Monday, November 02, 2015

Resurrecting a Classic Who Monster (on New Doctor Who)

Resurrecting a Classic Monster (on New Doctor Who)

***Spoiler Alert!***

You gotta love those suckers! I’ve been a big Zygon fan since the early days, so I had great expectations for The Zygon Invasion. Fortunately, some of those expectations were delivered.
The Zygons have not gone through a “make-over” for the hundredth time like the Cybermen—and for this I’m glad. How can you improve upon a ruddy, sucker-studded, walking-squid-like humanoid creature which can act like a chameleon and become any person you know and trust? You can’t really, can you?  They are Doctor Who monster perfection at its finest.

But you can change their back story a bit, and for this I’m not quite as pleased. The intrepid Osgood in her Classic Who accessories is dead—she was sucked out of an airplane at 30,000 feet. We weren’t very happy about that bit of  wanton cruelty in last season’s episode, and apparently the fans got very vocal and protested her treatment to the BBC. Lo and behold, Osgood’s alive! Or is she? Zygons in classic Who could only change themselves to look like a living human, so is this Osgood the Doctor meets the real thing? She won’t say, but she hints that Zygons aren’t limited by keeping their originals alive to copy anymore, and they are all hybrids now. Hmm, if you take away their Achilles’ heel, you sort of take away the best way the Doctor can conquer them. Perhaps not such a good plotting choice in the dramatic sense, but we’ll see in part two.

The locales this time out are a breath of fresh (desert) air: a fictional ex-Soviet central Asian republic and Truth-or-Consequences, New Mexico? Well, if you lived in a dryer part of the world (like I have), you’d probably want to get out and invade the planet eventually, too. So, good marks for settings outside of London, but bad marks for sending the Brigadier’s daughter out on her own. Uh, it’s called “back up." We both couldn’t visualize the Brig ever going anywhere far away from UNIT headquarters without at least his two right hand people—Sergeant Benton and Captain Yates—to watch his back. But Ms. Lethbridge-Stewart doesn’t seem to have much training in tactics, so she goes off to New Mexico alone where, of course, she’s going to be captured by the Zygons. Doh! With all these good women, and all the main UNIT positions are now filled with females, you'd think she could have had picked the cream of the crop to come along with her? (How progressive the U.N. has become! Or are all these actresses cast as intelligent, authority figures to make up for the less-than-feminist characters Moffat has been accused of writing in previous episodes?)

The idea that the Zygons numbered twenty million (whew!) and were allowed to stay on Earth after their last run-in with humanity seems a bit far-fetched as well. Twenty million? Uh, if countries in Europe are currently having conniptions over thousands of refugees pouring across their borders, then how do you think twenty million aliens would be handled and kept quiet throughout the world? Not very well! This logic gap is bigger than the Grand Canyon (to stay with the desert analogies) and needs filling in the second part.

Clara acts particularly acerbic in this episode, and it is revealed at the close why her behavior has been “off." One wonders if this hasn’t been the reason why she’s seemed disconnected from her emotions in earlier episodes, or if this was just tossed in to explain her actions in this particular episode. Either way, a countdown seems to have started for her character. Is her final departure nigh?

Peter Capaldi’s performance is spot on again with his Tom Baker-like Doctor. He’s mischievous yet involved, cautious yet not afraid to take action. The way the story opens, we’re not sure what his relationship with Clara is since she’s not there—she’s not a “Sarah Jane” who lives in the TARDIS between adventures. He’s more of a David Tennant-loner type of Doctor who comes and goes more than stays all the time with his companion. Possibly this is the reason behind his dark character? But why take the airplane when you have a TARDIS, Doctor? Surely you remembered what happened on board to Osgood last time?

Over all, The Zygon Invasion is an enjoyable adventure with a few niggling plot points that don’t take away from its overall entertainment value. We can't wait to see what those sucker-critters get up to next week.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below. And check out my reviews of earlier episodes of this season of Doctor Who:

The Woman Who Lived


A J said...

I liked most of what I saw of this episode, although as you say there are logic gaps. In the real world Ms. Lethbridge-Stewart would not have gone anywhere into danger; she'd have sent a team to investigate what needed to be investigated. The UNIT are up to - or down to - the level of their forebears in the classic series. They go mob-handed into situations and still get killed by the dozen. Where's Son of RSM Benton when you need him? ;)

Cynthianna said...

Yes, it would be nice to see a son/daughter of Benton and maybe a few other UNIT members, too. :)

Tommy said...

There was far too much missing in this episode, and far too much forced mindset for many of the characters.
The scene with the UNIT soldiers in the stand off with Johnny's mum were forced to be stupid.
Jack was stupid beyond belief, the UNIT soldiers along with her when the Zygons turned up forgot they were armed to the tits with automatic assault weapons, and Kate Stewart not only went into enemy territory woefully unprepared, but conveniently forgot that ANYONE might be a shape-shifting Zygon... a thing you would certainly bare in mind when you meet the ONE survivor of a town massacre who happens to be a law enforcement officer who is just hanging around instead of going for help herself...
You know what...
I think there was a hidden social message in this episode... It's really subtle but I *THINK* that there is a well hidden analogy... something perhaps about a race of refugees who come and live among "US" and when a tiny minority of them become radicalised and violent, and start releasing execution videos how "WE" want to kill the whole race. Not just KILL them in fact, but "WE" are SO filled with hate toward this race that "WE" want use a nasty nerve gas that is SO horrible that it literally turns the victim INSIDE OUT... "WE" must be really angry at this alien race of strange beings, eh?
If only I could put my finger on what they were trying to say, but like I said... it was just SO subtle, I just must have missed it.

Funnily enough, discovering Clara was a Zygon made her more likeable in this episode... at least the fact she was an evil doppleganger offered some justification for her dis-associative attitude.

Osgood seemed to be undergoing some crazy Stockholme Syndrome and unless she gets some better therapy than "Like a Hybrid?" is going to go full on Patty Hearst/Squeaky Fromme and will start killing everyone she meets.

And unless she is another one of those characters who seems to be aware of the fact that they are characters in a story and must only do things that serve the story (rather than use common sense), she MUST be a human, or else she would have done the logical thing and changed her bloody shape and escaped when the Zygons were hunting her...

Cynthianna said...

Yeah, I did wonder why if Osgood is a "Zygon hybrid" she just didn't change her appearance from time to time to not be recognizable. Perhaps she's just playing mind games with the Doctor? (We'll assume it was the Zygon Osgood that was sucked out of the airplane last season? It still doesn't make it any less nasty and in poor taste, IMO.)

UNIT seems to have the world's worst trained soldiers. They are pretty thick and are easy targets for the Zygons' manipulation, are they not? Watching the Pertwee era UNIT stories recently, you don't get the idea that they're a bunch of clods, but in the Moffat universe they're more likely to act like Laurel and Hardy than the Green Berets.

I guess it's perfectly "acceptable" now to not like Clara as a character since she's an evil alien, too. ;)

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