Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion - "Makes one wonder what the question is."

The Zygon Invasion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 7 (Overall Series Story #261a) | Previous - Next | Index

you used to wear question marks
via Fansided
Reading advance reviews, we knew this would be an overtly political story, with direct parallels to the refugee crisis and the West's response to ISIL. One suspects were all either tremendously encouraged, or concerned it was going to be as banal as Ten pinning a poppy to his overcoat. (Of course, there's always the chance of there being middle ground, where it'd gets some things right even as it got others wrong ... but Love It! or Hate It! looked like the more likely reactions. I did, after all, love "Human Nature / The Family of Blood" despite reacting with a degree of disgust to the poppy.)

So, knowing the Zygons are among us, and some of their youth have become disaffected, radicalized, and a war is breaking out ... the following were the things I told myself to watch for get an idea whether Moffat had his politics on right, or if he was going the neo-liberal, bourgeois conscience-assuaging route.
  • Does the story assume level-playing field? That is, are the Zygons, despite being refugees on Earth, forced to hide among humans wearing false faces to fit in, assumed to be equal partners in the treaty with humanity? 
  • Are the radicalized Zygons shown to only just need to understand how great Western Capitalistic Pseudo-Representative Democracy/Inverted Totalitarianism really is in order to become productive members of society?
  • Are the humans presented as justified in using drones, extra-judicial killings, and tactics that result in collateral damage, against an existential threat posed by the Zygons?
  • Are the Zygons portrayed as being seduced by a nihilist ideology so that they hate "our freedoms," while the humans, apart from a few fearful, closed-minded zealots, are portrayed as blissfully free of any ideological baggage?
On the whole, the episode largely avoided the likely stumbles, but still left room the conclusion be based off an idea of refugees needing to assimilate -- a tacit acknowledgment of a poisonous idea: that the privileged are entitled to lord it over the dispossessed.

The hope is that all the mentions of hybrids laced through the early part of this season are there to lay the groundwork for a solution that resists all notions of racial purity, that instead openly embraces the hybridization of cultures and peoples. Osgood rejects the premise of the question about whether she's human or Zygon. She's the peace. Her identity isn't dependent on her appearance or biology. She stands for something that applies regardless.

The fear is that the story will make whether she's biologically human or Zygon matter, that we'll be shown her identity being undermined as a necessary element of some other idea of peace. It's hard to imagine a way that will sit well.

But the next episode is call "The Zygon Inversion," and things that are inverted are reversed, transposed, their positions changed relative to one another. Making guesses about the first half a story whose second half bills itself as an inversion is a risky proposition. The judicious course of action here is suggested by Sam Spade in the DA's office being questioned about who he thinks killed Thursby:

Of course, I've been dippy enough to make guesses before, and I will again, sometimes it just feels like it's been too long since I've alluded to hard-boiled crime fiction and I'm going play that card because it just feels good.


Lots of nice touches and nifty bits of dialogue this week.

  • The Doctor Disco and Doctor Funkenstein ones though did feel a little forced. 
  • "Everybody middle-aged always thinks the world's about to come to an end. It never does." --Zygon Bonnie as Clara. The problem here is I'm middle-aged and the science of climate change is persuasive. If not in my life time, or my childrens', it sure does look the world as we know it is coming to an end. Malthus missed the mark because he didn't foresee certain advances though, so maybe, just maybe we are destroying the world, but we're going to find a way to save it ... 
  • When Kate gets to Truth or Consequences, we probably all rolled our eyes and thought, "Nice, BBC. Tumbleweeds are how we shorthand 'This is the American Southwest.'" When we saw what was in the bins later though, those tumbleweeds suddenly didn't seem like convenient cliche.
  • The No Dogs/No British sign was brilliant. American xenophobia inverted for the Brits. 
  • Titillating (or titivating? or is the possibility of Twelve having said either but it being indeterminate the point?) the fronds? Four certainly enjoyed titillating them.
  • The scene shifting to generic Turmezistan where a drone is being armed is also brilliant for not bothering to be subtle. 
  • My ears pricked up and visions of Harry Sullivan danced in my head when we heard that Z67 had been developed by a Naval surgeon. 
  • My son pointed to the portrait of the First Doctor in the UNIT safe house before I did. I was so proud.
  • The bit about the question mark underpants was sheer joy. Look, the fact is, I'm a bloke who wears boxer briefs emblazoned with the Doctor Who logo every Saturday there's a new episode, how could I not crack a smile?!
  • The decision to start the episode with deliberately fairy-tale language took me by surprise. Hard to praise the episode for being in-your-face about having a moral though and then turn around and fault it for coming straight out and saying: "You know those little stories meant to teach you how to manage your fear? This is one of those."
  • The Osgood Box is straight from a fairy tale as well. Or is it from quantum science? (Is there a difference?) Is it a Schroedinger's Box? A Pandora's Box? The two Osgoods the indeterminate state of the peace. Will opening the box will reveal which is which. Or ... it will switch them all. Inversion, after all, in a reversal of the normal order ... 

