So did you see the latest episode of the new Peter Capaldi series of Doctor Who at the weekend? It was the second in a two part tale named ‘The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion’. The classic tall, tentacled blotched and angry alien race returned but this time after a small radical group decided to step up and challenge the human race once again.
The first episode had a few nods toward Invasion of the body snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing besides other paranoid sci-fi thrillers, as it became less clear who were human and who were Zygon. Quickly the agressive Zygon groups made clear their intentions, took hostages and began killing humans without hesitation.
By the second part of the story, things had progressed, with more definitive divisions appearing among Zygons, factions revealed and a situations which was not what all Zygons wanted. Between this Osgood returned to the show, but with a number of surprises as she was central to the tale.
Now, at times genre shows can have episodes which sometimes don’t feel right or comfortable, sometimes offering a very serious or with a tone which is not the usual kind for that show. With shows like Doctor Who, science fiction and fantasy series, they deal in escapism, unreal tales of adventure, things we just don’t see in the real world. Sometimes though, they draw parallels with real world events and issues. At times this works, other times it can just feel very forced.
With this two part Zygon tale, there were some very clear thoughts about war, how we engage in wars and why, why we fear other groups, people, nations. This was a tale about Zygons attacking humans, but we are in a real world with constant, regular bombardments and warnings of ‘terror’, reasons to be afraid, reasons why we should be ready as people and as a nation to defend or attack.
Like certain terror groups we may know from recent years internationally, the Zygons who lead this new attack are gradually revealed to be just a smaller, radical group. So many other Zygons already living among humans in a kind of peace, do not wish to attack or rise in such a way. This can make us think of tensions between East and West internationally.
Many of us may have seen this tale and these parallels as fairly obvious, basic or even crass, but there is also a younger audience watching this great and loved cult sci-fi show.
Already much praise has been put out toward Capaldi and the final scenes around the ‘Osgood Box’, his dialogue about war and terror, fear and peace.
Did this two-part story go too far in making suggestions about terror, modern international war and peace or was it some very well balanced Who scripts, resulting in some honestly very challenging and relevant issues toward the end? Should Doctor Who draw these kinds of links with the modern world or should it keep to wobbly large monsters and Robin Hood adventures?