Make Peace, Not War
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die. You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn. How many hearts will be broken. How many lives shattered. How much blood will spill until everybody does what they want.”
The best of Doctor Who is when the series reaches beyond its adventures to tap into something far more connective and real. Who has never shied away from being a series with a message at the core of every adventure, but it doesn’t always venture into the territory of being so politically prescient. Peter Harness’s script is at times a little too on the nose, but it never feels sufficiently suffocating, as if the writing was bearing down on you. The script is obvious enough and the metaphors will only fall flat on those who have eschewed basic news like the plague. And then there’s that scene, the brilliant scene where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor shines more brightly than ever before as if to challenge the very perception that another Doctor could have done the work that he has accomplished. The story builds naturally to that point and perhaps as a consequence of time constraints in real life, I was able to review this two-parter in a singular review as, more than any other two-parter this season, there was a clear break from one story to the next. The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion were stellar episodes of science fiction, bringing out the very best in its genre in a story suitably grim and bursting at the seams with powerful character work. A notable character is brought back from the dead, but with logical explanations (a re-watch may be necessary to catch all of the details, however). Each character has something to bring to the story and each character is forced to challenge themselves to the very core and when such powerful writing can transcend time and space itself, it’s a wonder to behold.
The basic premise of the story revolves around a war between the Zygons and the humans. Last seen in The Day of the Doctor, the peaceful co-existence between the two races hadn’t gone exactly as planned. In the Doctor’s deference, he had left behind a simple modality for peace. The Doctor does have a habit of leaving after he has fixed something, but his extreme anger at the catastrophic results is perfectly justified. He had averted a quandary and left behind a circumstance that wasn’t the perfect win but it was by far the best solution that could have been garnered during those circumstances and even beyond. Peace as a snippet of verbiage often has a connotation that evokes simplicity, most often with the image of a dove flying through an angelic blue sky. But peace is difficult to achieve, more tenuous to keep, and even more precarious to rebuild. Peace, above everything else, requires the basic understanding of the common good despite differences in ideology or any other such parameter. That basic understanding collapsed a thread at a time before becoming completely undone, throwing the entire world into complete chaos. The Osgood box as a metaphor is a perfect representation of that basic understanding, its opening reeling in its representation of chaos in the most simplest of forms – the choice between two buttons. One could be pressed but there’s salvation on one hand and destruction on the other.
The enemy walking amongst us is a classic idea intertwined heavily throughout the narrative, but with a key distinction that keeps it from feeling recycled. There’s an inherent stillness to the general idea, an imbued terror that feeds on our subliminal fears of what the unknown is itself hiding within. There’s an innate desire to not just see everything around us, but to know it to the degree where a familiarity and comfort are conjoined. If we don’t understand something, then something seems out of the norm and that creates an apprehension, if not a terror. The return of the two Osgoods prompts a consistent questioning of “Zygon or human?” Doctor Who pivots that it simply doesn’t matter. There’s no endorsement of the naiveté of “colorblindness”, just a tacit understanding that who we appear on the outside to be is completely irrelevant. It’s who we are on the inside, as clichéd as that sounds, that matters. Even more so perhaps, the choices we decide to make are more representative of who we are more than what we appear to be. Bonnie appears to be Clara, but she has committed crimes the likes of which Clara could never imagine. Kate and Bonnie appear to be, in the episode’s most pivotal sequence, completely the opposite but the choices the two of them make create an equality between them that is hard to ignore. The two Osgoods appear to be of two races, but even that doesn’t matter much here. What matters far more is the choice the two of them make at this odyssey’s end to be the symbol of peace through their hard work in rebuilding the world from the rubble.
The parallels to the conflicts of the Middle East and extremist jihad are hardly hidden, most notably in the deft analysis where the script openly scorns the prevalence of solutions where bombing seems to be the primary response. But that only makes the two-parter’s show-stopper of a centerpiece all the more vital and timely. Kate and Bonnie are standing opposite of each other, the two Osgood boxes lying in front of them. They could either press “Truth” or “Consequences” but in a sense it doesn’t really matter. The Doctor, in a magnificent tour de force of righteous anger, lays bare the reality of war at its most simplest, basic understanding. Right then at that very moment, Kate and Bonnie could simply step aside and close the box. They would both lose a little against each other, but they would gain so much. Every war, the Doctor passionately argues, comes down to the basic choice of having to talk to one’s adversaries. It is not an easy task nor one that could be expected to be executed with prime efficiency. It is a difficult task and no one argues with such an understanding. But that inability to talk leaves behind such wanton destruction, death, and despair, that no other option is left. The righteousness in both sides is present in the first bullet fired and the first bomb dropped. But what does that matter to the extinguished light of a young child’s life? What does that matter amidst the screams? What does that matter when all that is good in the world is drowned out by the vicious hatred of a few? The Doctor has known tragedies and he wishes, perhaps more than anything else that he has ever wished, that no one ever has to truly understand what it means to feel such tremendous pain. War often is hidden behind lofty ideals, but the pain and despair it leaves behind are far, far greater. Listen to the Doctor.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (The Zygon Invasion)
+“Any race is capable of the best and the worst. My race is no exception and neither is mine.”
+“There are other factions you don’t control.”
+“Did you just call yourself Doctor Disco?”
+“You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor.”
“Yes, I know. It’s called peace.”
+Such great character work this episode and the next one
+“This is a spinter group. The rest of the Zygons, the vast majority of them live in peace. If you start bombing them, you’ll radicalize the lot. That’s exactly what the splinter group wants.”
+“No, but I love pouncing about on a big plane.”
+“Generally, generally establish happiness all over the place. I’m the Doctor, Doctor Funkenstein.”
+“NO BRITISH. NO DOGS.”
+The soldier’s stand off with his own mother was a surprisingly poignant moment
+“They’ve started. So much for ten minutes.”
+“Makes one wonder what the question is.”
+“Which one are you? Human or Zygon?”
“I don’t answer that question.”
“Because there is no question to answer. I don’t accept it.”
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above (The Zygon Inversion):
+“She was amazing.”
+Jenna Coleman gave her finest performance yet on Who. Her Bonnie was a seemingly effortless terror.
+“Dr. John Disco”
+“That’s why they’re called planets, to remind you to plan it.”
+“Then we will die in the fire and not continue living in chains.”
+“Why can’t I just live here?”
+“The only way anyone can live in peace is if they have the power to forgive.
+“You don’t actually know what you want.”
+“What is this brave new world?”
+“How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?”
+“The wheel just keeps turning.”
+“I hear more screams than anyone would ever be able to count.”
+“I let Clara Oswald get inside my head. Trust me, she doesn’t leave.”
+The moral of forgiveness breaking the cycle of violence
+“The day nobody cares about the answer.”
+“We’re a credit to both of them.”
+“I’m a very big fan.”
+“The longest month of my life.” Oh, they’re going to make us cry, aren’t they?
+Inhaler high five
Episode Title: The Zygon Invasion
Written by: Peter Harness
Directed by: Daniel Nettheim
Image Courtesy: Forbes
Episode Title: The Zygon Inversion
Written by: Peter Harness and Steven Moffat
Directed by: Daniel Nettheim