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Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion (Review)

“Why don’t you wear them anymore?”

“Oh, I do. I have question mark underwear.”

– Osgood and the Doctor discuss questionable fashion

Doctor Who has never been the most subtle of shows.

The fourth episode of the show, Aliens of London, proceeded to brutally murder Tony Blair and shove his body into a closet in Downing Street. Just in case the show’s politics weren’t clear enough, The Sound of Drums went on to have the Master model himself on some evil hybrid of the Tenth Doctor and Tony Blair while engaged in a crazy scheme to conquer the world. He took great care to execute the President of the United States (or “President Elect”) in the process.

Invasion of the body doubles!

Invasion of the body doubles!

Even the classic show was prone of moments of grand political pantomime. The Sylvester McCoy era had great fun skewering Thatcherism with stories like Paradise Towers and The Happiness Patrol. The media were reportedly surprised when Andrew Cartmel revealed that the real Cartmel Masterplan was to bring down the government, which only serves to demonstrate just how few people watched the show’s twilight years. Of course, Robert Holmes also wrote The Sunmakers when he had an axe to grind with the inland revenue.

All of which is to point out that The Zygon Invasion has a long pedigree. Doctor Who has a rich and distinguished history when it comes to filtering political commentary through a cartoon megaphone. While the results are undoubtedly a bit crude and blunt, it is fascinating to see a family show tackling this sort of issue relatively head-on.

Getting the all Clara...

Getting the all Clara…

There is never any ambiguity as to what The Zygon Invasion is actually about. On paper, The Zygon Invasion could easily appear to be a cynical mid-season monster story, the year’s “action figure” two-parter designed to sell Doctor Who merchandise and offer a nostalgia buzz. Under Russell T. Davies, the show was very fond of resurrecting classic Doctor Who villains for somewhat forgettable and enjoyable two-parters like Rise of the Cybermen and Age of Steel, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks or The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky.

The Moffat era has generally avoided those sorts of stories, but they do come and go. Moffat’s first season featured The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, which reintroduced the Silurians. Although it was not a two-parter, The Cold War fulfilled a similar function as part of the show’s fiftieth anniversary season. Of course the biggest problem with these sorts of stories is that there are only so many monsters than can be brought back. Nobody is aching for the resurrection of the Vervoids or the attack of the Mestor.

“I’m King… er, President of the World!”

The Zygons are perhaps one of the most memorable and distinctive of the classic Doctor Who aliens, all the more notable for the fact that they only appeared once on the show. Terror of the Zygons was actually among the last of the DVDs of the classic series to be released, perhaps acknowledging its status as one of the truly classic stories not released in the early waves of the line. When the Zygons appeared in The Day of the Doctor, it felt entirely appropriate to bring back those distinctive antagonists.

It would be very easy to treat The Zygon Invasion to wallow in nostalgia. The Zygons look fantastic. They evoke classic science-fiction horror, but not in a way that feels dated. The costumes look great, and the design is organic and unsettling. The Zygons seem unlikely to ever become as iconic as the Daleks, but it is easy to see why so many children who grew up in the seventies ended up with a lasting impression of the creatures. Bringing them back seems like a good idea, particularly since The Day of the Doctor already footed the bill for the production design work.

You Zygon, or you be gone.

You Zygon, or you be gone.

More than that, body-swapping shape-shifting science-fiction stories practically write themselves. The Zygons were introduced during the Philip Hinchcliffe era of the show, perhaps the most beloved period in the show’s entire fifty-year history. (Only the Davies era really comes close for popular appeal, and it is too early to be sure that Davies’ vision will age as well.) There was a time when it seemed like Doctor Who consisted of nothing but Tom Baker travelling from horror movie to horror movie. That was a great chapter in the show’s history.

Peter Capaldi is particularly well suited to that sort of story, with his deep voice and his wonderful screen presence. It is no wonder that the Twelfth Doctor has brough the yoyo back into the show’s circulation, he feels of a piece with the Fourth Doctor. More than any other version of the character since the revival, the Twelfth Doctor feels like he could carry a Hinchcliffe-style story. All of this is to say that doing a conventional Zygon story at this point in the show’s history seems like a very logical idea. It would practically write itself.

I shot the sheriff...

I shot the sheriff…

As such, there is something quite exciting in the decision to let Peter Harness do something a bit bolder and more adventurous. From early in the episode, it is quite clear that The Zygon Invasion will not be a typical Doctor Who invasion narrative. It seems highly unlikely that the Zygons will be riding around inside a version of the Loch Ness monster, or using advanced technology to manipulate and control the human race. The Zygon Invasion is not a conventional alien invasion narrative. It is an exploration of the themes of the conventional alien invasion narrative.

