Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S09E08 – The Zygon Inversion

In the eighth episode of the ninth series of Doctor Who, wow. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

Trigger Warning: For talk of war, genocide, and suicide.

I honestly didn’t expect this ending, but the more I thought about the Doctor’s big monologue, I realized how very Doctor Who this episode was. The Doctor despises guns, and, especially after the Time War, is opposed to war as a general concept. (He’s been anti-war pretty much the entirety of the show’s existence, too.) So I found it fitting that a conversation – albeit a difficult and emotional one – was what resolved the conflict from “The Zygon Invasion.”



As you saw in the last review, I was concerned that Clara’s capture/duplication meant that she wouldn’t appear much herself in this episode. It was fun seeing Jenna Coleman get to play an antagonist, sure! But I wanted more from Clara, and OH MY GOD, did I ever get it. You can’t have this episode without her. You just can’t! Clara’s willpower and determination is the key to the Doctor’s and Osgood’s survival. Peter Harness and Steven Moffat achieve this by having Clara exploit the connection that she has with her duplicate, Bonnie. And just from a design standpoint, I loved that Clara saw the dream world as a distorted version of her own flat. These things combine to give Clara a role in “The Zygon Inversion” that felt necessary.

How electrifying was that scene where Bonnie interrogated her??? My god, Jenna Coleman is so talented, y’all.

The Plan

In a lot of ways, this two-parter was a lot more brutal and scary once you thought about the implications of it. I touched in the political themes of immigration last time, and if you consider them, it makes the Zygon who kills themselves one of the saddest Doctor Who characters of all time. Since Bonnie’s plan was always about the forced transformation of all Zygons back into their “natural” form, then the unnamed Zygon here is the end result of her plan. It’s terrifying and sad and horrible to watch. The Zygon was happy living as a human, and Bonnie forced them into a form they didn’t want.

Even worse, the Zygon’s appearance online was going to be the spark that ignited a war on Earth. That is a terrible thing to live with, even though they weren’t the one responsible for it. God, it’s just so sad. They would rather die than live knowing their image was used to start a war.


The Osgood Box

I really want to focus most of my energy on the stupendous final sequence inside the Black Archive. I couldn’t figure out what the Osgood Box was, nor could I guess at how this was all going to be resolved peacefully. Too much had happened! Too many people had been kidnapped! THE DOCTOR’S PLANE HAD BEEN BLOWN OUT OF THE SKY.

Kate Stewart had also killed multiple Zygons, which was more of a roadblock for the Doctor. If anything, I feel like “The Zygon Inversion” shows us that even in complicated situations like this, a carelessness towards violence will inevitably lead to something horrible. Kate had every right to defend herself, point blank. She was going to be killed by that Zygon in New Mexico! (How did she get from New Mexico to London so fast???) But what the Doctor tries to get these people to understand is that there always is another option. Maybe not in Kate’s initial escape, but she didn’t have to kill the two Zygons with her. What purpose did that serve? How accustomed to violence had she become?

I’ll get back to that. It’s important because the reasoning behind the Osgood Boxes (BOXES!!!! THERE ARE TWO OF THEM!!!) is related to it. The terror of there being two boxes was bad enough, especially since I knew that Bonnie was desperate. I actually thought that after she pressed one, she’d rush over and press the other one out of spite. But the Doctor’s plan to include a secondary set of buttons highlights his ultimate point: What is the truth of war? What are the actual consequences of waging war against someone? Bonnie sees limited ends: victory or defeat. She imagines herself and the Zygons as victors, unaware that she’ll never be able to stop the cycle. So, she forces the Zygons out of hiding, they fight the humans and win. Then what? How will she deal with all the dissatisfied Zygons who never wanted war in the first place? How will they survive on Earth?

It might seem like this is so philosophical that it borders on being self-righteous, but I never read the scene this way. It helped that there was an emotional basis for the Doctor’s desperation, too. He had the experience that Bonnie thought was so singular that she and the other Zygons were the only ones to ever live through it. But the Doctor knew loneliness, and he knew war. Oh, did he ever know war. The usage of the Time War here is apt, since Bonnie and the other rebel Zygons wanted to commit genocide. They wanted to wipe out humans. And for what? Self determination? The right to be who they are?

The Doctor forces both Kate and Bonnie to acknowledge the consequences of their actions, to spell them out. And then: he forgives them. It blows Bonnie away. (SERIOUSLY, WATCH JENNA COLEMAN IN THIS SCENE. SHE’S SO GOOD.) The idea is unfathomable to her. How could the Doctor forgive her after everything the rebel Zygons had done? I didn’t read this as some grand statement on forgiveness, as if forgiveness should just be handed out without a care. No, the Doctor meant his forgiveness, and he genuinely wanted peace. Which makes the entire affair all the more impressive, given that he reveals that it has happened FIFTEEN FUCKING TIMES since the peace treaty was first signed. FIFTEEN. The cycle keeps repeating, but the Doctor and the Osgoods have been stopping it every time.


The video for “The Zygon Inversion” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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