Doctor Who Review: “The Zygon Inversion”


Dear DocBlogger:

Sometimes I am amazed by how much he has suffered and the pain he has gone through. He tries so hard to protect me, protect everyone, really. How can I show him how much I appreciate him?

Concerned in California


Dear Concerned:

He sounds like a tortured soul. Give him room. Don’t box him in.



Spoilers ahead, Sweetie…

While The Zygon Inversion rehashes a theme that we’ve seen many times – the futility of war and conflict – it offered us a chance to see Capaldi really turn it on. His passionate pleas, his facial expressions, just the raw emotion his angry eyebrows conveyed allowed me to connect with him in this role on a deep level. The writing was excellent, and Capaldi rose to the challenge by ensuring that the ton of dialog didn’t end up being just a bunch of chatter. All in all, although the moral remains the same, the story was fresh and the plot was twisty enough to keep me engaged.

The Episode in a Nutshell

Real Clara is trapped in a Zygon pod, but somehow she can hear Evil Clara (a.k.a. Bonnie) taunting the Doctor. Suddenly she can see it all happening on her TV and realizes she can exert some amount of control over Bonnie’s actions. But Bonnie appears to have won and our Doctor’s plane explodes. Next we see Bonnie chasing a man into his apartment, telling him that he will be the first to make the humans see, and turns him into a Zygon. She films his transformation and posts it online before going to Unit to retrieve the Osgood box.

Thank goodness Real Clara spots two parachutes below the Doctor’s exploding plane. Both he and Osgood land safely on a beach and discuss their situation. Clara continues to figure out how to communicate through Bonnie, while Bonnie discovers that the Osgood box is not where she thought it would be. She wants information, so she goes to Clara’s pod for a heart to heart. Clara is forced to tell her that the Osgood box is at the Black Archive and that she can gain access because she has Clara’s body print. Clara tells Bonnie not to kill her, because once Bonnie finds the box, she will want to talk to Clara again.

In one of my favorite scenes, the Doctor and Osgood are tooling around South London in a minivan to Bonnie’s last location. A trail of crackling dust bunnies leads them to the man Bonnie taped, and we learn that he was actually a Zygon Bonnie purposefully outed. He can’t go back to his regular life, so he kills himself. The Doctor and Osgood realize that Bonnie and the splinter group are hoping to unmask all Zygons to create mass panic. Kate arrives to take the Doctor to Clara’s pod; although he is certain that Kate is a Zygon, he follows.

Bonnie arrives at the Black Archive and discovers there are two Osgood boxes. She gets the Doctor on the phone and he tells her the box she wants is blue, but she doesn’t trust him since each has a Truth or Consequences button. Kate is actually human and sets herself over the red box while Bonnie mans the blue, and the games begin. At this point the Doctor passionately explains why both Kate and Bonnie don’t want to push any buttons in either box. He talks through the potential outcomes with them both, including having to live like he has, with the knowledge of the death and destruction they would be responsible for. Bonnie ultimately wants to press on because she knows she won’t be forgiven. The Doctor tells her she will be.

Both ladies stand down and Bonnie correctly guesses that the Osgood boxes are actually fakes. We learn that we have been in this position 15 times already. While Kate retains no memory of these events, Bonnie keeps hers so she can learn from the experience. She sends out the message to all Zygons that the cease fire is still in place. Back at the Tardis, the Doctor asks Osgood to join him and Clara (gasp!) but she turns them down (double gasp!) because her duty is to the Osgood boxes. Bonnie has become the second Osgood and it’s time for ice cream.

War Is Hell

So the crux of the matter is that the Doctor has put together the Osgood box charade to keep the peace, and it’s ingenious. Basically he offers each side a 50/50 chance to get exactly what it wants or exactly what it doesn’t, simulating how unsure the outcome of any war can be. The boxes offer an opportunity for the participants to choose not to engage; instead of real fatalities they can avoid all the bloodshed and go straight to negotiations, which is where they’ll end up anyway.

But the Doctor has to get them ready to stand down, so he starts by asking Bonnie to describe what she really wants – to paint him a picture of life after she’s won. Beautifully, she can’t. The Doctor walks her through the fact that she is being cruel because someone was cruel to her, and even if she wins she will end up being considered cruel by the next splinter group that rises up. Forgiveness is the only way to break the cycle. But Bonnie also believes that she is too far gone. She can’t stand down because she doesn’t forgive herself and can’t understand why anyone would forgive her. The Doctor says he will because he never wants anyone to have to feel the pain that he did when faced with his own Osgood box.

As a personal observation, I really didn’t get why the Doctor continued to grill Osgood about whether she was human or Zygon. Of all the players, he should have been the one pushing her to remain anonymous. Maybe he was testing her resolve since she is such a big fan of his, and he is such a big fan of hers.

Liz Bowen, a.k.a DocBlogger



Liz Bowen is a long-time Doctor Who fan and first-time blogger living in Colorado Springs. She enjoys seeing her childhood recreated in cinematic excellence and will waste entire evenings waxing poetic about the technical beauty that is Transformers. She indulges in writing Supernatural fanfic and is working on her first original book.