BBC America
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November 08, 2015 at 03:08 AM EST

Bonnie wakes Clara to use her as collateral, threatening her life in order to get the truth out of the Doctor. He tells Bonnie that she wants the blue box, but that’s not the last choice she’ll have to make. Within the box, Bonnie finds two buttons: one for Truth, and one for Consequences. Kate shoots the Zygon guards — she’s our Kate after all — and heads to the Black Archives with the Doctor and Osgood, taking her place at the red box as Bonnie positions herself at the blue one. Their choices are set: Kate’s buttons will either detonate a bomb beneath London or release Z-67 and kill the Zygons. Bonnie’s buttons will either unmask the Zygons or lock them into human form forever.

There’s a reason why Doctor Who doesn’t tend to comment on current events: The Doctor’s view of the human experience is too broad to capture that kind of nuance. But the parallels here are unavoidable, and all of them are handled messily. Bonnie, we’re told, is a member of a radical splinter group; her views don’t line up with those of most of her people. The majority of Zygons would rather live in peace. It’s a fine point on its own, but in this case, that peace was engineered by an interloper, and it requires them to hide a part of their identity.

The man Bonnie forced to normalize killed himself because he would rather die than live as a Zygon in this society. That isn’t a good sign for anyone. It’s not Bonnie’s place to choose to expose others on their behalf, but it’s also not the Doctor’s place to reply, “So what?” when Bonnie tells him they’ve been treated like cattle. Is it worth being silenced to maintain peace? Pacifism is built into this show’s DNA, but when it’s used in real-world analogies applicable to everything from racism to religious extremism to LGBT rights, it carries implications that threaten to ignore people’s lived experiences. There are some issues too complex to be solved by a rousing speech from the Doctor.

But if anyone can make you want a speech to save the day, it’s Peter Capaldi. The Doctor owns the room, trying every trick in his arsenal (American accent included. AMERICAN. ACCENT) to make Kate and Bonnie understand what they’re about to do. No matter how right the cause, he argues, no one can ever plan for the casualties of war. It always ends where it should have started: with people sitting down to talk, and with survivors, like the Doctor, now sentenced to live with their guilt. “No one else will have to feel this pain,” he vows. “Not on my watch.”

Kate steps away, but it’s Bonnie who figures out the game: The boxes are empty. The Doctor was, as usual, “talking nonsense,” but this time it was to make someone scared — to remind both Kate and Bonnie that war always has personal consequences. He’d already guaranteed his own short-term victory, but only because, in the long term, he’d already lost. And the Doctor is resigned to the fact that he’s going to lose again: By erasing Kate’s memory to preserve the terms of Operation Double, he ensures that the humans won’t learn anything from this. Peace is maintained, but he’ll never have to stop maintaining it.

War is so cyclical that even the second Osgood can’t stay dead. The Doctor gives Bonnie a reprieve — he knows what it’s like to almost press that button — and rather than continue to run around London with Clara’s face, she takes Osgood’s, joining her fellow hybrid in the day-to-day work of defending the earth. There goes the Doctor’s quest to figure out whether she was born human or Zygon. She’ll tell him one day, but only when the answer stops mattering, which is really what the Doctor is after: the day the truth doesn’t come with so many consequences.

Background radiation:

  • I can’t stop rewinding the American accent. “Bonnie sweetheart.” Like he’s John Wayne or something.
  • Peter Capaldi did some of his best work in this episode.
  • “The imbecile’s gas.” Now there’s a shout out to Harry Sullivan that only the Doctor could give.
  • “You’re all the same, you screaming kids, do you know that? ‘Look at me; I’m unforgivable.’ Well here’s the unforeseeable: I forgive you.”
  • “I did this on a very important day for me.”
  • Petronella Osgood.
  • I’m choosing to take “Basil” as a Fawlty Towers reference.
  • “It’s my plane. I had a big plane for purposes of, uh, poncing about.”
  • “Yes, well, I’m dead now, and I think I might be a bit more dead in a minute.”
  • “London. What a dump.”
  • “I’ll be the judge of time.”
  • “I made it up from the initials. It stands for Totally and Radically Driving in Space.”
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