Doctor Who Season 9.07 – The Zygon Invasion

Zygon-strip-550x320-600x337“Oh no!    That was far too political! Doctor Who isn’t meant to be political! It’s a kids show!”

So have come the protestations on my newsfeed this morning. Naturally, I will take issue with that. First and foremost, Doctor Who has a history of political stories. Axes have always been ground.

The most obvious one are the two stories set on Peladon that presented the arguments for and against joining the EU in “The Curse of . . . “ and the rights and wrongs of Trades Unionism in ”The Monster of . . .” Then there was “Genesis of the Daleks” that discussed Nazism and Eugenics and, more obliquely, a vicious sideswipe at Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister in ”The Happiness Patrol”. Politics has always been a part of Doctor Who to greater or lesser degrees.

Time, I suppose, dulls the  immediacy and topicality in these stories. What seemed radical at the time; what used the language of the time, seems a little quaint after the fact.

Maybe that will happen in thirty years with The Zygon Invasion, but for now, it was a radical departure from the cosy teatime TV of ‘regular’ Doctor Who. Truth be told, it came across much more as a missing episode of Torchwood.  That’s not the insult that it might appear to be.  I’m thinking of Children of Earth, one of the finest pieces of TV in recent memory.  

The Zygon invasion didn’t quite hit those dizzying heights, but it did give a very different take on Doctor Who: grittier, and much scarier.

The parallels with the “immigrant crisis” and “muslim terror plots” are not exactly subtle, the language of “radicalisation”, “extremists” and aliens taking our jobs – and bodies – is hammered home with almost indecent fervour. Having rewatched it, hence the delay in posting, it leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.  A friend of mine described this episode as  “A gift to UKIP” (thanks Si) and he may have a point.

I don’t doubt that next week’s resolution will be a positive (anti-UKIP) one – but as it stands, and in isolation, it’s quite a damaging piece of TV.

Now I’m well aware that that is utterly contradictory to the first part of the review – damaging but great – but that probably adequately expresses my confusion with this episode. Yes, there are some great bits and tonally, it’s quite amazing, but the overt and unsubtle political battering seems a bit over the top and a bit misjudged.

But what was good about it? Well, the return of Osgood, whichever Osgood she is, as the embodiment of the Human/Zygon treaty was rather marvellous. Although in TV terms, what could possibly go wrong with allowing twenty million shapeshifting aliens known for attempted take over Earth on two separate occasion being allowed to live secretly among humans? That’s like saying “This’ll be the best Christmas Walford has ever had”. The “Osgood Box” is, intriguingly, a similar size and shape to “The Moment”. I think that may be a red herring, though. I mean a device that in the Tardis Data Core is described thus:

The Moment is capable of destroying Gallifrey, Daleks and whole galaxies within in a single moment, hence its given name.”

seems a tad over the top. This, after all, is not the Great Time War, it’s essentially a local quarrel in a single time period.

Clara’s story continues to mark her out as inevitable victim – if not in this story, then it feeds into her eventual demise later on.  She’s way too arrogant, careless and blase this season; I can’t see it ending well.

The one thing that did upset me a bit is that I simply cannot believe that Harry Sullivan would have anything to do with developing a gas that would destroy and entire race.   He was far too caring and far too much of a gentleman to involve himself with such ghastly projects. I prefer to think of him having left UNIT and happy spending his days in a small GP surgery in a quaint country village . . . but then I didn’t want the dead Brigadier resurrected as a Cyberman, either, but hey . . .

You also have to raise an eyebrow and question the wisdom of Kate Stewart – Head of UNIT. Casually wandering into a town destroyed by shape shifting aliens, finding a single human and not even suspecting anything untoward is reckless beyond words! Likewise, a church full of people who just happen to be the family and friends of the soldiers sent to kill shapeshifting aliens?

FIRE!  FIRE YOUR WEAPONS NOW!!

It’s interesting that the Zygons have an almost worldwide tunnel system.   How did they manage that without being noticed? I’m sure we’ve seen those tunnels before, too.   Isn’t that where those 2D creatures hung out?

Oh, as a by-the-by, I prefer the original zygon design. I don’t think the domed head and dribbling teeth have done them any favours. I actually prefer the redesigned SIlurians and Ice Warriors, so it’s not just sniffy whovian posturing . . .

Also, while I think of it, etymologically, there are so many names here that have a ‘god’ prefix.   OSwald, OSwin, OSgood, AShildr. Is this coincidence? Again, more references to The Hybrid…

But I can’t shake the feeling that part two is going to disappoint. Whether that’s because it’s written by Peter Harness, who wrote the worst Doctor Who episode since the reboot, possibly ever (Kill the Moon) or whether, like The Magician’s Apprentice, it can’t possibly live up to a sterling (see caveats above) first episode, I don’t know.

Either way, it sped along at a riotous pace, asked a lot of questions that I really need to find answers for and promises much for episode two.

As for it being a kids show?  It’s a family show. It’s for everyone. Although I’m beginning to think it’s trying to shake that off and using it’s later time slot to it’s own advantage.

Fun but confused.

And that’s just me.

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