With the exception of the season 8 finale, I didn’t like the previous season of Doctor Who. Oh, I like Capaldi as the Doctor and I eventually warmed up to Clara, but the episodes seemed like lazy “regenerations” of previous episodes, either copied off Davies or regurgitated from Moffat’s own episodes. I even did a series of articles last season pointing out where each episode was a carbon copy of something before it in recent seasons. However, this season has been different. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe it’s because Moffat is using what he’s learned working on long form shows like Sherlock, which dedicate an hour and a half to an episode, and applying it to Doctor Who in an overt (by way of episode titles) attempt to double the length of the episodes and therefore allowing for (1) more exploration and (2) slowing down. Yes, it was the rapid pace that I have been struggling with since Matt Smith’s second season, and part of it was because the American versions were trimmed down to allow time for commercials, thereby confusing everyone. In season 9, we have seen longer, more complex plots which are saved from being confusing by allowing more time to develop stories and character arcs. For example, let’s look at “The Zygon Invasion” and “The Zygon Inversion.”
First of all, this double-episode is a sequel to “The Day of the Doctor”, so you don’t need any backstory explained to you–you’ve seen it. Either the writers had planned some of the elements of season 9 back then, such as having Osgood sort-of survive or her cube-shaped safety protocol, but even more impressively, it’s possible they reverse engineered the clues in “The Day of the Doctor” to apply to their new script. Secondly, you have another envied almost-companion to add to the list–Osgood. By this, I mean someone the fans really love but who they are never granted the satisfaction of seeing become a full-time companion. Lastly, the moment where Kate Stewart and Bonnie-the-Zygon’s fingers are hovering over the potential doomsday buttons is drawn out longer than I think Doctor Who has ever done before. In this moment, we feel the authentic drag of important decision making. We experience grade A acting from Mr. Capaldi. We hear yet another Doctor morality speech, this one ending in the realization that all the Doctor is really trying to do in these scenarios is prevent people from turning into him. Because of length, you would not get a scene as emotionally and morally complex as this in any previous season, even, I believe, in the occasional double episodes.
Misc. notes about these two episodes:
- I enjoyed the complexity of the Zygon race, how they are not of one mind, just like humans, but they look like giant, rubber feet with blisters. I’d like to see some more realistic, scary monsters, like the Fisher King, rather than the ones from the 50s.
- Rebecca Front! Another of Capaldi’s The Thick of It pals, following last season’s Chris Addison character. I loved seeing her in Doctor Who, but I wished they’d given her more to do.
- Best line: “I’m old enough to be your messiah.
- They’ve been teasing us with hybrids. After Ashildr and Osgood, it better not turn out to be Clara. She was the solution to the big mystery last time.
- With the obvious exception of the Doctor, this crowded episode is almost entirely dominated by strong female characters.
- How do we feel about the Doctor trying to be cool and latching onto things that actually are stereo-typically meant to be cool? (electric guitar, sunglasses) The Doctor has always tried to be cool, but he usually missed, like with bow ties, which are stereo-typically meant to be nerdy. Would love to hear your thoughts in comments.