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Recap / Doctor Who S35 E7 "The Zygon Invasion"

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The Zygon Invasion
It took three Doctors to pacify the Zygons before. Now we need a fourth one to come finish the job. After all, there's four edges to every box- three to give it shape and one more to balance it all out.
Click here to see the Radio Times magazine poster for this episode:
Written by Peter Harness
Directed by Daniel Nettheim
Air date: 31 October 2015
Part 1 of 2

"Operation Double is a covert operation, outside of normal UNIT structures, to resettle and rehouse an alien race, in secrecy, on planet Earth."
The Osgoods

The one where Osgood is or isn't back.

Why all the ambiguity? Because screw logic, she's popular and that's all the rationale/excuse we need to bring her back.

A long time ago, the Doctor negotiated peace between humans and Zygons under the Tower of London. As a result of that peace treaty, there are now 20 million Zygons on Earth, living among the humans. It's a tense situation by any measure, and the peace has just broken. Osgood, the UNIT scientist and symbol of the peace, just sent him a message: "NIGHTMARE SCENARIO".

Clara arrives at her building and checks her phone to discover she has over 120 messages from the Doctor. Bemused, she starts to listen to the first one when she's distracted by a child crying on the steps. He can't find his parents, so she enters his flat and finds them. Everything's okay. She calls the Doctor back, wanting to know why he sent her so many messages.

The Doctor is at a park, trying to catch the Zygon commanders, who are posing as a pair of blonde twin girls going to primary school. They don't believe he needs to interfere — and then the Zygon rebels attack and abduct them.

Clara and the Doctor link up with UNIT, and the problem is laid bare: the peace with the Zygons is breaking down. Osgood, the survivor, who won't tell anyone whether she's the human or the Zygon, is being held captive by the Zygon rebels. They sent a video. Actually, they sent two videos, the second showing the Zygon commanders being executed for perceived "treason". And, the Zygon rebels have taken over a village in Turmezistan that they're using as a training camp.

The Doctor, who enjoys "poncing about in a big plane", flies off to Central Asia to try and negotiate, while Clara stays behind in Britain to try and stop the rebels. And Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is off to America to visit the town where Osgood was last seen. But all is not as it seems...


