Hello! I’m slowly but surely catching up on my collab reviews of Doctor Who… today I’m reviewing with my friend Micha! I kind of selected them specifically for this two-parter because they’re a huge fan of Osgood, UNIT, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, et cetera.
Also, for my series nine reviews I’ve been trying to find people who complement me – Micha knows wayyyyy more about Classic Who than I could ever hope to know. It makes sense to balance a focus on New Who with a focus on Classic Who, right?
P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s ninth series here.
Micha is a first year student at New York University studying biology and chemistry, although they have an affinity for all things scientific – and science fictional. They have been known to get very enthusiastic about the intersection of the two, which may be one reason family and friends sometimes describe them as “an aspiring mad scientist.” And while loving features of all eras of show, they often find themself in the position of having to explain why Paul McGann is their favorite Doctor – a response that, given his hour and a half of televised screentime, sometimes elicits very honest inquiries of “Doctor WHO?” They blog at Curiousology.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Engie: So, you love UNIT a lot – what did you think of them in this episode? Did they live up to your expectations?
Micha: Well, I’m always excited to see them onscreen again, and Kate in particular seemed to be in her element – following in the Brigadier’s footsteps, that is, and being both competent and exasperated at the same time. The “someone with a TARDIS” line, about the Zygon-killing serum or whatever it was that they had confiscated, sounded quite a lot like the sort of line that runs in the family.
Micha: The other bit that I got excited about in that scene was that I’m pretty sure they were referencing another Classic Who UNIT employee as the inventor – the Navy mention sounds an awful lot like it was intended to be Harry Sullivan. (Who was prominently featured in the Fourth Doctor episode “Terror of the Zygons,” so… thematic connection?)
Engie: I definitely liked Kate much more in this episode. She seemed a bit… uh, incompetent in the series opener? Which was disappointing. She seemed to need Clara to do everything for her and prompt her to find the Doctor, and it just seemed really out of character for her. But she was back to being normal Kate in this episode, and that made me happy.
Micha: Yeah, I suppose their intent in the season opener might have been to make her appear a bit shaken by Missy showing up? But if Kate’s anything like her dad, that would actually make less sense – the Brigadier is fondly remembered by a lot of fans for having once punched the Master in the face. I’ll admit I was mostly just excited about her having a surprise appearance in that episode, so I hadn’t thought over the specifics as much, but I think you’re right, she was definitely a bit different from her usual self.
Engie: WAIT WHAT. OH MY GOD. That’s amazing. See, that’s why I’m so glad I asked you to review this particular two-parter with me, because I didn’t know that bit about the Brig and the Master. Now I want Kate to come back at least one more time in series nine so she can punch Missy in the face.
Micha: Speaking of season opener characters – I was excited to see that Jaq showed up again in this one! I loved her and her “pardon my sci-fi” line in “The Magician’s Apprentice”, so seeing her onscreen and in action again was nice as well.
Engie: JAQ IS THE BEST. I think I probably said this already in my review of “The Magician’s Apprentice,” but Jaq is basically my mom as a Doctor Who character. Which is glorious. YAY SCIENCE NERDS.
Micha: Yes on the science nerds! That’s something I really love about what New Who has done with UNIT. In Classic Who it was always much more of a military organization, but in Moffat-era Who especially it’s become much more of a scientific one.
Micha: Which I could probably make some meaningful, optimistic comment about what that says about the show’s view of the future, but I’ll be honest and say the maybe biggest reason I personally like it is because it means MORE SCIENTIST CHARACTERS – who are always my favorites. Case in point, Osgood, who’s one of my very favorite characters in Doctor Who. And who I was very happy to see back and alive, if in a somewhat confusing manner.
Engie: I am completely confused about how Osgood is even still alive, and how many Osgoods there were at some point. That is one of the few things in the episode that bothered me, because whenever she was onscreen I kept wondering about that.
Micha: Well, I think I managed to wrap my head around how that all worked out, although my apologies if I’m barking up the wrong tree entirely. But from what I understood, the general idea is that, since the Zygons were assimilating into the general population anyways, Zygon!Osgood stayed in that form, and the two of them became very close. (Hence why they were referring to each other as “sisters.”)
