The Zygon Inversion – S9E8 – Doctor Who

The second part of the Zygon storyline was definitely better than the first.  Perhaps most importantly it had one of THE most epic monologues by Peter Capaldi!   Like so much this season, the strength of this two-parter is the performances. Ingrid Oliver, Jemma Redgrave’s Kate of course, but always Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Coleman gets to play both Clara and Bonnie, and while Bonnie gets more screen-time, Clara has some nicely strong moments. It is Bonnie and her conflicted and all-too-familiar revolutionary fervor, where Coleman gets to do some stretching in the acting department though, and she brings a chilling intensity to the Zygon terrorist.  It was a pretty good pair of episodes, not perfect, but entertaining and well-made.

I realize that these episodes were written & filmed months ago, and even aired prior to the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month.  But the parallels here are interesting.   From the terrorist angle and the refugee-assimilation allegory — stunningly appropriate, as it turns out — this story asks some tough questions. That it doesn’t quite answer them is both a good and a bad thing… good, because they aren’t questions that can be answered in just an hour and a half, and bad because, well, narratively, they can’t be answered in just an hour and a half. You want a real solution, but you also know we haven’t found one in the real world, so Bonnie coming to the realization that she can’t win — truly win — rings a touch hollow in the bigger picture, even as it satisfactorily brings her story to a close, and begins a new one.  Harness and Moffat pointedly avoid any mention of religious motivation among the Zygons.

Capaldi, of course, is the both the star of the show, and one of the finest actors to ever play the part of the Doctor, and he proves it here, once again. That nearly ten-minute sequence, almost all dialogue and most of it Capaldi’s, is magic. Every Doctor has his great speech — and while I hope Peter plays the part for a long time — if this is his, then it’s a hell of a one.


Bonnie: It’s not fair.

Doctor: Oh! It’s “not fair”. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was “not fair”. But you know what? My TARDIS doesn’t work properly and I don’t have my own personal tailor.

Bonnie: These things don’t equate.

Doctor: These things have happened, Zygella, they are facts. You just want cruelty to beget cruelty. You’re not superior to people who were cruel to you, you’re just a whole bunch of new cruel people. A whole bunch of new cruel people, being cruel to some other people, who end up being cruel to you. The only way anyone can live in peace, is if they’re prepared to forgive. Why don’t you break the cycle?

Bonnie: Why should we?

Doctor: What is it that you actually want?

Bonnie: War.

Doctor: Ah! And when this “war” is over, when you have a homeland, free from humans, what do you think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it, given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want. What’s it gonna be like? Paint me a picture. Are you going to live in houses? Tell people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Ooh, will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who’s gonna make the violins? Well? Oh, you don’t actually know, do you? Because like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don’t actually know what you want. So let me ask you a question about this “brave new world” of yours – When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, you’ll have got it exactly the way you want it, what’re you gonna do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How’re you gonna protect your glorious revolution, from the next one?


Doctor: And we’re off! Fingers on buzzers! Are you feeling lucky? Are you ready to play the game? Who’s gonna be quickest? Who’s gonna be luckiest?


Doctor: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn, how many hearts will be broken, how many lives shattered, how much blood will be spilled until everybody does what they were always gonna have to do from the very beginning: SIT! DOWN! AND TALK! Listen to me, listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for “changing your mind”.

Bonnie: I will not change my mind.

Doctor: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box. You could walk right out of that door, and you could stand your revolution down.

Bonnie: No. I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it, I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go after what I’ve done?

Doctor: You’re all the same, you stupid, screaming kids, you know that? “Look at me, I’m unforgiveable.” Well, here’s the unforeseeable: I forgive you, after all you’ve done. I forgive you.

Bonnie: You don’t understand. You will never understand.

Doctor: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this:No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will ever have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

Capaldi totally owns the episode at this moment.  I could not take my eyes off of him.  He was amazing.  Things that might sound daft coming from a lesser actor are quite witty and almost self-deprecating when Capaldi delivers them.

Despite having been murdered by Missy in “Death in Heaven,” Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) returns.  It transpires that since the events of “The Day of the Doctor,” there have been two Osgoods, one human and one Zygon, the living embodiment of the peace treaty.  We don’t find out until the end of “Inversion” which one this is, human or Zygon.  But since they both have the same memories and personality, in a way both of them were real.

When I first heard Osgood was returning, I did feel it cheapened her death.  However it’s made clear that the death of one Osgood very much affected the other, that they had become as close as twin sisters.  Osgood certainly seems a more serious, somber individual here than in the past, no longer a goofy teenage but an adult dealing with great responsibilities. Still, we have Osgood back! In stereo! With an actually quite clever explanation for “her” survival after dying at the hands of Missy. I have a theory as to which one survived, as I’m sure you do as well, but ultimately we are left with the Osgoods standing guard over the Earth, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Welcome back Ingrid Oliver! And for this old-school fan, it is nice to see the question marks.

Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) comes across much better than she did in her previous appearance in the Series Nine opener.  Yes, it’s obvious that Kate is still very much in over her head.  This time, however, we see that she nevertheless remains as rational and level-headed as one can under extremely difficult circumstances. Kate is obviously much less idealistic than the Doctor.  Like her father, she is willing to use violence as a first resort.  But these episodes do demonstrate that her approach is not all that unreasonable…

Kate: You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor.

The Doctor: Yes I know, it’s called peace.

As much as I appreciate the Doctor’s noble intentions, it’s easy for him to negotiate a peace treaty and then fly off in the TARDIS.  Kate was left with the difficult job of actually making it work, of ensuring that humans and Zygons peacefully co-existed.  Just as Ashildr pointed out in the previous episode, the Doctor is always interfering and then running away, leaving others to deal with the consequences of his action.  All things considered, Kate appears to be doing the best she can.

The Doctor eventually convinces Bonnie to give up her crusade.  He also forgives her for her crimes. I was left wondering if Bonnie got off easy.  After all, she and her followers killed a great many people, both human and Zygon.  Many would argue that she was deserving of some form of punishment.

Perhaps this can be seen as the lesser of evils.  If Bonnie had been killed, it likely would have turned her into a martyr, inspiring her followers to continue her fanatical path.  If she had been locked up, she could have remained an unrepentant enemy waiting for an opportunity to escape and resume her terrorist activities.

By convincing Bonnie to reconsider her views, the Doctor has diffused the threat she and her organization presented.  At the end we see her devoting herself to maintaining the peace treaty by permanently taking on the form of Osgood.  It can be argued that she is making amends for her crimes by working to heal the rift she created and prevent others from following in her footsteps.

This is an issue that continually plagues humanity.  What is more important, enacting retribution or ending the circle of violence?  Do you let crimes go unpunished if it will prevent future violence from occurring?  There definitely is no easy answer.

As I’ve observed before, a quality of science fiction which I appreciate is that thru its lens it enables us to gain different perspectives on contentious real world issues. Obviously these two episodes of Doctor Who gave me a great deal to consider.

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