  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted with the Zygons. The Osgoods are quick to point out that every species is capable of good and evil, and that most Zygons just want to live in peace. But once the Zygon radicals take over the race, UNIT declares each Zygon equally guilty and is prepared to kill all of them.
    Osgood 1: Every race is peaceful and warlike.
    Osgood 2: Good and evil.
    Osgood 1: My race is no exception.
    Osgood 2: And neither is mine.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: The Doctor happens to be strumming this on his guitar when he receives the call from Osgood.
  • Angsty Surviving Twin: We're told the surviving Osgood took Missy's murder of her "sister" very hard. The episode seems to ignore that Osgood already has a biological sister, mentioned but never shown.
  • Arc Words:
    • The surviving Osgood's situation (she regards herself as both human and Zygon) is remarked upon as her being "a hybrid" by the Doctor. Previously we had the Gallifreyan prophecy of a hybrid warrior, Missy claiming that putting Clara in a Dalek shell was a way of illustrating to him that "everyone's a hybrid" of friend and foe, and Ashildr/Lady Me becoming a human-Mire hybrid.
    • The word "story" and storytelling have provided a subtle arc this season, and this episode opens with the classic line "Once Upon a Time..."
  • Artistic License – Geography: The New Mexico policewoman has several Italian flags on her uniform, presumably the result of a double mistake. The Italian flag looks very much like the Mexican flag - which wouldn't have been right either, because New Mexico is in the United States.
  • Back from the Dead: Subverted with Osgood. There have been two since "The Day of the Doctor" and the one that Missy killed really is dead, but the surviving Osgood is the only one who knows which one that was.
  • Big Bad: Bonnie, the leader of the rebel Zygons.
  • Body Horror: Victims of the Zygons have their corpses rendered as balls of fluff.
  • Cliffhanger: Clara's Zygon double, Bonnie, informs the Doctor that Clara and Kate are dead, confirming that the Zygons effectively control the U.K. now, and fires upon the Doctor's incoming plane with a rocket launcher. This episode does not have a Next Time trailer, just end credits, and the promo for "The Zygon Inversion" focuses on the Zygons' Evil Scheme, thus preserving suspense as to how the Doctor and Osgood will escape a firey fate and whether Clara and/or Kate are really dead.
  • Call-Back: This episode finally gives viewers the nature, end result, and consequences of the resolution to the secondary plot of "The Day of the Doctor", which wasn't shown onscreen. The peace brokered between the two Kates was happening in the background, and the episode shifted back to the issue with the Moment not a few seconds after it started.
  • Capture and Replicate: The Zygons still do this, with the added twist that they now only need to do it if they need information from the original. It's revealed at the end that this happened to Clara.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Osgood has question marks on her collar (with a brownish cardigan that invokes the looks of the Fifth and Seventh Doctors), and notes that the Doctor similarly had some as part of his outfit.
    • The other Osgood sports a Seventh Doctor-style pullover.
    • Kate mentions the Zygons' original invasion attempt in the '70s (or was it the '80s?), along with an unnamed mention of Harry Sullivan, who took part in that serial.
    • The UNIT safehouse has a picture of the First Doctor on the wall.
    • The Doctor's attempt to overawe Colonel Walsh with his status as President of Earth gets the same unimpressed response Harriet Jones always got when she reminded people she was Prime Minister in "The Christmas Invasion" and "The Stolen Earth"; "Yes, I know who you are."
  • Creepy Twins: The Zygon commanders take the form of two similar blonde children. The creepiness is when they stop pretending to be children.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: With its second part, "The Zygon Inversion".
  • Disintegrator Ray: Zygons are capable of using the bolts of electricity shot from their hands to disintegrate humans and other Zygons into piles of hair and skin.
  • The Dividual: The Osgoods, to the point that even after one was killed, no-one knows which one the survivor is.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • A lot of what is said about the Zygon settlers and the radical faction echoes the real-life discourse about immigrants and Middle Eastern terrorism, as well as Islamophobia. For extra points, Kate's share of the episode occurs on the Mexico-USA border, which has its own share of immigration issues.
    • The rogue Zygon videos reek of the terrorist ISIS videos, which consist of prisoners reading out the agenda of the terrorists. In addition to that their flag also bears a passing resemblance to the ISIS flag, and their plot involves radicalizing "British-born Zygons".
    • Colonel Walsh's description of the Zygon-occupied village uses familiar talking points about terrorist encampments: "training camp", "we're not sure how many there are because they only let themselves be seen a few at a time".
    • The issue of all the Zygons having no jobs or money echoes the Syrian refugee crisis, and also the immigration problems of the U.S. south border (appropriately, the phrase is told by a New Mexico law enforcement agent).
