This story in a nutshell: Dealing with the consequences of The Day of the Doctor...
Indefinable: I'm going to have to make a stand. I'm not happy with where Capaldi's Doctor is heading this year. He seems to have completely lost that razor sharp edge, that sense of danger that he had last year that made him so compelling to watch. Instead of enjoying a grumpy bugger who could turn on anybody he's being slowly replaced with what is essentially a quirky old granddad in the throes of a mid-life crisis. He's trying to look hip with an electric guitar (if that was Capaldi's idea then he was way off) and slipping on shades (leave that to Tennant) and he's dishing out cuddles and behaving in a very genial way. It's kind of bland and tasteless in comparison to the nasty, morally questionable Time Lord who was questioning his own decency last season. There were great chunks of The Zygon Invasion where Capaldi melted into the background completely for me...and that hasn't really happened before. I think there has definitely been a trouble connected him to the audience - beyond fandom I haven't heard a single person in my life say that they have taken to this Doctor. And the reforms this year don't seem to have rectified that, he's still at an arms length to the wider audience in a way that Tennant and Smith never were. Which is a shame because Peter Capaldi is probably the best actor to have played the Doctor and deserves a better reception. Doctor Disco hanging out in a playground in a hoodie? Not a great image. Neither is the Doctor fondling Zygon nodules and talking about snogging Zygons and old habits. Just yuck. Walking in and declaring he is Doctor Funkenstein and here to save the world...ugh. Go back to being a grumpy old bastard, will you? When he says 'oooh ello!' to a Zygon like Frank Spencer resurrected I wondered just what had gone wrong. More importantly, I do not understand why the Doctor stands back for so much of this episode and just let the results play out. It's like he is a bystander in his own show, just watching for kicks. Whilst it is far from being the worst episode to feature this Doctor, my feeling is it the worst characterisation he has received. 'I've got question mark underpants' 'Makes you wonder what the question is...' Is that the best we can do?
Impossible Girl: I should have guessed that Clara was a doppelganger (I didn't if I'm being honest, I thought they were going to go with Jac) because for some of this episode she was actually rather interesting. I still don't get an impression that Clara has any kind of a life beyond her work and her time with the Doctor, not in the same way that Martha or Donna clearly did. We visit her home but it is only to experience a Zygon kidnap rather than to say anything about her. One thing I will definitely say in Clara's favour is that Jenna Coleman certainly plays the villain with more subtlety and aplomb than Freema Agyeman did in The Poison Sky. It's only when she's engaged with that subtle menace that you realise how good an actress she really is. Maybe she was wasted as Clara all these years? If Moffat would have the guts to send the Doctor off with a Zygon duplicate for the rest of the season I would seek him out a clap him on the back.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'Any race is capable of the best and the worst. Every race is both peaceful and warlike.'
'You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor' 'Yes I know it's called peace.'
'You start bombing them and you'll radicalise the lot!'
'It's not paranoia when it's real.'
'They'll think you're gonna pinch their benefits...' - ouch
* This is Doctor Who dealing with consequences of previous adventures and that can only be a good thing. More specifically it is dealing with the consequences of one of the best stories to have sprung from the Moffat era and it serves to add weight to what was essentially a light sub plot in a much darker, personal story. Operation double, the Zygon peace treaty is a very well thought through response to the problem posed in The Day of the Doctor and I love the fact that we are joining the story once the treaty has already broken down. The flashbacks at the beginning get the audience up to speed quickly (although again it is an example of this season paying lip to fan service) and the jump cuts that show us how the situation has devolved since then provide a compelling stepping stone into the narrative of this episode.
* The women were at the forefront of The Zygon Invasion and that was extremely refreshing. I like the fact that this was a primarily female-led script and yet that didn't mean it automatically meant that Doctor Who got the touchy-feelies, in fact it was one of the most muscular episodes for some time.
* For once we have a built in solution to the problem posed of the show enjoying the Osgood character and Moffat having bumped her off last season. I'll let him off this time because the resurrection of the character (it isn't really that because her double already existed) is the catalyst to this whole episode. It's not just bringing back a character because he can't bear to let them go but a built in plot device to force the shit to hit the fan. That's different. Plus Ingrid Oliver is delightful in the role and it is genuine pleasure to have her back. Plus we never learn whether she is the original or the Zygon copy, it's hinted at that they are hybrid of both now.
* In hindsight it is blatantly obvious that Clara is a Zygon. She points them in the direction of Truth or Consequences, she's shifty and serious and she has a little too much knowledge about Zygon technology and how to operate it. And yet I was completely oblivious on my first viewing because Jac was being signposted as a more obvious candidate.
