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REVIEW: Doctor Who 9×08 “The Zygon Inversion”

That speech. Just… that speech. That speech. That speech! I knew I was already in love with the 12th Doctor, but I’ve never seen Peter Capaldi pull off that level of performance. It reminded me of the 9th Doctor’s speech to the sole Dalek survivor of the Time War in “Dalek” when he confronts the creature, attempting to convince it to commit suicide. Strangely though, the Doctor’s speech to Bonnie has the same level of disgust and hatred, but is the opposite in its purpose to what the 9th Doctor was trying to accomplish.

Here, the Doctor pours his heart out to his enemy in order to prevent a pointless war – that’s it. Much like last week’s “The Zygon Invasion”, the general set-up and resolution of the story can be found in several other Doctor Who adventures, but here the substance is rivetingly different. Since its revival in 2005, the Doctor has been suffering from the hangovers of war, and it’s been shown to us in many different ways. That’s to be expected when we’ve worked our way through four Doctors (five depending on your preference), and each of them have displayed how war has changed them in drastically unique ways. But with this Doctor, it’s all the more different. Only Capaldi could have pulled this off. His weary, sarcastic, take on the Doctor spits out those words that have a dramatic weight to them because of Capaldi’s version of the Doctor being the way he is.

Beyond that scene however, “The Zygon Inversion” is still a killer episode, and Doctor Who has certainly just delivered its strongest two-parter in years. It’s true that plot-wise, “The Zygon Inversion” is much slower and simpler than last week, but that doesn’t detract from how enjoyably good it is. That slowness, of course, makes room for the Doctor’s frighteningly real speech about war and its effects.

“The Zygon Inversion” spills out from the nail-biting climax of evil Zygon Clara, aka Bonnie, shooting down the U.N.I.T. plane with the Doctor and Osgood on board. Bonnie’s reign of terror doesn’t stop there however, as she is now on the brink of triggering a mass war via uncovering every single disguised Zygon on Earth, thus provoking an utterly pointless war that neither race desires.

I don’t particularly wish to dive deep into how this and “The Zygon Invasion” act as social commentary for current events in the world (although the opening scene of Bonnie bringing down the U.N.I.T. plane felt rather topical), I’ll leave that job to everyone on Twitter. This is just a damn good episode of Doctor Who, and an overall damn good story. Much like how “Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood” were great to watch because of their fresh yet straight-forward retreading of classic Doctor Who themes, “The Zygon Invasion”/”The Zygon Inversion” takes that from those two episodes and offers more dramatic punch that kept me hooked, more so than I’ve been throughout this entire series.

Bonnie’s reasoning for war may be taken as an overly-used and downright tired excuse for a Doctor Who enemy to make themselves a Doctor Who enemy (war for the sake of war), but it still allows some brilliant acting from Capaldi. It’s as if Capaldi hijacks the simpleness of the episode in order to fully inhabit his rendition of the Doctor.

“The Zygon Inversion” will definitely be remembered for its social commentary alone, but hopefully it will also be remembered as the point where Peter Capaldi stole the Doctor from everyone else who’s ever portrayed the Time Lord. He shan’t be forgotten in a hurry, and “The Zygon Inversion” might just be the reason why. “The Zygon Inversion” is a beautifully tense piece of prime-time drama, and overall an episode of Doctor Who that is a sure-fire contender for strongest episode yet of this series.

Overall Grade – A

+ Hats off to Jenna for her performance as Bonnie, as she carried a true sense of evil in her double role.

+ The Doctor’s speech, duh.

+ Osgood is good. Very much good.

+ Peter Capaldi’s performance.

+ Clara and Bonnie’s scene was extremely well executed.

– The reasoning for Bonnie’s transformation to Osgood felt a little rushed.

Extra Thought

Now that U.N.I.T.’s Kate is back under the belief that the two Osgood boxes could trigger Earth-shattering consequences, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for her.

How exactly did Kate get back to the U.K. from Mexico in such a short space of time?

What did you make of “The Zygon Inversion”? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara