Crash log of the Singularity

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Jane Campbell
    November 7, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

    Um, yeah. All that.

    Really loved the alchemical turn in the imagery. Will have a lot fun exploring that.


    • Anton B
      November 8, 2015 @ 4:19 am

      Two boxes, mirrored. Red and Blue. Both marked with circles in squares. Both promising/threatening transformation or destruction. You’re going to have a field day Jane! 🙂


    • Sean Dillon
      November 8, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

      And the boxes have circles inside them!


  2. Alex
    November 7, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

    Well well well.

    Capaldi in with a bullet for best Doctor performance ever given there. What an astonishing monologue that was.


  3. Thomas Lawrence
    November 7, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

    Gosh but Capaldi is excellent isn’t he?

    For some reason whenever I watch Capaldi I really do see, in a way I haven’t with any previous Doctor, actual flashes of previous Doctors in the performance. I mean, I’m reasonably sure Capaldi’s deliberately employed an actual Tom Baker impression at certain points in other episodes, but there’s flashes of it in this one too, and then in this monologue scene there’s a moment that’s pure Ten and other bits felt very Seven.


    • Harlequin
      November 8, 2015 @ 3:09 am

      In a sense I feel that monologue was Capaldi’s equivalent to Tom Baker’s ‘Have I the Right’ – probably destined to be an iconic scene.

      He very noticeably impersonated Tom’s voice when talking to himself in his sleeper carriage in ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’. While other actors this century have been inspired by one particular predecessor (Tom Baker for Eccleston; Davison for Tennant; Troughton for Smith), Capaldi manages to give me a feeling that his incarnation, in some weird timey-wimey way, is the one the personalities of all others have stemmed from.


  4. dm
    November 7, 2015 @ 9:42 pm

    Thrilling, well made stuff, but…

    It’s not just pro assimilation. It is anti-revolution, anti-freedom-fighter, and preaches an odd and disturbing kind of individualism byt way of the Osgoods and the shopkeeper. Inversion goes from being specifically about ISIS to tarring all violent uprisings of oppressed people (Palestine included) with the same brush, explicitly comparing the leaders of such movements to children. The Doctor basically says “Put up or shut up!” to the genuinely wronged Zygons. He delegitimises their actual cause, and all other similar causes by invoking tired tropes about revolutionary leaders and extremists. The only thing achieved by the end is a depressingly cynical return to the status quo. Perhaps I’ll revise this opinion, but right now I think the politics are actually worse than last week’s- this is pretty despicable stuff.

    The empty box twist was dumb and obvious, the “this has happened before” twist was dumb, obvious and cynical.


    • dm
      November 7, 2015 @ 9:50 pm

      I agonised over “similar” and should be “hints at” rather than “preaches”.


    • Max Curtis
      November 7, 2015 @ 9:53 pm

      I think the Doctor’s point is that expression of identity matters, but not more than the suffering of innocents, which is pretty much never justified. The Osgoods, in my view, don’t represent assimilation with humanity, but rather a more hopeful movement where your species/race identity matters so much less than your individual identity. (After all, it’s perfectly possible that neither Osgood is the human one!) Of course, this is super problematic given the fact that Osgood looks human by default—but I think this “assimilation” holds up as a representation of pacifistic progress rather than as an allegory for counter-terrorism.

      Was “the last 15 times” really such an obvious line to you? I see what you mean about the status quo, but there’s a genuine point to be made about how real progress comes through getting individuals to think, not simply by a series of increasingly successful revolutions and structural overhauls. Revolutions of the mind, not of the sword.


      • dm
        November 7, 2015 @ 10:20 pm

        The only expressions of identity that are acceptable are those that conform to the human (read: white, western, neoliberal) status quo. The only one who had to learn a lesson was the leader of the oppressed- we could wipe Kate’s memory because she proved that while white, western imperialists may fuck up from time to time, they can be trusted to make the right decisions in the end, and things are generally better with them in control. This isn’t about peace, it’s about maintaining a quiet, unspoken oppression. Identity and individuality are the preserve of the oppressors.

        Was the 15 times line not super obvious? That and the empty box were like “it’s so obvious, I bet they won’t even go there”


        • Citizen_Alan
          November 8, 2015 @ 3:25 am

          Does it matter at all that the “oppressed people” in this scenario were originally invaders who came to Earth on a mission of conquest and were instead talked down to assimilating instead through some Doctorish chicanery? Unlike the Silurians, the Zygons don’t even have the moral claim of “we were here first.”


          • UrsulaL
            November 9, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

            Except that the Zygons weren’t originally on a mission of conquest. That was a misunderstanding of their situation.

            Their home planet had been destroyed. They were refugees, looking for a place that had the ability to absorb 20 million of them in some way. If they were considering conquest, it was a matter of desperation, not desire.

            This is an important distinction. A large wave of refugees can feel like an invasion, to the people in the place they are fleeing to. But the motivations are quite different from those of actual invaders. There is a willingness to cooperate, even sacrifice, in exchange for a safe home.

            And we see this of the Zygons – a general willingness to assimilate.

            It is only the problems that come from the requirement of complete concealment that leads to conflict. Blending in and assimilating as an immigrant is a different thing from having to pass as native. The treaty left no outlet for their Zygon nature. And it left no room for error – even a child Zygon making a momentary mistake could lead to violence.

            The treaty was a good start. It got the Zygons into a new home, safely and quickly.

            But this particular treaty is a lousy end point. It requires perfect concealment and assimilation, and leaves no space for the Zygons to be themselves.

            And the Doctor’s solution is not to find where the treaty is failing, and fix it. Rather, he chooses to continue with the problems that are leading to Zygon suffering, including the suffering of Zygon children expected to maintain perfect control of their form before it is developmentally possible, and to continue to indulge the ignorance and prejudice of humans.

      • dm
        November 7, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

        I understand your “revolution of the mind” bit, but this seems at odds with the actual episode. Kate’s memory was wiped such that she can never learn from the situation, and all Bonnie learned was to internalise her own oppression. It seems that, rather than preach a different kind of revolution, this stamps out the very idea of revolution.


        • KR
          November 7, 2015 @ 10:37 pm

          I think Bonnie also learned not to force millions of her people into a war they didn’t consent to and can’t win. I’m all for the Zygons living openly as Zygons (letting Zygons be Zygons as lot of people have put it) but there’s no way that was going to be the outcome of the forced unmasking. If the only choices are “Bonnie internalizes her oppression” and “Bonnie kills as many humans and Zygons as possible,” I’ll take the first choice every time. But I don’t believe those are the only options.


          • dm
            November 7, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

            The problem, then, is that the kindest thing you can say about the story’s politics is that they boil down to “radical violent extremism is bad” which surely doesn’t justify the 90min slot. It was a well constructed conspiracy thriller, but “Well constructed conspiracy thriller about how radical violent extremism is bad” is a very, very low bar to clear. This is par for the course for a lot of Who, new and old, but I think I just wanted something better from Harness, especially as the story went out of its way to make its political analogs super explicit.

          • UrsulaL
            November 9, 2015 @ 11:25 pm

            And the first half was promising, addressing not the “terrorist” refugees, but the fearful hosts – don’t be afraid of refugees, but make them welcome and they will help make your society a richer place.

            It would have helped to keep the focus on the need for those in places of safety to welcome those seeking refuge from disaster and violence, rather than having yet another story about the scary, violent Others.

      • dm
        November 7, 2015 @ 10:35 pm

        …and if I have to buy the Guardian reader liberalism of it all, the idea that we can ignore power differentials and peace can be achieved through a little more understanding, then why did he wipe anyone’s memory? If the whole point of the Osgood boxes was to teach everyone a lesson, why not let that lesson stick? Then, moving forward, peace can be built on an actual understanding rather than an invented threat of mutually assured destruction


        • 5tephe
          November 8, 2015 @ 7:14 am

          They needed the memory wipe because Kate Stewart couldn’t be trusted. Did you see her reaction, when she realised that Bonnie was right, and the boxes were empty?

          She looked at Bonnie when she said that now they knew it, and couldn’t forget it. She was thinking that she bloody well would take retribution on Bonnie, and bloody well would not forgive: It’s Kate’s job to be the bad guy who defends the earth, after all.

          So that’s why the Doctor wiped her memory specifically. (Also, I’m sure the “other fifteen times” thing was a joke. Also, also, what a bloody stupid line to give Kate, when it was she who explained the memory stealing thing in Day of the Doctor. I mean really.)

          So that move on the Doctor’s part was letting the person in the extablishment’s power position think that everything was still fine with the treaty: duping them into thinking they still had the upper hand. The disappointing thing was in revealing the lack of both a Reveal them All of Assimilate them All button which Bonnie could press, effectively robbed her of any ability to carry out her plan. So leaving her with her memories was in order to let her remember that she is, in fact, powerless.

          Look dm, I hear you, and basically agree with a lot of what you are saying. I just think you are over egging the pudding a little. The Doctor and the show specifically preach at violent ideological warfare, not at oppressed minorities trying to throw off their tyrants. The analogy was very specifically ISIS, not Palestine.

          And it had to be, because Palestine is hard. ISIS is easy to write a fiction about. As you’ve already pointed out, it’s the easiest thing in the world to say “inciting a bloody conflict with the whole world because they don’t share your beliefs, happy to let untold numbers of people on your side and theirs die, is wrong.”

          So basically Harness had fallen victim to the same trap that flawed his season 8 script: you can’t write anything with real political teeth, when you’re doing so on the BBC, at tea-time on Saturday.


