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Doctor Who recap: The Zygon Inversion

The key to preventing a war is in the Osgood Box.

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BBC America

Doctor Who

TV Show
Sci-fi and Fantasy
run date:
Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
BBC America
Current Status:
In Season

If we can count on the Doctor for anything, it’s this: Minutes after he’s survived a plane crash, he’ll probably start talking about invisible watches. “You’re talking nonsense to distract me from being really scared,” Osgood says. “It’s one of your known character traits.” It’s one of Doctor Who’s known traits, too. Last week’s “Zygon Invasion” was an hour of misdirection that made it hard to feel the consequence of anything; this week’s “Inversion” is all about consequence but light on any actual repercussions — which must mean they’re coming. The nonsense can’t hold, and I think it just hit me that Clara’s days with the Doctor are numbered.

Why now? After weeks of not-so-subtle reminders that he won’t always be able to save Clara, the Doctor spent most of his time in this episode trying to do just that. It was safe to assume that he’d be back with her in the end, just as it was safe to assume that no one, human or Zygon, would actually blow up London. But the assumptions put me on edge — it’s too easy to presume victory before it’s guaranteed. Not every box is empty.

Clara suggested at the start of this season that the Doctor wins because he believes he’s going to win, but that’s true only in the short term. In the grand scheme of things, he can only ever expect to lose, both wars and companions. Today, he’s losing a war with himself about his companion. Is Clara dead? The Doctor claims that he’s “still in the hope phase” (which is “hell”), but then he slips and refers to her in the past tense. It’s Osgood who shakes the Doctor out of it when he gets a text sent from Clara’s phone: ”I’m awake.”

Back in her pod, Clara’s consciousness is alert but trapped in a windowless, doorless version of her apartment. What is it with Clara and dream worlds? Dream worlds love her. At least she knows how to work the system: When her TV taps into Bonnie’s point of view — the Doctor’s plane in the sights of a bazooka — Clara shoves the screen, causing her Zygon double to miss the shot. Even biting her trigger finger can’t stop Bonnie from making the next one, but that first miss gives the Doctor and Osgood time to parachute to safety.

Still working their connection to her advantage, Clara moves her own finger in order to move Bonnie’s, texting the Doctor without Bonnie’s knowledge — and without typos, which is more than I can achieve when I’m looking at an actual phone. She is good. The Doctor’s hope phase gets more hellish. He calls Bonnie, who keeps unintentionally winking, and tells Clara not to let Bonnie into her memories. She can’t give up the location of the Osgood Box. Bonnie does the rest of the hard work, booking it to Clara’s pod and leading the Doctor and Osgood right to her.

They track Clara’s phone to a shopping center in south London, where, not too long ago, Bonnie uploaded a video of a Zygon running free in his natural form. She staged the whole thing, forcing him to, as the Zygons would say, “normalize” in order to spread panic. The video makes it look like he’s terrorizing the locals, but he’s actually reaching out for help, and they’re not responding — at all. The Doctor and Osgood met similarly unresponsive police officers back at the site of their crash. It’s as if the world is frozen: the calm at the eye of the storm.

The only action in the whole city seems to revolve around Bonnie, who makes her way to Clara’s pod and taps into her TV feed. Clara refuses to give up what she knows, but Bonnie has a trump card: Their pulses are connected. If Clara lies, Bonnie will know, and she’ll kill her. Traveling with the Doctor really should require some sort of Sydney Bristow-esque lie detector training course, but it doesn’t, so Clara is forced to give up the Box’s location: It’s in the Black Archives, which Bonnie can access with Clara’s body print. As for why it’s called the Osgood Box, Clara’s not telling — when Bonnie finds out, she’ll want to speak to her again. Two can play at the “keeping Clara alive” game.

Bonnie takes Clara’s entire pod with her to the Black Archives like it’s some kind of rolling suitcase, putting a crimp in the Doctor’s rescue plans. He and Osgood are met in the shopping center by Kate and two guards, and despite his suspicion that she’s not who she claims to be, the Doctor lets Kate lead him to the location formerly known as Clara’s pod. As the guards return to Zygon form, Kate calls Bonnie, who’s found the Osgood Box. It has a twin. Two Osgoods, two boxes: one to normalize the Zygons, and one to destroy them.

NEXT: This is not a game