Log in

No account? Create an account
16 November 2015 @ 09:17 pm
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion  
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion seems to have been a bit of a marmite story. Some people have loved it and some people have hated it. We really enjoyed it, though it is hard to deny that it owes much of its DNA to the big dumb two parter I have frequently complained of in former seasons.

So to get the bits that didn't work so well out of the way. Like many a big dumb two parter, the story revolves around the invasion (even if this is an invasion from within*) of a classic Doctor Who monster and has at least one eye firmly fixed upon the delivery of action and spectacle as a driver for the story (mostly the spectacle is not too dumb, though the way a bunch of trained UNIT soldiers who are well aware their foe can duplicate their relatives, nevertheless manage not only to fall for the ruse but meekly follow figures who they are well aware could easily be dangerous enemies into an enclosed space is dumb even for a big dumb two parter). Many of the events probably happen simply in order to deliver an image and keep the action moving around. As a result the dots are not necessarily joined as well as they might be - in the The Zygon Invasion there is a strong hint that the death of one Osgood unhinged the other and may have precipitated events, this turns out to be largely irrelevant, arguably not even exploited enough to count as a red herring. The whole business with the two boxes is the kind of elaborate and stupid plan one expects more of a Doctor Who villain than the Doctor himself and it is never explained how the buttons in the box came to be labelled `Truth' and `Consequences' when we are earlier led to believe that the town's significance is a Zygon ploy more than anything else. Lastly, while it is a well-worn trope in this kind of genre TV that a heartfelt conversion to the cause of good not only absolves all sins, but also voids any need to apply the due process of law to investigate your actions, the magical thinking involved in this attitude seemed particularly obvious here, possibly because the story never attempted to make us sympathise with Bonnie's point of view. I'd argue that the lack of any real attempt to sympathetically present her viewpoint is also a weakness when asking us to believe that the Doctor has talked her around (even if he did have to try 15 times).

One the plus side, the structure of the first episode, focused as it is around the reveal of the true extent of the threat works pretty well as a slow build. We were definitely on the edge of our seats and eager for more as the credits rolled. The second episode is more uneven and I was tempted to list it in the minuses but it is structured around the Doctor's monologue to Bonnie and Kate Stewart and I suspect stands or falls on whether you bought into the monologue. To be honest I thought it was excellent, and a demonstration of a great deal of trust in Capaldi's acting - I'm not sure any other actor in the role has been given a sequence like it, where to an extent the show suspends even a nod at realism and allows straightforward dramatic speechifying. I was interested, given NLSS Child had complained of "too much talking about morals" the week before, whether she would have the same complaint here. She did not and I suspect it is all in the delivery. I liked the Osgood character too, which has evolved from something of a stock character (Moffat is fond of his Doctor fangirls) into someone with an agenda of her own and a quietly determined way of pursuing it which contrasts strongly with that other stock character of a "fiesty" women.

The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion also forms a nice coda to Day of the Doctor where the sudden abandonment of the Zygon plot line was probably the story's biggest flaw.

*With its subtext of how one deals with refugees you have settled in your communities whose younger generation radicalise into a fifth column one can't help wondering if it would have been transmitted at all had it been scheduled one two-part slot later in the season.

Despite some great moments though, and good ideas, this is too uneven to become a classic piece of Doctor Who. But it was a welcome break from the sombre tone of the stories around it, and gave a sense that the show was enjoying itself which it has often failed to do of late.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/178588.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on November 16th, 2015 09:59 pm (UTC)
I actually had a marmitey reaction to the story as a whole inasmuch as I didn't like the first episode much, which I felt was clunky and moralistic, whereas the second episode seemed a little more subtle and less preachy, despite the story basically ending with the Doctor preaching. I do feel these type of stories work better when pitched as allegory rather than realism, because in real life you can't end a war by giving a speech.