Trying to make sense of the internal continuity of Doctor Who can be tricky at the best of times. After all, the Cybermen seem to reinvent themselves between every appearance, bearing little resemblance to the sing-song bandaged monsters who first appeared in The Tenth Plant. However, The Zygon Invasion is positively gleeful in the way that it decides to effectively re-write large swathes of the way that the Zygons worked in Terror of the Zygons. The script is gleeful self-aware. Osgood even draws attention to changes. “Those were the old rules.”

All's good, Osgood...

All’s good, Osgood…

Kill the Moon demonstrated that Peter Harness was a writer with a strong preference for theme and metaphor over plot and story. Kill the Moon was perhaps the most polarising story of the eighth season. It was perhaps the most polarising story since Love and Monsters. The audience’s response the episode seemed governed by their willingness to just go with it. The relationship between Doctor Who and reality has always been tenuous, with possible exception of the very early Davies era, but Kill the Moon could barely see reality from where it ended up.

The Zygon Invasion is very much a classic U.N.I.T. story filtered through a unique lens. Science-fiction has always used metaphor to offer commentary on the biggest issues of the time; whether that issue is atomic power or AIDS or the War on Terror. Alien invasion narratives typically reflect very base and familiar anxieties. Stories about hostile aliens play into the most primal fear of the “other.” The alien is always the stand-in for something different or hostile. Sometimes that different thing is a virus; sometimes it is an idea; sometimes it is another culture.

Code red...

Code red…

It is immediately clear what The Zygon Invasion is tackling through its unique alien invasion metaphor. Although it would have been written before the current Syrian refugee crisis, it reflects upon immigration issues in Western Europe and in the United Kingdom in particular. The script is not remotely subtle on the point, with the Doctor even cracking wise about it. When the Zygons boast about their plan, the Doctor warns them that they cannot go to Great Britain. “They’ll think you’re trying to pinch their benefits.” (The Doctor is aware of U.K.I.P., it seems.)

When Kate Stewart visits the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, the episode makes its immigration metaphor explicit. While the overriding metaphor of The Zygon Invasion is the radicalisaton of immigrant communities, it does score some broader points about integration and assimilation in an increasingly globalised age. After all, a lot of the episode unfolds in New Mexico at a point where a major United States presidential candidate is talking about building a wall to separate the United States from Mexico.

If only U.N.I.T. were willing to let Zygons by Zygons...

If only U.N.I.T. were willing to let Zygons by Zygons…

To the Americans, the Zygons are presented as analagous to Mexican immigrants. “The Brits came two years ago,” Norlander recalls to Kate Stewart. “We didn’t want them, they just turned up. No jobs, no money, nowhere to live and they were… they odd. Started getting into fights. Couple of ’em got killed.” She then adds that these deaths had the effect of turning the community on itself. “After the murders, they started banding together.” Who could blame them?

However, The Zygon Invasion is not exclusively about immigration, either. The shot of Osgood desperately seeking safety in a police station as all hell breaks loose recalls the coverage of various riots and protests in North America. zygon!Norlander explains that the trouble broke out when some humans caught a glimpse of a Zygon child, recalling that much of the civil unrest in the United States was prompted by brutality towards young members of minorities. Michael Brown is perhaps the most obvious example, but the cases of Antonio Martin and Freddie Gray also come to mind.

Twin town...

Twin town…

Even within the context of immigration, The Zygon Invasion cleverly suggests that the issue that extends beyond skin colour. The Zygons arrived in New Mexico looking and sounding like British people rather than Mexicans. Norlander’s description of the immigrants as “odd” would seem to reflect American attitudes towards certain British characteristics, even if it would normally be used affectionately. It is easy to be affectionate about oddness when the oddity is not living next door.

Kate Stewart’s investigation into Truth or Consequences suggests parallels with other immigration experiences. The arrest records document the arrest of various immigrants for “disorderly behaviour” related to alcohol consumption. Australia has had similar problems with (white) Irish immigrants. The Zygon Invasion is about more than simple radicalisation or even immigration. It is also about how different communities relate to one another. Indeed, it seems to suggest that perhaps the same fundamenal issues exist and manifest in a variety of different contexts.

Not playing...

