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The Zygon Inversion

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

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20 million Zygons were granted asylum on Earth by UNIT, they have lived peacefully alongside humanity, unnoticed, but now a breakaway Zygon faction wants to take over the world. The Zygon revolution has begun! The fate of the Earth is sealed inside a Box in the Black Archive, but only the Doctor knows what’s inside. Now with UNIT neutralised and the Zygons in control, Clara cocooned in a Zygon pod and her evil Zygon doppelganger “Bonnie” on the loose, the Doctor and Osgood must reach London at all costs, but nobody can be trusted now. However, there is one last hope, because the box in the Black Archive is a very special box, its Osgood’s Box, and it will decided the fate of this conflict once and for all…

The Zygon Inversion concludes this exciting two-part story from Series 9, written by Peter Harness (Kill The Moon) and Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat, and directed by Daniel Netteim (Line of Duty / Humans), finds the Doctor, Clara, Kate Stewart, Osgood, and UNIT all in peril as the Zygon revolution begins in earnest.

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The Zygon Inversion brilliantly resolves the cliff-hanger from The Zygon Invasion, where Clara’s Zygon double, Bonnie, fired a rocket launcher at the Presidential Aircraft just as the Doctor and Osgood where returning to the UK from Turmezistan. An ingenious plot twist wrong foots us right from the outset, using Clara’s unsettling experience as a “live feed” for her Zygon double to provide us with an entirely different perspective of the events leading up to the cliff-hanger. Following their mid-air escape, the Doctor (whose parachute is remarkably patriotic!) and Osgood (the Zygon “sister” of the human Osgood murdered by Missy in the 2014 series finale Death In Heaven) become fugitives as Bonnie searches the UNIT safe house for the location of the Osgood Box. But when the Doctor receives a surprise text message, Osgood realises the real Clara is “awake”, and the subsequent phone conversation between Dr John Disco and Zygella allows Clara to use a non verbal form of communication to tell the Doctor she’s trapped amongst the Zygon pods in the tunnels beneath the streets of London – where the missing civilians are also being held.

The Doctor and Osgood make a fantastic team in The Zygon Inversion, brilliantly played by Peter Capaldi and Ingrid Oliver, these characters work so well together. The chemistry between them is magical and their banter is sure to bring a wry smile to your face, especially when Osgood gets to wear the Sonic Specs after her own glasses were broken, and it soon become clear that Osgood is undoubtedly a big fan of the Doctor! Kate Stewart also has a key role to play in events in this episode, her character has some fantastic scenes, and Jemma Redgrave gives a strong performance as Kate Stewart faces the most challenging decision of all. Jenna Coleman is also fabulous in her roles as both the real Clara Oswald and her villainous Zygon / human duplicate Bonnie. She gets some great scenes when Clara’s consciousness is in the bizarre dream-like reality of her flat while her body is trapped inside the Zygon pod, particularly when Clara has to find a way to endure Bonnie’s interrogation about the Osgood Box to stay alive, and Coleman is also wickedly evil as Bonnie in her quest to use the Osgood Box to end the ceasefire – no matter what the price of victory.

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Bonnie’s sinister plan to unmask her fellow Zygons – whether they want it or not – to provoke fear, paranoia, and ultimately war, becomes even more disturbing when the Doctor and Osgood reach the Fleet Estate Centre, and the tragic fate of Etoine (Nicholas Asbury) makes for some of the episodes most emotive and deeply moving scenes. As Bonnie enters the Black Archive with her Zygon guards and Clara’s pod in tow, the Doctor and Osgood are surprised at the Fleet Estate Centre by the unexpected return of Kate Stewart from New Mexico, and accompanied by two UNIT troops they set out to reach the Zygon Command Centre in the tunnels beneath London, where it soon becomes clear not everyone is quite who they seem…

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Ever since the Zygons first appeared in the 4th Doctor story Terror of the Zygons (1975), they have been amongst the series’ most popular monsters, and their long awaited return in The Day of the Doctor (2013) led to the fragile peace between Zygons and Humans that is now under threat in The Zygon Inversion. The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion has made the new Zygons (Played by Aidan Cook, Tom Wilton, and Jack Parker and brilliantly voiced by Nicholas Briggs) even more menacing than ever before, and the Zygon transformation in The Zygon Inversion are especially graphic. Their shape-changing abilities no longer require the original body print to refresh the Zygons disguise, they can even adopt the form of your nearest and dearest directly from your mind to use against you, and their hands can emit a lethal electric sting. However, as we see with Clara and Bonnie in this episode, Zygon live links can work both ways and be used against them. The differences between Zygons who want to live in peace on Earth and the splinter Zygon faction from the younger brood that wants to conquer the world are thrown into sharp contrast in The Zygon Inversion, just as Kate’s views and Bonnie’s stance on the Zygon revolution are also called into question, and the powerful script by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat unflinchingly tackles these challenging issues.

