Doctor Who Review by John Keegan

Doctor Who 9.08: The Zygon Inversion

Doctor Who 9.08: The Zygon Inversion

Written By:
Peter Harness and Steven Moffat
Directed By:
Daniel Nettheim

The first part of this story was thrilling and gut-wrenching; it promised a conclusion that would have to be equally traumatic.  And it was, but not at all for the reasons most of us were suspecting.  Those who thought that The Doctor was over his guilt from the Time War can check those expectations at the door.  Those psychological wounds run deeper than ever, and with The Doctor still questioning whether or not he’s a good man, the earnestness of his role as peacemaker has never been more sincere. 

I’m not going to pretend this story was perfect; there are plot holes the size of the TARDIS throughout, and it would be easy to pull on the loose threads and watch it all unravel.  That doesn’t change the fact that this was one of the most heart-rending sets of monologues out of The Doctor in ages, and Peter Capaldi nailed each and every word.  We all know what it’s like to be trying to get through to someone who just doesn’t seem to want to listen, and when the stakes are unbearably high, it’s that much worse.  And of course, it’s always the ones who are barely holding it together that feel the strongest need to step up to the plate.

Twelve has an edge of desperation (and the need to mask it with ridiculousness) that feels like the perfect mix of Three and Four.  Three would have been equally averse to the notion of cataclysmic war, and Four could have easily found himself making the kind of passionate pleas for peace that Twelve delivered in the final act.  But Twelve, being a darker and more self-damning version of The Doctor, akin to Nine with more mileage, drives home the gravitas.  I was spellbound.    

The clever elements of the Osgood Box and the Osgoods themselves set the stage for exactly the kind of “final solution” that The Doctor would help develop: one that is more about “truth and consequences” than actual casualties.  It’s about placing all the eggs in the basket of sanity in the face of annihilation.  It works because it strikes at the heart of what The Doctor made plain; war, and everything surrounding it, is just an expression of how much people are willing to do to each other before doing what they should have done in the first place: talking about the real problem.

It’s so clever that it almost allows the audience to overlook the obvious.  The Osgood scenario works on the principle that the peace will ultimately be more important than the war.  It forces both sides to stare at each other across the table and consider the consequences that would result from breaking that peace.  But what happens if they do push the buttons and nothing happens?  There’s nothing to stop the war from taking place.  And since that failsafe is predicated on both sides caring about the Osgood Box as a means to an end, it’s a very specific solution to a problem that could evolve in a very different direction.

Despite all the strengths, there will be those who object to the story merely on the merits of its supposed “political message”.  I suppose there is merit to that, if one wants to call The Doctor’s long-stated interest in his conception of “live and let live” as a contemporary political one.  Yes, there are certain parallels to present-day European crises, but those crises are also the latest in a long historical list.  At the end of the day, what matters is that The Doctor responded exactly as one would expect him to, and it was glorious.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The Doctor’s monologues in the final act were simply breathtaking
  • The Osgood scenario was not what I was expecting, in a good way
The Bad:
  • What if the peace couldn’t be maintained?

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Doctor Who by - 11/9/2015 8:31 AM153 views

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