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The Zygon Invasion

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

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A fragile peace established long ago beneath the Tower of London is in jeopardy. Zygons have been living in peaceful coexistence with humans, undetected, but a rogue faction has begun plotting to overthrow humanity. Joining forces with UNIT to help deal with the global crisis, the Doctor and Clara must stop events spiralling out of control. A message from UNIT scientific officer Osgood issues a chilling warning, but she is supposed to be dead, is this really Osgood, or some Zygon deception? The Doctor, Clara and UNIT must embark on a world-wide adventure to rescue the kidnapped Osgood and stop the Zygon Invasion!

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The Zygon Invasion, written by Peter Harness, who also scripted Kill The Moon (2014), begins a two-part story that features the return of the classic Doctor Who monsters, the Zygons, which originally appeared forty years ago in the 4th Doctor story Terror of the Zygons (1975). The Zygons also played a significant role in the 50th anniversary story The Day of the Doctor (2013), where Kate Stewart and Osgood from UNIT confronted Zygon duplicates of themselves in the Black Archive below the Tower of London. The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion, directed by Daniel Nettheim (Line of Duty), returns to address the memory-wiped peace Kate Stewart and Osgood negotiated with their memory-wiped Zygon counterparts, and the challenging issues facing this Zygon-Human coalition when a secret Zygon faction attacks humanity.

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Right from the opening moments, The Zygon Invasion hit’s the ground running and the action doesn’t let up for a moment. A fan-pleasing recap of event from The Day of the Doctor sublimely blends into a recording made by both Osgoods in the wake of these events, detailing the covert Operation Double instigated by UNIT that allowed sanctuary to the 20 million Zygons now been living on Earth disguised as humans, who until now have existed unnoticed, in peaceful coexistence alongside humanity. As we ponder the mystery of Osgood’s Box the Doctor’s rousing guitar solo in the TARDIS is interrupted by news of the Nightmare Scenario! “Doctor Disco” returns to Earth, but a Zygon attack on a children’s playground and sinister happening near Clara’s flat, soon reunites the Doctor and Clara with Kate Stewart, Jac, and UNIT at the former Zygon Base inside the Drakeman Junior School in London, where the Zygon Control Polyp has been compromised, and the Doctor and his allies witness as the Zygon High Command – in the form of the kidnapped school girls Claudette (Cleopatra Dickens) and Jemima (Sasha Dickens) – are ruthlessly usurped by the radicalised splinter group from the younger Zygon brood now seeking to take over the world.

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The Doctor and Clara are right at the heart of the action in The Zygon Invasion, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman continue to build on the strong relationship between the Time Lord and his travelling companion. Kate Stewart is also back for this adventure, brilliantly played by Jemma Redgrave; she is joined by Jaye Griffiths as Jac. Jemma Redgrave has some great scenes with Peter Capaldi, especially when Kate and the Doctor are at loggerheads about bombing the Zygons, and Kate also gets to investigate a decidedly spooky town in New Mexico – where Gretchen Egolf proves unsettlingly mysterious as Norlander. Clara and Jac also make a good team, and they spend much of the episode working together. The impressive cast also features Rebecca Front (who also co-starred in The Think of It with Peter Capaldi) as Colonel Walsh, her scenes with Capaldi’s Doctor as her forces confront a difficult situation outside a church in Turmezistan are incredibly tense, and the angst-ridden situations UNIT troops Drone Operator Lisa (Jill Winternitz) and Hitchley (Todd Kramer) face delivers some of the most powerful and moving moments in the entire episode.

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With Osgood captured by the rogue faction of shape-shifting Zygons, the peace treaty between the Zygons and Humans is now violated. Determined to restore the peace between Zygons and Humans before the ceasefire breakdowns completely, the Doctor takes the Presidential Aircraft to rescue Osgood from a Zygon infested village in Turmezistan, while Kate Stewart sets out to solve a mystery in New Mexico, and in London Clara and Jac call in UNIT reinforcements when they discover something nasty lurking below her block of flats…

