Discussing Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion

Zygon Invasion Doctor Who

Now that “The Zygon Invasion,” has started on Doctor Who, I’m back again with my friend Kevin Harvey, author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture.

Previously, we talked about “The Magician’s Apprentice” and “The Witch’s Familiar,” “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood,” “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived.”

The Zygons are back. UNIT is back. Even Osgood is back. Clara is … well we’ll get into that. Let’s talk about “The Zygon Invasion.”

Well, this will be difficult with such a gigantic cliffhanger left, but initial thoughts on “The Zygon Invasion”? 

Aaron: There is a lot to like about this episode and a lot to think about. We will discuss the allegorical nature of it, Osgood, Clara and the Zygons all specifically later, but in general, I thought this was a fun, exciting episode. Much of this comes from assuming the second part will pay off the extended build-up of the first part. After all they’ve done so far this season, I’m perpetually optimistic that these two part stories are worth it.

Overall, this week brought to mind sci-fi classics and modern favorites. Obviously, it plays a similar chord as a film like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The scenes in New Mexico had a B-movie feel to me, in a good way. Battlestar Galatica also came to mind with the enemy able to appear like anyone, the splinter groups, and the paranoia it all brings.

I appreciate that they brought this thread back from, “The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th anniversary episode. These are, again, the types of connections that make the show stronger instead of tying it completely to the show’s mythology.

Kevin: Well, they did it again! Assuming this wraps up next week, this will be our fourth consecutive two-parter to begin the season. And yes, I am including “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived,” even though they were standalone stories, since they added the “To Be Continued” at the end of the first one. Did I miss a story somewhere sharing this was the show’s plan this year?

To the episode itself, I don’t think I was as gung-ho about it as you, but I can’t say I disliked it either. I definitely liked it better the second time, knowing it was only half the story; but during the first watching I kept thinking how slowly it was moving. (Plus, I was watching it after a late Halloween and was ready for bed!)

This also marks the second straight episode with very little scene-sharing time between the Doctor and Clara (and next week would appear to be the third), and I think Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman play off of each other really well and make for great scenes. I think these latest episodes have been suffering some not having them together on the screen very much.

But I did enjoy and appreciate that this episode basically served as a follow-up to one of my favorite episodes ever, “The Day of the Doctor.” If anyone is new to the show and hasn’t watched that one, I would definitely encourage them to watch it on Netflix before next week.

There were definitely some political and cultural connections in this episode to our world. Did you think it was a heavy-handed political allegory or an interesting way to examine a real-life topic?

Kevin: I knew this question was going to come up. Yeah, there were some pretty heavy-handed allegories concerning the current War on Terror and relations with the Muslim world. Normally, when it’s George Clooney, Matt Damon, and their clones in Hollywood making these stories I get headaches from all my eye-rolling. But I’ve never considered Doctor Who as a show to fall into that category, probably because it’s not from Hollywood. (Hmm, maybe that’s why I like most everything on BBC better than I do NBC and ABC.)

So when Doctor Who speaks on a controversial issue, as they did with last year’s “Kill the Moon,” I will listen, because I don’t consider it propaganda, but rather, as said in the question above, “an interesting way to examine a real-life topic.”

I’ll have to hold out on my complete opinion until next week, but for now I don’t mind the show going this route and speaking on these issues. But I do believe the conclusion can’t be about yet another peace treaty between the Zygons and humans. That wouldn’t be believable at this point and would lower the credibility of the showrunners to go such an easy route again.

Aaron: One reason it may not resonate quite as heavy-handed with us is that the commentary is more aimed toward British politics than American. Recently, they’ve had huge controversies over immigration, assimilation, radicalization, etc.

Obviously, those have been topics in the U.S., but it is a different conversation here and the threat is less imminent. There was a slight nod to this as Kate Stewart goes to New Mexico where the Zygons were said to British, complete with a “No Dogs, No British” sign outside a business.

As with “Kill the Moon,” which I loved, I think the connections are, to borrow a distinction from J.R.R. Tolkien, more about applicability than allegory. The viewer can apply the situation to his or her present state or cultural climate, rather than the writer or filmmaker demanding a certain experience or interpretation.