    • The Doctor's tongue-in-cheek comment that revealing the Zygon presence would never work in the U.K. because "they'll think you're going to pinch their benefits" comes very close to making the subtext into text.
    • The Zygon Rebels' desire to be able to live as Zygons without having to pretend to be human mirrors the complaints of Muslim and Jewish immigrants to France, who are required by law to assimilate into French society and not wear religiously mandated clothing in public.
    • The Zygon rebels also have some eerie parallels to Moscow-backed rebels in east Ukraine. Bonnie stealing a missile launcher and downing a UNIT aircraft (which looks like an airliner) is chillingly similar to said rebels downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014 with a probably stolen missile launcher.
  • Dramatic Wind: Kate's arrival in Truth or Consequences is accompanied by tumbleweed (or is it tumbleweed?) rolling through the streets.
  • Evil Costume Switch: When Bonnie is impersonating Clara she ties her hair back.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the Zygon base, Clara uncovers one of the pods and reveals a copy of herself inside. She claims they're growing a duplicate of her and UNIT needs to destroy it. Jac protests that this doesn't make sense; Zygons don't grow duplicates, they shapeshift and store the original to... Oh, Crap!
  • Foreshadowing: After the events of "Terror of the Zygons", UNIT developed a nerve gas that can easily wipe out the aliens — but "someone with a TARDIS" stole it (i.e. the Doctor, who doesn't care for genocide to put it mildly). Kate describes the gas as able to effectively turn Zygons inside-out... inverting them. Now, what's the title of the next episode?
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • If you look carefully, you can see a picture of Missy on Truth or Consequences' wall of British Murderers.
    • When Kate is exploring the town of Truth or Consequences she stands next to a bulletin board with a poster for a jazz festival that promises Music! Chainsaw juggling! Nice! Random Tootling!
  • Freudian Excuse: The source of the radical Zygons' grievances came from an incident in New Mexico that broke the masquerade.
    Zygon Sheriff: Somebody once caught the briefest of glimpses of [us] in [our] proper form. A child... who hadn't learned to preserve its body print... who had been left alone to learn these things for itself. And then word went round these primitives... that we were monsters.
  • Funny Background Event: Watch Clara closely in the scene where the Doctor boards the presidential plane and gives the Nixon salute. Off to the left of the shot, Clara is shown giving a slight salute — and then the actress clearly sneezes and then continues the scene without missing a beat. Made even funnier if you remember the fact that this is actually supposed to be the episode's big bad in disguise.
  • General Ripper: Colonel Walsh wants to bomb the Zygon town, regardless if there are any human prisoners. In fact, she decides to bomb the town while the Doctor is still there!
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Nightmare Scenario, whereupon the mysterious Osgood Box may be opened to stop the crisis.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: When Osgood points out that the Doctor used to wear question marks, he claims that he now wears them on his underwear. This being the Doctor, one may wish to take this with a pinch of salt.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The scene cuts away before the Zygon kills Kate, and there's no shot of a electrified pile of ash when the Zygon picks up the communicator and contacts Bonnie... or should that be Kate picks up the communicator and claims to be a Zygon? Tune in next week for answers...
  • I Am the Noun: Osgood says "I am the peace." She sees herself as the embodiment of the peace treaty, being the same person doubled. While her double was still alive, they refused any attempt to identify which was which, and even when she's only one, Osgood won't tell.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Peter Capaldi's The Thick of It co-star Rebecca Front plays Col. Wash.
  • The Idealist: The Doctor still hopes he can salvage the peace treaty, which is something UNIT isn't in any mood to do because they are more cynical.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The UNIT soldiers grab it firmly when it comes to dealing with a race they not only know for a fact can shapeshift, but have been shown to already having used the trick of disguising themselves as loved ones. The squad leader in the Zygon village takes the cake. Despite his "mother" failing to answer even the most basic questions about his life, he still leads his entire squad to their deaths.
    • Most of UNIT seem to have it superglued to them throughout the episode. From Kate turning up in a potentially hostile situation alone, failing to recognise the obvious Zygon signs (when she already knows what the sign means) and not even bothering to draw her gun when confronted by a slow-moving Zygon, who takes the time to reveal itself, give a short monologue then change. To not even one of over two dozen heavily armoured soldiers considering fighting back, when they get ambushed by around eight Zygons despite them spending a whole minute doing nothing but standing around and looking intimidating.
  • Internal Homage: Kate wants to bomb the entire Zygon settlement in order to stop the uprising, much like her father did with the Silurians. Like father, like daughter.
  • It Has Only Just Begun: The captured Zygon says to the Doctor that the revolution cannot be stopped.
