Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Suspect Device: An Overanalysis of "The Zygon Invasion"

You're all wondering about the sexual implications of what Osgood
did with her own twin in private as much as I am, aren't you?

The 50th Anniversary special was marvelous, but it did change the nature of the show significantly.  Anyone who heard the Mile High Who podcast's April Fools' Day episode where we discussed Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock knows that I firmly believe that a show can bring a character--or, in this case, an entire planet--back from the dead, but it has to be difficult.  There have to be significant obstacles, and there have to be consequences.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a perfect example of this, as their resurrection of a main character in the beginning of their 6th season triggered a series of consequences that the characters would be dealing with for the remainder of the series.  "The Day of the Doctor" rewrote canon in a very serious way, and there have to be serious consequences for that.  Besides the fact that it was so insanely difficult for the Doctor to pull off that he doesn't even know if he's actually successfully saved Gallifrey, it triggered some major repercussions.  First was the war on Trenzalore that he fought for hundreds and hundreds of years, eventually costing him a regeneration.  Second was the return of his most diabolical enemy, The Master (now Missy), who wrought chaos and destruction on the Doctor's favorite adopted planet.  Now the third terrible consequence of the events of "The Day of the Doctor" comes around:  The Zygon peace, which The Moment used to demonstrate to the Doctor the importance of finding a peaceful solution in desperate situations, is broken and threatening the human race.  I think, by this point, the show has done more than enough to earn the resurrection of Gallifrey.

This was the very first episode of Doctor Who to air on Halloween since 1964's "Planet of the Giants" (spoiler alert:  the planet is Earth, the giants are humans, the TARDIS just shrank).  Sadly, my understanding is that, while they celebrate Halloween in England, it isn't as big of a holiday as it is over here in America.  It's a shame because I think that a Doctor Who Halloween Special might just be the most amazing thing we could ever hope for.  But still, we got what we could have hoped for this Halloween:  a big, campy, fun episode with a few cheap thrills and chills.  There was little about this episode that was very surprising or innovative, but it was a good, enjoyable romp.

Again, I can't stress this enough, a Doctor Who Halloween Special would be amazing!
The first and most obvious prediction I'm going to make about the second part of this episode, "The Zygon Inversion," is that it's going to reveal that the Zygons have a perfectly legitimate grievance against the human race.  More than likely, the humans broke the cease fire first.  I say this because anything else would be downright un-Whovian.  It's just a classic Doctor Who plot; the humans have always done something to provoke the enemy in situations like this.  There's no possible way that the Zygons just picked the name "Truth or Consequences" because it was the name of a town in New Mexico.  (Which it totally is, by the way, and Zygon-Clara was absolutely telling the truth.  The city was named after the game show of the same name because the host promised to do an episode of the show in the first town that legally changed its name to Truth or Consequences.  The town formerly known as Hot Springs, New Mexico won the contest and has never changed its name back to this day.)

The name also inspired this movie, which I now have to watch sometime when very drunk.
The slogan, "Truth or Consequences" is going to have a much deeper meaning.  I have no idea what the humans will be guilty of, but either they or the Zygon leadership--or, more likely, both working together--will be guilty of hiding the "truth" about something, which will be why this rebel cell chose to start fighting back.  This is probably going to cause a shift in the Doctor's approach to the situation, at which point I don't know what is going to happen, but I'm very excited to find out.

I also loved the very slight nods towards human xenophobia.  While I still think that we're going to find out that the humans are guilty of some pretty messed up shit, there was the very interesting, but very brief mention that the Zygons got the idea that they wouldn't be welcome on Earth after watching our media and seeing how poorly we treat other human beings who simply have different colored skin.  I think the Zygons, upon seeing that, have good reason to think that we'd be dicks to a whole new alien race that we found on our planet.

"They even think that the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' is controversial.  Zygon lives are just fucked."
The return of Osgood teaches us that, once again, Moffat lies, as we were promised over and over again that the return of Osgood would not be explained away by simply saying that Missy killed the Zygon version of her.  Okay, that wasn't entirely a lie, but only if you're going by the strictest interpretation of all the words in the previous sentence.  Moffat perhaps can be accused of cheating a little bit by having another writer bring back a character that he killed off largely for emotional effect, but the frustrating thing is that it actually works quite well.  I can buy that the two Osgoods were so dedicated to this peace that they stopped differentiating between the two versions of themselves and just started to think of themselves as both being Osgood.  (They also both seem to have adopted an obsession with the Doctor as, much like his real life fans, both of the Osgoods seem to enjoy Doctor cosplay, now adding some 7th Doctor accoutrements to the Osgood outfit.)  I'm pretty satisfied with the explanation as it stands now for why Osgood is back, so hopefully the writers can just let it stand like it is and not try to dig too much farther, where they might risk ruining the delicate balance and a vaguely plausible explanation for bringing back a populare dead character.  However, as the writer of this episode, Peter Harness, found himself unable to foresee that his last episode would become viewed as an anti-abortion metaphor, I wonder about his ability to judge what will and will not upset fans and what they will and will not accept.

However I will give Harness some credit.  The episode was largely a predictable, by-the-numbers action movie plot with silly-looking rubber suits, but Harness did throw in some really fun ideas in this episode.  Most notably he understands that the most important thing about making an old monster scary again in Doctor Who is to give them new abilities.  Now that the Zygons have the ability to take on the appearance of their enemy's loved ones, we now have a much more formidable mindfuck of an enemy to take on.  Additionally, they now require far less technology to maintain their shape shifting (although "The Day of the Doctor" was really inconsistent about the rules governing their technology anyway), which makes them more agile, making them a greater threat.  In "The Day of the Doctor," they were really a side plot, so "The Zygon Invasion" is really only the second time in the history of the show that we've seen the Zygons at center stage of their own story.  As much fun as the 4th Doctor story "Terror of the Zygons" was, I think the reason they were not brought back again for so long was because they were seen as a pretty one-note villain.  "The Zygon Invasion" does find a few more notes to play, even if it's not exactly enough to conduct a full symphony.

Funnily enough, that even looks vaguely like a Zygon.
I seriously doubt that whatever the larger arc is that we're getting into in this series--the Minister of War, The Hybrid, and whatever kind of circle-jerk that Missy is currently having with the Daleks--is going to have anything to do with this two-parter.  Despite how intimately linked this episode is with the 50th Anniversary Special, I don't think it's going to be linked very closely with any of the episodes that come after it.  Still, I look forward to part two.  It feels like classic series style campiness on a new series budget.  In fact, as this is now the fourth consecutive two-parter in this series, we're getting a bunch of stories that run about as long as the classic series stories, but with much more depth of character, much darker plots, and much, much better special effects.

And of course:

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