Micha: Which would make sense with the events of “Day of the Doctor” since the two of them actually figured out which one was Zygon and which one was human when no one in the room was supposed to know and they decided to keep the peace together.
Micha: And so the implication is that Missy killed one of the two Osgoods in “Death in Heaven” – we just don’t know if it was the one that was originally human, or Zygon.
Engie: OK, I understand it now. I think. And she brought up the hybrid thing, that Osgood was now half human and half Zygon… which makes me even more sure that hybrids are the series arc.
Micha: Oh yeah, the hybrid thing is definitely something they’re dropping all over the place, first with Davros mentioning one, then the whole thing with Ashildr. As for how exactly the Osgoods became hybrids, I think the implication was that it was more of a mental thing than a physical one.
Engie: OK, the whole thing makes much more sense now. Now I’m curious to see what happens in “The Zygon Inversion” – do we have human!Osgood or Zygon!Osgood, and does it really even matter?
Micha: My guess is that’s going to be sort of the moral hinge of any message this two-parter tries to drive home. There are a lot of overtones of “they’re not like us, so we react violently or with prejudice to them” getting thrown around in the episode, and Osgood’s declaration that she is “the peace” is definitely driving at that from the opposite direction – that if you manage to bond and coexist, you produce something ultimately better.
Micha: I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep it intentionally ambiguous as to which version of her survived, just to make the point that both of them positively affected each other. Together they made something better and stronger, and people wanting to know “which one” she is misses the point entirely – it’s basically trying to put her in a box to judge her from, instead of looking at the fact that, whichever Osgood she is, she’s gone through a lot of character growth. She’s definitely not the easily intimidated, “The Doctor will save me!” scared human girl or the initially malicious Zygon invader that stole that form in the 50th episode – she’s someone who’s a lot braver, a lot nobler, and who’s dedicated to protecting peace.
Micha: That’s where your “does it really even matter?” comment really starts to come in – whichever Osgood is left, it’s one who I think is doing the right thing.
Engie: It’s good that the writers are trying to make both Osgood and the Zygons in general more complex.
The treatment of women
Engie: So… yeah. We just spent a while talking about Osgood, and before that we discussed UNIT, but mostly Kate as the leader of that organization. “The Zygon Invasion” featured a TON of women – what did you think about how they were treated in this episode?
Micha: Well, I think it’s definitely one of the more female-character-centric episode of Doctor Who to date. Not that there haven’t been wonderful episodes, featuring and about wonderful ladies, since the very start of the show, but no matter how great they are they often end up getting outnumbered. That was far from the case in this episode – in fact, I think it was sort of the opposite.
Micha: Lots of people use the Bechdel test to analyze whether or not female characters are appearing in fairer numbers, with contributions to the story separate of the male characters involved, but a while ago I decided to start flipping it on its head and seeing if I could find anything that failed a reversed version – AKA finding a story where at no point do two named male characters talk about something other than a woman.
Micha: And unless I missed an interaction, I think “The Zygon Invasion” did just that. Between Kate, Jaq, Clara (or “Bonnie,” I suppose, for quite a lot of this episode), multiple Osgoods, other UNIT personnel, and even the numerous actresses playing Zygons in human forms, there were definitely a lot of ladies to choose from.
Micha: Now, quantity isn’t quality, but I think their portrayals were positive too. Competency and complexity are both great traits to give characters, and like we commented earlier on Kate seeming more “in-charge” again, and how Osgood and her moral choices are clearly a huge crux of the two-parter’s message (or at least, the writers are setting it up like she is) – both were very present in the ladies of the episode.
Engie: Yes! This episode actually reminded me of series three in terms of the number of female characters AND how well they were written – the more recent series haven’t had either of those things.
Engie: Also, I freaking LOVED how flawed the female characters were. They felt real. They felt HUMAN. They made tough decisions, and sometimes I did not agree with those decisions, and sometimes they weren’t very nice to people, but… I loved that.