  • Klingon Promotion: The rogue Zygons kill the commanders and then declare themselves to be the Zygon High Command.
  • Literal Metaphor: Bonnie tells the Doctor "you're breaking up" over the phone, right before trying to shoot down his plane with a rocket launcher.
  • Lured into a Trap: Bonnie, masquerading as Clara, shows all the remaining UNIT soldiers where the humans are being kept, so the Zygons can vapourize the lot of them.
  • Malaproper: The Doctor says the Zygon control computer is operated by "titivating the fronds", a line the writer presumably intended to sound amusingly suggestive. But titivating means "to make minor enhancements to" or, more colloqually, "to tidy up". As a result, it's debatable whether the line even makes sense.
  • Meta Twist: Some reviewers have noted that the twist with Clara being a Zygon is oddly helped along by her inconsistent characterization across her time on the show making it easier to dismiss her colder personality here.
  • Militaries Are Useless: UNIT soldiers with readied weapons are massacred by badly botched ambushes; if they had fired instead of freezing in terror they could easily have won the fight while the Zygons were still standing around and posing. Keep in mind the Zygons are one of the few Whoniverse races who aren't remotely Immune to Bullets.
  • Mind Screw: The Zygons use their shapeshifting ability to mess with UNIT by transforming themselves into their loved ones.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Zygons have previously exhibited the ability to shapeshift permanently into their current form if the original dies in the Big Finish continuity.
    • The Doctor wearing question marks on his underwear was previously shown in the comic strips.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Zygons can now vaporize organic beings into dust and scraps with electric beams, an ability that seems taken straight from the Silents.note  Where they got that ability and why it had never been used before (where it would have been very handy in their previous appearances) isn't explained.
  • Number Two: Clara continues to be this to the Doctor as he leaves her with a specific mission to do with UNIT as he crosses the planet to take care of another aspect of the scenario.
  • Oh, Crap!: The general reaction Jac, the Doctor, and Kate have when it turns out that Clara and the sheriff are actually Zygon doubles.
  • Once More, with Clarity: When it's revealed that "Clara" has actually been a Zygon for most of the episode, we are shown the full details of what actually happened when she went into that little boy's flat.
  • Once Upon a Time: This appears as text at the top of the episode as the Zygon subplot of "The Day of the Doctor" is recapped.
  • The One Guy: Aside from the Doctor, every major character is female.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Though the twist with Clara actually being a disguised Bonnie for most of the episode is hidden well, there are some subtler hints that something's not right from the outset. For one, after Clara confronts a Zygon in the flat of a boy scared about his parents, we see her nonchalantly walk out of the flat in the next scene. The boy is nowhere to be seen, Clara doesn't show any worry for him anymore, she makes a joke about the Doctor using the name "Doctor Disco" and she ties her hair back into a short ponytail before leaving the building. Her decision to leave is all the weirder when you realise she had just apparently come home and was going to her own flat. A further clue is later when "Clara" orders a group of UNIT soldiers to kill the Zygons in the pods. This plays with audience expectations as earlier in the season we do see Clara prepared to order UNIT snipers to end Missy, and the idea of Clara becoming more like the Doctor has been an underlying theme. Yet even so, the notion that Clara would coldly order troops to slaughter unarmed targets is OOC enough to telegraph that all is not as it seems. Especially since that is not something the Doctor would ever consider ordering.
  • Pacifism Backfire: The treaty the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors organized between UNIT and the Zygons has gone to hell. The Osgoods state in the opening that 20 million shapeshifters dispersed throughout the world of 7 billion humans and a ceasefire that could break if any one of them goes rogue is "the Nightmare Scenario".
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Zygon leadership was unwilling to to tell UNIT anything about the brewing crisis, much to Kate's chagrin. It cost them their lives and has escalated the situation to a full-blown insurgency.
  • Properly Paranoid: As Colonel Walsh tells the Doctor, "It's not paranoia if it's real." When the Zygons can copy anyone, she has every right to be paranoid about it.
  • Qurac: The militant Zygons have occupied a small town in the fictitious central Asian republic of "Turmezistan".note 
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Zygon revolt is led by a group of "radical" young ones who seek the "right" to live on Earth without having to hide in human form.
  • The Reveal:
    • How can Osgood be alive after Missy killed her? Simple, Osgood and Zygon Osgood both developed a strong bond to be the embodiment of the Human-Zygon peace, and they both became Osgood considering themselves to be human and Zygon.
    • Clara was kidnapped by the Zygons when she tried to help the boy at her apartment building in her first sequence; Bonnie took her place to infiltrate UNIT. Clara is currently imprisoned underground in London; Bonnie tells the Doctor she's dead in the Cliffhanger, but who says that's the truth?