          • ferret
            November 8, 2015 @ 10:00 pm

            This is a minor point, but I got the impression from Day of the Doctor that Kate is ordinarily exempt from the mind wiping – she certainly recalls a previous visit Clara had to the Archive when Clara herself does not.

      • UrsulaL
        November 8, 2015 @ 9:04 pm

        Except that innocent Zygons are suffering.

        The whole incident was triggered by a Zygon child too young to maintain a human form non-stop being seen. What kind of peace depends on making children live a lie? How traumatizing is it to have the fear, as a child, that if you slip up and show your true self for a second, the whole world could explode into violence against you?

        The parallel to young QUILTBAG folks having to live in-the-closet is clear. And the psychological destructiveness of having to live a lie out of fear of violence against you is well-documented.

        The parallel to Jews trying to survive by living under false identities in WWII era Europe is also striking.

        Humans would not suffer, except through their own prejudice, if Zygons could live out of hiding.

        And telling the oppressed minority that they have to hide and lie to appease the powerful and maintain the comfortable illusions of the majority is, in and of itself, oppression.

        Unless the majorities prejudices are challenged, they won’t change. Waiting until the majority will be comfortable with the challenge is a fool’s task – that comfort won’t magically appear.


        • Riggio
          November 8, 2015 @ 11:32 pm

          The assimilationist angle is a worrying one you could take, but I think it’s something like Lawrence Miles’ view of The Unquiet Dead as an anti-immigrant story. The main focus of the story is elsewhere, and the metaphor appeared as a kind of spandrel. Meaningful, but not intended or actually the main takeaway.

          The heart of the story is the Osgoods, and their nature. They aren’t just symbols. It’s clear from Osgood’s last comments, turning down the Doctor’s offer so she can stay on Earth and work on the peace, that she’s more than that. The two Osgoods are the peacemakers of the Zygon community on Earth. They don’t just sit around and let their friendship inspire all the Zygons to be peaceful. They actively work with stakeholders to solve human-Zygon conflicts. They’re the most credible negotiators because no one can accuse them of bias – identifying neither as human or Zygon, they’re honest brokers of peace.

          I elaborate on this in my own review of the story, which, following the tradition of my riding on Phil’s coattails that we’ve established since the anniversary show, I always link at the end of my posts.


    • Peg Robinson
      November 7, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

      In context I would want to know what the Doctor had to say about the American Revolution, in which the participants started with negotiation and requests, proceeded to seek alternatives while discussing their own idea for a proper government, and entered war only after a clear open declaration that set them up for a fight on their own territory, with their own people the primary targets of opportunity. The rebels are still rebels–but they are taking responsibility for each step, and they have a clear idea of a just outcome…including one that permits the “troublemakers” a role in society.

      I’m aware that it’s not a perfect parallel–but IMO it would actually approach meeting the Doctor’s standards for a “good” war/rebellion. Bonnie loses the argument because at the end she’s a suicide bomber more interested in her expression of anger and rejection than she is a responsible adult attempting to reach a negotiated new balance that treats both sides as valued people.


      • Jarl
        November 8, 2015 @ 2:14 am

        The Doctor’s too concerned with fending off Jefferson, Adams’s, and Hamilton’s advances, presumably.

        Completely unrelated note, but Phil! Your comment’s captcha just threw this at me!
        I am very offended 😛


      • Citizen_Alan
        November 8, 2015 @ 3:28 am

        Given the Doctor’s pseudo-British disposition and his low tolerance for hypocrites and tyrants, I think it’s possible he might have echoed Samuel Johnson’s views on the American Revolution: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”


    • Tallifer
      November 7, 2015 @ 10:56 pm

      I noticed with approval the implicit criticism of the destructive death cult propogated by groups such as Hamas. Most Palestinians would prefer a peaceful solution to their problems.


      • dm
        November 7, 2015 @ 11:38 pm

        I noticed with disapproval and discomfort the implicit criticism of the legitimacy of violence as a tool for overcoming violent oppression. Most Israeli officials would prefer all Palestinians genuinely believed in the possibility of a peaceful solution to their problems.


        • David Anderson
          November 8, 2015 @ 10:43 am

          I think you give Israeli hawks too much credit.
          Israeli policy is rhetorically justified on the grounds that we have to kick them preemptively or they’ll kick us first. Some body threw a stone, and so he forced us to shoot him. Somebody fired a rocket, and so he forced us to level Gaza.

          The hawkish Israeli public narrative requires the continual imminent threat of Palestinian violence in order to justify its own continual standing violence.


          • numinousnimon
            November 8, 2015 @ 8:19 pm


            Being waged for a just cause does not somehow inoculate political violence against the reality that it is often stupid and self-defeating strategically.

