“The Zygon Invasion” gives us a classic Doctor Who incursion, generated from the Doctor’s attempt to resettle 20 million Zygons on Earth. What could possibly go wrong with such a plan? The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) once again join forces with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and UNIT. The return of a classic Doctor Who creature enhances the story, and the Zygons are formidable opponents.
Viewers also enjoy the return of scientist/fangirl Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who is now wearing question marks on her collars in an homage to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Doctors. She also wears the Fourth Doctor’s scarf, the Seventh’s Doctor’s question mark vest, the relaxed tie of the Tenth Doctor, and Eleventh Doctor’s bow tie. Let’s hope her next clothing choices reflect the glam rock style of the Third Doctor and not the clown-like brightness of the Sixth Doctor.
Despite the continuing presence of UNIT throughout most of the series, the Doctor’s collaboration with this secret organization never feels quite right (with the exception of the Third Doctor’s forced exile partnership). UNIT’s presence creates the additional drama of the Doctor needing to keep the government soldiers and scientists from aggravating things. It was very fun when Kate and Osgood showed up to rescue the Doctor in “Death in Heaven,” but we don’t need to see UNIT quite so often. “The Zygon Invasion” shows us the outcome of the Doctors’ forced negotiation between the Zygons and UNIT from “The Day of the Doctor.” Writer Peter Harness provides an unusually in-your-face political commentary about the radicalization of fringe groups by oppressive military and cultural institutions. It could be interesting if it wasn’t quite so on-the-nose, but who knows what twists may come in Episode 8, “The Zygon Inversion.”
Osgood has been involved in Operation Double, a plan to secretly resettle and rehouse 20 million Zygons on Earth. The Zygons have been allowed to take human form and have been dispersed throughout the world. In case the ceasefire were to break, the Doctor had left Osgood and her identically disguised Zygon partner with something he calls the Osgood Box, as a last resort in a Nightmare Scenario. Luckily they made a video explaining everything, helping us to understand why Osgood, who Missy murdered in “Death in Heaven,” is still alive. We just don’t know which version of Osgood she is—the one that was originally human or the one that was originally Zygon.
When we see Osgood in a war zone, it’s clear the ceasefire has been broken and the Zygons, or at least some of them, are in rebellion. Osgood messages the Doctor with “Nightmare Scenario,” just before being captured by a Zygon. When the Doctor gets Osgood’s message, he cuts his Jimi Hendrix-style guitar playing short and heads to 21st-century Earth.
Making his disapproving face while listening to her answering machine, the Doctor leaves Clara a message from “Doctor Disco.” The Doctor has staked out a playground, where he follows children around, demanding to talk to them. For a moment we think perhaps it’s a case of mistaken identity until two little girls finally respond and we learn they’re disguised Zygons. The two girls, who turn out to be the Zygon High Command, don’t need the Doctor’s interference and say they will deal with their children. Before they can get their house in order someone drops a Zygon gas bomb on the playground, which looks like it came straight out of the old series, and the two Zygon High Commanders are kidnapped.
At a UNIT safe house, Kate is contacted by Colonel Walsh in Turmezistan, who has footage showing that Osgood has been taken. Osgood’s captors have stolen her files revealing the locations of all the Zygons on Earth.
Elsewhere in London, Clara looks at her phone and sees she has 127 missed calls from the Doctor. Despite the clear urgency of his effort, she gets sidetracked by a child on the stairwell who can’t find his mum and dad. She finds the parents, who don’t seem to be acting quite normal. When they scoop up their “son,” the boy screams.
Zygon High Command
The Doctor, Clara, Kate, and Jac have arrived at a primary school that is functioning as the Zygon Command Center. The Doctor accesses the Zygon command computer by titivating the fronds (it’s even worse than it sounds). The Doctor recalls snogging a Zygon when one was masquerading as his lady friend Queen Elizabeth I.
