Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “The Zygon Invasion”. As with the other episodes in the series, this is the first half of a two-part episode. I’m also not sure whether next week’s review will be late or not, but here’s this week’s one.
Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review will contain some PLOT SPOILERS.
“The Zygon Invasion” begins with a flashback to the events of a couple of series ago, showing how the peace treaty between humanity and the Zygons came into being. As a condition of the treaty, 20 million shapeshifting Zygons were allowed to take human form and live on Earth. It’s been quite a while since I saw that episode and I still can’t remember all of the details of it, so the flashback was very welcome.
The embodiment of the peace treaty was Osgood and her Zygon clone (both of whom refuse to say which one is human and which one is Zygon) – however, after one of the Osgoods dies, the other leaves the UK and travels to America (New Mexico) where she is suddenly captured by a group of Zygon terrorists. These terrorists want to control the earth and they have the ability to mimic literally anyone that they come into contact with. It is up to The Doctor, Clara and UNIT to stop them…..
One of the first things that I will say about this episode was that it’s obviously one of the higher-budget episodes of the series – everything about this episode, from the writing, to (most of) the effects and the wide variety of locations is pretty much Hollywood-quality. Although this episode was shown on Halloween, it’s more of a sci-fi thriller episode than a horror episode though.
I’ll start by talking about the writing in this episode because it’s absolutely stunning. After the set up for the story, the episode manages to cram numerous sub-plots (and plot twists) into a single 45 minute episode in a way that almost makes it feel like you’re watching three episodes at once.
Whilst the Doctor is trying to rescue Osgood from a Zygon terroist -controlled village in the fictional country of Turmezistan (and also trying to stop UNIT from drone bombing the crap out of it), Clara and Jac (played by Jaye Griffiths, who was also in a brilliant 1990s TV show called “Bugs” 🙂 ) are investigating mysterious events in London and Kate Stewart from UNIT travels to New Mexico in order to investigate a suspiciously deserted town.
In additon to this, there are also other sub-plots too (which will be continued in the second half of the episode), as well as lots of fascinating background information.
This is what a two-part episode should look like. Whilst some of the earlier two-part episodes of the series felt like they could have just about been compressed into a single episode with a bit of careful editing, this episode takes full advantage of the two-part format by trying to cram as much storytelling as it can into the time available. Seriously, there’s absolutely no filler here at all.
In addition to this, the episode is also a metaphor for modern problems with terrorism. Although this is made fairly explicit in some scenes (eg: comments about younger Zygons being radicalised, comments that the terrorists obviously don’t represent all Zygons, the Zygon terrorists acting like terrorists etc..), it plays a part in the episode in all sorts of other subtle ways too.
For example, when the Zygon terrorists release a ransom video, Osgood is sitting in front of a black and white flag (with an alien symbol on it) that is vaguely reminiscent of the ISIS flag.
Likewise, when The Doctor reaches the UNIT base in Turmezistan, there’s an American soldier piloting a drone (albeit under the command of a British officer). The Doctor also makes the logical, if somewhat controversial, argument that if UNIT indiscriminately bombed Zygon-controlled territory then it would just turn some of the much larger number of non-terrorist Zygons against humanity.
As for the effects and set designs in this episode, they’re really good and you can tell that this episode had a slightly larger budget than usual. As well as featuring scenes filmed in America, many of the special effects in this episode are movie-quality too.
The only negative comment I can think to make is about the design of the Zygons themselves.
Even with modern costume design etc.. they still look a bit like people in silly rubber suits. Then again, if the Zygons were first introduced during the older 1960s-80s series of “Doctor Who” (which I haven’t seen), then this makes a lot more sense.
All in all, this is a brilliantly thrilling and dramatic episode of “Doctor Who”. It is expertly written and it contains so much storytelling that it almost feels like a two-part episode in and of itself.
Interestingly, this time, there wasn’t a preview of the next episode at the end of this episode for obvious reasons (ok, everyone and their dog knows that the Doctor didn’t die but I can see why they need to keep up the pretence).
If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would get five.