            This doesn’t mean the status quo is an acceptable alternative, just that there are better ways of disrupting the status quo which don’t play directly into the hands of those committed to its maintenance.

  5. Max Curtis
    November 7, 2015 @ 9:44 pm

    A pro-assimilation critique is definitely warranted, but I think the episode justifies its ending with the heartbreaking line, “They’ll kill me.” Because that’s the truth, really. There are genuinely people who, when confronted with a completely different sort of person, simply can’t comprehend them through any sort of emotion or communication beyond hate and violence.

    This is an episode that’s far more subtle and meaningful when it comes to the sort of delayed utopia that Cold Blood promised. Maybe someday humanity will be ready for Zygons on Earth. Perhaps even human-Zygon children, whatever that would look like.

    About the revolutionary plan, you hit upon the same thing that made Gareth Roberts uncomfortable on Twitter, only he saw it as an awkward critique of groups like ISIS. Because of course, one of the more recent innovations in terrorist groups is the provision of basic goods and services. So that bit doesn’t quite work for me, but at this point, the ISIS metaphor really breaks down anyway, as Bonnie starts to represent the political drive to tear down order (not quite the same thing as peace here) at any cost.



  6. merrival
    November 7, 2015 @ 10:35 pm

    There is barely anything worth saying about this except that Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are good actors.

    dm said:
    ‘The only expressions of identity that are acceptable are those that conform to the human (read: white, western, neoliberal) status quo. The only one who had to learn a lesson was the leader of the oppressed- we could wipe Kate’s memory because she proved that while white, western imperialists may fuck up from time to time, they can be trusted to make the right decisions in the end, and things are generally better with them in control. This isn’t about peace, it’s about maintaining a quiet, unspoken oppression. Identity and individuality are the preserve of the oppressors.’

    Agreed – except, of course, that the story isn’t crafted well enough for me to care about its bland and unsavoury politics.

    I liked Osgood’s McCoy duffle coat, jumper and scarf though.


  7. k.frutiger
    November 8, 2015 @ 12:17 am

    It turns out it was worth keeping the Zygons in reserve (more or less) for 40 years while we waited for this story — which I have nothing disparaging to say about as a Doctor Who story.

    I’m just a little suspicious of the treatment of the radical Zygons’ motivation. It really did seem last week that this had to do with an understandable resistance to living in disguise and, moreover, being totally divorced from their own cultural expression. (Actually, I wonder if part of Zygon culture is that they begin to identify with cultures they infiltrate, or if their shape-shifting is totally expedient except in this case). However, we learn this week that Bonnie’s just really, really angry.

    I see why Harness and Moffat went this way. It would have been hard to wrap up a scenario where Bonnie explains to the Doctor that some Zygons are living in a mental hell of anomie. And, I gather from what we see, most Zygons are actually happy living as frumpy bachelors in poorly maintained tower blocks.

    Still Bonnie’s glaring lack of clear motivation — even when there’s an obvious one at hand — makes the story pretty inert as ethical or social commentary.

    It’s still great, though! Also, that scene with the Doctor and Osgood on that road between the police cars was the most visually Hinchcliffe thing ever in the new series, and I’m not even sure why.


    • k.frutiger
      November 8, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

      Apparently I’m the kind of monomaniac who replies to my own posts, but I really do want to emphasize my contention that this story — while it signals the kind of laudable ethics that PS draws from it — is not a sufficient model for considering real-world situations.

      Besides Bonnie’s voided motivations, remember that the Zygons aren’t just shape-shifters: they assume the appearance and memories of existing individuals. Given this, unmeasured criticism about “assimilationist” insensitivity here is ridiculous: of course it makes narrative sense that the Zygons would identify strongly with their adopted personas, and there’s no real-world equivalent to copy-cat aliens anyway.

      I don’t object to reflection on the story’s ethics and how they might be enriched to find real-world expression, but, yes, I do think it’s fruitless to map the narrative even loosely onto any actual situations. Anyway, we have the Paddington Bear movie for that.


      • ferret
        November 8, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

        Just checked the transcripts, as was pretty sure Part One did make clear that Assimilation should not have been an issue for the Zygons:

        OSGOOD 1: The Zygons are a peaceful race.
        OSGOOD 2: Their shape-changing ability should not be considered a weapon.
        OSGOOD 1: It’s a survival mechanism.
        OSGOOD 2: They embed themselves in other cultures, and live out their lives in their new bodies in peace and harmony. Mainly.


  8. Marionette
    November 8, 2015 @ 12:26 am

    I think there’s a level of playing to the fans that is overdoing it, and this episode stepped over the line. Osgood’s cosplay is so overt that it’s already leaning on the line quite heavily, so piling on all the references to previous episodes and visual trivia like the painting of the first Doctor puts it in danger of turning the whole episode into the sort of drinking game that results in a trip to the hospital.