It turns out that even UNIT didn’t know which Osgood was human. The Doctor tells Kate that they were both Zygon and human at the same time, that they would have maintained a live link. He says, “They not only administered the peace, they were the peace.” After Missy killed Osgood, the other went mad with grief and left for the US, then she disappeared.
They get a video message from the rebel Zygons. The rebels force the captured Zygon High Command to revert back to their Zygon shapes, then kill them. Thank goodness they didn’t kill them in little girl form. The rebel intones, “We are now the Zygon High Command. All traitors will die. Truth or consequences.”
Kate wants to bomb the Zygon leaders, who are holed up in Turmezistan, despite the fact that they are holding Osgood captive. The Doctor believes there’s a solution that doesn’t involve bombing everyone:
“This is a splinter group. The rest of the Zygons, the vast majority—they want to live in peace. You start bombing them, you’ll radicalize the lot. That’s exactly what the splinter group wants.”
Clara realizes that Truth or Consequences refers to a town in New Mexico. It also happens to be the last place Osgood was known to be before she was captured. The Doctor directs Kate to go to New Mexico, while he goes to Turmezistan to open up negotiations. Clara and Jac are left to keep the United Kingdom safe. The Doctor tells them, “This is your country—protect it from the scary monsters. And also from the Zygons.” We still need to be convinced the Zygons aren’t monsters.
The Doctor seems to be getting used to the President of the World title he has been given in times of crisis because he likes “poncing about in a big plane.” As they watch the Doctor get into the plane, Kate tells Clara that in a previous Zygon invasion, UNIT developed a nerve gas to be used against the Zygons, but the Doctor took the lot. The Doctor and UNIT have slightly different approaches to dealing with galactic problems.
Truth or Consequences
When Kate arrives in Truth or Consequences, she sees a “No Dogs” sign that has been changed to say “No British.” An American police officer, Norlander, seems to be the only one in the area. Norlander wants to know where Kate’s backup is. Norlander describes what has happened. Two years ago, Brits, acting very strangely, started showing up. They started getting into fights, then a couple were killed. After that they banded together and eventually showed their true form. She tells Kate, “They just came for us. They turned into monsters and they came for us. And we couldn’t fight them. You can’t tell who’s who. They can turn your own family against you.” Kate shows her a picture of Osgood and asks Norlander if she’s seen her. Osgood had been there asking questions, but now everyone is gone.
Norlander shows Kate remains of all the people executed. She tells Kate that there are hundreds more. Norlander tells Kate: “Somebody once caught the briefest of glimpses of a Zygon in its proper form. A child … who hadn’t learned to preserve its body print … who had been left alone to learn these things for itself. And then word went round these primitives … that we were monsters.” Once Norlander is sure that Kate doesn’t have any backup, she begins to transform back into her true form—a Zygon.
UNIT Base in Turzmenistan
The Doctor arrives in Turzmenistan and introduces himself to Colonel Walsh: “At ease. I’m the President of the World. I’m here to rescue people and generally establish happiness all over the place. The Doctor. Doctor Funkenstein.” Walsh is in the midst of ordering her staff to bomb the church the Zygons have been hiding in, but when the target operator hones in, she sees her husband and son waving at her and she aborts the strike.
Turzmenistan seems to be a Zygon training camp. They don’t know how many Zygons are there because they take on different human forms. The American commander wants the nerve gas that the Doctor took from UNIT, but the Doctor tells her that the Zygons are trying to unsettle them, to make them paranoid and panicked. She responds, “Any living thing in this world, including my family and friends, could turn into a Zygon and kill me, any second now. It’s not paranoia when it’s real.”
The Doctor has organized a rescue mission for Osgood. He tells the soldiers to kill as few Zygons as possible because he needs someone to negotiate with. Walsh orders her soldiers into the village to storm the church. She wants to collect any intel she can before the scheduled airstrike destroys the building. At the church, the squadron leader, Hitchley, orders the Zygons to come out of the church. The being that comes out of the church looks like Hitchley’s mom. Wow! That’s an unfair trick. She tells him that they have been brought there by the Zygons. More people come out of the church who look like family members of the soldiers. They claim to be hostages. Hitchley’s mom says to him: “Oh, God, you’re going to kill me .… You are, you’re going to kill me. I love you. I forgive you and I love you.” These Zygons are good. Over the radio Walsh warns them it’s a trick, but the soldiers are convinced they need to go inside the church to see the proof that the family members are claiming exists. By the time Walsh and the Doctor get to the church, the solders are dead and the Zygons are gone.