Additional Resources:

Tardis Wikia entry transcript

Sandifer post

AV Club review

Vulture review

TV Tropes page

Locations guide

The Zygon Inversion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 9, Episode 8 (Overall Series Story #261b) | Previous - Next | Index

**Spoiler alert**

He breaks your heart. Doesn't he? That scene has it over all the bombast of Matt Smith's Stonehenge shouty bit and, frankly, any other moment of the Doctor being the Doctor For The Ages. We've never had a more talented actor in the role.

So, yeah, for all the politicking and big thematic posturing, it all came down the Doctor needing to talk a terrorist out of her rage. Which meant it all came down to to Peter Capaldi needing to convince us he could imbue the Doctor with the anguish and passion to help of a 2,000-year-old man who'd been there in the Moment, at the end of the Time War, and could convey the need to stop, take a breath, and think to someone with the desire and means to start a war. It was a huge ask.

This moment was heavily staged, engineered to put the opposing parties across the table from one another, each with a 50/50 chance to get what they wanted, or to lose the game. In the context of the conflict, it's an intriguing dilemma. Layered over that we have the Doctor's motivation. If the Osgood Box scenario is a little to staged on its own, it's bolstered by the layering, and by the strength of that other layer. It's not perfect. But it's strong, it's got warp and weft.

When I say it's not perfect, I'm still not sure we got satisfactory answers to all the questions, that Zygons place on Earth is every fully worked out, in premise or in resolution. Bonnie/Zygon Clara turns the corner fairly quickly to accepting a role in the Osgood duality. Was she ever really that angry if her best expression of it was: "We've been treated like cattle. We've been left to fend for ourselves." This is a moment of weakness in the writing. Bonnie is every bit the tantruming child and there's no clear balancing of human and Zygon motivations.

The Doctor seems to be arguing against revolution in theory, that revolutionaries can't live in a society they'd create. If that's his take, he's wrong. The forgiveness he is ready to dole out is the key. Swords can be beaten back into ploughshares. The argument he makes that if people would just negotiate in good faith, that's strong, compelling stuff, and whenever it's at the heart of a story, that story can never go too far wrong, but that Moffat & Co. couldn't quite make the Zygons coherent, gets after, I think, the point of why it's so hard for there ever to be productive accords between warring parties. We're all having a tremendously difficult time understanding the other side, starting from our common humanity, and understanding the grievances and desires of the other.

Well, that's never going to be easy is it? And crafting drama around it isn't going to be easy either. This though, this was a good effort.


  • We're back to two Osgoods watching over the Osgood boxes. Osgoods are valuable, it's a relief having a back-up. Even if they're both Zygon. 
  • Jenna is fantastic as both Clara and Bonnie. The writing of Bonnie gave her more than a little to overcome, but she continues to knock it out of the park every time. It's a shame this is her last season, she and Capaldi work so well together.
  • Love that the Osgood Box turned out to be Osgood Boxes, and that they were just props after all. They were simultaneously all things I, and others, were guessing they were, and none of them. Credit where it's due, Moffat is a master at crafting these sorts of puzzles.
  • The Doctor telling Osgood he's a fan is perhaps the most over-the-top moment of fan service we've ever had. And yet, I'm a sucker for it. That's Capaldi speaking directly to me, to us, telling us he loves the fans as much as we love him. When fans of a show get to grow up and star in it, and produce it, like Capaldi and Moffat are doing, like Tennant and RTD did before, there's a risk of it becoming to fetishized and self-congratulatory ... but I feel like we're all staying on the right side of the line of mutual admiration and insistence that the thing actually be about more than just how great it is to be making Doctor Who.

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