    • Citizen_Alan
      November 8, 2015 @ 3:34 am

      I disagree. This is the first Osgood episode in which I’ve liked the character. Because while she’s still a Doctor fangirl, she’s risen to become someone who can treat with the Doctor as an equal, refusing to answer his questions and realizing that there was more value in staying behind to serve as the protector of Earth than in roaming the stars with her idol. A far cry from (and a vast improvement over) that piteous creature from Day of the Doctor who curled up into a fetal ball and literally prayed for the Doctor to save her.

      5th CAPTCHA attempt


    • Citizen_Alan
      November 8, 2015 @ 3:35 am

      I disagree. This is the first Osgood episode in which I’ve liked the character. Because while she’s still a Doctor fangirl, she’s risen to become someone who can treat with the Doctor as an equal, refusing to answer his questions and realizing that there was more value in staying behind to serve as the protector of Earth than in roaming the stars with her idol. A far cry from (and a vast improvement over) that piteous creature from Day of the Doctor who curled up into a fetal ball and literally prayed for the Doctor to save her.

      6th CAPTCHA attempt


      • Marionette
        November 8, 2015 @ 6:49 pm

        I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. I like Osgood. What I’m saying is that she is a very overt fannish conceit, and fills the quota for an episode’s fannish conceit all on her own, so throwing in bucketloads of other fannish references, visual gags, and callbacks in something that’s already a sequel is overegging the pudding to the point where the pudding tastes of little else but egg.


  9. Derik
    November 8, 2015 @ 1:23 am

    This episode salved one of my biggest problems with Day of the Doctor (and it didn’t involve the Zygons!)
    The Doctor refers to having done terrible, awful things during the Time War, while also acknowledging that he didn’t press the button on The Moment. …which basically means that yes, he did commit war crimes leafing up to his fateful decision. So even if he didn’t let Gallifrey burn, Moffat didn’t wash the Doctor’s hands entirely, and the Ninth Doctor’s flagellant turn wasn’t just based on mis-remembering events; he had plenty to live down even without the burning.

    Purely technical writing note; they did a great job setting up the 4 “truth or consequences” outcomes. The gas was mentioned ad-nauseum, reverting the Zygons was mentioned repeatedly too. So even though the Doctor only listed the 4 outcomes once, I was able to keep them in my mind while watching the scene. (Nuke and no-shapeshift being simple enough to keep in mind without the repetition.)

    (I’m honestly not sure if the boxes were empty. But I do know this hasn’t happened 15 times.)


    • mimhoff
      November 8, 2015 @ 1:30 am

      Or, a choice between the Zygon Reversion or the Zygon Eversion.


    • Jarl
      November 8, 2015 @ 2:19 am

      They do approach that in Day of the Doctor (“The alternative is burning, and I’ve seen that, and I never want to see it again.”), I’ve always felt the intent is that DotD was a sneaky retcon in that respect.


    • ferret
      November 8, 2015 @ 10:14 pm

      I’m pretty sure the boxes were empty (or at least did not do what was claimed) as I can’t imagine the Doctor actually wiring up that Nuke under London to the controls – however the scene was so well played I didn’t consider that until the end.

      Personally, I imagine the buttons trigger a particularly heavy does of the memory-wipe and teleport the person who pressed it to an uninhabited but survivable tropical island.


  10. mimhoff
    November 8, 2015 @ 3:08 am

    How about the role of governments and the secrets they keep about what they do, ostensibly for our protection?

    As we see there are a significant number of Zygon-kind who disagree with the treaty Kate and Zygon-Kate formed. As for humanity, everything was kept a secret, so it’s hard to say there was any consent on our part.


  11. Citizen_Alan
    November 8, 2015 @ 3:37 am

    I loved it. That’s all I say. I had only one nit and it’s almost churlish to point it out, but why on Earth was Twelve so insistent on flying around in the presidential plane. It served no purpose at all beyond the fact that it allowed for the cliffhanger in a way that simply using the TARDIS wouldn’t.


    • Anton B
      November 8, 2015 @ 3:55 am

      You’ve answered your own question. It made for a better televisual story. The Doctor has always insisted on that.


  12. Anton B
    November 8, 2015 @ 4:05 am

    It’s easy of course to argue that the politics were (with I feel I can safely say the best of intentions) a little skewed but this was always going to be inevitable given the shows fun-for-all-the-family remit. The decision to shift the dramatic tension from the epic to the personal was the only way the various potential pitfalls of an oversimplified dialectic could be avoided. (And I’m not saying all of them were). This was effortlessly handled in the first few moments by having the cliffhanger be resolved within Clara’s struggle to control her own identity. Mirroring the main theme of assimilation v The violent assertion of individuality.


