Another multi-part story arc comes at us in full swing this week, and this one breaks out some big guns. “The Zygon Invasion” hearkens us back to Doctor Who’s past, both semi-distant and relatively-recent, to bring us a story that feels fairly sweeping in its nature. The series, as always, does a pretty damned good job of referencing its rich history while working within the confines of already-established canon.
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly other episodes/seasons of Doctor Who. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: After opening with a bit of back-story from the double Osgoods (if you’re watching this episode and haven’t yet seen “The Day of the Doctor” and “Death in Heaven,” then you will be highly confused by most of this episode), the action can be summed up pretty succinctly: a portion of the Zygons living in concealment on Earth are tired of hiding themselves, so they’ve hatched a plot to, well, take over the Earth. It’s up to the Doctor, Clara, and Kate Williams to stop them.
The trio gets split up pretty fast, with the Doctor heading to “Turmezistan” along with a cadre of U.N.I.T.’s finest troops to try and infiltrate a Zygon stronghold, Kate Williams shuttling off to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (yes, it’s a real town) based on a clue in Zygon transmissions, and Clara staying in London to work with other U.N.I.T. mates to protect the motherland, since the majority of the 20 million Zygons left on Earth are situated in the U.K. All of them encounter fairly life-threatening roadblocks, with the biggest “shocker” of the episode coming when it’s revealed that Clara isn’t really Clara – she’s a Zygon duplicate who has the real Clara in a stasis pod! The Doctor doesn’t know this, though, so when “Clara” calls him, he’s quick to give her info, not knowing that the plane he’s travelling on is in her sights – the sights of her missile launcher, that is…
>>> For the record, Truth or Consequences is a real town in New Mexico. Originally named Hot Springs, they changed their name in 1950 when the TV game show “Truth or Consequences” announced that they would do a live recording from the first town to rename itself after the show. Hot Springs did it first, and they’ve never bothered to change the name back!
>>> I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: do we think that Osgood’s name being so similar to Clara Oswald’s is something of importance, or just pure randomness? Osgood’s name is a throwback-reference to a U.N.I.T. officer who featured in a Third Doctor story, but it does seem darn convenient that both she and Clara Oswald share similar nomenclature.
>>> Did you catch the painting of the First Doctor in the U.N.I.T. safe house at the very beginning of the episode? I had to cycle back on the DVR a few times to be sure, but that’s definitely a William Hartnell likeness. The First Doctor doesn’t have any recorded dealings with U.N.I.T., but as we’ve learned from DW many times before: never say never.
>>> Listen, the Zygons are downright creepy as a Doctor Who villain, and I mean that in the best possible way. Not only are they physically very intimidating, this episode really highlights their ability to use their shapeshifting powers to their cold-blooded advantage, as brilliantly highlighted in the Turmezistan-set faceoff between the U.N.I.T. soldiers and their “families” (shape-shifted Zygons at their psychological-warfare finest).
>>> One of the best parts of the episode is when Clara gets revealed to be a Zygon – because it makes the viewer A) wonder when the heck did that happen, and B) mentally go back through the episode and see where things that Clara said/did were actually not just helpful-Clara actions, but instead were underhanded Zygon plotting. After all, it was Clara that connected the dots on the “Truth or Consequences” riddle, which effectively sent Kate Williams into a pretty heavy Zygon trap alone…
>>> Osgood’s wardrobe, which was already clearly established as going deep into Doctor Who lore, goes even deeper this week with visual references to multiple previous Doctors. Did you catch them all?
>>> Speaking of wardrobe – Twelve just revealed that he’s kept the question marks as part of the outfit! The real question, of course, is: will the BBC make “Twelfth Doctor Underwear” available for consumer purchase in time for the holidays?
>>> Now we’re starting to get multiple references to the “hybrid,” which is an effective way for the showrunners to keep the audience off-kilter as to which might be the “real” hybrid that the Doctor and Davros referenced at the beginning of the season. Is it a Dalek-Gallifreyan hybrid as we were originally led to believe? A human-Mire hybrid as the previous two episodes posited? A human-Zygon hybrid like Osgood? The suspense is killer – no pun intended!
>>> I’m sure you noticed, but there was no “Next Time…” trailer at the end of the episode. Which, in my humble opinion, was a great move – don’t give anything away, let us hang on it the entire week!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: This is the episode, I feel, that most fans of Doctor Who have been waiting for all season. The acting is great, humor is present and doesn’t feel overly forced, and most importantly, the storyline is excellent and really feels “up to snuff” with the high expectations of true fans of the series. Now we just have to wait a whole damn week to see the next part of the story!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald
Gemma Redgrave as Kate Williams
Ingrid Oliver as Osgood