The spoilers you get in “The Zygon Inversion” aren’t, I’d argue, the reason that we didn’t get a “Next Time” preview when “The Zygon Invasion” credits rolled. Last week ended, after all, with a surface to air missile heading towards a plane carrying the Doctor. It perhaps goes without saying that the Doctor is not dead by the end of the episode, but that hardly explains the lack of a promo trailer.
What does, however, is how tricky “The Zygon Inversion” is to distil into a 30 second promo. This is a surprising, bold, ambitious concluding part of a story, that’s willing to take some real risks rather than go down a well-beaten track. As such, it’s bound to leave a few people behind.
But for those that go with it, and I suspect many will, this is not just the best Doctor Who episode of the series, it’s one of the best pieces of screen entertainment of the year, full stop.
There’s a prolonged sequence near the end of this episode that had the hairs on my arms standing on end. There’s a bit around a third of the way through that had me practically clapping, with its mix of both simplicity and ingenuity. And all the while, there’s a continuation of the subtext we got with “The Zygon Invasion,” explored astoundingly well by writers Steven Moffat and Peter Harness.
You can write what you want about Doctor Who this year. Live ratings have dropped, rumors persist over what’s going to happen in 2016, question marks remain as to Clara’s eventual departure. But while we and others were writing said stories, the production team on Doctor Who have really held their nerve. They’ve realized that in the midst of a two-part Zygon adventure – and the Zygons are still wonderful – there’s the opportunity to tell a deeper story, that brings the best out of both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.
There’s a sequence with Capaldi in “The Zygon Inversion,” for instance, that’s so good, you stop noticing how erotic his eyebrows are for a minute. It’s the realization of just what you get when you cast an actor of Capaldi’s experience and stature in the role, and the more I talk about it, the more I risk spoiling it. I’ll thus instead add that Coleman is exceptional too, with a separate sequence that gives her the most interesting work she’s had to do all series.
I’ve really enjoyed the vast majority of Doctor Who series 9 so far, yet “The Zygon Inversion” is something else. It’s what happens when you let really good people have a really big mainstream slot of British television, and don’t overshackle them. Sort-of apologies for the lack of details on this episode in this deliberately very spoiler-free review, but genuinely: don’t let anyone spoil this one for you.
And Peter Capaldi? By lord, he’s something else.