Not playing…

The imagery in The Zygon Invasion is quite striking, especially for a family show. When Osgood is taken captive by the rogue Zygons, she is filmed reading a statement from the group with a stark black-and-white Zygon flag hanging in the background. The iconography is meant to evoke the videos broadcast by extremist groups in recent years. Most recently, those videos are associated with Islamic State, but they are also associated with al-Qaeda and other groups operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even the rhetoric employed by the Zygon radicals is chillingly familiar. “U.N.I.T. troops will be destroyed wherever they are in the world,” the Zygon radicals state. “The enemies of our race will be destroyed wherever they are in the world.” It sounds like a declaration of total war that might have come from an Islamic State or al-Qaeda brouchure. Anybody who disagrees with the radicals is labelled as a “traitor”, while they assert that they (and they alone) speak for the entire Zygon race. (The cliffhanger also has a timely – albeit unintended and unforeseen – resonance.)

Cycling along...

Cycling along…

Indeed, The Zygon Invasion even has a bit of cheeky fun with this fair dark central metaphor. News coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention popular cinematic depictions like Iron Man) have ensured that Islamic extremists are inexorably linked to underground caves in the popular imagination. It seems likely that most people imagined Bin Laden hiding in a cave, rather than simply concealing himself in a villa. Building upon that idea, not only to the Zygon extremists work out caves, they have an elaborate system of caves that seem to span the entire globe.

Of course, The Zygon Invasion is well aware of the subtext of this sort of alien invasion narrative – of the dangers of presenting the Zygons as metaphorical immigrants in generation and as Islamic immigrants in particular. Much is made of the fact that the young Zygons have undergone “radicalisation” and have formed their own “splinter groups” dedicated to spreading Zygon propaganda. One of the key themes of The Zygon Invasion, expressed by both Osgoods in the opening scene, is that integration is possible and desirable.

Underground movement...

Underground movement…

“You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor,” Kate Stewart advises the Doctor. “I know,” he responds. “It’s called peace.” The script to The Zygon Invasion is careful to insist that the Zygons are not inherently dangerous, and that peaceful coexistence between such distinct and different groups is entirely possible. As much as the miltant Zygons are portrayed as monstrous and violent, the final scene in the town of Truth or Consequences suggests that humanity was hardly open-minded when confronted with something different and unusual.

The episode repeatedly suggests that the Zygons and the humans are not so different. “Any race is capable of the best and the worst,” the two Osgoods explain in the teaser of the episode. “Every race is peaceful and warlike.” The radical Zygons are monsters, but Kate Stewart freely admits having considered developing genocidal biological weapons. As the tour through Truth or Consequences reveals, both humans and Zygons are ultimately reduced to the same byproducts when targeted by the extremist weapons.

The cold light of day...

The cold light of day…

Building upon the Doctor’s (or Doctors’) resolution to the invasion in The Day of the Doctor, it seems that The Zygon Invasion would argued that the only way to insure peaceful coexistence between the “self” and the “other” is break down barriers between them. The two Osgoods manage to accomplish peace through a willingness to embrace the other. As the Doctor points out to Kate Stewart, it does not matter whether the human Osgood or the fake Osgood died in Death in Heaven.

“We didn’t know which one was real,” Kate Stewart observes of the pair. The Doctor simply responds, “Both of them.” It is a very effective (and succinct) restatement of the principle that the Doctor expressed back in The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People. While the Doctor seems momentarily horrified at the realisation that Osgood has effectively transformed herself into a “hybrid”, the episode does seem to suggest that her approach is the best way the ensure peace in the long-term; integration and consolidation.

The Doctor discos...

The Doctor discos…

It is too much to suggest that The Zygon Invasion is sympathetic to its antagonists. However, it does raise some interesting questions about this large-scale integration and immigration. In theory, the demands of the Zygon extremists are perfectly understandable. “We demand the right to be ourselves,” they state in their terrorist videos. “Normalise.” When the Doctor confronts a ring-leader on the plane, he explains, “We want the truth of who we are to be acknowledged.”

Of course, The Zygon Invasion never shies away from the horror of these extremists have done. They massacred an entire town; they are plotting to overthrow the human race. However, The Zygon Invasion makes it clear that these radical elements are just as much a threat to the Zygon nation as they are to humanity. The first executions committed by the Zygon extremists are of two moderate Zygons. They insist that all Zygons should live the way that they dictate; they seem to want to “out” and expose Zygons who are living peacefully and comfortably.

Window of opportunity...