  13. Ciaran M
    November 8, 2015 @ 4:48 am

    Remember kids, violence is only okay when it is being used by an opressing power when you’re not looking, or when you are looking but wash your hands of it. Like, for personal politics, fine, but when you so crassly set up a parallel to ISIS, fuck you.

    Absolutely smug, self-satisfied horseshit.

    And they didn’t even say ‘Let Zygons be Zygons’ once.


  14. Genie P
    November 8, 2015 @ 5:27 am

    I really don’t think there was anything wrong with the morals in that at all. It was basically saying ‘your revolution can only work if you provide a viable alternative for the people you’re trying to save’, which seems fair enough, right?


    • Sleepyscholar
      November 8, 2015 @ 6:52 am

      On top of which, it took the brave step of denying viewers the scene of Bonnie cutting up rough at the end and having to be stopped with cathartic violence. A dose of forgiveness towards someone like her strikes me as a fairly radical proposition.

      Last week I took a look at the comments under the review on the Telegraph website, which gave an idea of how, relatively speaking, this is highly provocative progressive television.


      • Harlequin
        November 8, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

        I almost wish I hadn’t been tempted to look at those comments. Are ‘PC’ and ‘politically correct’ considered standard terms of abuse by most Telegraph readers? Many of those people seem to think that promoting the concept of being nice to people is the worst crime a programme like ‘Doctor Who’ can commit.


        • TommyR01D
          September 18, 2016 @ 11:01 am

          They probably take a similar view of the content and comments on this site.


    • evilsoup
      November 8, 2015 @ 11:04 am

      The problem I had with it is that ‘well, what will you do once you’ve won?’ isn’t a question that would stump any actual revolutionary — certainly not the leader of a revolution.

      ISIS want to build a Caliphate based on their beliefs. In practice, this means roughly business as usual, but with a lot more misogyny and no religious minorities (though they would frame it differently, of course). The idea that they’re a ‘death cult’ — repeated by this episode — is obviously nonsense if you actually pay attention to what is going on. As is the idea that they’re children who are throwing a tantrum.

      This is why the Doctor’s speech didn’t work at all, for me: he was arguing against a straw man (straw woman? Straw alion?). It’s easy to write a rant about a fictional faction that you have constructed to have no depth.

      (2nd captcha)


      • encyclops
        November 8, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

        Yes, this bothered me too. Parts of the Doctor’s monologue were genuinely glorious (others weren’t so much) but I thought it would have been more interesting as a dialogue.


  15. Aylwin
    November 8, 2015 @ 6:36 am

    Really very surprised at that review. I was sure the vehemently anti-revolutionary politics were going to come in for a serious kicking (and certainly I will be gobsmacked if Jack doesn’t go in with both boots).

    And it really is a general and fundamental denunciation of the whole revolutionary concept, going beyond the violence of the revolutionary war itself and the rather marginal “what’s your plan for afterwards?” issue to make the argument that a system founded on bloodshed and coercion will maintain itself in the same way, and generate fresh insurrection from those on whom it imposes itself.

    None of which I have a problem with, because revolution isn’t my bag – I would just have expected a different reaction from someone whose bag it decidedly is.

    I do have a problem with the rather distinct issue of assimilation, where it does seem to be taking the line that the proper response to the prospect of violence between majorities and minorities is for minorities to blend in as unobtrusively as possible.

    And I agree with other comments that Bonnie is sent out there without any of the real arguments she might have made. Which seems particularly weak given that what she is actually intending to do at the climax does not involve directly hurting anyone, or directly causing other Zygons to hurt anyone (though there has been a certain amount of that previously). The idea that revealing the Zygons will mean war rests on the supposition that their very appearance will lead to mass violence from the human side. Which is a totally reasonable supposition, and one that means she would be practically responsible for war, but it puts the essential moral onus on the humans. A point which maybe isn’t totally absent, but is obscured by the failure to let her actually make her case, rather than just getting lectured at, interspersed with occasional outbursts of “I want war!” and “I don’t care!” and “We’ll win!”. Logically, there should have been a moment where she says something like “We’re going to show your people what we really are. And then they’ll have to show what they really are.”

    The one who actually is ready to enact the genocide of twenty million as-averagely-innocent-as-anyone-else people, and who holds back only because her people might get hurt, is of course Kate Psycho Stewart. Not keen on the All-New, All-Trigger-Happy-All-The-Time UNIT. (I mean yes, Osgood’s OK, but she seems as distinct from the UNIT mainstream at this point as the Third Doctor was.)


    • Aylwin
      November 8, 2015 @ 6:44 am

      Though I suppose even valuing the lives of her own people is progress from The Magician’s Apprentice.


