Doctor Who 9.8 – The Zygon Inversion

So the kid said that he enjoyed this episode and that it was “powerful,” and I think that’s an unusual word for a ten year-old to use to describe a piece of television. I think that he’s right, and I think that many people will agree, but I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve raised a kid who, only ten, can see that television that challenges viewers to think more about the emotions and the reasons and the consequences for and of war might need different words than “cool” or “awesome.”

Many people seem – quite understandably – to think of the big climax, with Capaldi forcing his angry enemy to think about those consequences and change her mind, as the big moment to take away. But I sometimes come back to this scene in a small, closed supermarket, and think it’s one of the most amazing pieces in all of Who. Most of what happened before is left to our imagination, but we know that the rebel leader messed with this peaceful immigrant Zygon’s ability to hold a human form. He turned into an alien monster again in front of people, the video went viral, and hours later, there are dead people in the lobby.

The Zygon just wanted to live in peace. He had been a Briton for two years, living quietly in what looks to be a beat-up, aging council estate in south London. Nobody bothers him, and he’s happy. Then some young, violent meatheads do something terrible, and racists close ranks, and immigrants aren’t welcome. Every time that racists and white supremacists and nationalists do something even more disproportionately terrible in response to whatever’s pissed them off this month, this scene hits harder. It’s brilliant, brilliant writing.

In a much lighter observation, after the previous episode’s revelation that seventies – or possibly eighties – companion Harry Sullivan had worked on the team developing an anti-Zygon nerve gas, I made sure to remind our son of the delightful moment toward the end of “Revenge of the Cybermen” when the Doctor tells everybody within earshot that Harry Sullivan is an imbecile. 1300 or so years later, and the Doctor’s opinion hasn’t changed; he’s still “that imbecile.” And our son observed that cosplaying as Osgood probably isn’t that difficult, although his methods certainly are. He suggests that anybody who wants an Osgood costume just needs to go to the “BBC Costume Creation Department and take all their old designs and things for the Doctor that they’ve thrown away.” I think he might could build a better mousetrap if he thought about that a bit longer.

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