Window of opportunity…

It is no coincidence that so many of the early scenes of The Zygon Invasion centre around children. The Doctor negotiates with two young children at a playground. Kate takes the Doctor to the former “secret base” of the “Zygon high command”, which turns out to be a “junior school.” Clara finds a frightened young boy who suggests that his parents are not who they claim to be. The Zygon extremists execute two children on camera. So many battles against radicalisation and extremism are fought not on foreign battlefields, but in the schools and homes of young citizens.

Along the way, The Zygon Invasion offers standardised critiques of the military complex. U.N.I.T. finds itself entering the twenty-first century as the Doctor witnesses drone strikes and anti-terrorist tactics. There is a sense that U.N.I.T. is simply not structured to deal with a threat of this particular nature, that its tactics are not ideally suited to the changing political framework. The Doctor rejects Kate Stewart’s plan to simply bomb the Zygons out of existence. “You start bombing them, you’ll radicalise the lot.” Where was the Doctor during the War on Terror?

Letting their freak flag fly...

Letting their freak flag fly…

As cliché as it might be, there is something very powerful and effective in the scene where a drone pilot cannot fire her weapon because the Zygons have adopted the form of her loved ones. The implication is quite clear; the drone pilot would fire if it were another child or another civilian. It seems that there are limits to mankind’s capacity for empathy and sympathy. Who could blame the Zygons for using their shape-shifting if it is the only thing that allows human beings to see them as anything other than a threat?

In the teaser, Osgood describes those abilities as “a survival mechanism” rather than “a weapon.” It is an interesting take on shape-shifting. It makes a great deal of sense from an evolutionary perspective – certainly, the closest real-world analogue to shape-shifting is natural camoflage. At the same time, science fiction stories are inherently uncomfortable with the idea of transformation or metamorphosis. Science-fiction tends to present shape-shifters as threats, with their ability to transform existing as a grotesque violation.

Doctor's perscription for peace...

Doctor’s perscription for peace…

In the context of popular culture, shape-shifting captures a lot of primal anxieties. Changing form allows a given monster to occupy different “uncanny” spaces. The idea of an entity that can alter its physical appearance is undeniably “other”, an organism that exists beyond any human frame of reference. However, in taking recognisable forms, the shape-shifter integrates the “self” and the “other” into something uncomfortable. What is it, if it is both “self” and “other”, yet neither exclusively?

The Zygon Invasion manages something of a transition for the eponymous aliens. This is certainly nothing new; while their basic design has remained unchanged, even the Daleks have undergone countless revisions and adjustments during their fifty-year history. The Zygons are no longer the aliens that were introduced in Terror of the Zygons, even if their design remains familiar and their abilities are broadly similar. Instead, the Zygons have been tweaked and modified to allow them to fit more comfortably with the aesthethics of the Moffat era.

That surface-to-air missile launcher? Bonnie really knows how to... rocket...

That surface-to-air missile launcher combo? Bonnie really knows how to… rocket…

Osgood even acknowledges as much when the Doctor tries to use his knowledge of Zygon continuity to determine whether she is human or Zygon. Zygons no longer need to keep their doubles alive to maintain the image; they can pluck an image directly from the memory of a passer-by. In that way, the Zygons effectively weaponise memory and perception, in keeping with the techniques employed by the Weeping Angels or the Silence. “They’re using us against you,” insists the Zygon duplicate of one soldier’s mother.

The manipulation of memory has been a recurring fixation of the Moffat era, but it has become a particular concern during the ninth season. The Magician’s Apprentice suggested that history was set not by the Doctor’s time travel, but by Davros’ memory of that time travel. (“Davros remembers.”) Before the Flood found the Doctor trapped into narrating a story around the bits that he had already remembered. The Woman Who Lived hinged on Ashildr remembering her humanity, rather than locking it away in library volumes of dusty old books.

Burnt out...

Burnt out…

Even the Zygons themselves are an example of weaponised continuity. Although The Zygon Invasion does not make too big a deal of it, the current crisis has been hanging over the show since The Day of the Doctor. The Doctor has been running around the cosmos while all this anger and resentment has been building to critical mass. The Zygon radicals exploited a dangling plot thread and the Doctor’s absence to advance their sinister game, much like the Daleks did in Bad Wolf. Memory and continuity can be dangerous; they can be traps.

While on the subject of broader themes running through the season, the Doctor’s questioning of Osgood continues to play out the idea of the Doctor’s own mystery history. The Doctor presses Osgood to provide a clear answer at to her identity, insisting that she confirm whether she is human or Zygon. The Doctor deems this an important question, much like Davros fixated on the question of why the Doctor ran away from Gallifrey or countless other characters have wondered about the Doctor’s birth name.

