you all not to well up during this segment.
The Doctor is right in what he says: all of the bloodshed and all of the fighting is pointless. Every war or every fight is resolved with words, and it’s particularly poignant that this episode aired before Remembrance Sunday.