Doctor Who 9.7 – The Zygon Invasion

I’ll get the worst out of the way, because Peter Harness’s two-parter is otherwise extremely good, especially its second half. I don’t like the Zygons’ weapons turning people into blobs of sparkling hair because it looks ridiculous. It’ll be topped by an even dumber death visual in the next season, unfortunately. But what I really can’t stand is this absolutely unbelievable interlude where the Zygons shapeshift into copies of the family members of these crack UNIT troops.

Okay, sure, UNIT’s always been known to find soldiers of the “Holy Moses! What’s that?” variety, but you’d think that fifty years later, they’d have sorted out who gets to wear the blue badge. But no, we have an entire company of redshirts sent to Turmezistan, who know the Zygons pulled the “don’t kill my kid and his dad” trick with the drone operator, who’ve been told by their commanding officer to watch out for the trick, and a dozen soldiers nevertheless fall for it anyway, meekly walking along to their offscreen death by sparky-hair, in a scene that is utterly unnecessary to the plot. The story would have continued in precisely the same way if Colonel Walsh and the Doctor had gone in by themselves. It adds nothing except to say “Aren’t these heroes gullible idiots?” and “I’m sure the director thought that was dramatic; he was wrong.” It’s padding every bit as obvious and awful as that bit in “Timelash” where the Doctor shouts at Herbert for six minutes, and stands as one of the most breathtakingly stupid and misplaced moments in the whole of Doctor Who. That bad.

Whew. I mean, we understand and often love the fact that Doctor Who is frequently stupid, but it’s frequently lovably stupid. This one’s full of those moments, like the revelation that the two Zygon bigwigs in the UK have chosen to disguise themselves as two schoolgirls. Then there’s “Doctor Disco” and the Nixon salute and the great little revelation that the “hush-hush” business that Harry Sullivan had been up to at Porton Down was developing an anti-Zygon nerve gas, after his experiences with them back in the seventies or eighties.

The premise is that after the events of “The Day of the Doctor” two years previously, twenty million Zygons have resettled on Earth, agreeing to hide as humans and keep a peace treaty. I remember that some people baulked that twenty million is a huge number, but it’s also about the population of Cairo, spread out everywhere from Turmezistan to New Mexico, so maybe it isn’t that outrageous. UNIT’s Osgood has been concerned that some of the Zygons were not going to be happy with this, and now her predicted “Nightmare Scenario” has come true.

But at its core, this is an angry story that’s really well told and has a few very good twists in it. It’s a story about radicalization, using alien shapeshifters to talk about young, impatient jerks waging jihad. It goes out of its way to insist that there are good and evil in all cultures, but perhaps sadly this story is only about the radicals, who announce themselves with a spray-painted stencil of a black claw. The leader, who takes the name Bonnie, seems to have a following of a few thousand Zygons, possibly a drop in a bucket of 20,000,000, but more than enough to be one of the greatest threats the planet’s ever seen. After all, as Colonel Walsh asks, how can you actually count them?

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who 9.7 – The Zygon Invasion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s