TV Review: Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 7 “The Zygon Invasion” (UK, 2015)

The last time we were treated to an appearance by the Zygons was in the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, titled “The Day of the Doctor”. Foregrounding the episode in recounting that episode, “The Zygon Invasion” had much to live up to.

If you don’t recall, “The Day of the Doctor” explored how the Doctor(s) dealt with the Zygons attempted invasion of Earth. An an attempt to prevent a war between UNIT and the Zygons (who disguised themselves as human), The Doctor removed the memories, effectively rendering them incapable of figuring out which side they were on. The episode concluded with a peace treaty, essentially enabling both human and Zygon to live harmoniously on the Earth.

But good things can’t last forever, can they? And in the wake of such a spectacular anniversary episode, “The Zygon Invasion” needed to compensate for a lack of David Tennant and John Hurt, forcing it to rely on a strong plot and strong acting.  But the indecisive writing and need for Doctor gimmicks let this episode down.

One of the strongest elements of this episode was the way in which Peter Harness wrote the Zygons – one that was a vast improvement to their portrayal in the anniversary special. For the first time in a long while, we were offered a glimpse into the motives behind the villain. What ensues is the scariest depiction of the Zygons yet; at one point, one Zygon manipulates a UNIT soldier into thinking that he’s his mother, before brutally murdering him and the rest of his convoy.

Another strong part of this episode was the phenomenal acting from Jenna Coleman (Clara). A huge revelation is given to us – that the Clara we’ve been watching this entire episode is actually not the Clara we know – she’s a Zygon. In a rare circumstance, this reveal is done absolutely perfectly, Coleman’s acting allowing for a real and tangible shock. The moment she reveals her true form, Coleman’s face, voice, and mannerisms completely change. It’s a real testament to Coleman, perhaps indicating that the reason why I’m so hesitant towards Clara has absolutely nothing to do with Coleman herself – it’s the writers.

Unfortutely, Osgood’s (Ingrid Oliver) return is incredibly underwheming. Though we’re offered a nice reasoning for her return, the realisation that there are (or were) two human/Zygon Osgood’s, the pay off is minimal. All we really get from the episodes focus on her is how intertwined and similar the two species are; it’s a nice touch, but ultimately a waste of time and character.

As for the Doctor – he’s almost entirely forgettable in this episode. There is far too much juggling between characters that the writers cannot balance, leaving the Doctor’s moments elementary at best. An example of that? The gimmicky electric guitar sequence that seems to be reappearing at the beginning of each episode. It’s not even fun – it’s just embarrassing. Capaldi deserves more than what he’s being given.

In all, an episode that had some real potential as far as characterisation goes. Unfortunately, the writers seemed to have gotten overwhelmed with all the characters that they forgot the person that matters most – The Doctor. Next week we take a closer look at evil-Clara and MORE ZYGON.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

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