Discussing Doctor Who: The Zygon Inversion

Doctor Who The Zygon Inversion

What was once an invasion was turned on it’s head by the Doctor. It’s time to talk “The Zygon Inversion” 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,” and the first part of this story — “The Zygon Invasion.”

Each week, we move forward … which seems like marching to Clara’s inevitable death. But this week, it was the Doctor escaping death in the opening moments and avoiding war in the closing ones.

So you were not as high on “The Zygon Invasion” as I was, what did you think about the “The Zygon Inversion” as a conclusion?

Kevin: This is why watching TV shows on Netflix is so much better than watching each new episode as it comes out! Though I don’t take back anything I said about the slow pacing of “The Zygon Invasion” and that it was hurt by so little shared screen time between the Doctor and Clara, I definitely have to say that “The Zygon Inversion” totally redeemed the nitpicks I had with the first part. Job well done, Doctor Who. Job well done.

I loved the unique way the writing team decided to show the inner struggle going on inside Zygon Clara. The Doctor having Osgood as a companion more than made up for the temporary loss of having Clara by his side. Seeing the Doctor drive a car (for the first time?) was odd, perhaps just as odd as Osgood seeing him actually smile. And the scene with the Osgood boxes that took place (on my DVR at least) between the 41-minute mark and the 51-minute mark might have been my favorite ten minutes of Doctor Who ever. Do we give Emmys to BBC shows? If so, Capaldi wins for best actor, hands down.

Aaron: I almost feel like we’ve flip-flopped here. I read some previews about the episode (silly me) that caused my expectations for this week to skyrocket. Because of that, outside of the 10 minute Doctor soliloquy you referenced, I was a little disappointed. But again, I think that’s more due to my oversized expectations than anything else.

One of my favorite parts was the way they played Bonnie (aka Evil Clara) shooting down the Doctor’s plane. First, you think she’s shot it down. Then you think Good Clara saved them by moving the rocket launcher. But then Bonnie actually does shoot down the play, but the Doctor had parachutes — and a Union Jack one at that — ready to deploy. It would have been so easy to implore some wibbly-wobbly right there and have him escape, but the real world escape gave this episode a throwback feel. With the Doctor driving, as you mentioned, and the close connection to UNIT, this felt like an homage to Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor.

We mentioned the Doctor getting political last week. Of course, he is president of the world, so I suppose that’s in his jurisdiction. But what did you think about the resolution in terms of the way it handled the political themes it previously broached?

Aaron: Like most Doctor Who episodes, it touched on political themes, made a statement, but not in such a way that offends everyone. Maybe, the Doctor should run for president of the world. I’m not sure anyone else could talk about immigration, radicalization, and preemptive war and not anger one side or the other.

Obviously, we will get into this later, but the Doctor echoed Christianity in how everything can be boiled down to the decision of one person. It’s not about war on a national scale. It’s not about how we treat others in terms of government policy. It’s just one person who’s deciding between truth or consequences. That’s a really healthy (and biblical) way to look at broad, political issues. If we think about people on the micro, personal level, it will flesh itself out on the macro, national level.

Kevin: Totally agree. Is it too late to make the Doctor the new Speaker of the House? We truly need that kind of leadership in getting different sides to talk through an issue. As I mentioned last week, I was a little unsure how I felt about the show making such obvious political connections, but it was probably because I’m so used to all the one-sided arguments Hollywood usually makes to pass along their predictable propaganda. But I should’ve known better that Doctor Who and BBC are more mature than that, and not afraid to take a fair and balanced look at the entire issue.

I cannot say I disagree with any part of the Doctor’s Emmy-winning monologue. I also appreciate that when he said to Kate, “Why does peacekeeping always involve killing?” he wasn’t necessarily condemning her for her actions or saying she was wrong to have killed the Zygons she did. It was simply a question (to me, at least) asking how did we get to the point where in order to make peace someone usually has to die? It wasn’t really a knock on Kate but on the state in which we now live.

So … which Osgood is it? But seriously, did you think for a second they were setting her up to be the next companion?

