Part two of The Zygon Invasion gives us The Zygon Inversion: Clara, Osgood and the Doctor may be down, but they’re not out yet. Bonnie must be stopped, but the question is whether that can be done without actually facilitating the genocide that Bonnie wants – be it of humans, Zygons or both.
For all the stakes are astronomical, this is a calmer, less manic episode, and a much more enjoyable, poignant one for it, with the show wearing its heart infinitely more clearly on its sleeve than last week’s. I love big themes in my genre shows, but Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who works best for me when it’s exploring those big themes via a smaller group of characters and their feelings in a more contained way, as it did this week, rather than going all big-budget bombastic like last week’s attempts at the Whovian version of Independence Day.
The political metaphor is still pretty blunt this week, mind you – “It’s a splinter group.” – but its message is far less murky, and, as I hoped last week, full of hope and inclusiveness, making clear that just because some people commit appalling crimes in the name of religious or racial hatred, doesn’t mean everyone of that same religion or race endorses them, and it certainly doesn’t mean you punish or persecute everyone of that same religion or race for them. It’s astonishing that, in the 21st century, that still has to be said, but the recent rise in hate crime and the increasingly mainstream nature of hate rhetoric suggests that it does, so the bewildered, blameless Zygon who said “I’m not part of your fight. I never wanted to fight anyone. I just wanted to live here. Why can’t I live here?” may only have had a few minutes’ screen time, but, as far as I’m concerned, he spoke for millions of us in the process.
Eloquence and hearts in the right place aside, though, this being a kids show, the resolution was a bit too easy. The Doctor’s speech about forgiveness and the real Truth and Consequences of war was a bravura scene for Peter Capaldi; a moving, valiant plea for diplomacy and peaceful resolution in a world desperately in need of both. But the defiantly hate-filled Bonnie accepting it so quickly seemed unlikely, and anyone, even the faithful Osgood trusting her to keep the peace even more so.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t as quick as I thought. The Doctor’s cryptic comments about time at the end of the episode suggest that Clara was gone a lot longer than we thought, after all. That’s a question for later episodes, though. As far as this one’s concerned, I was apprehensive last week about whether it would stick the landing. For the most part, I think it did.