The great (and interesting) way they handled the real life correspondence is that both sides seemed reasonable. So often when an artist creates something designed to speak to life outside of the art, they feel compelled to lecture rather than explore, to preach instead of wrestle. You can understand why the Doctor feels a bombing raid would lead to more danger, but you can also recognize the dangers presented by taking the more pensive and pacifist approach.

Super fan Osgood made her return and brought with her lots of questions (and question marks). Do we find out which Osgood is still alive? Is she the oft-discussed “hybrid”? What is the Osgood box?

Aaron: When Osgood was killed by Missy last season, it was duly mourned in our house. So I’m glad to see her back and still cosplaying as the Doctor, even though she’s much more independent and less fan-girl than she was previously.

To answer the questions: No, no, who knows. I think they’ll keep up the mystery of her background. She joins the growing list of possible hybrids (Time Lord infused Daleks, Ashildr and Sam Swift) to fulfill the prophecy from the second episode, but I don’t think she’ll be the final answer to that question.

The Osgood box is interesting because at the beginning of the episode (when the show pushed hard against that fourth wall again), she says, “He called it the Osgood Box. If you’ve been paying attention, you be able to guess why.” Also, seeing as how this episode is closely connected to the 50th anniversary show, it is worth noting that the Osgood box bears a striking resemblance to the Moment (personified wonderfully as Rose Tyler).

Kevin: Yep. The Osgood box would appear to be essential for next week, as well as the nerve gas that Kate Stewart says the Doctor stole from them years ago that will turn a Zygon inside out. Is the nerve gas in the Osgood box? Who’s watching the video of the two Osgoods? And going back to the previous question, is there something to make of the idea that the two Osgoods are the treaty—that they are both human and Zygon?

Whatever the answers, I too am simply glad that Osgood is back and hopefully will continue to pop up from time to time. Because whenever she and Kate Stewart pop up, we can count on more lines about the Doctor being the president of the world, which is always a good thing.

I have to say I enjoyed Bad Clara and am ashamed to say I did not see the twist coming. So, thoughts on her (and her evil twin) this week?

Kevin: I was surprised too. I don’t know why, because I remember thinking the scene where Clara walks out of her apartment building (now as a Zygon) was a little odd and the editing to get to that scene was abrupt. So I should’ve been asking myself why it was done that way, because Doctor Who doesn’t make too many editing mistakes.

Jenna Coleman’s evil smile at the reveal was up there with Ed Norton’s in Primal Fear. She pulled off that transition perfectly. (Of course, I am bias, being an unapologetic fan of both Coleman and Clara.) Although I obviously hope we get Clara back next week, I won’t mind seeing bad Clara for a little bit. With this being Coleman’s last season on the show, she probably enjoyed greatly the chance to play evil this once.

Aaron: Going back and watching this again was almost like a second viewing of The Sixth Sense … I see Zygons. There were so many little moments where it was obvious that we were watching a Clara Zygon. There’s no way she leaves a little boy in a potentially dangerous situation and just casually adjusts her ponytail. She’s not going to interrupt a world crisis to head back to her apartment for some “things.” The way she continually prodded Kate Stewart for information on UNIT’s forces should have given it away. Yet, I just wasn’t prepared for Clara to be evil.

Also, even though it turned out to be the evil Clara, I loved the fact that she used the flashlight on her cellphone. It seems like such a small thing, but writers so often ignore that feature when placing characters in dark circumstances. It helps make things more realistic and believable.

How did you like the second look (in the new Who at least) at the Zygons?

Aaron: The Zygons never seemed that terrifying. They looked freaky, but their powers were played more for laughs previously (what with the Doctor making out with one disguised as the Queen). That changed this week.

What could be more terrifying, as UNIT pointed out, than having no idea if someone in your life was a perfectly disguised murderous alien? How does paranoia not overwhelm you? It brings to mind yet another sci-fi show, one which is soon to be resurrected, the X-Files. You have to “trust no one.” When anyone and everyone could be the enemy, fear and self-doubt become even stronger enemies.

