This review contains spoilers.
Considering how delicately paced The Zygon Invasion was, I can’t say that I was overjoyed with the pacing in this episode. At times it seemed like there was too much screen time and not enough story. But every time I started feeling that way, the characters blew me away.
In my eyes, there were two standout scenes. The obvious one was, of course, when the Doctor was trying to talk Kate and Bonnie out of destroying everything. Aside from the moments when the American accent was awkwardly jammed in there, the Doctor’s speech and Peter Capaldi’s acting was stunning. The Doctor has always been anti-war but the moments when he opens up about what he went through are always magical. From desperation to all-out rage, he was hitting every mark.
The other standout scene was when Clara was trying to prevent Bonnie from shooting down the Doctor’s plane. With barely a word, she realises that she’s been captured and that the Doctor is in danger, and that she must do everything in her power to save him. Clara’s usual strength lies in talking herself out of sticky situations, so watching her make rapid decisions and come to conclusions by herself shows her versatility and just how far she’s come.
Her other conversations with Bonnie quickly grew boring for me. Maybe I’m just a bit jaded but I have trouble worrying about whether or not the main characters will survive when the writers always manage to bring them back, however implausibly. Like Kate’s anticlimactic escape from death through the use of a gun against crackling death rays. Or Osgood’s ‘JK, I could still be a Zygon!’ storyline. Basically, unless it’s a season finale, I’m not worried about the companion.
While Bonnie’s monotonous evil-doer voice got a bit dull after a while, the moments when she started losing it in the Black Archives were freaking fantastic. Within one sequence, the whole Zygon Invasion evolved from a metaphor about acceptance and terrorism into one character’s personal journey and how painful it is to feel repressed and misunderstood. We don’t often get the opportunity to see what makes the villains truly tick and the desperation that Jenna Coleman brought to this character made me truly wish for her redemption.
Jenna Coleman was incredible in this episode. Her portrayal of Bonnie was so nuanced that I kept thinking, ‘Wow, Clara’s not in this episode much, is she?’ And then the camera would cut back to her, hanging out in the background of the Black Archives. With that in mind, I find it difficult to believe that the reason Bonnie stood down was because of Clara’s influence. I don’t think any human could have influenced her. I think it boiled down to the Doctor being a humanoid alien—someone with whom she could identify, and proof that her plan was only going to end in pain whether she won or lost.
That pain was touched on again and again, from the Zygon man who ‘just wanted to live here’ to the pained look in Osgood’s eye every time her identity was questioned. One look at Osgood and you can feel what it’s like to never really belong no matter where you go or what you do. She’s right: one day, nobody will care about the answer. But until then, she will always be alien to someone, no matter how much you belong.
The end of every episode is now becoming a reminder that Clara’s time in the TARDIS is coming to a close. It’s remarkable how far the Doctor has come in these two seasons and how easily he reveals his affection for Clara now. With the way they’re playing it, I’m almost surprised that he hasn’t already seen Clara die and he’s counting down the days with growing reluctance.
The plot for this serial was all but used up in The Zygon Invasion. With surprisingly little driving action, this episode instead relied heavily on its characters and the proven success of writer Peter Harness’s dramatic speeches. Punctuated with heavy emotion, The Zygon Inversion explored the more personal side of war and, aided by some brilliant acting on the part of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, it made for a satisfying conclusion to this story.