If ever Doctor Who got a kick up the arse, it might look like “The Zygon Invasion”. The latest two-parter opens with Doctor Who reinventing itself from a child-friendly, timey-wimey, happy-go-lucky yarn of playtime fun into a darker beast. “The Zygon Invasion” feels like a bludgeoning, quasi-military sci-fi epic compared to the lighter, more mysterious goings-on of “The Magician’s Apprentice”/“The Witch’s Familiar” or “The Girl Who Died”/“The Woman Who Lived”. “The Zygon Invasion” sees the Doctor and Clara returning to contemporary Earth, which they hadn’t done so since the opening moments of “The Magician’s Apprentice”. That in itself is a refreshing start to the fun and games, but “The Zygon Invasion” is anything but fun.
The Doctor returns to modern-day England after receiving a message from fan-favourite Osgood (didn’t she get killed? More on that later…) reading ‘nightmare scenario’. Turns out that around 20 million Zygons have formed a peace treaty with U.N.I.T. in living on Earth in quiet secrecy. However, that pact has now been broken, and an all-encompassing war threatens to tear the Earth apart, with the Zygons ready and waiting to claim the aftermath for themselves.
Scriptwriter Peter Harness, who last entertained us with “Kill the Moon” from the previous season, pens a story that bears an exceedingly simple concept and yet delivers in spades. We’re treated to not one, not two, but three running plots – the Doctor travelling to a remote European country with U.N.I.T. in an attempt to quell the Zygon’s desire for war, Clara keeping an eye on things in London and getting far more than she bargained for, and U.N.I.T. bossy boots Kate Stewart adventuring to Mexico hoping to rescue Osgood, the key to helping the Doctor stop the Zygons.
Harness balances each of the three plots with ease, making sure each spits out a venomous sense of tension. But at first glance, “The Zygon Invasion” doesn’t bring anything new to the show with its dangerous of undercover aliens ready to wage war – it’s a plot device that’s been executed many times before in the show. What makes “The Zygon Invasion” impressive is a crisp sense of menace. There’s now a middle man for the Doctor to tango with as well as a villain – U.N.I.T., who are more than happy to blow the Zygons to hell with or without the Doctor trying to reason with the aliens.
Again, the Doctor clashing with U.N.I.T.? Nothing new here, but it’s still a much-needed blast of air for Season 9. We’re past the half-way point in terms of the amount of episodes left, and once this two-parter wraps up, there’ll only be four more episodes to go. It’s perhaps a depressing revelation that one of the main reasons I enjoyed “The Zygon Invasion” so much is because, like Season 8, much of this season has been below par. “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood” was a decent enough tale, and each episode has had its moments of glory. But “The Zygon Invasion” is the kick up the arse Season 9 has needed – a brutally good episode.
Overall grade – A
+ The egg revelation! (Don’t worry, that’s all I’ll spoil about it, but it really threw me.)
+ Evil Clara is kinda badass. I prefer her to good Clara!
– 127 missed calls and Clara isn’t the slightest bit concerned?
– Kate travelled all the way to Mexico, where a possible Zygon takeover had occured, all on her own with no back-up?
Oh yeah, there are two Osgoods, hence one died in the Season 8 finale. You really have to watch the episode to understand it without me spoiling things for you. But even if you’re not bothered with understanding, go watch it anyway!
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