Walsh tells the Doctor the church is going to be bombed. He has ten minutes to find Osgood. He hears Osgood yelling and finds her hidden beneath the floor in a basement. The Doctor asks Osgood what the Zygons are up to and she tells him they are training, practicing new skills. They have fled back to the UK through the underground tunnels. A Zygon approaches from the tunnel. They hear bomb blasts overhead and the Zygon is covered in collapsed dirt. The Doctor says, “So much for ten minutes.”
The Doctor asks Osgood if she’s human or Zygon, but Osgood won’t answer that question. Osgood is the embodiment of the peace they made. She tells the Doctor, “I am the peace. I am Human and Zygon.” The Doctor realizes she is like a hybrid, recalling Davros’ warning about the Doctor creating a hybrid of ”two great warrior races forced together to create a warrior greater than either.” Hybrids have become a regular thing on Season 11, with Clara, the regenerating Daleks, Ashildr, and now Osgood all being hybrids.
The Doctor believes Osgood is human because Zygons need to keep the human original alive to refresh the body print: “If you were a Zygon, you’d have changed back within days of your sister’s death.” Osgood tells him those were the old rules: “Before, Zygons could pluck loved ones from your memory and wear their faces. Zygons only need to keep the original alive if they need more information from them. If the interrogation is over … then the original can die.” Not a good development for those who might be facing a Zygon war.
The Doctor has a Zygon on the plane, duct taped. The Zygon asks if he is President of the World and the Doctor affirms. The Doctor asks what the Zygon wants. The Zygon responds, “We want the world.” When the Doctor tells him they can’t have the world the Zygon tells him:
“We’re already there, Doctor. The invasion’s already taken place, bit by bit, over the last year. We’ve won the first battle. And now, we are going to begin the war.”
Accompanied by Jac, Clara heads home to get some personal items in preparation for defending the home front. They find Clara’s neighbors dragging a burlap bag with what looks like a boy in it, into the elevator. Clara and Jac run to the bottom of the stairs to cut them off, but they find the elevator empty. They get on the elevator and find it takes them to a strange place. Clara tells Jac, “I think we need to get some reinforcements.”
Back at the UNIT safe house Jac has found reports of strange activity in elevators similar to what they saw in Clara’s building. People are dragging bundles down underneath London. Clara and Jac take a squadron of soldiers into the underground. They find Zygon pods. Clara grabs a gun and tells the soldiers to destroy them. That order doesn’t sound like Clara. In fact giving orders to soldiers in this way doesn’t seem like Clara at all. When one of the pods is uncovered, Jac sees an unconscious Clara in it. Jac wants to wait. She realizes that these pods don’t hold the duplicates, but the original humans. She warns the soldiers it’s an ambush, but it’s too late. They are surrounded by Zygons, and Clara, who is clearly a Zygon (if you couldn’t tell back when she pulled her hair back at her building), order them to kill Jac and the soldiers.
Zygon Clara has taken over UNIT in the UK, and UNIT in North America has been neutralized. She calls the Doctor on his cell phone to get a signal to his location. He warns her to get to the TARDIS. Zygon Clara tells him that Clara’s dead, Kate’s dead, and the UNIT troops are dead. She tells him, “Truth or consequences,” as she shoots a rocket towards his plane. Zygon Clara doesn’t mess around.
“The Zygon Invasion” gives us a Doctor Who cliffhanger with pretty much everyone in danger or dead by the end. Zygon Clara is great to watch, so we look forward to seeing more of her in “The Zygon Incursion.”