  • Rewatch Bonus: Several things Clara does that seem like innocent curiosity (asking Kate about UNIT troops and weapons) or convenient coincidence (knowing the significance of "Truth or Consequences", happening by at the right moment to follow the Zygon kidnappers to their underground base) take on new significance when watched with the knowledge that she's a Zygon impostor luring UNIT into a trap.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Clara's voicemail message says she's "probably on the tube or in outer space."
  • Sequel Episode: To "The Day of the Doctor" and "Terror of the Zygons". The peace treaty from the former and the nerve gas from the later set the stage. Also, "Death in Heaven" is relevant because the ceasefire didn't start to break down until one of the Osgoods was killed by Missy.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: The Zygons take the form of loved ones to keep the soldiers from shooting them, claiming they were taken hostage.
  • Shapeshifting: The Zygons all possess the ability to copy human forms.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Zygon commander girls are wearing Monster High and Cinderella backpacks. The Doctor even refers to them by those names.
    • The Doctor refers to himself as Doctor Funkenstein.
    • The Doctor's rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the beginning is pure Jimi.
  • Sigil Spam: The Zygons paint their emblem all over the places they've conquered.
  • Something Only They Would Say: The soldier tries it with what appears to be his mother. She doesn't answer any of them and instead lays it on thick with a generic emotional appeal. He still follows her inside.
  • Spot the Imposter: Attempted, but failed; when the Doctor claims that Osgood must be the human, since she would need a psychic link to maintain her form were she a Zygon, Osgood counters that they've since learned to hold their forms even after the death of the original.
  • Stealth Pun: The rogue Zygons claim they want the right to use their true forms. That is, to let Zygons be Zygons.
  • Stock Footage: Footage from "The Day of the Doctor", featuring the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (accompanied by War) is shown, recapping the Zygon subplot in that episode as well as the peace treaty between the Zygons and UNIT.
  • They Walk Among Us: After the last time the Zygons tried to invade Earth, an operation was put into place that allowed 20 million Zygons to live on Earth disguised as humans.
  • This Means War!: Kate is understandably ready to hang the treaty and declare open war on the Zygons after a number of murders occur.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: Bonnie, the Zygon extremist commander who impersonates Clara, is a striking contrast to previous Zygon antagonists who have had hard-edged alien names like "Broton". It's mentioned that the extremists are from the younger generation who were hatched after the Zygons settled on Earth and adopted human customs to fit in. Still, why this particular name was chosen rather than, perhaps, Bonnie adopting another name or simply calling herself Clara is unclear.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The soldiers, knowing full well that Zygons are shapeshifters, refuse to fire on the ones who take on the forms of their loved ones, even after they refuse to answer things they'd know. The predictable happens when the soldiers are stupid enough to follow them.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Zygons no longer need to keep a human alive if they wish to impersonate them note .
  • Tunnel Network: The Zygons have one under London where they store those they have kidnapped.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The UST between the Doctor and Clara is in evidence during their brief time on screen together, however given this isn't the real Clara, the veracity of the UST in this case is suspect.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out which Osgood Missy killed, and the surviving Osgood refuses to reveal if she's Zygon or human.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Zygons want to live as themselves, without disguises, and for that they're willing to kidnap, kill and start a war.
  • With Catlike Tread: The Doctor lectures Clara on the need for secrecy and stealth over the phone, then climbs over a playground set to harass a pair of twin girls.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Zygons disguise themselves as refugees (including the leader's mother) and beg the squad for mercy. Despite all signs pointing to them being deadly Zygons, the squad falls for their deception and are promptly murdered for it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Walsh just disappears after leaving the Doctor behind in the church. It's assumed she was the one who ordered the air strike before she said she would, but we never see the Doctor confront her about it and she isn't seen or mentioned again in this episode or the next one.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The discovery that Clara is in one of the Zygon pods underground... and if she's in a pod, then who's the person we've been following all episode?
    • The evil look on "Clara"'s face when it turns out she is really a Zygon.
  • You Are Too Late: When the Doctor tells the captured Zygon that they can't take over the U.K., the Zygon boasts that they already have — confirmed soon afterward when he gets the call from Bonnie, who's preparing to shoot down his plane!