Kevin: She has to be the human, right? Otherwise, we now have two Zygons in the role of Osgood. We’ll probably never know. And maybe we shouldn’t ever know, because that’s the point of her not answering the question. The Doctor should look at her the same, no matter which one she is.

She could certainly make for a good companion for the Doctor, but I can’t see that happening. Who would keep the Osgood boxes safe? Instead, she’ll just join the now-lengthy list of recurring female characters in this season that we wish would recur more often. First we had Missy, then Ashildr, and now Osgood. Each were given their own two-part episode and then left us wanting more. (None more than Missy, of course.)

Aaron: Yeah, I’m going with human as well, but it’s nice for a show built around a question (Doctor who?) to leave some questions unanswered.

Osgood grew into a competent hero in her own right. Though she is fan of the Doctor, he became a fan of hers. I have a feeling she’ll be like Paternoster Gang and make random appearances to help the Doctor in the future. Maybe her, Ashildr (who is rumored to be returning in the second part of the next episode and who’s helmet was in the background of the Doctor’s epic speech this week), and a certain currently dead boyfriend who we’ll discuss next could become the Paternoster Gang 2.0. Or maybe she’s just always there if they need a cosplaying fan character to make an appearance.

Playing two roles seemed like an opportunity for Clara to truly shine this week. Instead of talking about how great she was (as has been the case recently), let’s look forward. How do you think her exit plays out?

Aaron: I think we are both in agreement that she is going to die. Not in a Rory and Amy way, but in a real dead way of dying. Stephen Moffat has said that when she leaves the show, she’ll be gone for good. Death seems to be the only way to make something that permanent on Doctor Who.

Though maybe there’s a small sliver of hope. That Danny Pink thread from last season has still been left dangling—never out in front, but the show doesn’t let you forget it either. Perhaps Clara ends up in the “afterlife” with Danny. In fact, the last two episodes are named “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent.”

My theory would be that Missy brings Danny back (whether as a Cyberman or somehow in a human body), but, as things are wont to do, it all goes horribly wrong. In the end, Clara sacrifices herself for both the Doctor and Danny and is killed by Missy. We give the Doctor a new grudge with the Master/Missy and an even deeper motivation to do what he does—save people.

I suppose all of it centers around the explanation for the hybrid. It’s not the Dalek’s with Time Lord power or Ashildr or Osgood. Is it Clara? Is it Danny? Something else? Hopefully, we get some answers to these questions.

Kevin: Wow! You’ve really thought this out. First a side note: If the 11th and 12th episodes are called “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent,” then obviously they are another two-parter. Which means the upcoming 9th and 10th episodes simply have to be a two-parter also, to make the season entirely made up of two-part episodes. Okay, end side note.

The Missy/Danny Pink connection is probably going to happen somehow in those last two episodes. But similar to how we were assured that Amy and Rory were together after their storyline was closed, I think the same will happen with Clara and Danny. There is obviously some type of afterlife in Doctor Who, and I would guess that we’ll see Clara and Danny in it together.

But I truly have no idea what we’re culminating to this season. There has been no mythological connection whatsoever to these four two-part episodes we’ve been given so far. And maybe not having that restraint on the writers is what has allowed them to give us perhaps the best season ever. (That’s right, I said it. And I’m not even sure if I should’ve included the word “perhaps.”)

I would assume we’ll have Missy, Ashildr, Kate, and Osgood joining us in the finale, but what leads to Clara’s death? I don’t know. But I am confident (even more so after the final scene of “The Zygon Inversion”) that her death will leave the Doctor in a darker place than we’ve ever seen him. Will he even attempt to kill Missy or Ashildr or whoever is responsible, in his anger? I don’t think we’re going to like seeing the Doctor at the end of “Hell Bent,” which could make for a pretty powerful and memorable Christmas episode. 

Did this week change your opinion of the Zygons as a villain at all?

Kevin: Can we even classify them as a villain? They all either died easily, killed themselves, or became good. Basically, they fold faster than Draco Malfoy. If I were writing the show, I’d put the Zygons at the bottom of my list of returning villains. That doesn’t take anything away from the point of the episode and the incredible political and spiritual parallels this showdown between Zygon and human brought us. But can you think of any other Doctor Who villains that can be brought down with a single bullet?

