The Zygon peace treaty breaks down, along with everyone's trust.
Credit: BBC America
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“Truth or consequences” is the phrase of the day on Doctor Who — which is fitting, because consequence is something the past few seasons have lacked. Amy and Rory still lived out their lives in peace; the Eleventh Doctor was granted a whole new supply of regeneration energy; Kate Stewart was saved; Gallifrey stands. A few of these saves worked in context — Kate’s life was balanced out by Osgood’s death, and as much as the events of “The Day of the Doctor” were the most egregious example of the way that, lately, everybody always lives, I can’t not love it. If Doctor Who of all shows can’t be optimistic on its 50th anniversary, then when can it be?

But there are consequences even for the act of undoing a consequence, and it’s time to deal with one of them. (Not Gallifrey.) Operation Double, the peace treaty that the three Doctors helped facilitate between the humans and the Zygons, allowed for 20 million Zygons to live on earth, permanently taking the form of the nearest available human beings. Most of the action, naturally, took place in England. So have there just been a lot of identical doubles living parallel lives in a relatively small country for the past two years? How many of them assumed the identities of the people whose likenesses they shared? How did this work?

Obviously not well. The treaty is breaking down, and Osgood — the remaining Osgood — is kidnapped after calling the Doctor for help. To clarify: The Osgood we saw die last year is still dead, but her “sister” Osgood lives on, and there’s no way of knowing whether this one was originally human or Zygon. That distinction doesn’t matter to her anymore; they were linked in the signing of the treaty, so now she’s both: a hybrid. And no matter who she once was, she shares Osgood’s thoughts and functions like Osgood in the Doctor’s life. Another consequence (half) undone.

But what about the effect the Doctor has had on Clara? Is that being undone, too? So much has been made lately of how she’s becoming him — how she can’t stop running toward adventure on other planets — but here she is back on earth, missing 127 of the Doctor’s calls. (Someone’s been listening to Adele.) I’m sure he managed to make them all in record time, but what is Clara doing without the Doctor in the first place? She’s about to return his calls when she sees a boy in her building sitting alone on the stairs. Of course she knows every kid in her neighborhood; she’s Clara. She helps Sandeep find his parents, who both seem suitably creepy, and meets up with the Doctor and the team at UNIT.

After a debriefing on the current state of Operation Double, the Doctor comes up with a plan: Kate, who’s getting trigger happy, will go to the actual town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. Clara will stay in England with Jac from UNIT while the Doctor goes to the settlement in Turmezistan where Osgood is being held. The situation in Turmezistan is just as confusing as it is in England — there’s no way to tell the innocent children (or people’s own mothers) from Zygons pretending to be innocent children and people’s own mothers. As Osgood explains when the Doctor finds her chained up in a basement, Zygons can now take the form of people in others’ memories, even if those people are dead. That disproves the Doctor’s theory that she must be the human Osgood — she could still be either one, and she’s still not telling.

NEXT: Trust no one

This war isn’t just turning Zygons against humans; it’s turning humans against humans, pitting those who would rather kill potential innocents, just in case, against those who would rather let potential Zygons walk free, just in case. It looks, for a moment, like it might even pit the Doctor against Clara, who returns to her apartment building with Jac only to find Sandeep’s parents dragging him into an elevator in a bag. When the elevator gets to the ground floor, they’re all gone.

Behind the elevator’s panel of buttons, Clara finds a Zygon interface and touches it, against Jac’s advice. They’re transported to a system of tunnels, where UNIT finds an underground chamber lined with Zygon pods. In a very un-Doctor-like move, Clara advocates destroying them all before their Zygon duplicates can be hatched, a plan that seems even more imperative after she finds her own double in one of the pods. But, as Jac points out, Zygons don’t grow duplicates. They kidnap the originals. That’s our Clara in the pod, everyone; we’ve been dealing with a Zygon.

There were signs. Our Clara never would have left Sandeep in such a shady situation, and, as it turns out, she never did. His parents (or not) cornered her in their apartment, zapping her and replacing her with a Zygon named Bonnie. Even the way she decisively threw her hair in a ponytail felt off — to say nothing of that “middle aged” crack or the fact that she didn’t demand to go with the Doctor to rescue Osgood. She calls him on his presidential aircraft, where he and Osgood are interrogating a Zygon who says that the invasion has begun. Bonnie confirms that report — and fires a missile at his plane.

Meanwhile, Kate finds no one left in the town of Truth or Consequences but one woman, a sheriff, who turns out to be a Zygon, too. When Bonnie calls the office, Kate picks up, confirming that UNIT is neutralized in North America. But is she a Zygon who’s taken Kate’s likeness, or did Kate find a way to defeat the Zygon and then pretend that it had gone the other way? I’m not sure who to trust anymore.

Watching an episode populated by doubles is a bit like watching a show where no one really dies: Nothing feels real. We’re made to question whether we can really celebrate anyone’s survival, mourn anyone’s death, or trust anyone new we meet along the way. “Truth or consequences” might be a false concept; I’m not sure you can have one without the other. If you don’t know the truth of what’s happening, how can you understand the reality of the fallout? So was this episode a commentary on that exact problem, or was it just a symptom of it? We might find out next week. We might not.

Background radiation:

  • What do we think is in the Osgood Box?
  • Whatever happened to Zygon Kate?
  • Even if they’re Zygons trying to be as endearing as possible, the waving civilians are a bit much. The pacifism of this show has never been the kind to presume that certain people deserve to live more than others.
  • What if Davros knew that the Doctor was about to meet multiple hybrids and got him all worked up about it just for fun?
  • “Hello, it’s Doctor Disco.”
  • “Pretending to be a couple of 7-year-olds is a splendid way to conceal your blobbiness.”
  • “No, but I like poncing about in the big plane.”
  • “I used to memorize Trivial Pursuit questions so I could win.” I’m Clara.
  • “Well, you can’t have the United Kingdom. There are already people living there. And they’ll think you’re gonna pinch their benefits.” OHHHHHHHHH.
  • “Yes, we know who you are.” R.I.P. Harriet Jones.
  • “Can you change your voicemail message, please? It’s getting very boring.”

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