At the end of The Zygon Invasion the Doctor and Osgood were blown out of the sky by a Zygon-clone Clara shooting them with a rocket launcher. UNIT had been completely compromised, and it looked like the Zygons had won. Even Kate Stewart had been replaced!
The Zygon Inversion opens with Clara waking from a dream, or maybe waking into a dream. It’s actually a look inside the mind of someone held captive by the Zygons. The victims are still alive, of course, and that means they suffer from matrix-like unreality. Clara is pretty clever and quickly works out where she is. She even manages to influence her Zygon clone.
But as clever as Clara is it looks like she couldn’t stop her clone from shooting down the plane. Convinced of a successful mission, Zygon-Clara takes on another; releasing one of the “sleeper” Zygons from its camouflage for all the world to see, and begin a spreading panic on Earth.
At the sight of the plane wreckage The Doctor and Osgood managed to survive, because The Doctor apparently travels with a parachute. Osgood implies that perhaps something is strange about Zygon-Clara unsuccessfully killing them. When The Doctor gets a message from Clara it’s Osgood that believes the real Clara is reaching out and fighting back. I can’t say enough good things about Osgood in these two episodes. A majority of this episode features Osgood with The Doctor, and these scenes are where the episode really shines. The maturity of Osgood despite what her introduction suggested is a real treat. She’s as interesting a character as Ashildr. Both unique, and both well suited for extended stays on the TARDIS.
As Zygon-Clara and The Doctor go back and forth there’s constant interplay between The Doctor and real Clara. He has such confidence in Clara that he enlists her to actively fight against her clone. She has basically become The Doctor’s greatest weapon. Clara might be The Doctor’s ultimate achievement. She has also become much more than I ever expected. This season has been a study in character development, none moreso than Clara. It is fitting that she is at the top of her game in her final season.
The two Clara’s trying to outwit each other has some fun dialogue and nuanced acting, and just makes for good television. The Zygon Inversion continues the intrigue of the previous episode, and really the whole of Season 9. There’s finally an edge to the show now that I’ve been craving for a long time. I think these two episodes have highlighted the evolution of Doctor Who into a more serious work of science fiction that it has only hinted at for years.
Zygon-Clara is searching for the “Osgood Box”, the device mentioned by the twin Osgoods in The Zygon Invasion. The Box is a genocidal end game weapon given to the twins by The Doctor. The Doctor giving someone the same weapon he once used to destroy the Time Lords is a great moment that ties up the last few years of the show. The Zygon story began in the same story where the Doctor confronted his biggest regret and changed history to fix the mistake. Really great stuff for Whovians to swoon over!
The Doctor and Osgood race to find real Clara but run into Kate Stewart instead. Despite The Doctor not completely sure Kate is herself he and Osgood follow her to where the pod holding real Clara is located. The plan to capture The Doctor succeeds. Zygon-Clara forces The Doctor to explain the Osgood Box, but to her chagrin it is much more complicated. The Box is really two boxes, one that normalizes the Zygons, and the other that will release a virus killing them.
Zygon-Clara, real Clara, The Doctor, and real (she pulled a Queen Elisabeth!) Kate Stewart all come face to face for the final showdown. The Doctor complicates matters further by telling everyone the boxes are even more deadly than they think. He forces both Zygon-Clara and Kate Stewart to adopt total forgiveness as the only hope for peace, or destroy everyone. The Doctor’s speech here turns is a philosophical quandary, asking what’s left after conquering a species. Will there be peace, or will there just be more waiting for the next species to come along and start another war. Doctor Who often paints war as the ultimate folly, and it’s participants little more than petulant children. To The Doctor all war is just a deadly game that ruins everyone involved down to their core. And yet every species always chooses war over forgiveness.
The Doctor pleads with Zygon-Clara to choose the path of forgiveness. Peter Capaldi gives a painfully haunting performance as he tries to make everyone understand that war is too horrible to live with. It’s a visceral and tender moment that makes the show’s dark severity have real emotion. Capaldi absolutely stuns with The Doctor’s lamenting the endless cycle of war. These Zygon episodes as a whole are the finest Doctor Who of Capaldi’s tenure so far. With him, as well as more mature writing, Doctor Who has become a much better show.
The episode ends with The Doctor offering Osgood a chance to leave with he and Clara on the TARDIS. The ultimate Doctor Fangirl turns down the offer, but I’m not convinced this is the last we’ll see of Osgood. Besides her role in UNIT, which itself has become a pleasant recurrence, Osgood has become a necessary character to revisit through shear intrigue and spot-on acting. The Doctor so much as pegs her for a perfect companion and I think Whovians are going to get a taste of that eventually. Osgood is just the latest in a string of fantastic surprises this season. I think the best part has been the introduction of exceptional new characters, and growth of other recent additions to the show. Nearing Clara’s end, there’s a few worthy potential replacements for Clara, who has herself seen tremendous growth this season. I would have to scratch my head if either Osgood or Ashildr isn’t the next companion. Here’s to hoping!