Peter Capaldi presents continuing evidence that he is growing into the 12th Doctor’s regeneration through superb performances in his own style. Jenna Coleman (aka the Impossible Girl) is, perhaps, having her best Series yet!
“Once upon a time…there were three doctors, two Osgoods, one peace treaty.” After these words scroll our screen, we are launched into a clip from the fiftieth anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.” We first met the fangirl Osgood during this special. She believed in the Doctor’s deity and prayed to him to keep her safe. Osgood became a favorite character for Who fans and her apparent death at the hand of Missy during “Death in Heaven” was a blow to viewers. “The Day of the Doctor” brought back the Zygons, who had not been seen since the 1975 4th Doctor serial, “Terror of the Zygons.” Though Cybermen have gone through many incarnations throughout Doctor Who‘s long and successful run, the Zygons have not changed much since 1975.
Following “The Day of the Doctor” clip we find both Osgoods discussing their human/Zygon nature on video and telling of the upcoming terror due to the demise of a peace treaty set up during “The Day of the Doctor.” On the one hand, as realization sets in that a renegade faction of Zygons are planning human destruction, I am left to wonder how the many, many peace-loving Zygons who have made earth their home are pulled into the fight. Then I remind myself that the historical precedence for such an uprising is very real. Given the state of the world, the story is current. The question is whether or not Peter Harness, who penned, “Zygon Invasion,” wrote with an eye toward contemporary politics. Since “write what you know” is an oft used phrase given to writers seeking inspiration, how could there not be a Who episode with the world’s political state as fodder? The Osgood sisters make their most pointed statement on humanity and our understanding of it with these words: “Any race is capable of the best and the worst, every race is peaceful and warlike, good and evil…if one Zygon goes rogue, or one human…” Over the course of humanity there have been many times one individual has gone rogue. Who, in the world, is now rogue? After this video was made, we know that one of the Osgood sisters dies.
The surviving Osgood sister, under threat, is able to make contact with the Doctor just before she is taken by a Zygon. The sequence opener leaves us with the RockDoc strumming “Amazing Grace” while reading the message from Osgood: nightmare scenario.
In the Mix
The Doctor, in his black, sonic sunglasses, looks good on a swing waiting to stalk what appear to be children, but are, instead, the Zygon commanders. He is leaving Clara a message with one of the several 12th Doctor inspired phrases that are sure to become Who fandom lingo: “Hello, it’s Doctor Disco.” He attempts to talk to the two girls, calling them Monster High and Cinderella, both modern day children’s references. Monster High is a trademark for monster fashion dolls and Cinderella a Disney reference. Perhaps an allusion that the illusions of the Zygon people are about to be shattered. Is there a fairy godmother to save the peace-loving Zygons and all of humanity? We are whisked to UNIT to hear Kate Lethbridge-Stewart indicate that there is possible tracking for the 20,000,000 Zygons who have shape-shifted and are living an earthly life. A nice NSA reference.
Meanwhile, back on the playground, the Doctor pulls rank on the Zygon twin-like commanders, receives a phone call from Kate, and watches, helplessly, as the commanders are abducted. “The war is about to begin,” Osgood reports from captivity. “There will be truth or there will be consequences.” The Doctor is still unable to get in touch with Clara. If you’ve been following along since Clara’s inception on Doctor Who, you will understand that this seems a bit odd. The Impossible Girl is always available.
Are you paying attention? We find Clara at her apartment building where she comes across a young boy sitting on the stairs. He indicates that he cannot find his parents and Clara offers to help. She is greeted by a father who acts suspiciously and a zombie-looking mother. When Clara leaves the apartment she is nonchalant, seemingly unfazed despite hearing the child’s screams. Did you take notice? Detached from the incident, she phones the Doctor with a quip about his disco Doctor reference.
The Doctor and Clara arrive at a school that is the headquarters for the Zygon. While there, a video comes through showing the assassination of the two Zygon commanders by the revolutionaries. The transmission ends with a revolutionary saying “truth or consequences.” This is a theme projected by the Zygon throughout the episode. After discussion of strategy, Kate is off to Truth or Consequences, NM (based on Clara’s knowledge of the city), Clara and Jac will stay there, and the Doctor is off in a big plane, because he likes “poncing about.” Clara’s questions directed toward Kate don’t appear strange since she’s recently arrived on the scene, but we are clued into the fact that something is off when Clara tells Jac that she needs to stop by her apartment to “grab a couple of things.” At the apartment building, they are witness to a body being removed.