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The Zygon Inversion builds towards an exciting finale, as the Doctor, Osgood, Kate, and Clara, find themselves locked in a tense stand-off against Bonnie and the Zygons in the Black Archive, where the mystery of the Osgood Box – which the Doctor left on Earth as the final sanction should the Nightmare Scenario occur – and the reason why both the Zygon and Human Osgood’s were needed is finally revealed at last. It sets in motion a deadly game of truth or consequences. Peter Capaldi’s powerful speech here, to break the cycle and broker peace once more between Zygons and Humans, is sure to be heralded one of this series’ defining moments, it’s a truly momentous scene, and Peter Capaldi’s performance is utterly magnificent!

There are a number of nostalgic references in The Zygon Inversion. The 1st Doctor’s (William Hartnell) portrait is seen again in the UNIT safe house, and we also get another mention of the Z67 Sullivan Gas – a clear link to the 4th Doctor’s (Tom Baker) companion Naval Surgeon Harry Sullivan (played by Ian Marter). Kate Stewart also gets to use the line “Five rounds rapid!”, a line forever associated with Kate’s father, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) in the classic 3rd Doctor story The Daemons (1971). The Doctor also reflects on a time when he was going to press a button in another box, The Moment, during the Time War in The Day of the Doctor. UNIT’s Black Archive also returns, the secret facility played a major role in that story, and eagle eyed viewers will also spot a Mire helmet from The Girl Who Died in the background. The Doctor is also surprised when Osgood admits she doesn’t know what TARDIS stands for as she’s heard there are a couple of different versions of this anachronism. The “D” has been referred to as both “dimension” and “dimensions” at different points in both the classic series and the new series, in An Unearthly Child (1963) the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan (Carol Ann Ford), claimed she’s made up the name “time and relative dimension in space”, but the Doctor would later go on to tell people the “D” stands for dimensions, when the series returned in 2005 the 9th Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) explained the name of the TARDIS to Rose (Billie Piper) in her debut adventure but reverted back to “time and relative dimension in space”, and the 12th Doctor’s ridiculously OTT explanation to Osgood in The Zygon Inversion about what TARDIS really stands for is a fun acknowledgment of Doctor Who’s most unusual quirk in continuity.

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With peace finally declared, along with a somewhat convenient mind-wiping re-set switch to restore the post Day of the Doctor status quo between the Zygons and Humans, the wonderful closing scenes with Osgood await us, and what marvellously scripted scenes they are. There are so many fan-pleasing moments in the conclusion of The Zygon Inversion its sure to leave you seeing double, Osgood’s outfit here also takes several elements from seventh Doctor’s (Sylvester McCoy) costume from The Curse of Fenric (1989), and I’m sure that I probably wont be the only one hoping Osgood accepts the Doctor’s offer to travel in the TARDIS one day. Some questions are left unanswered for now, there’s a fun play on first names, and a poignant closing TARDIS interior scene that beautifully judges emotion and time as one and the same.

Proving itself to be anything but the same old same old, The Zygon Inversion is Doctor Who at its very best, and this episode provides an exciting and tense conclusion to this two-part story. The taut script by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat skilfully plays on the issues of identity, trust, and paranoia, while the stories deep philosophical core enables director Daniel Netteim to gradually build this though-provoking episode to a thrilling conclusion. With its strong cast, excellent performances from Peter Capaldi, Ingrid Oliver, Jemma Redgrave, together with Jenna Coleman’s brilliantly acted dual role as Clara and her evil counterpart, and the return of the Zygons for this story, The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion have all the hallmarks of classic Doctor Who and is without a doubt one of the best two-part stories from Series 9 so far!

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And just for fun here’s a clip where actress Ingrid Oliver explains why Osgood turns down the chance of a lifetime at the end of The Zygon Inversion!

Images & Clip Belong: BBC