It's all a Front...

It’s all a Front…

The ninth season has had a great deal of fun exploring the Doctor’s mysterious past through metaphor. Through the character of Ashildr, The Woman Who Lived suggested that the Doctor’s own name might simply have been lost to history and that he travels simply out of boredom. Through the character of Osgood, The Zygon Invasion suggests another reason why the Doctor never bothers to answer questions about his own past. “There is no question to answer,” Osgood states. “I don’t accept it.”

The Doctor may not consider those questions instructive to his identity. The Doctor’s birth name and his reason for fleeing Gallifrey might be as irrelevent to his current life as Osgood claims that her status as human or Zygon must be. While those questions were undoubtedly important once, they are inessential now. The real reason why the Doctor has never revealed his name is because that name no longer holds any power over him. He has grown past it, just like he has grown past his reason for leaving Gallifrey. To ask those questions is to start from a falty premise.

Legal alien...

Legal alien…

It is a very clever way of answering these big important mysterious questions withou actually answering them. Doctor Who will likely never reveal the birth name of the Doctor simply because a mystery has built up around it. Doctor Who will likely never explain why the Doctor left Gallifrey because the time to answer that question has long past. However, the ninth season is having a great deal of fun addressing these core parts of the mythos through metaphor and simile. (After all, The Zygon Invasion mirrors the Zygon’s lack of a name with the Doctor’s.)

Despite all the heavy political subtext, Harness still has a great deal of fun with the basic premise. The confrontation on the steps of the church is delightful, with a bunch of U.N.I.T. soldiers confronted by duplicates of their loved ones. The scene plays out precisely as one might expect, building to the inevitable “ask a question only the real person would know” bit. However, The Zygon Invasion makes it clear that “shoot them if they cannot answer” is not an emotionally honest response to that challenge, even if it makes perfect logical sense.

“You’re the rocket man.”

The Zygon Invasion also manages to function quite well as a U.N.I.T. story. Although the Davies era did a lot of things very well, it had a great deal of difficulty trying to integrate U.N.I.T. into the series. Davies tried repeatedly to find a way to pull U.N.I.T. into the Doctor’s orbit, to the point of allowing Martha to become a U.N.I.T. representative. Part of the problem was that the Ninth and Tenth Doctors were very insistent on a very technical form of pacifism, that often meant lecturing soldiers about using guns in between threatening genocide.

The Moffat era has done a better job of building up U.N.I.T. While Kate Stewart and Osgood might not be as memorable or as distinct as the Paternoster Gang, they have become a narrative element that the show can use in stories like this without batting an eye. The Twelfth Doctor is a lot less vocal in his philosophical criticisms of the organisation, seeming to accept that sometimes military force is required. The Doctor’s big objections to U.N.I.T.’s decisions in The Zygon Invasion tend towards the practical – these specific military decisions are bad ideas.

A turbulent relationship...

A turbulent relationship…

It is also worth noting that pretty much all of the major human roles in The Zygon Invasion are played by female characters. Without anybody batting an eye, U.N.I.T. has come to be populated by female characters, which makes the show more gender diverse than it has been at any point in its history. Indeed, it is great to see Peter Capaldi reunited with Rebecca Front, following their previous collaborations in The Thick of It. More than that, the female characters all feel defined and distinct from one another.

While the ninth season has not afforded a lot of space to Clara, The Zygon Invasion does at least make good work of Jenna Louise Coleman. While the twist that Clara is really “Bonnie” is fairly predictable, Coleman has great fun vamping it up as evil!Clara. One of the joys of pulpy science-fiction is the potential to watch familiar actors play these sorts of transitions, and Coleman is clearly having a ball playing “Bonnie.” Of course, it is also fun to note that the Zygons have taken human names. (And, in another pulpy twist, have secret tunnels spanning the globe.)

Undercover work.

Undercover work.

The nature of a two-part story means that it is very difficult to offer commentary on theme and metaphor, given that the story is essentially only half-told at this point. It is entirely possible that the context of The Zygon Invasion could be completely altered by The Zygon Inversion. In fact, the very title of The Zygon Inversion suggests that everything could change dramatically. After all, the entire meaning and purpose of Kill the Moon changed with four simple words: “the moon’s an egg.” It is entirely possible that The Zygon Inversion will offer a similar twist.

The Zygon Invasion might not be subtle, but it is powerful and clever. That’s not bad for a first part.

