Capaldi’s monologue in this episode is what “Day of the Doctor” could have been if it hadn’t had such a clash in tone and turned the Zygons into a joke. In this, because they are a serious threat and they have stakes in the War that the Doctor completely understands. It’s powerful, even though I do think the last episode was better.
The episode was directed by Daniel Nettheim and written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat.
The story picks up where we left off with the Doctor and Osgood escaping as we learn that Clara is facing off against her Zygon counterpart Bonnie who she can influence in limited ways. This leads to faceoff as Bonnie seeks the Osgood Box to bring the War in full force as Osgood and the Doctor race to rescue Clara and stop the War before it fully begins.
The Pros: The World – The Zygon Pods underneath the ground are organic and amazing and feel really alien. This is part of what “Day of the Doctor” missed as the Zygons felt like an afterthought.
Kate Stewart – Kate has fully come into her own as we see her take out multiple Zygon attempts on her life but also show the wisdom to be the first to stand down when Bonnie is attempting to push them to war and using the Osgood Boxes. We very much see why she is the leader of UNIT and protector of humanity.
Bonnie – The Zygon who takes Clara’s form is a good threat as we see her stare down the Doctor multiple times, nearly kill him at least once and fear Clara into submission so that she find the Osgood Boxes. She is also wise enough that in the end she does stand down when she hears about the Time War from the Doctor and how Zygon domination won’t solve anything. She becomes the new Osgood after so there are two again, which was a nice touch. Her arc is complete from Nationalist to Peacekeeper.
Clara – Clara is not a victim at any point in the episode and she holds her own against Bonnie, protects the Doctor and Osgood and shows why she is the Doctor’s companion. Her scenes are small but powerful.
The Doctor – The Doctor’s trauma from the war will never go away, and that’s why he will do anything for peace including tricking the fanatics from different factions that they have the power to commit genocide when they don’t (The Osgood Boxes are empty and only have buttons) and it is through his advocacy for the value of all life (Human or Zygon) and his knowledge of the trauma from War that really sell the episode. Capaldi’s monologue is easily the best in the series and his trauma as the Doctor is deep.
The Osgoods – The Osgoods truly show that whether they are Human or Zygon doesn’t matter and are fully devoted to peace and their role as Peacekeepers. We never learn if the surviving Osgood was a human or Zygon and Bonnie becoming the new Osgood shows it doesn’t matter. It was the Osgood perspective that helps make peace possible and why the Osgood Boxes exist which again prevented war. Their perspective is powerful and key because it looks beyond Species and only to intelligence and sentience. They are full formed characters.
The Choice of War – The choice of War is the nature of the Osgood Box and what makes this episode work. Unlike “Kill the Moon” which I liked but got worse with each viewing because the Moon being a Space Dragon is stupid the choice of war is not and the reasons behind war (tied to identity, politics, resources) are not stupid either and just as there are reasons to fight it is all the more important to know when to stand down and stop the war before it begins.
The Osgood Boxes – How the Doctor articulated it is one choice kills the Zygons, another reveals them and on the human side and Kate is told she has the same choice. In the end the choice is the illusion as either player in the game can make the weapons again or start the conflict, which was the point of the Boxes. They were an illusion to reveal how pointless the conflict between them was.
The Cons: The Doctor Moffat-splains – The Moffat has a lot of condescension in this episode mostly to women (Kate and Bonnie) and that is annoying. This is sad because the Doctor’s monologue is really powerful, it is just that condescension that brings it down. Bonnie and Kate were called Sweetie way too many times and it felt out of character.
This was a great episode that I’d highly recommend. It accomplishes what “Day of the Doctor” couldn’t and gives full justice to what a conflict between Zygons and Humans would mean. Doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict later (I hope there will, I like the Zygons as enemies and friends) but at least between our factions on Earth, there is peace again as the Rebel Leader is now an Osgood working for Peace. What a fantastic exploration this was.
Final Score: 9 / 10
The Zygon Arc: 9.3 / 10