    • David Brain
      November 8, 2015 @ 7:23 am

      If we take the “fifteen times before” thing to be remotely true (and, of course, the Doctor lies), then it’s entirely possible that each time she is faced with the choice, Kate backs away from the box – but the Doctor knows that she still hasn’t actually understood yet.
      The Doctor lets “Bonnie” remember because that’s the punishment that you have to live with for the rest of your life when you actually understand what it means.
      Kate hasn’t really experienced that yet. She’s still happy to shoot the Zygons in the back of the head and not think twice about it.

      The story could have been about schoolyard bullying or sexual abuse as much as about national revolution and it would still have been making the same point – break the cycle and everyone will be better off. But to break the cycle, someone has to make the choice to live with that decision – and that’s the difficult thing.


      • Max Curtis
        November 8, 2015 @ 9:30 am

        “it’s entirely possible that each time she is faced with the choice, Kate backs away from the box – but the Doctor knows that she still hasn’t actually understood yet.”

        Good point! I think it’s basically what Phil said. Kate hasn’t learned to think like the Doctor, and perhaps she never will. There are plenty of good things to be said about her and the position she holds, but she’s not one of “us”. She’s a human who was shamed out of going to war today, not an “Osgood” who has an identity based on values rather than species.


      • Dadalama
        November 8, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

        I didn’t think of it like that


    • Riggio
      November 9, 2015 @ 8:27 am

      The thing is, Osgood herself is the revolution, particularly when there are two of her.

      Because there are two kinds of revolution. The kind we normally think of is what Bonnie was leading: in response to an injustice, take up arms and don’t stop fighting those who perpetrated it. Bonnie’s community was massacred by humans in New Mexico who thought they were being invaded by hostile aliens (if Harness had been watching American politics more closely, I think he would have put TorC the town in Arizona, the heartland of Joe Arpaio’s anti-Hispanic militias). So she reacted to that massacre with plans for a global massacre of her own.

      The real revolution actually is turning away from all violence that isn’t in direct self-defence, and working out even the most terrible problems peacefully and with forgiveness. It’s a revolution in values that says the slow social change that eventually permits open co-existence is the best path forward. Bonnie becomes an Osgood because she’s learned to think like the Doctor: she understood that the real revolution is in morality and ethics, forging a new kind of society through your daily work and personal example.

      The Osgoods are peace workers and negotiators. So Bonnie is the perfect person to do that work: she understands what makes someone take up arms because she did, and she now understands the better path.


  16. Justin
    November 8, 2015 @ 9:30 am

    Quite a few people here confusing extremism with revolution, while ignoring that the episode very clearly explains its justifications along the way (a minority trying to start a war that will almost certainly wipe out the rest of their people, for example).


    • Aylwin
      November 9, 2015 @ 6:31 am

      I don’t see any confusion. The set-piece speech is very explicitly about revolution. And the case-specific practical issue of who is likely to win in this particular scenario is a minor point in a discussion which says “OK, for the sake of argument let’s say you can win” and moves on to more universally applicable issues. Similarly, the “What do you want to happen afterwards?” question is not the crucial issue but something that is raised and then set aside in the same “But for the sake of argument let’s say you’ve got an answer to that” way, before moving on to the next point.

      The line being taken here is not “only start a revolution if you think you’ll succeed”, nor is it “only start a revolution if you’ve got a plan for your new order”. It’s more fundamental than that.


  17. Daibhid C
    November 8, 2015 @ 10:31 am

    Here’s the thing that struck me:

    It’s not just the statement at you have to forgive in order to end the cycle of violence. It’s not even the statement that no, this isn’t going to be fair and you need to accept that.

    It’s that Bonnie has the power to make this decision because she remembers the cycle of violence. Remembrance is the first step of stopping war.

    And this is broadcast the day before Remembrance Sunday. More than that, Remembrance Sunday in a Britain where huge poppies are held up by kids in “Future Soldier” t-shirts, and only a tiny minority of people point out that this is the equivalent of holding a giant Macmillan ribbon while sporting a “Future Cancer Victim” shirt. Where the poppy has become a fetish of war, rather than a reminder that it’s a bad thing.

    That’s pretty powerful.


  18. David Anderson
    November 8, 2015 @ 10:32 am

    Doctor Who does war on the eve of Remembrance Sunday again.

    In some ways, it’s a summation of the themes of the Clara-era. I don’t mean just that it relies on people being able to convert the flashback to Day of the Doctor into a useable understanding of how the Black Archive works. Or even remember the climax of Day of the Doctor. I mean it wants to be read in the context of lines like Vastra’s ‘I wear the veil as a judgement on them’ from Deep Breath
    It’s the sort of summary that you can’t quite see where they can go from here.


  19. Dadalama
    November 8, 2015 @ 11:25 am

    It was a great story but way too pro assimilation to me. I also think it fell on the stupid side of non violence too. I think Bonnie should have left on a more ambiguous note. “I’ll give the situation some more thought” kind of thing. I mean this is these people’s identity here and while I agree the whole “Truth or Consequences” revolution was a stupid move. I don’t believe violence is unjustified in this situation.


