Critiquing Capaldi: “The Zygon Invasion”

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I’ve always been somebody who has believed in second chances. I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone on one particular incident. We’re all humans, we all make mistakes, we all mess up sometimes. If people weren’t kind enough to give me second chances when I screw up (which is fairly regularly) I’d probably be friendless. Chances and forgiveness are what makes the world function in my opinion, and the world would be an even shittier place without them.

However, the whole purpose of a second chance is to learn from the mistakes you made last time. Now, while I also believe that quality is a lot of the time in the eye of the beholder and that there are probably very good reasons to like Kill the Moon even if I don’t, I think it would be hard to describe it as flawless. Now, again I believe that nothing is completely flawless, there’s always room for improvement, big or microscopic, but I would have to see a doctorate level analysis arguing that it was a perfect story to believe it. Kill the Moon’s major flaw, (and the reason why a lot of the other elements sucked, in my opinion at least), was that it tried to do far too much at once.

The Zygon Invasion is exactly the same. Instead of trying to have a few ideas and tones and executing them well, Harness is yet again throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks and has proven yet again that although he knows what makes a good Who story, he hasn’t a clue on how to actually tell one.

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To be honest, there is quite a lot to like here, and probably more aspects to like than Kill the Moon. The story’s best aspect, in my opinion, is what it does with Osgood. It’s no secret that I’m a rather big fan of Osgood. While I wouldn’t exactly call her a compelling character, and can completely understand criticisms of her, I’ve always found her rather sweet and likeable, and have always found Ingrid Oliver to be wonderfully charming in her performance. However, this story does make her feel more like a three-dimensional human being, and she’s given some great development, with Oliver giving a strong performance. Before it gets ruined by the hammiest Zygon out there, the scene with her and Twelve on the plane is excellent, and Harness provides some good characterisation for both characters.

Kate is also really good here as well. I’ve always liked Kate Stewart, but my main problem with her is that while she is a good character, she hasn’t really felt like her won yet. She mentions in the Power of Three that she dropped Lethbridge as she didn’t want any favours, and then proceeds to mention the Brig half a dozen times in every scene she’s in. Doesn’t quite add up. Here, though, she doesn’t mention him once I don’t think, and instead, is portrayed as “Kate” rather than “The Brigadier’s Daughter”. She has some great badass scenes with Jemma Redgrave giving a fantastic performance.

If there is one thing I do like here, is how Harness does write his women, as strong, brilliant characters. It sucks that this is praised nowadays rather than just expected in a way, but it’s always nice to see. Neither Clara, Kate, Osgood, or Jaq (who is great, and is missed greatly by me, as Jaye Griffiths is a fantastic character actress) are objectified or feel weak. This is a very feminist show, it is the women here who do the badass things, and it’s great.

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The Zygon Invasion’s main problem, as I have already mentioned, though, is that it tries to do too much at once. It tries to be a Pertwee era style political thriller, a moral dilemma, a character piece, a standard monster-of-the-week story and has more subplots than I’ve had hot dinners. I honestly can’t really follow a single thing which is going on in this story at times. While the constant switching between locations does make this story feel like a global thriller in some regards, it asks too much from the audience and is confusing as hell. That, and for a thriller, it’s not very exciting at all. Rather boring for the most part really. The pacing is far too slow, the direction isn’t particularly interesting, and it honestly feels like it could be an hour long rather than 45 minutes. By the time it ends, far too much has happened, that I’m not even sure on what I have watched exactly.

This is also one of the episodes of Doctor Who where I feel like this is a show I’m watching, rather than I’m part of the adventure. A lot of this is just down to dumb writing, the church scene springing to mind instantly. Yes, I can understand that you wouldn’t want to kill a creature which looked like your mother, but anybody with any commons sense would have retreated instantly. That death was so avoidable, it was beyond silly, and it is executed in a way which tries, but fails miserably, to extract tension from the audience.

Other criticisms: Firstly, this one is rather predictable. All of the Zygon reveals can be seen for miles off, and none of them really do anything for me on re-watch. Secondly, Twelve’s characterisation varies. Sometimes he’s great, but at others, I think Harness has mistaken “a lighter doctor” to almost a complete buffoon. Also, Rebecca Front is wasted. Great actress, and I enjoy her here, but we could have seen more of her.

Overall: It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly brilliant either. A decent story, nothing more, nothing less.

Previous score: 7
New score: 6

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