“I’m going to set you free”
‘The Zygon Inversion’ was the best episode of the current series of Doctor Who, and it was also one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. Period. It’s brave and stunning in equal’s measures. Compared to the globetrotting nature of ‘The Zygon Invasion,’ ‘The Zygon Inversion’ feels like a normal episode of nu-Who; almost wholly London based. However, the themes explored in the confines of London are universal and timeless. I watched it after the minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday, and it gave me more food for thought about war and peace than any minute of reflection could do. The script, plot, and pacing were immaculate. Peter Capaldi has never been better, especially in the last fifteen minutes of the episode. It’s rare that everything works in modern Doctor Who, but there was nothing less than brilliant in ‘The Zygon Inversion.’
‘The Zygon Inversion’ built on the good work within ‘The Zygon Invasion.’ ‘The Zygon Invasion’ was a good episode, but was marred by dodgy scenes (such as the church one), and blunt, uninspired dialogue about migration and terrorism. Subtlety was hurled out of the window, which is no bad thing in small doses. But when done constantly for forty-five minutes, it can exhaust someone! It’s rare for the second part of a two parter to better the first part. That’s especially the case for Series 9. ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ and ‘Before The Flood’ were not terrible episodes, but they paled after their respective first parts. Avenues were left unexplored, and resolutions felt forced and all too sudden.
“Why does peacekeeping always involve killing?”
However, ‘The Zygon Inversion’ didn’t simply follow the avenues fully from ‘The Zygon Invasion,’ but it created new ones of its own, whilst also bringing the story full circle back to ‘The Day Of The Doctor.’ Which is no mean feat, when you think about it! Compared to the globetrotting nature of the first part, ‘The Zygon Inversion’ felt like your typical episode of nu-Who: London-centric, baby! However, it managed to deliver universal themes that covered more ground than most out-of-Earth episodes of Doctor Who have done. This story could have easily ended with a battle between humans and Zygons, or a huge explosion (or both!). But it completely inverted our expectations: the cast was smaller, the number of Zygons was smaller, and it didn’t end with a huge body count but with The Doctor talking to Bonnie and Kate in an attempt to stop them using the ‘nuclear option’, both literally and metaphorically.
Capaldi is consistently awesome, but in the above scene, he was above awesome. He reached the zenith of his Who run. I don’t want to spoil too much (I have already!), but his anti-war rant reached levels of perfection that rarely happen on TV. Consider that The X Factor was on ITV at around the same time, and contrast. Here we have The Doctor flitting from British accent to American accent (a subtle knock against American aggression?) attempting to stop two peoples going to war. Both sides have their justifications, both sides have a ‘nuclear option.’ The Doctor has been in the same position before, in the Time War (as depicted in The Day Of The Doctor). “Nobody wins for long” was just one line of a stream of scathing and brilliant lines. His anti-war sentiment was triply potent on the eve before Remembrance Sunday.
“I’m a very big fan”
That was the highlight of the episodes (and the series), and felt like a satisfying resolution. No quick button press, no deus ex machine, just a man talking two people out of going to war with one another. However, the rest of the episode was just as good. Not only was it Capaldi’s best work, but Jenna Coleman wasn’t far behind. Clara has seemed superfluous in most episodes of Series 9, but her double act as both Clara and Bonnie brought out the best of her. She was possibly better as Bonnie than she was as Clara! The confrontation between Bonnie and Clara about the Osgood Box was Coleman’s zenith in her Who run. The story grew and grew steadily towards the resolution with a deliberate but perfect pace. There was not a dodgy scene in sight, unlike its first part.
Was it a coincidence that ‘The Zygon Inversion’ was broadcast the night before Remembrance Sunday? I’m not sure, but it sure showcased the very best of Doctor Who, the very best of science fiction, and the very best of TV. It had something to say, a sentiment with which to make the world a better place. It made us believe, just for a few moments, that peace is possible, if only people would think of the consequences of war. Capaldi has never been better, and I doubt he ever will. Coleman has never been better, and I doubt she ever will. Doctor Who fired on all cylinders in ‘The Zygon Inversion’ with a barrage of meaningful and intelligent sentiments about war and peace. It took me about two months to read ‘War and Peace,’ but ‘The Zygon Inversion’ took forty-five minutes to deliver an equally powerful anti-war message. Bravo, Doctor Who, bravo!
VERDICT: 9/10: Brave, challenging, provocative, enthralling…classic Doctor Who, classic television!
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