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Doctor Who: The Gallifrey Times Team Review The Zygon Invasion

Saturday night saw the Zygons take over in an episode packed with political allusions – and it all ended with a Zygon version of Clara attempting to shoot down the Doctor’s plane, so there’s that. What did our team make of it? Read on to find out:

Louis (Editor)

I didn’t have as many problems with Kill the Moon as most, but the prospect of Peter Harness returning elicited a little uncertainty from this writer. Thankfully, he proved me wrong here with a tightly written, gripping thriller of an episode that boldly delved into surprisingly mature territory with the parallels between the Zygons and religious fundamentalists. It makes excellent use of the Zygons’ shape-changing abilities, especially in a fantastic scene with the soldiers on the steps of the church at the training camp, where the Zygons’ crafty abilities were used to emotionally manipulate the soldiers into walking to their deaths – it’s exactly how I’d want the Zygons to be used, and Harness has to be commended for really taking advantage of their potential to craft a consistent feeling of paranoia throughout the episode. Kate’s subplot meanders a little, treading water until the inevitable, predictable cliffhanger, but this is tight, engaging and hugely relevant stuff nonetheless. 8.5/10

Ben (Assistant Editor)

You can’t go wrong with Zygons. Peter Harness has proved once again why these shape shifting fan favourites are so popular and can still offer so much. The revival (sort of) of Osgood was plausible, so no quarrels there, and the plot itself, whilst following the not uncommon Earth invasion template, provided a fresh new story, with the ‘Zygons living among us’ idea turning out to be as terrifyingly problematic as it sounds. The direction and locations were particularly impressive in this episode, with the tone feeling completely different to the rest of the series. Finally, this episode left us with one hell of a cliffhanger, with Clara being a Zygon, Kate possibly dead, the Doctor about to be blown up and all this while a Zygon invasion is imminent. This is proper Doctor Who right here. 9/10

Owen (Previews)

The Zygon Invasion was a stunningly nostalgic 50 minutes – filled with shocks, RTD spirit, and a whole ton of adventure. Possibly the most worldwide episode we’ve ever had, and a beautiful reminder of how easily Doctor Who can convey a miraculous story, it certainly wasn’t incredibly original, but it felt like it regained some of the magic that gets lost within Moffat’s more dangerous series’. Capaldi was crucially awesome, Coleman finally got to show off her skills (even though everyone knew she already had them), and additions such as Jac and Kate helped lift the whole episode’s buzz. Adventurous, fun, a little bit of everything, The Zygon Invasion reminded me why I ever loved this show. 9/10

Andrew (News)

I loved the ambition of this episode. I thought it was clever how quickly we were immersed into the plot, the memory refresh from the 50th special was done very efficiently so we knew the state of play with the Zygons and their threat to the earth should the peace treaty established in the anniversary episode be broken. It’s a very welcome return for Osgood, Ingrid Oliver does a great job in fulfilling the wishes of many who wanted to see the character return. Osgood’s interaction with the Doctor is fantastic, and clearly there is mutual respect, it’s not just a relationship based on Osgood’s infatuation with him (as expressed in her clothing). The various layers of the plot built up nicely and the contrasts between the global locations sets a great stage for what will hopefully be an epic part two. There was no holding back with the sinister feel throughout, there was little time for comedy quips (although let’s not overlook ‘question mark underpants’) and instead we saw some quite creepy and disturbing moments. Witnessing the kidnapping of a young boy and seeing a situation develop where a soldier almost opens fire on who could be his own mother had me questioning how far the writers would go in making this uncomfortable viewing. Thankfully there was nothing too horrific or grizzly, in fact I wish there had been more of an effort when it came to those murdered by the Zygons, a smoking pile of straw just seemed odd, albeit there was an occasional blood stain and some electrical sizzling which was pretty cool (in a morbid sense!). Something that niggled me was the outfits of the U.N.I.T soldiers. To my mind the white on black badge shown briefly on the uniforms didn’t look so dissimilar to the Zygon white on black symbol displayed a few times. I think it’s important when depicting the seriousness of modern conflict to have absolute clarity where needed, but perhaps I’m over-analysing. The soundtrack was great, the scenes set in New Mexico had some lovely growly slide guitar playing which fitted the mood perfectly. Capaldi is going from strength to strength. Jenna Coleman hasn’t had enough time to depict how well she does ‘evil Clara’ yet, but all things considered, the circumstances have started to generate the fear over whether the real Clara will survive! 9/10

Bedwyr (News)

The Zygons are back, hurrah! Of course they had appeared in the 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and we are treated to a couple of clips from that story as an introduction. But this marks the first proper Zygon story in 40 years. I had issues early on with the plot. Where did the figure of 20 million Zygons come from? Also, only those in the Black Archive would’ve forgotten if they were human or Zygon. Have the Zygons been given new identities or duplicating? When did Zygons get the ability to expel electric charges? We see Osgood in New Mexico so how does she end up in Turmezistan, Zygon EasyJet? (Other airlines are available.) Some of these queries are cleared up, Zygon hatchlings giving the 20 million number but it was still a confusing start.Anyway, I digress. I can see the Doctor just jamming away in the TARDIS with tedious adventures interrupting. However, this interruption is more serious with Zygons gone rogue on Earth. Then we come to the uncomfortable bit.
Words such as ‘Radicalisation’, training camps and the monochrome Zygon logo all ring as references to ISIS, making it feel very political and potentially very distressing, perhaps not something Doctor Who should be replicating. Shapeshifting aliens are not a new concept but this episode for the first time accentuates the fear, paranoia and unpredictability of what that can fully entail. The UNIT soldier falling for a Zygon impersonating his mother was an idiot but who could possibly pull the trigger in his position? The rules have now been changed so Zygons can take the form of someone in a memory, conveniently to add more unpredictability. How do you fight an enemy when you don’t know who it is? That concept is the real success of this episode, intriguing and complicated but a riveting watch. The scenes are also brilliantly filmed, giving it a global reach akin to a James Bond film. The revelation of (SPOILER) Clara being a Zygon is quite dramatic and gives Jenna Coleman an opportunity to do something different with her acting. Confident about the cliffhanger resolution but still impatiently awaiting the second half of the story to see what direction it takes next! 8/10
And the average score totals out at 8.7/10, a significant uptick on last week. What ratings crisis? Here’s our team’s Series 9 leaderboard so far:
  1. The Magician’s Apprentice9.25/10
  2. The Girl Who Died9/10
  3. The Witch’s Familiar8.92/10
  4. The Zygon Invasion – 8.7/10
  5. Under the Lake – 8.2/10
  6. Before the Flood – 8/10
  7. The Woman Who Lived – 7.5/10
Our spoiler-filled team review of The Zygon Inversion will be up next Tuesday.