Doctor Who's The Zygon Invasion shape-shifts Clara and brings yet more hybrids

Hello, Bonnie. We've been expecting you

Gavin says:

The Zygon Invasion lacks the stripped-down intimacy and dramatic darkness of recent Doctor Who episodes featuring Davros and Ashilda, trading these for a global crisis.

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion. Pic credit: BBC

Doctor Who, Season 9 – The Zygon Invasion. Pic credit: BBC

But in keeping with this season’s MO, The Zygon Invasion is paced to last an hour and a half – broken into two episodes, with the second part hitting our screens next week.

So, yes, while we have yet-another-pan-global crises from the writers of Doctor Who, this time there’s less running around and more scene setting.

And, in another major departure, this story is influenced by current affairs, synthesising the issues of our times.

Here, the offspring of immigrant settlers are restless – apparently rejecting their parent’s conformity and conservatism. Or, are they just a spoiled generation?

The political and ethical focus here, of course, are those children of British Islamic parents who’ve run away to join Islamic State.

There are other references to our times, too: drone strikes, ISIS-style martyr videos draped with black flags, western leaders ready to indulge harsh counter measures, the casual labelling of all Zygons as traitors.

It's a nice touch, differing from alien invasions of past Who episodes, where the writers placed the story in a bubble of pure science and fiction.

Dramatically speaking, The Zygon Invasion is Doctor Who does Homeland, with the story woven between the Doctor, Clara and UNIT in a trio of global settings: UNIT’s raid on a flyblown Arab village, Clara creeping through sinister subterranean London caverns, Kate Stewart piecing together the, er, pieces in another flyblown town in New Mexico.

And, as in Homeland, things don’t go the authorities’ way; the radicalised and organised Zygon children are steps ahead, with the humans and Zygon allies painstaking deduction landing them in one trap after another. The invasion is underway while the Doctor is scrambling around an abandoned command centre, under attack from his own side.

An effectively studied premise and set up touching on modern politics and moral issues, but with the Homeland model, I can’t say there were too many surprises.

It was clear, for example, UNIT’s SWAT raid on the Middle Eastern village would fail.

I struggle, too, with the Zygons as foes. They have been bothering Earth since Tom Baker’s Doctor in 1975 and last appeared in 2013 in Day of the Doctor.

It's a clever touch, to scour the Who canon for something to base this latest Zygon incursion on – the treaty from Day of the Doctor that allowed the Zygons to stay, in human form, in return for allowing their entire pod to hatch.

Only it’s this compromise that the Zygon offspring reject. For once, a previous story isn’t smuggly wrapped up. This is quite the opposite.

And yet for, all that, I just can’t get past the Zygons looking like oversized and overcooked Calamari. The Zygons protest too much with their hate-filled spitting.

The best moment in this episode is the smallest – the denouement of Bonnie as Clara, with Clara being leeched for all her human characteristics in an organic-mechanic pod.

'Pretending to be a couple of seven-year-olds is a splendid way to conceal your blobbiness.'

For Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara/Bonnie, it's a shift of dramatic weight from one foot to the other. Yes, she looks like Clara but this is Clara’s ruthless sister, with an evil smile and handy with a surface-to-air missile. This is no longer Clara the do-gooder.

Cleverly, Bonnie is the acceptable face of her over-cooked Calamari brethren, a babe with a power bob, dressed in a leather jacket – reminiscent of V’s Morena Baccarin as Anna.

On a character note, it's good to see Osgood’s return: a nerd with bad dress sense and a crush on the Doctor. She's at least part Zygon – the polar opposite of Bonnie.

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion. Pic credit: BBC

Doctor Who, Season 9 – The Zygon Invasion. Pic credit: BBC

Will these two clash, then?

And, in case you’re wondering, of course this isn't the end of the Doctor.

We still have the Osgood box. Plus, never underestimate the Doctor’s ability to emerge as puppet master when it’s the aliens who thought they were yanking the strings. ®

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