Doctor Who 'The Zygon Invasion' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

After the mindblowing 'The Woman Who Lived', 'Doctor Who' returned to our screens with a classic invasion story written by Peter Harness who previously penned the incredibly divisive 'Kill The Moon' from Series 8. This time however with 'The Zygon Invasion' I believe more people will be on his side as this episode is fantastic. Basically, 'Doctor Who' is firing on cylinders I did not even know it had by this point. The Series 9 hotstreak has not been broken.

At this rate it seems like Series 9 is becoming quite a special one indeed. Every single episode has been fantastic and now it has gotten to the point that even this episode turned out to be really great - and this was one of the two stories I was worried about the most (the other being 'Sleep No More') and judging by this first part, I had nothing to fear. This does not mean that it is a perfect episode by any stretch of the imagination, in fact this might be the most flawed of them all and if the second part does not deliver the whole thing might collapse. But again with that said, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and all the problems I have do not even come close to ruining the experience. This is the perfect position for this story to be in as well after the slow moving character study 'The Woman Who Lived' was and also the creepy base under siege story of 'Under The Lake'. We have not had an episode of this scale since the opener and I know people found the last two rather boring so here we are, back to the kick-ass alien invasion story.

Series 9 has really been celebrating the ten year anniversary of the new series without directly stating it as we are yet again treated to archive footage of an earlier episode, this time being 'The Day of the Doctor'. That also means this is the third time in seven episodes we see the tenth Doctor pop up on our screens again, because he just will not go away. I really like how they are doing it as giving us a whole anniversary special this soon after the last one would not really fly.

Daniel Nettheim makes his debut on the show with an episode that looks absolutely gorgeous. I love the unique colors to all the locations they shot in as it really helps to differentiate between the places without the need of having to state it every single time. My main problem with his direction is that there are several moments when the execution is rather clunky and awkward. This may be a problem with the writing too but I have to attribute it mainly to the direction as it could easily have been avoided. An example of this is a scene near the end were some turns into a Zygon and Kate Stewart is standing there looking at her and barely reacting to it. The way it was filmed and timed made it seem like Kate was just VERY slow at reacting to her impending doom (the cliffhanger even suggests that she has died) when she could easily have just reached for her gun. There are multiple ways you could have shot that scene in a way that would work but they just did not go with any of them here.

While kind of being on the subject of Kate Stewart, she has barely gotten anything to do recently as she was pretty much useless in 'The Magician's Apprentice' and 'Death In Heaven'. Here however she finally gets to do something that seem to be leading to something significant. She is actually holding a gun for once and doing some research instead of standing around while the Doctor and/or Clara does everything. I really hope she will be part in saving the day in the next episode because she has yet to even come close in doing so. But yes, it was also rather silly how she was the only one they sent to Truth or Consequences to investigate. I mean come on, not even one dispensable soldier?

There are some rather obvious political subtext in this episode and for the most part I believe it works. Yes, it is a bit on the nose but they do not spend a whole lot of time on it and it never derails the episode (*cough* 'In the Forest of the Night'). At least for me, it was not distracting as the focus was still on the story at hand. The story by the way, is really great. It picks up all the pieces that was left loose after 'The Day of the Doctor' regarding the Zygons and it also feels like they waited the appropiate amount of time to tell this story. My only wish is that they at least mentioned the whole peace treaty once between this episode and the 50th anniversary and not just have it come out of nowhere. I also really liked the way they explained Osgood's return after being killed by Missy in 'Death In Heaven'. It was very satisfactory and made perfect sense. I doubt anyone can have a problem with it which is great. I also loved how well it ties into the hybrid story arc which again makes the reason they held on the story until now make even more sense.

Oh, and let us talk about that cliffhanger. Peter Harness was not joking when he said he wrote the biggest one he possibly could. This was really well handled and definitely the best part of the episode. I loved the Clara reveal - not because of her being evil as I most definitely saw that coming - but because of the rather morbid plan she had throughout the episode. Remember, she is the one who figured out that Truth or Consequences was a town in New Mexico - and then that is where Kate Stewart was sent and "killed". She then also got Jac to follow her to her apartment building, which then lead them both down beneath London to find all the eggs/pods with a bunch of citizens of London inside. She then orders all the U.N.I.T. soldiers to destroy them before they "hatch". This legitimately makes sense and I almost bought it myself before Jac thankfully stepped in to remind us just how Zygons actually work - which is of course when we get the brilliant reveal of Clara being a Zygon. They also did not wimp out on the cliffhanger here as they just went ahead and murdered all the soldiers AND Jac. Then only to make it worse we also have Zygon-Clara shooting a rocket launcher towards the plane that the Doctor and Osgood are on. BRILLIANT cliffhanger.

The one thing that dragged the episode down from being the absolute best that it could possibly be is actually the writing in some of the scenes. There is a scene outside of a church were a bunch of U.N.I.T. soldiers are getting ready to destroy whatever is inside - and suddenly one of their mothers walks out. Not only is this performed rather terribly by both of the actors involved but there is not a shadow of a doubt in any of our minds that the person claiming to be the unknown U.N.I.T. soldier's mother... is not a Zygon. Then it all gets even worse and even more obvious when the "families" and/or "relatives" of the other soldiers also walk out of the church. I definitely see what Peter Harness was going for and it could have worked - but there was NOTHING that could have fooled us. I also get that the soldiers might not actually have believed they were their real families and just did not want to shoot someone who did... but then they just follow them inside of the church when they are told that the totally-not-Zygon-people can prove who they are inside. Not only was this poorly executed but it makes the U.N.I.T. soldiers look so utterly incompetent (and this is not exactly a group of people that came across competent before). What I will say though, Murray Gold's score during this scene is amazing...

Overall, 'The Zygon Invasion' is a return to the huge scale alien invasion story and you can tell that we are no longer dealing with the Daleks or Cybermen as the Zygons offer a very different type of invasion - which of course makes for a very different story and for the most part it worked like charm. The episode looks great, it sounds great, the Zygons are very threatening despite their comical voice and look. There is definitely a lot of possibilities for a real cracker of a second part and the episode did not skimp out on the cliffhanger as it went all out and delivered the best one since 'The Magician's Apprentice'. Bring on 'The Zygon Inversion'!


- Lucas


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