14 Responses

  1. Nice to see Doctor Who still has balls.

    “Nobody is aching for the resurrection of the Vervoids or the attack of the Mestor.”

    Speak for yourself m8 (:

  2. While watching the episode I couldn’t help but compare it to another episode of a classic sci fi show – TNG’s ‘Up the Long Ladder’. In that episode the main characters act with utter horror to the theft of a few of their body cells to grow clones. It is seen as a monstorous invasion of personal identity.

    Here we learn that a huge proportion of the human population of the UK was duplicated without their consent or knowledge and honestly I was suprised by how repelled I was at the idea. Both Osgoods are deeply gung ho about the peace but they have the advantage of full knowledge of what is going on and (crucially) being amongst the key deciders. Everyone else seemingly had no choice at all, and for me it made Osgood’s position far less sympathetic than might have been intended.

    I suppose this gets into philosophical concerns about personal identity and how much our external image is ‘ours’, but while I wouldn’t fire a phaser at the first Zygon I saw I’m surprised at how uncomfortable I am at the ‘peace’.

    • ‘I saw I’m surprised at how uncomfortable I am at the ‘peace’.

      That’s amazing. It’s like District 9 but with more ambiguity.

      It also suggests to me that Doctor Who can’t keep up this inclusiveness act…not forever. It couldn’t even keep up the facade in The Almost people. Aliens and monsters (here and in other shows) are always problematic: You can make them resemble facets of human beings, but those recognizable traits are usually gross ones.

      “I suppose this gets into philosophical concerns about personal identity”

      You’re damned any way to slice it, it seems. At least on Doctor Who and Star Trek, diversity is usually a good thing. In real life, you have the option of inbred nativism, or inviting in agent provocateurs who don’t share your values. People suck!

      • But even Star Trek and Doctor Who have their limits when it comes to diversity. Star Trek’s anxieties about transhumanism or non-humanoid life forms comes to mind. “Different, but not too different.”

    • Those are very good points. I hadn’t really thought about the identity theft and image rights sides of things. I had planned to point out and develop the idea that the most likely reasons that humanity hasn’t broken the peace is because the majority of humanity had no idea that there was a peace to break.

  3. It was about as subtle as the rocket launcher at the end, but a very enjoyable episode, with a sense of genuine tension and raised stakes. As you say, we’ll have to wait till part two to truly see how well executed it is, but hopefully Peter Harness has learned from Kill The Moon’s failings.

    (Incidentally, I still think Kill The Moon could have worked if a) the science had made any sense, and b) they’d had the balls to deliver on that audacious title, i.e. have the moon, regardless of humanity’s decision, go away. This would have left the possibility open for future stories, like perhaps a pollution-themed episode where humanity cobbles together a replacement out of space junk. Basically, hire me, Stephen Moffat!)

    Oh, and second sidenote, I guess: now I really, REALLY wanna watch The Happiness Patrol!

    • I am a big fan of Kill the Moon, despite its problems. (I wouldn’t describe it as the best of the season, but that is just a testament to how fantastic that season was – give or take a Robot of Sherwood, Time Heist or In Forest of the Night.)

      With regard to The Happiness Patrol, it’s an acquired taste. I love it, but I also love Paradise Towers. But I find the Sylvester McCoy era holds up surprisingly well. His final season is one of the best seasons in the history of the show, along with Jon Pertwee’s first, Tom Baker’s second and his last, Christopher Eccleston’s only, David Tennant’s last, and Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s firsts. It segues nicely into the Davies era, because you can tell Davies loved the hell out of it. (He did pitch a script for it and write a novel for Virgin.)

      • “With regard to The Happiness Patrol, it’s an acquired taste. I love it, but I also love Paradise Towers.”

        Consigned. I even love McCullock’s awful score, God help me.

  4. This episode stressed me out. Doctor Who has always forced us to stretch our suspension of disbelief, but this was a little much.

    For one, UNIT was comically inept and terrible at their jobs. These trained, equipped, and armed professional soldiers are completely useless against naked snarling aliens. So much so that they never attempted to defend themselves and were completely wiped out within a day.

    Overall, it was heavy handed and didn’t know what it wanted to be. The premise was shaky at best and the twists and swerves were too numerous, predictable, and all the same. ‘Oh no! That person is also a Zygon!’

    I actually watched this episode when it first aired on television and it was the last new Doctor Who I ever watched. I’ll stick it out this time for the sake of catching up and seeing the new Doctor.

    • Each’s own, but I adored it. Thought it was a little clumsy and messy, but ambitious and engaged in a way that the show really needed to be at the time.

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