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The presumed dead, not dead-is-she-really-a-Zygon now, scientist Osgood also returns in The Zygon Invasion, and it’s great to see Ingrid Oliver back as the former bow-tie / scarf wearing Osgood. Ever since the character first appeared alongside the 11th Doctor in The Day of the Doctor, Osgood soon became a fan-favourite, and her untimely death in the 2014 series finale Death in Heaven – when she was cruelly vaporised by Missy – left us all mourning the loss of our favourite geek / scientist character. Now Ingrid Oliver reprises her role as Osgood in The Zygon Invasion, but is she human this time, or a Zygon disguised as Osgood? Well, this Osgood is indeed the Zygon Osgood, although in many way’s she’s also the human Osgood – as we discover after the Doctor rescues her in Turmezistan. Ingrid Oliver’s scenes with Peter Capaldi are the big highlight of this episode, especially when the Doctor and Osgood travel on the Presidential Aircraft back to the UK, and their movingly frank conversation is undoubtedly one of Series 9’s finest moments so far. The live link the human Osgood and the Zygon Osgood shared makes the Zygon Osgood a hybrid, Human and Zygon at the same time, and she was almost overwrought with grief when her human “sister” was killed as they were the living embodiment of the peace they made between Zygon and Humanity.

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The Zygons have always been a popular monster amongst Doctor Who fans, despite having only appeared in one story during the classic series: Terror of the Zygons – where the Zygons wreaked havoc with their pet Loc Ness Monster (A huge cyborg creature called the Skarasen). Their return in The Day of the Doctor was a little overshadowed by all the epic events in that 50th anniversary story. The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion finally gives the new revamped Zygons a story that really utilizes them and their abilities to the full. Seeing the Zygons (Aidan Cook & Tom Wilton) attacking humans in such everyday settings as they do here is actually quite unsettling. Their shape-shifting powers are used to great effect in The Zygon Invasion, the new Zygon costumes look more menacing than ever, and they secretly plot in caverns below London were strange pods are growing that hide a terrible secret. The Zygons are chillingly voiced by Nicholas Briggs, and he nails their whispering gurgling voice perfectly. It seems the Zygons have evolved too! The original body print is no longer necessary for the Zygon to maintain its disguise, once they have the information they need, the original can die, they can even take the images of loved ones from your mind and use them against you, and they have a sting-like bio-electric charge which they use to disable or vaporise their enemies.

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The Zygon Invasion is chock full of continuity references, the opening flashback from The Day of the Doctor features David Tennant, Matt Smith, and John Hurt as the 10th, 11th, and War Doctor respectively, there’s a portrait of the 1st Doctor (William Hartnell) that adorns the hallway in UNIT’s London safe house HQ, and there’s numerous links to the original invasion in Terror of the Zygons that includes a mention for a certain Naval Surgeon (Harry Sullivan played by Ian Marter) as well. The 12th Doctor recalls kissing Zygon once (the Zygon / Queen Elizabeth the I) from The Day of the Doctor, and the red question marks on Osgood’s shirt lapels where a key feature that also appeared on the shirt collars of the 4th Doctor – from the Leisure Hive (1980) onwards, as well as the 5th and 6th Doctor’s, and the tank top Osgood wears in this episode is not too dissimilar to the one the 7th Doctor wore – although his was covered in rows of the familiar question mark symbols.

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The Zygon Invasion hurtles towards a thrilling conclusion as the Zygon revolution begins, Kate Stewart makes a horrific discovery in New Mexico, the mystery of what happened to the people who went missing from the lifts and the true contents of the pods in the caves is discovered as treachery strikes, and the Doctor, Osgood, and their Zygon captive on the Presidential Aircraft find themselves locked in the sights of a new enemy… Clara; or more precisely the Zygon duplicate called “Bonnie” who took her place when she went to hep the little boy (played by Abhishek Singh) earlier in the episode! It’s a classic Doctor Who cliff-hanger, with the companion in peril, unconscious in the Zygon Pod in the caves, while her Zygon doppelganger unleashes chaos for UNIT across the world, and Jemma Coleman is fabulous as this wickedly evil version of Clara /Bonnie.

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Stylishly directed by Daniel Nettheim, The Zygon Invasion certainly gets this new two-part story off to a great start. Peter Capaldi gives a commanding performance as the Doctor in a story that is like an international sci-fi themed conspiracy thriller, the frenetic pace doesn’t let up for a moment, and Peter Harness’ strong script, with its clear nods to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, also tackles some particularly challenging social and political themes with its depiction of the strained relations between the Zygons and Humans in this episode. Jenna Coleman is excellent when Clara goes evil as “Bonnie”, its great to see Ingrid Oliver again as Osgood as well, the Zygons also make fearsome adversaries in this exciting story, and the jaw-dropping cliff-hanger brilliantly sets everything up for the truth or consequences to be resolved in The Zygon Inversion.

And here’s the Next Time Trailer for The Zygon Inversion!

Images Belong: BBC