In Turmezistan, the Doctor introduces himself to UNIT soldiers as the “president of the world,” Doctor Funkenstein. He is, after all, the RockDoc. In Truth or Consequences, Kate finds one lone officer as resident, demanding where Kate’s back-up is. And back at home, Jac has found something very odd going on below London.
One of the most poignant scenes occurs in Turmezistan while troops are seeking to locate Osgood. Zygon shape-shifters successfully lure the troops into a building where they execute them. They lure them by assuming human shape, in one case, as the mother of one of the soldiers. Despite her inability to answer specific questions about him, the soldier cannot bring himself to shoot, and he and his men are executed. The Doctor does, however, find Osgood and is able to get her back aboard the plane.
Twists and Turns
Despite earlier clues that something as just not right about Clara, the twist in this plot takes us by surprise. Or, it did me. When I went back to watch the episode for the second time, the discrepancies in Clara’s responses earlier in the episdode became clear. Before the twist is revealed, we are treated to some fun aboard the plane when Osgood shows her fangirl stripes and asks the Doctor why he no longer wears the question marks. He quips back: “Oh, I do. I’ve got question mark underpants.” “Makes one wonder what the question is,” Osgood responds. The question is a good transition to the Doctor asking if she is the human Osgood or Zygon. The answer is, Osgood gives no definitive answer, but she does inform the Doctor and the viewing audience on Zygon shape-shifting updates.
Back under London, Clara and Jac stumble onto Zygon pods. When Jac figures out that they cannot be growing duplicates, but that the people in the pods are humans, Clara reveals herself as a Zygon. A flashback to the apartment scene shows that Clara was replaced with the shape-shifted Bonnie. The choice of name intrigued me. Bonnie can mean pretty (Scottish: a bonnie lass) or Bonnie is one of the names given to a mob girlfriend. The latter derives itself from Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. With Bonnie taking aim at what one would presume is the Doctor’s plane, she informs the Doctor that Clara and Kate are dead: truth or consequences. She definitely exhibits the callousness of Bonnie Parker, wife of Clyde Barrow and Jenna is almost more convincing in that role than in her role of Clara. Watching her next week will be interesting.
Since the announcement that Jenna Coleman will be leaving Doctor Who, nearly every episode leaves the question of how Clara will exit dangling. This writer wishes that she didn’t know she was leaving. Then there would be no guessing what will happen and who will take her place. Reading through overviews and reviews this week, I found that there were those who wondered if Osgood would take her place, last week people wondered if Ashildr/Lady Me would take her place. The truth is that we don’t know what will occur yet, and guessing may be taking us out of the story at hand.
If I had the time, I would allocate more discussion for the allusions to other Who episodes and the way their links to this episode attempt to address plot continuity. But that would make this review far too long and I’d lose much of your interest. However, this leaves a lot of fodder for another day and room for another article or two or three.
The RockDoc appears to be here to stay for the season. Capaldi is growing into his role and making this regeneration his own. His on-screen antics during even dramatic or intense scenes make him at once both human and alien. Tennant and Smith had an ability for bringing levity to intense new Who situations as well, yet each of the three have their own particular style of doing so – Tennant with charm, Smith with bumbling, and Capaldi with a mature and somewhat detached sense of confidence, or arrogance, however you choose to look at it. Whatever flavor Doctor you choose as favorite, they are all variations on a same theme.
Pertaining to this episode in particular, how could Clara have missed 127 phone calls? Why didn’t Kate bring back-up with her to Truth or Consequences, NM? Doesn’t that seem odd that the head of UNIT would not have back-up with her? Why was it so easy, once in the building, for the Doctor to have had unchallenged access to freeing Osgood? Finally, I like Osgood, don’t get me wrong, but this writer may be one of the few people that is not clamoring to have her on board more permanently in order to see a succession of past regeneration cosplays. It’s been a novelty, but one that would likely grow old.
I have heard from a good source that next week’s episode is stellar and that Capaldi rocks! As the RockDoc should.