I watched with bated breath for how series 9 would do the whole invasion thing. Personally speaking, nothing can ever beat the excitement and stunning coup that was ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ and crucially, ‘The Day of the Moon’ from series 6. The Doctor squaring up to The Silence, River at hand to blow them away, all to the greatest song Murray Gold has produced, ‘The Majestic Tale (Of a Madman in a Box)’, was a riveting, impressive and never held back two-parter that was truly the zenith of the new-Who era.
So no pressure.
With surprise, this week’s outing was effective as a science-fiction story and as a new-Who’s first, explicit foray into political commentary. Zygons, who look like us and are hidden among the general population with a splinter cell posing a threat and a military that wants to blow them away does not take much deducing. Yet what was unexpected was that despite the obvious allusions by Peter Harness to today´s politics, it works. It’s interesting and an effective story that brilliantly illustrates the woefully simplified ‘one is bad, all is probably bad’ approach of government to combatting Islamic extremism without compromising the speed and agility of this being a good Doctor Who story.
What is striking is that it feels like a truly global episode. Normally you have your standard shots of a few iconic landmarks to give you context and that’s it. I’m not sure where it was filmed. I don’t care. What I will say is that it felt like it was roaming round Eastern Europe, that there was real distance involved and it was isolating, lonesome and added a new dimension to a show that has instantaneous space and time travel at its centre. The directing by Daniel Nettheim was a real accomplishment.
News has broken that Peter Capaldi is staying for another season. And not a moment too soon. Seven episodes in and he has come into his own as the not-too-grumpy, sarcastic and off-beat Doctor that his acting calibre adds real fire to. Jenna Coleman leaving might not be a bad thing, her story has become stale as often happens with impending departure. The welcome return of Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) ignites the old love of speculating about who will comes next, and I’m not guilty now to admit that having been introduced as the next companion as far back 2012, it’s time for a change.
Doctor Disco, the oddness and coyness and unnerving strategy of an enemy that might be described as quintessentially over-the-top are some of the accomplishments of an episode that successfully meshes terror, quirkiness and a cracking yarn. Classic Who then, in the best way.
Perhaps this is apt. Even if Clara turning out to be a duplicate was a little clichéd, it felt like an old cliffhanger. There was even a portrait of the First Doctor on the wall of the UNIT safe house in addition to a flashback with the War, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. We even get a line about question mark underpants.
On a closing note it’s worth saying that I’ve stayed mostly quiet about Malcolm Tucker being in Doctor Who, even when Ollie (Chris Addison) made an appearance. That said, who didn’t crack a smile when a gentle Doctor was dealing with Nicola Murray (Rebecca Front)? Would a ‘we’re in The Thick of It’ now reference been too much? There’s always next week.
PS: Before the Zygons were redeemed by ‘The Day of The Doctor’ and again in this episode, was anyone else reminded of this?