Kevin: As much as I loved “The Day of the Doctor,” the Zygons were definitely the weakest part of that episode. And the same goes in “The Zygon Invasion,” at least when they are in Zygon form. When the Zygons turn themselves into people—whether that’s Clara, Osgood, Queen Elizabeth, or the twin girls at the beginning of this episode—the actors do a great job at “playing Zygon.” But when the Zygons are in their natural form? It’s not very believable that the characters are the same as the ones in the “pods.”

I’m a little confused on how the Zygons seemed all-knowing at times, such as when they knew to turn into the family members of the soldier charged with bombing the village they were in when she was far away; yet the Zygon pretending to be the soldier’s mom at the church couldn’t answer his question about when he was born. Maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe I too am a Zygon, but I just forgot.

Favorite quotes from this week?

Kevin: This was the weakest episode yet this season for great one-liners, whether funny or just memorable, so thanks for letting me go first. I’ll take the best two and you can watch the episode again looking for others.

“The Doctor will go to Turmezistan, negotiate peace, rescue Osgood, and prevent this war because that’s what he does.” —from the cocky president of the world, the Doctor

“I’m the president of the world. I’m here to rescue people and generally establish happiness all over the place.”

Aaron: There were a few I liked this week actually. Osgood seemed to serve as the surrogate companion this week (again preparing us for Clara’s inevitable departure), so her and the Doctor had some witty back and forth banter.

Doctor, what are you doing? — Osgood
Rescuing you, in a quite dashing way I might add. — Doctor

The dialogue between Osgood and the Doctor about questions was great.
“You have question marks.”
“You used to wear questions marks.”
“Oh, I know, yes I did.”
“They were nice. Why don’t you wear them anymore?”
“Oh, I do. I’ve got question mark underpants.”
“Makes one wonder what the question is.”

“I’m staking out some of the most dangerous creatures imaginable, operating under deep cover, trying not to attract suspicion.” — the Doctor, as he watches little school kids walk by, while he sits very conspicuously as a strange old guy on a playground swing

“They’re trying to unsettle you. They’re trying to make you paranoid and panicked.” — The Doctor
“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.” — Walsh, a UNIT commander

Along with referring to himself as both Doctor Disco and Doctor Funkenstein, the Doctor saying he’s going to negotiate peace, rescue Osgood and prevent a war because “that’s what he dooooeeesss” was tremendous.

What spiritual content did you notice in this episode?

Aaron: We had the Doctor open up the episode with a distortion heavy rendition of “Amazing Grace.” I’m curious as to why that song. I haven’t been able to find an explanation that suits. I just hope I’m not driving myself crazy trying to find a connection when it was just Peter Capaldi adlibbing.

Once again, we have a confrontation within a church between good and evil. They happen there so frequently, I’m starting to wonder if those can happen anywhere else in the Whoverse.

Kevin: The “Amazing Grace” rendition at the beginning absolutely could’ve just been Capaldi ripping on the guitar, but if you follow along with the words (and assume he’s on the first verse), the last line he plays before he stops is “that saved a wretch like me.” Ever since last season, the Doctor has wrestled with the question of if he’s a good man. Maybe the song gives us the answer. No, he’s not a good man. He’s a wretch, just like the rest of us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be saved by God’s “amazing grace.”

The idea shared at the beginning that if just one human or Zygon goes rogue, then the cease-fire will break is reminiscent of how sin has infected all of mankind. It took only one (Eve) to go rogue, which caused the rift between God and man.

Osgood being both fully human and fully Zygon at the same time is not something we or the Doctor can comprehend, but neither is the Christian belief that Jesus came to earth as both fully man and fully God. But just because we can’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. (Scratch this last paragraph if next week Osgood goes all Tarantino on us and kills all the humans.)

For more about Kevin, he blogs at BibleInPopCulture.com, where he talks about the intersection of faith and culture, and you can catch him on Twitter at@PopCultureKevin.

Join us again next week when we’ll talk about “The Zygon Inversion.” Here’s some previews to get you ready.

5 Comments

  1. The Doctor’s playing of “Amazing Grace” could be another foreshadowing of Clara’s upcoming death since that song is often played on a lone bagpipe at funerals.

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.