Timestamp #267: The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion

Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion
Doctor Who: The Zygon Inversion
(2 episodes, s09e07-08, 2015)

Timestamp 267 Zygon Invasion Inversion

Best. Speech. Ever.

The Zygon Invasion

Once upon a time, there were three Doctors, two Osgoods, and one treaty.

Those two Osgoods represent Operation Double, the peace treaty with the Zygons. Twenty million Zygons have asylum on Earth so long as they maintain human forms, and each of those Zygons has the capacity for both great evil and great good. The treaty exists in the form of the Osgood Box, which can start and end war on the planet with a single death. If one human or Zygon goes rogue, regardless of the circumstances, it will spark a rebellion.

During Missy’s attempt to take over the world with Cybermen, one of the Osgoods died. Zygon or human? Unknown, but the other twin mourns regardless.

In 2015, the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is under attack. Osgood races for shelter in a police station and attempts to contact the Doctor but is soon found by a Zygon. Her message reaches the TARDIS as the Doctor rocks out to Amazing Grace, and he is surprised to see what Osgood wrote.

“Nightmare scenario.”

The TARDIS lands at Brockwell Park in London. The Doctor tries to reach Clara while watching children in the park and questioning two little girls. Meanwhile, Kate Stewart coordinates efforts during the nightmare scenario at a UNIT safe house. She receives intelligence that the Zygons have captured Osgood. She sends the Doctor news that the cease-fire has broken down as Zygons storm the park and take the girls.

The Doctor joins Kate at the safehouse and watches a hostage video from Osgood. He calls Clara, who has just arrived at her apartment. Clara finds a child who is missing his parents. She finds two adults posing as his parents but the resolution doesn’t sit right. Regardless, she calls the Doctor.

Kate takes the Doctor and Clara to a local junior school that houses a Zygon hatchery. The two little girls were local Zygon commanders who were kidnapped by rebels. The control center in the school’s basement can coordinate all of the Zygons on Earth, so the Doctor uses it to assess the current state of the Zygons.

After Missy killed Osgood, the other Osgood went into hiding in her grief. She was taken by the rebels, who have also executed the Zygon commanders. Their message, Truth or Consequences, leads Kate to investigate New Mexico while Clara and Jac (Kate’s assistant) stay in the United Kingdom. The Doctor takes the UNIT presidential plane to Turmezistan, which might house a Zygon base.

Kate tells Clara about Z-67, a compound created by a UNIT naval officer back in the ’70s or ’80s which basically turns Zygons inside-out. It was taken by the Doctor at some point. After Kate leaves, Clara and Jac return to Clara’s apartment in time to see the young boy’s “parents” hauling out a human-shaped bag. The women follow the “parents” to an underground complex that is full of Zygon pods.

When the Doctor arrives at the UNIT base in Turmezistan, he finds a drone strike in progress. When the Zygons take the form of a family, the operator aborts the strike. The Zygons had posed as the operator’s family, and the Doctor realizes that they have developed telepathy and can take the form of whatever their targets love most.

In New Mexico, Kate searches for Osgood and finds a police officer who holds her at gunpoint. Once they establish that Kate is not a Zygon, they discuss the town’s history with the aliens. They were not prepared for the rebellion, and the officer shows Kate dumpsters full of human remains.

The Doctor and UNIT travel to the village in search of Osgood. They surround a local church where the Zygons are said to be hiding, and the Doctor follows the commander while the strike team orders the Zygons to surrender. The Zygons pose as the team’s family members and convince the team to follow them into the church. The Doctor and the commander enter through a back door just in time to find the remains of the team members. The commander resolves to bomb the village and leaves the Doctor to search for Osgood. Soon after, he finds her under the church but she’s bait to lure the Doctor away from the United Kingdom. The bombing starts early and a Zygon is captured in the assault.

Clara and Jac return to the caverns under her apartment with a UNIT team. As the Doctor and Osgood board the UNIT plane, he tries to call Clara but fails. The Doctor questions Osgood but cannot get a straight answer about her identity – human or Zygon – and labels her as a hybrid. The old rules were that a Zygon needed to regularly refresh the DNA imprint, so if the source died the Zygon would revert.

The new rules are that the Zygons have been taking people and placing them in stasis. That’s what happened with the young boy’s parents, and it is what happened to Clara when she asked after them earlier.

The Clara Zygon, who names herself Bonnie, has the UNIT team and Jac executed. Meanwhile, the New Mexican police officer reveals herself, turns on Kate, and takes her form. When the Kate-Zygon reports back to Bonnie at UNIT HQ, Bonnie takes a rocket launcher to the coast and takes aim at the Doctor’s plane.

The Zygon Inversion

The real Clara awakens in her apartment. There are clues that nothing is right, including her alarm clock reading wrong and her toothpaste being black gunk. She follows the Doctor’s voice to a static-filled television. She tries to escape the apartment but finds every exit blocked. As she watches Bonnie fire on the Doctor’s plane, she is able to manipulate Bonnie’s mind and actions, forcing her to miss the first shot.

The second rocket, however, strikes true. The plane explodes.

Later, Bonnie walks through the city in pursuit of a man. She tracks him to his apartment and promises to set him free. She zaps the man, forcing him to change shape and reveal himself as a Zygon. Bonnie returns to UNIT to retrieve the Osgood Box.

Clara reviews the footage of the explosion and discovers evidence that the Doctor survived. Sure enough, he and Osgood parachuted to safety in the debris. Osgood’s glasses were broken so the Doctor lends her the sonic sunglasses. They discuss the situation as they walk, including how much thought Osgood has put into how best to kill the Doctor if she were to take over the world. Meanwhile, Clara manipulates Bonnie’s hands to send the Doctor a message: “I’m awake.”