Aaron: Still not a fan I see. You are right that their power is not like the Daleks, Weeping Angels or Cybermen. But I view them like the Silence. Their power lies in what they do to you mentally, not so much physically. Just like knowing that you are forgetting a vicious enemy would be terrifying, realizing that every person you know and love could be a terrorist alien in disguise is pretty creepy.

Favorite quotes from this week? 

Kevin: Should we go with comical? Spiritual? How about a little of both?

“What’s wrong with pointless? I once invented an invisible watch. Spot the design flaw.”

“London. What a dump!”
“You spend an awful lot of time here considering it’s a dump.”
“I spend an awful lot of time being kidnapped, tortured, shot at, exterminated. Doesn’t mean I like it.”

“The only way anyone can live in peace is if they’re prepared to forgive.”

“Here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.”

Aaron: I think you have to go with both this week because there were some witty one liners and very poignant statements.

“Five rounds rapid.” — Kate’s response to the Doctor when he asked how she survived is a perfect allusion to her father. A well-worn TV trope was inspired by the Brigadier’s instruction to a UNIT soldier to quickly shoot a monster five times. The joke is that it never works on a show, but Kate was able to successfully kill the Zygon.

We learned the Doctor’s first name is Basil. Except, of course, River Song’s rule no. 1 about the Doctor — he lies.

“Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.” — the Doctor
“I won’t change my mind.” — Bonnie
“Then you’ll die stupid.” — the Doctor

“You should know, I’m a very big fan.” — the Doctor giving a shout out to Osgood as a stand-in for all the Whovians out there.

“The TARDIS … Totally And Radically Driving In Space.” For some reason, I don’t think the Doctor is quite right about that one.

Normally, we ask what spiritual content did you notice in this episode. But this week it could almost be, was anything not spiritual?

Kevin: My guess is the Doctor’s browser history is not spiritual.

But as for the rest . . . wow. I watched those ten minutes I spoke of earlier three separate times, and each time something knew stood out to me. But so as to not steal everything from you, I’ll focus on the central idea of forgiveness.

Every resolution, every turning point, every path toward redemption, must begin with forgiveness. But not someone asking for forgiveness, which is typically how the world thinks. No, Bonnie (Zygon Clara) wasn’t going to ever ask the Doctor to forgive her. The thought would’ve never crossed her mind. It begins with the offended offering it freely to the offender, which is what the Doctor offered to Bonnie, and to Kate as well. If he had not offered Bonnie his forgiveness, she never would’ve stepped away from the Osgood box. But he forgave her, she accepted it, and the gap between the two was bridged.

The gap between mankind and God is no different. We would never ask for forgiveness on our own. Our total depravity confirms that. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God offers his forgiveness to us freely and we have the choice like Bonnie did whether or not to accept this undeserved gift and to allow Jesus’ sacrifice to bridge that gap.

Aaron: That speech … man. Yes, obviously, forgiveness is the key to understanding all of that. Even more so when the Doctor reveals that they’ve been in this situation “15 times” already. It’s not quite seven times 70, but it’s getting there.

Another part that stood out to me is the idea of perspective and where the real danger lies. Bonnie thought if she removed all of the humans and “traitor Zygons” from the equation everything would be smooth sailing. The Doctor helped her to think through what would be the end result of that—just a perpetual cycle of someone else getting angry and starting a violent revolution.

When we get what we want, we don’t always like it. She believed the true enemy was external, when in reality it was inside. She was her own worst enemy. She could never create a perfect world because she would always bring her imperfections along with her.

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. He has our conversation here: Two Geeks and the Doctor: Episode 9.8. This week is especially due to him picking up my slack.

Join us again next week when we’ll talk about “Sleep No More.” Here’s some previews to get you ready.


  1. I loved the Doctor’s anti-war message. Unfortunately this doesn’t work if your enemy is Dalek-like and only wants to exterminate you or Cyberman-like and only wants to “upgrade” you.

  2. Leslie

    So I kept meaning to go back and rewatch, but I’m pretty sure the opening guitar rifts that the Doctor was playing was Amazing Grace.

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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.