I think alien invasion episodes are the bread-and-butter of the Doctor Who universe (outside of a thousand stories set in Victorian London, that is). From subversive takes like the Empty Child to straight invasion episode like, um, The Christmas Invasion, it seems as if Earth is never free from the intergalactic scourges who want to take over the planet. Maybe the real estate is cheap or something.
Either way, I’ve always enjoyed alien invasion episodes because there’s something inherently cool about seeing a world I know completely changed by whatever alien race is after us this week. They usually fall into a pretty predictable formula, but one that never grows old- U.N.I.T figures out aliens are invading, they ring up the Doctor, and they launch a counter-strike against Earth’s new visitors. The use of the ever-welcome U.N.I.T saves them the bother of expanding on one-episode tertiary characters and lets the focus fall entirely on the plot, and, in the Capaldi years, the Doctor gets to ponce around in an plane and play at be being president of Earth.
After a seriously wobbly two-parter, this season seems to have settled down a bit with The Zygon Invasion. It’s not a mind-buggeringly amazing outing or anything, but it just about holds it’s nerve, as a peace treaty with the Zygons falls to pieces and U.N.I.T braces itself to save the world once again. Aside from the fact the entire premise for the episode is based on a plot hole- why would they try to integrate the Zygons into the human race, after they’d tried to invade the planet twice already?- it’s difficult to fault this week’s tight, globe-trotting adventure
Jenna Coleman gets her first really notable performance of the season-seriously, this is the most relevant she’s been to the plot in about a year-and reminds me why I did love her so much all those distant seasons ago. And Capaldi looks like he’s having a ball prancing around the world on U.N.I.T’s arm, even though someone in the screenwriting team obviously REALLY LIKES the guitar gag and just doesn’t want to let it die. And I’ll never turn down a chance to hang out with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and company- the ever favorite Osgood(can we just make her the doctors companion already?).
The Zygons, still looking like the most menacing play-doh models in history, are always a welcome villain because of their shape-shifting abilities. The show managed to eke some legitimate pathos out of the Zygons torturing people with the images of their own family , and it’s always fun to have retro villains lumbering around the modern Who universe.
Overall, this episode does have a very creative side to it and is full of cliffhangers due to every character being in their own predicament and I do mean every character- from The Doctor to Clara to The Brigadier’s late daughter to Osgood and so on, Harness does do a very good job of developing and delivering all of these cliffhangers towards the end of the episode and makes you wonder how you can possibly wait until next week to find out what happens!
PS: Why so many two parters?