* The tumbleweed. Hahahaha. Well it made me laugh.
* Not to be a sadist but I rather liked the fact that the death count in this episode so high. When Kate is shown the bins full of bodies I felt that we had a really serious situation on our hands. Moffat Who is full of miraculous resurrections and 'everybody lives!' that it is nice to have a story where the stakes are genuinely high in a life or death fashion for once.
* Jac's death and the ambush is the kick up the arse this episode definitely needs come the conclusion. I don't believe for one second that Jac is actually dead though. Thus is Moffat's legacy. Everybody lives.
* I'm reserving full judgement for next week because it could still make an eye-opening statement about it's subject matter but the message that this episode seems to want to get across is that immigrants are bad business and want to take over. There is talk of the 'majority' who want to live in peace but we don't get to see them (because there's no real conflict in spending time with them). The only examples of the 'aliens' we witness are provoking terror, kidnapping and killing. Hmmm. What this country doesn't need is to stoke the fire on this subject, even in a show as marshmellowy as Doctor Who. What I would like to see is a Silurians type ending, for Doctor Who to actually have the nuts to say immigration breeds violence and discontentment and that people would rather they were tidied away instead of letting them walk amongst us. For the focus to not be on how appallingly the Zygons extremists are behaving but on how inexcusable those who react to their presence of the rest of them (the ones who want to live in peace) are. To put a mirror up to the worst aspects of this country and show people how inhumane they can be. That sort of commentary would thrill me.
* Rebecca Front is a sophisticated, comedic actress. Turning her into a funless UNIT grunt was not the best use of her talents. She's perfectly fine in the role but I would saved something a little more showy and less uncharismatic. I didn't get the sense that she had a chance to bring her skill to the fore, just say the lines that were there and try and make them sound convincing.
* The Zygons aesthetic has improved since their last appearance but I still think the originals were more distinctive and less rubbery. There was a definite organic feel to the originals, rather than giving the impression that they are men dressed up in suits which these versions do. It's strange because they are being brought to life with much more sophisticated techniques and the joins in the make up (especially in the face) are much smoother...but in long shot they look so much more artificial than those from Terror of the Zygons.
* Harry created a gas that ripped Zygons inside out? That doesn't ring true somehow. He was a Doctor, not a genocidal maniac.
* The scene outside the church was pretty toe-curling; because of the performances (which laid on the innocence too much to be real), because of the warning that Walsh gave her men before they proceeded and because I refuse to believe there were only two options (kill or join). It makes UNIT look like a bunch of military incompetents if they can be convinced and slaughtered this easily. Plus this scene felt like it went on forever. He should have shot her, it would iron out most of the problems (except the acting).
* Be very careful about weapons being pointed at planes in fiction. You never know what might be just around the corner in reality.
The Shallow Bit: Bonnie/evil Clara is sex on legs.
Result: Considering the allegory, this lacks urgency and anger and comes across as a half-hearted attempt to make a comment on extremism and immigration. It's occasionally daring in it's hard hitting dialogue but that is never backed up by actions in the script. But what it lacks in gripping political comment it makes up for in entertainment with some nice twists, the delightful return of Osgood (with a built in excuse for her appearance) and some pleasingly scary moments. With it's location hopping and tense action there were moments when this episode reminded me of Homeland and Alias and I mean that as a compliment. It's not a comment that I could make about any other episode so the director certainly generated enough of an authentic international feel. Some of the location work has been extraordinary this year and this episode is no different in that regard. Mind you, the globetrotting does mean that we are not really connecting with this story in an emotional way. The myriad of locations and characters means that we aren't allowed to spend much time with or get close to anybody actually caught up in this struggle on either side and so there is a personal distance between the situation and the audience. But that has often been a problem with Moffat Who and I would rather take the exotic locales if it is going to be quite a inexpressive ride anyway. It starts brilliantly but loses steam before the end and climaxes on a cartoonish cliffhanger that fights the more mature tone it seems to want to engage with. The Zygons are an interesting race but this inverted invasion doesn't really have anything much to say about them beyond their terrorising ability to mimic human beings. I'm hoping for a little more detail about the race in the next episode otherwise the new series has plucked them from classic Who without giving them any kind of modernization. There's a lot I would have done differently (that old chestnut) but it's trying to do something a bit different to the usual alien invasion story (like the Silurians they're already among us) and as set up for a potentially inflammatory second part it certainly provides enough that is different to keep me interested: 6/10