Osgood puts the pieces together and realizes that Clara is still alive and in stasis. They try to get help from the police but the officers are Zygons. Osgood tries calling Bonnie.

Bonnie watches the video about the Osgood Box but discovers that she was tricked. Osgood fed her false information about the box’s location. Bonnie takes the call and the Doctor is able to get information from Clara. They drive to Bonnie’s location as the Zygon travels to Clara’s pod and tries to extract information from her memories. Clara resists the effort and actually turns the tables on Bonnie before the Zygon reasserts control. Under duress, Clara reveals the location and access credentials for the Osgood Box at UNIT headquarters in the Black Archive.

The Box contains a button that will expose every Zygon for one hour. The sight alone will spark war.

The Doctor and Osgood arrive at the building where the Zygon that Bonnie awakened went on a massacre. They find the Zygon and discover that he only acted out of self-defense as humans turned on him. He was perfectly happy in human form and wanted no part in the rebellion. He kills himself out of fear.

Zygon-Kate (acting under Bonnie’s orders) arrives with two Zygons in disguise and offers to take the Doctor and Osgood to Clara’s pod. Bonnie has taken that pod with her to the Black Archive, but Zygon-Kate leads the Doctor and Osgood into a trap in the cavern. Bonnie orders Zygon-Kate to wait, however, when she discovers that the Osgood Box is really two boxes.

One box exposes the Zygons. The other kills them all instantly.

Bonnie frees Clara and tries to use her life as a bargaining chip. The Doctor tells her which box to open, but both contain buttons labeled Truth and Consequences. Bonnie screams in rage and orders Zygon-Kate to bring the captors to her. They are interrupted with the real Kate arrives, having survived her ordeal in New Mexico with “five rounds rapid“, and kills the Zygons.

The Doctor reveals that the boxes are safeguards for both species. Kate agreed to the contingency (and also to the Doctor wiping her mind) and agrees to take him to the Black Archive for a final showdown. When they arrive, the Doctor offers to take the boxes away and let the cease-fire stand, but Bonnie and Kate stand ready to push a button. So the Doctor lays out the stakes of the game.

In the red box, one button will release the Z-67 gas and kill every Zygon on Earth, but the other button will detonate a nuclear device under the Black Archive and destroy London. In the blue box, one button will unmask every Zygon on the planet, but the other button negates the ability of Zygons to shapeshift and locks them in human form forever.

Bonnie makes her case in front of the blue box but the Doctor dismisses her cruelty. The only way that anyone can live in peace is if they are prepared to forgive.

This leads to one of the best speeches of the Twelfth Doctor’s era.

This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.

[…]

I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

This is a man who has learned from the horrors of the Last Great Time War. He sees the faces and hears the screams every single day. This is a man who never wants to see it happen again.

And he’s willing to extend the hand of forgiveness to prevent it from happening again.

Kate closes her box and apologizes. The Doctor thanks her. After a few tense moments, Bonnie realizes that box boxes are empty. The Doctor tells her that she’s started to think. When Kate explains that threat is also empty, the Doctor tells her that she’s said that for the last fifteen times before activating the Black Archive’s defenses to wipe her mind.

Bonnie had not been persuaded fifteen times before. The Doctor repeated the events until he got a good result.

This time, he doesn’t wipe Bonnie’s memory. He explains that he had a similar choice once with a very special box, and just like Bonnie, he had Clara Oswald in his head as a guide. Bonnie returns to the master console and tells every Zygon that they are safe. She then returns to her normal form.

The Doctor offers to take Osgood in the TARDIS, but Petronella stays behind to take care of the boxes. As Clara goes inside, the Doctor asks one more time about Osgood’s identity. She won’t tell him, even as Bonnie arrives as the new Osgood, restoring the balance once again.

It doesn’t matter if they are human or Zygon. They are Osgood, and a credit to their species.

With that, the Doctor and Clara return to the stars. The Osgoods return to the defense of Earth.

But first, ice creams.


When people tell you that Doctor Who isn’t political, show them this pair of episodes. Invasion deals directly with imperialism and parallels the Global War on Terror, including a trip to a fictional central Asian nation. Inversion continues the thread by talking about war – both cold and warm – along with insurgency and brinksmanship. The analysis is capped by the speech that embodies the attitudes of many war veterans and students of history.

The trend of countrystan-ing to create a generic nation with easily identifiable stereotypes is disappointing and lazy. I don’t mind the tool when the writers take time to give the inhabitants actual personality and character – see Black Panther‘s Wakanda, for a great example – but here we see a play from the television dramas of the Cold War, Gulf War, and Global War on Terror eras. Think 1980 to present, spanning MacGyverThe A-Team24, and so on.

That aside, this tale is tense and important, following on from the sea change instituted in The Day of the Doctor. It echoes back to that pivotal day in the Doctor’s lives, including a life-changing box (or two) with a big button (or two, each). This story exercises the lessons that the Doctor learned from both sides of the Last Great Time War to save humanity.

I wonder if the path started with Kahler-Jex, another person who could hear the screams when he closed his eyes.

This story also picks up the thread of Harry Sullivan, whose last regular appearance was Terror of the Zygons. It seems that his last adventure stuck with him, and we remember from Mawdryn Undead that he ended up at the Porton Down chemical and biological weapons facility. The Doctor still considers him to be an imbecile.

As a war veteran myself, I can’t sing the praises of this adventure enough.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Sleep No More

cc-break

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.