Thanks for pointing out that Osgood transcends her previous appearances here to become more than just a fangirl, which hadn't really registered with me, but is completely true.
dm12 on November 17th, 2015 12:18 am (UTC)
I have to agree with that, you can't end a war with a pretty speech, and you certainly can't end it with just one person/being agreeing. The fact that the Doctor supposedly has had to do this numerous times before is proof of that. This episode actually may hit a little more home now, unfortunately, with what just happened in France. No pretty speeches are going to end this.... I'm sorry for all the victims of this heinous act, and their families.

As for sympathizing with terrorists, sorry, no can do. Even this story did bring that out in the Doctor's questions. What did they want? War. What do they intend to do once they've won the war, what kind of state/country/world will they build? They don't want that, just war, possibly making everyone exactly like them (no choice for them in the matter). How can one possibly sympathize with that?

Right, I agree about Osgood, though. She has become a strong character with her own agenda now, other than being a Doctor fangirl (and the tables are turned, it seems; she has a fan in the Doctor).

louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 12:27 pm (UTC)
The Doctor's "15 times" line is very ambiguous. I think the most straightforward interpretation is that it takes him 15 attempts to convince Bonnie to change her mind, not that he has had to use the Osgood Box 15 times in the past to suppress Zygon attacks. But either reading is valid.

The parallels with the situation in France do, unfortunately, make the ending seem particularly trite and glib and I'm glad I was able to view the story without those terrible events in mind, because I think it looks tasteless and puerile when placed in close proximity to them.
dm12 on November 18th, 2015 01:59 pm (UTC)
I hate to tell you, but I' sure you are aware that there have been other events before France (and the Russian plane)... and the UN either ignores them or blames the victims when they attempt to defend themselves. And they aren't "one-offs" either. It happens nearly every day. I also doubt the UN will claim "disproportionate use of force" with Russia and France's carpet bombings of ISIS targets, even if they are schools and hospitals (favorite places for terrorists to set up headquarters).

In fact, while everyone was busy mourning over events in France, declaring solidarity, people in Beirut were attacked and no one said a word until they complained. And one country who was declaring solidarity, because they know what it's like to live this every day, was deliberately removed from news reports, even though it was one of the largest rallies in the world in sympathy and support. (Actually, many former French citizens now live there, having come to escape the vicious attacks they were suffering in France; the rest of that population will probably also move out soon.)

The whole problem with war is that you can't do it halfway, sending 50 pairs of boots. Either you go in to win, or don't bother at all. It's a very serious decision to make, it's very messy, and many, many lives will be lost. There is no sanitary, politically correct, way to do it. It's a lot messier than it used to be, where two armies would face off and kill as many of the other side as they could, and it's not even country against country anymore. It's these amorphous groups that excel at hiding amongst civilians and use them as shields. They send women and children out to do heinous things, then squirrel away in hospitals and schools, holding the people inside hostage. Then there is social media, where they spread their vile hatred of everyone not like them and get more people who were keeping thoughts to themselves out in the open.

Social media has become a vital tool for these types. In fact, a study was done after 9/11 about the use of social media and how it affects people's decision making. The results were shocking (or maybe not)! Someone who felt mildly about something would come upon one of these sites, and they would rapidly radicalize their views. The leaders of these sites control very carefully what gets said, so no dissenting opinions are allowed, or they are ripped apart. No one gets the full story, so their opinions are based on half-truths at best, and they reinforce each other.

It's not just terrorists who do this either.... people who tout their "tolerance" do the same thing. They are "tolerant" as long as you agree with them. Just look at all the name-calling that goes on, and no supporting facts. If you don't agree, you're rotten, vile, stupid, idiotic, and worse. No reason why, and when asked for supporting facts, the name-calling continues.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
It is true that these events happen with disturbing regularity and radicalisation was an issue before Friday (obviously, otherwise Doctor Who wouldn't have been attempting to use it thematically), however to show a closely parallel but simplistic story the day after a major such event, in which many people in the country in which it is shown will directly know someone involved, remains more tasteless than to show such a story at a time and place divorced by some distance from such an atrocity. The parallels with Beirut and the Russian Airbus are also less exact - The Zygon Invasion/Inversion was aimed squarely at themes around acceptance of refugees and radicalisation of disenfranchised youth - where the situation surrounding the Beirut bombings and Sharm el-Sheikh is similar, but different, and the parallel less exact.