Engie: We need more female characters like that! When male characters are bossy and make morally questionable decisions, people fall all over themselves praising those characters, and we don’t usually even see female characters written that way because they’re expected to be, I don’t know, meek. Or not even in positions of power/leadership at all.
Engie: With each new episode, I think, “Surely the Doctor can’t be MORE ridiculous than he was LAST time,” and each time I am proven wrong. OMG HE IS ROCKING THAT SPACE DAD AESTHETIC. I love the way his outfit has gone from being “distinguished steampunk professor” in series eight to “Clara, does this count as getting dressed?” in series nine. And I cracked up when he played “Amazing Grace” on the electric guitar in the beginning of this episode… and when he said, “hello, this is Doctor Disco”… and the scene on the playground when he kept going on about blobs.
Engie: I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. I think he definitely has a lot more personality and charm than he did in series eight, like both Capaldi and the writers were still figuring out what they wanted to do with his character. He seems to have settled into this role quite well by now.
Micha: Yeah, Twelve has definitely progressed from being a bit more of a distinguished-appearing professor to one of the very absent-minded variety, and I love him for it. I was talking with another friend of mine, just earlier today, about the fact that he does all these little things that come across as surprisingly relatable. Like his 147 missed calls to Clara in this episode – he’s definitely written as having these little quirks and anxieties that I know remind me of myself sometimes.
Micha: And yet all that is mixed up in his “100% rebel Time Lord” ridiculousness – just because he worries a bit excessively and things like that doesn’t mean he can’t pull out the electric guitar every episode and rock the “I just got dressed and decided what this outfit really needed was SUNGLASSES” look. He’s a very nice balance of an entertaining persona and a very real character – and while both on their own would have the potential to make a great Doctor, the combination of them together just makes him all the more endearing.
Engie: He’s probably my second-favorite New Who Doctor now, TBH? Nine will always be my favorite ever, and I do think the plots of of stories from Ten’s era held together better, and that his companions were better written, but… I think I now like Twelve better than any of the other New Who Doctors except Nine.
Engie: I think at the beginning of series eight they were trying to write a Super Serious Doctor like Nine… but the thing is that deep down, Nine isn’t serious. Nine is a dork. He kind of has to be.
Engie: Nine made ridiculous jokes and tried his hardest not to take things seriously, because that was how he coped. I mean, it’s pretty easy to read Nine as depressed after the Time War, since he thought he’d destroyed his own planet, so he tries to avoid thinking about that by making others laugh. I love that in series nine the writers finally seemed to realize this, so Twelve has moments of anxiety and sadness and angst, but he’s allowed to have fun now as well.
Engie: Basically, I see a lot of parallels between Twelve and Nine AND I LOVE IT. I still wish Christopher Eccleston had stayed for more than one series, but I’m also really, really happy with what Peter Capaldi has brought to the role.
Engie: What was your overall opinion of this episode?
Micha: I was a tiny bit disappointed by a few things, but I think it was a product of letting my excitement get ahead of me to be honest – I was so excited to have another modern UNIT episode that I came away from it wishing certain characters I was looking forward to seeing onscreen again (such as Osgood) had more screentime.
Micha: But that’s really not a reflection on the episode – more like something that the plot, which I thus far have no huge objections to, just didn’t click with. And I think we’ll definitely be seeing more of some of the bits I was looking forward to in the next part, since this one had to have so much exposition.
Engie: I thought it was a lot of fun – not one of my favorites by any means, but fun all the same. At first I was like, “Oh my god, Zygons, this will be boring and awful” but it was actually a decent episode! I liked that it cleared up some of the things from the fiftieth anniversary special and the series eight finale that confused me. And I love Osgood and Jaq and Kate! Jenna Coleman gave a magnificent performance in this episode, as well. And finally… well, Twelve calling himself Doctor Disco is the best thing ever. GOD. WHAT A DORK.
Engie: Thank you for reviewing this episode with me, Micha, and I look forward to talking about “The Zygon Inversion” with you as well!
Micha: Of course!
What is YOUR opinion on “The Zygon Invasion”? I’d love to know!