Happy Halloween and here we are with another Doctor Who review.
Before we start let’s get this out of the way. Ya the writer of this was the writer of the jawbreaker of shit that was Kill the Moon, an episode that botched science and ethics so badly it’s incredible. Admittedly the episode does have a divided opinion amongst people, kind of making it like the Man of Steel of Doctor Who, but I figured I should state my view on the manner so that it’s clear. Despite the crappiness of the episode however I decided I wasn’t going to hold it against Peter Harness who has apparently done some pretty decent work outside of Doctor Who. Plus just because someone writes a bad story doesn’t mean they can’t bounce back with a strong entry, call it the Helen Raynor effect. And overall it looks like this could very well be the hit that Harness needed at this point even if isn’t a classic at this point.
This story is of course a follow-up to the Zygon-based events of The Day of the Doctor. A lot of people complained about the lack of conclusion in regards to that sub-plot in that story however I find that I’m cool with it since the story at that point was more about the Doctor and how the humans and the Zygons were going to get along afterwards was really besides the point. I mean the main reason they were their story-wise was to provide something for the Doctors to deal with and allow them to interact with one another, provide fan-service and also help the main story with them providing a face-changing allegory to the Doctor as well as the “cup-o-soup” solution. However, it was by no means a bad idea to have a follow-up to this story as there was obviously a lot of potential one could have to play around with such an idea as Zygons on Earth. Plus those Zygons suits can’t have been cheap so using them for another story makes sense. As a result this story’s existence was going to make a lot of people happy just on general principle.
Of course also returning is Osgood (or the Osgoods) who is overall a pretty likeable presence mainly thanks to Ingrid Oliver and definitely memorable for those fan-service outfits (which are less sexual than they may sound lol). There was some speculation that she could be a companion someday and after some thinking I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to the idea as having a fan and a scientist travelling around with the Doc could provide an interesting perspective. Of course their was the question of how she was going to return given that Missy kind of killed her that one time. The obvious answer to that was the Zygon duplicate that could provide a way out. The episode does interestingly still manage to have that death still matter though since it is not only unclear (at this point) which version died but also that in either case it left the other Osgood kind of bummed out (which incidentally also explains why we didn’t see her in Magician’s Apprentice)
We also get the brief return of the UNIT lady that was hanging out with Kate at the beginning of The Magician’s Apprentice. Overall she was a likeable person in an oddly understated way and her return here made me appreciate it more. Unfortunately it seems that she has been killed off and I doubt the power of the fandom nor any spare Zygons are going to be able to bring her back. Kate is there as well and she is still as competent as ever. Though hopefully she’ll have more to do in the second part (cause I highly doubt that she’s dead as evil Clara seems to exist whether I saw that trailer or not). I think one of the problems with Kate so far is that we rarely get to see her do anything that isn’t related to some kind of crisis. One of the benefits of the Third Doctor era is that we managed to have the Doc and the Brig hang out in some more low-key situations which allowed us to see a different side to that relationship and the characters. Unfortunately we don’t really get to see that with Kate so far as she’s usually dealing with some crap. It might be nice to have a scene in an episode where she with or without the Doctor isn’t really up to much (or we can at least hope that her Big Finish audios will provide that).
Regardless of anything one strength of this episode is that is has a very different feel to some other recent stories. It was described as a political thriller of sorts when people were discussing the episode before the broadcast and that’s pretty apt. The darker tone in general is also a nice change of pace with a feeling of dread from the crappiness of this situation. They also resorted to that old chestnut of having creepiness surrounding children which the show is oft to do and it works fairly well. And having those Zygons convincing you to feel bad that you tried to kill them is pretty effective (even if the guy falling prey to his fake mom is a tad silly) I also liked the New Mexico setting as it was a fairly refreshing setting. Though I have to say the name of the town/city is a little silly as I doubt I’ve seen a town in the world actually have an “or” in the name (feel free to mention any if they exist) and it felt kind of forced to get that meme in there. It also seemed like some of the accents were a bit dodgy. Where’s Mark Sheppard when you need him? (probably being the King of Hell somewhere).
EDIT: Apparently T or C is an actual place. Sorry guys.
As a whole the writing was alright. Clara seemed a little off but that makes more sense given what we learn later. I have to admit to being a little confused as to how many Zygons were actually supposed to be part of this gang of evil. Also when exactly the Zygons learned who they were is also an appropriate question as well as the fact that you’d think they would have had better precautions when it came to training the young Zygons. Overall the writing isn’t bad but it also isn’t particular spectacular either, it probably didn’t help that the Doctor wasn’t exactly up to much in this one. However, things do take a turn for the awesome when it turns out that Clara was a Zygon this whole time. Sure you could kind of see it coming by the time that factoid about them not needing the hosts was brought up and not long after we cut back to Clara and UNIT lady but it was still pretty effective. It’s good to see Jenna Coleman in a villain role and it will be fun to see.
So overall this was a pretty solid first part. Not the absolute best but it did at least manage to avoid some of the major mistakes of some of recent stories this season. So we can at least give Harness a thumbs up for this one and hope that the second part is pretty good too.