‘The Zygon Invasion’
‘The Zygon Invasion’ is an exercise in how to create an effective first part, setting up the plot without being dull. For the first time this season the story doesn’t feel excessively dragged out to create a two parter, as this story actually feels deserving of being extended. Writer Peter Harness is able to create a suspenseful atmosphere through the simple knowledge that the Zygons have already invaded Earth, they are just waiting to strike.
A simple recap scene early in the episode effectively establishes what has happened since the Zygons invaded in The Day of the Doctor. A truce was established allowing millions of Zygons to live across the world in human form, and you really have to wonder who thought that was a good idea. A radical faction of Zygons has risen who want to claim the Earth and how will our heroes stop them when they can’t tell friend from foe?One scene in which a Zygon claims to be the mother of a soldier is well played, raising questions over whether they are Zygons or humans. The episode evokes classic science fiction movies such as The Thing, causing you to distrust everyone. Harness is able to make use of the body-swap mechanic to great effect to create many powerful twists.
Peter Capaldi continues to make The Doctor his own this season, the electric guitar now feeling as much a part of the character as Matt Smith’s bowtie – though please get rid of those sunglasses! Clara is well utilised throughout the episode, with subtle hints placed for the most well done twist of the episode – that Clara is a Zygon. The complete change in Jenna Coleman when her Zygon nature is revealed is fun to witness and seeing her as the main villain next week should make for an enjoyable episode. Ingrid Oliver makes a welcome return as Osgood, who is now unaware if she is Zygon or human, bringing a slightly alien approach to her portrayal, as if something is slightly off about her.There are still a few flaws throughout the episode, particularly in Kate Stewart’s investigation which keeps her out of the action and seems to bring up no new information. This also keeps the brilliant Jemma Redgrave mostly on the sidelines, a disappointing place for such a strong character. The Zygon ability to shape shift is completely changed with no explanation of why suddenly they’re able to change form from a look. Previously the Zygons required a live host, keeping them captive to hold their form but this is harder to achieve in a world invasion plot. Perhaps their new ability will be better explained next week but somehow I doubt it. The show also returns to the old ‘Americans = stupid and aggressive’ characterisation that feels incredibly tired.
Overall ‘The Zygon Invasion’ effectively sets up what is to come next week, while still feeling eventful enough to justify its existence. For once I’m actually excited for the second half of an episode this season and only hope that next week’s episode can live up to the expectations.