Crikey, spoilers. Even though at least one major plot point of “The Zygon Invasion” has already been widely trailed ahead of the episode’s release, there’s an awful lot going on in the opening episode of the latest two-parter.
Peter Harness is behind the word processor for this one, returning to Doctor Who after last year’s “Kill the Moon” (an episode I liked an awful lot). Here, he’s put together – for want of a better way of putting it – a very Doctor Who-y opener. In fact, he throws a surprising number of balls in the air, and it’ll be interesting to see how well he manages to catch them again come the second part.
For there’s no shortage of ambition here, in a Doctor Who story that traverses the globe. It catches the flavor in places of Russell T. Davies’ tenure on the show, as the episode zips around the world more than it zips about in time. Furthermore, this one comes with a bit of revision at the start, with a Marvel movie-esque efficient exposition dump that brings us up to date with where we were with the Zygons.
I’m still thrilled the Zygons have been revived. Visually, I’ve always found them icky, and thanks to some excellent work beneath the costume, the facial contortions at work here are really quite sinister. Additionally, whereas Daleks are sometimes played with a wink to the audience, we’ve not actually seen the Zygons that often, so they’re a less known, and more unsettling threat.
This is where they go from Alien to Aliens though, for – as the title of the episode suggests – there are more Zygons this time, and a bigger plan. We’re avoiding spoilers, so we’ll leave that there.
It’s interesting that this one is the inverse of the part ones we’ve had for the most part this series. Generally, the openers had taken time to set their stall out, slide things into place, and set up a pay-off episode. Here, Harness’ story is fast, and gets through an awful lot of work. It also brings Clara back after her near-absence from last week, and she – along with several other characters – has to shoulder a fair bit of the heavy lifting.
It’s a bit of a blockbuster movie, and it remains a joy to see the Zygons at work. It’s also, by distance, the hardest spoiler-free review to write this series so far, because it’s got lots of little moments that deserve to be discovered other than on a webpage.
Lots of fun, this, and it’s teeing up a potential frantic and impactful part two. With yet more Zygons in it…!
The Zygon Invasion airs on Saturday the 31st of October at 8:15pm on BBC One.