I'm not denying that reporting is uneven. There has been a great deal of discussion of this, in fact, and I can point you to some links if you are interested. But I think there were particularly close parallels to Paris here, partly because the discussion and situations prior to the bombings in both France and the UK had many similarities, and the bombings have contributed to the intensity of those discussions and it is the UK context that is reflected in Doctor Who which would have made showing The Zygon Invasion/Inversion particularly problematic in that moment.

I'm also absolutely not trying to say that the solution offered by the Doctor Who story was anything but grossly simplistic, in fact, my argument is completely the opposite. Hence why I describe it as things like puerile and trivial.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 12:23 pm (UTC)
I think Doctor Who has a general problem of presenting simple solutions to complex problems. It often gets away with it, either because events over-take the Doctor and simplify the situation for him (by disposing of one faction in whole or part) or by setting the action on another world where we are less aware of the nuance. Here though the Doctor has created and is attempting to maintain a deeply complicated situation and the lack of easy solutions is very apparent.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on November 18th, 2015 04:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, completely. That's partly a function of its format (family adventure story), but also because it wants to deal with serious topics and then sometimes over-extends itself. I don't think that means shying away from serious issues, but it does need to be careful. Of course, the whole situation in France has just made this more obvious.
a_cubeda_cubed on November 18th, 2015 02:12 am (UTC)
I finally caught up with the second part of this one - still behind as I've got the next episode to watch.

I think the Osgood solution would have been a great method for giving Clara a reason to stop accompanying the doctor. Much like Martha, she would then have been available for Earth-based stories again in future.

I agree that on balance this has some great moments, but doesn7t really hang together in total. But, still so much better than the Silurians episodes with Matt Smith. At least in that one you had a warmonger and a peacemaker from the same species dealing with the struggle themselves. Pity they've never really dealt with the hangover from that one of "where are the Silurians in these far future human empires?".
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC)
The show's PR is hinting heavily at some kind of catastrophe befalling Clara (though, its done this kind of bait and switch with companion departures before so it doesn't necessarily signify), but I also feel that becoming a UNIT consultant and having her own independent adventures would be a particularly fitting departure for her.

It's much better than the Silurian episode (probably its closest counterpart in NuWho), I agree.
dm12 on November 18th, 2015 02:10 pm (UTC)
Well, people are really commenting on this one, on how there is no easy solution, and it was just unrealistic to expect everyone to stand down in one second like that. At least, in "Day of the Doctor," I think all of the Zygons were there for the negotiations, because there weren't that many. I'm still not quite sure how a few Zygons suddenly became 20 million (was that the right number?). Did they have lots of little Zygons, or were there that many who survived the destruction of their world in the Time Wars? There are a lot of questions on this...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
I think this comment may be intended in reply to something different. I doesn't seem relevant to Clara.

However, as I said above, I'm absolutely not denying that the solution seems over-simplistic. Really, honestly, I'm not. I'm slightly perturbed that you think I am.
dm12 on November 18th, 2015 02:31 pm (UTC)
Not you, just observing in general, about the news reporting. I was agreeing with you that it was a very simplistic way to approach it, and why. Sorry if you thought otherwise. This comment here was in response to the Silurian episode vs. this one. It seems commenting was high on this one; a good result, actually, that people are talking now. It's precisely because the situation hit home.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on November 18th, 2015 02:57 pm (UTC)
I see.

I think the comparison to The Hungry Earth/In Cold Blood is both valid and interesting, so I don't have any problem with a_cubed bringing it up. I think he also has a point that having two members of the same species represent both sides of the debate (war vs. peace/revenge vs. tolerance) had the potential for a more nuanced treatment (and I also agree its a shame the show hasn't depicted Silurians in future Earth settings). It's a shame that the Silurian story is basically just not very good otherwise I might have had more to say in reply to him beyond "I agree with everything you say" which I pretty much do.