  20. Tallifer
    November 8, 2015 @ 12:43 pm

    I really liked how the episode championed diplomacy over warfare. People always remember the warriors, but history is also full of countless wars averted by diplomacy.


  21. Gareth Roberts
    November 8, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

    I did really enjoy this, although I would love to know what Moffat contributed, as the narrative structure struck me as being much more that of Peter Harness than Steven Moffat, but at the same time there were parts that had much more of the latter than the former.

    Also, I would contend that the Doctor’s demand that Bonnie have a post-revolutionary plan entirely made sense. The Doctor was actively trying to prevent a revolution occurring, and a demand that they explain how it would conclude made perfect sense contextually Then again, I’m pretty anti-revolutionary on a political level so I may have simply had less problems with it as a line of reasoning.


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      November 8, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

      Yeah, I’m aware that the appeal of revolutionaries is probably the thing you and I disagree most on. Well, that or The Horns of Nimon.

      It’s genuinely tricky for me, because I don’t have much investment in revolutionaries or in the practical phenomenon of most revolutions. I recognize the factual accuracy of the Doctor’s critique that the wheel keeps on turning, and moreover I recognize that the people making it spin almost always call themselves revolutionaries, one way or another.

      But equally, and this is where the Doctor’s “OK but what’s your plan” critique rubs me the wrong way, I think refusing the status quo is valid and important. I don’t think you have to have an alternative in mind to be able to say “no, this is simply not acceptable.” Indeed, in many ways the bit about revolutionaries I’m skeptical of is precisely the bit where they have a plan to fix it all – which does make Bonnie a bit odd. (Then again, I think the point isn’t that Bonnie’s a revolutionary. Her political ideology is best described as “Doctor Who villain.”)

      But tellingly, that’s, to me, exactly the content of the Doctor’s “no one else will ever have to live like this.”


      • LordRiven
        November 8, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

        It’s not a rejection of revolution in the sense of change as it is a rejection of violence. I’ve yet to see anyone holding up non-violence as a counterpoint to Bonnie’s preferred message – and there are plenty of philosophies that argue that any form of violence, even in self-defence, is ultimately more damaging to the self than any outward oppression.


      • ferret
        November 8, 2015 @ 10:28 pm

        My take was that the Doctor wasn’t entirely critiquing the idea of a revolution (although he does), but deeply questioning Bonnie’s self-confidence in her decision to lead a revolution considering she’s an angry, hateful person with valid concerns but no vision beyond hate and war.

        Bonnie would do better to use her revolutionary zeal in finding and supporting a Zygon better suited to leading a campaign for change – i.e. one that isn’t a homicidal brat and might renegotiate a treaty before burning it. Or become such a person herself. Considering the post-DotD status quo has been maintained, future stories may even tackle this. Doctor Who does Malcolm X, perhaps.


      • Scott
        November 9, 2015 @ 1:28 am

        Saying “this is not acceptable” is fine. Campaigning and fighting to change the unacceptable thing is great. But when your way of saying “this is not acceptable” is violent insurrection which will inevitably lead to chaos and death on a massive scale for both sides, as Bonnie’s did, I don’t think having some kind of plan for what you want all that to accomplish and what kind of world you want to build from the ruins afterwards is an entirely unreasonable request. Knocking down the wall’s only part of the job, after all.


    • Scott
      November 9, 2015 @ 1:17 am

      I’d also say it makes sense to have some kind of plan for the post-revolution world since one of the key historical problems of blind revolutionary zeal has been a tendency to quickly burn out and fall back into old patterns and cycles of oppression and repression.


  22. encyclops
    November 8, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

    Harness is 2 for 2 on episodes that appear to yield wildly different interpretations of a political issue. I’m surprised too that you liked this so much; there were parts of the Doctor’s monologue that seemed to be taking direct aim at points made on this blog.

    But we definitely agree this was fantastic television. I adored the “inverted world” Clara seemed to be living in at the start of the episode, where ordinary things were strange and incomprehensible; it struck me as a powerful imagining of what life must be like for someone stuck in a land not their own (newspapers in another land, strange toothpaste, etc.) and I would love to have seen more of it. The scenes with Clara and Bonnie, everything involving Osgood, 50 – 75% of the monologue (that line about how you don’t deserve to be cruel to people just because they were cruel to you!), all terrific.

    I’ll even give Jemma Redgrave props this week for being awesome. Whatever conclusions you draw about Kate Stewart as a character, Redgrave’s facial expressions during the monologue were devastating, even overshadowing the triumphant “five rounds rapid.” So no Stewart-bashing from me this time around.


    • Sleepyscholar
      November 8, 2015 @ 9:45 pm

      After the criticism of Redgrave last week I paid more attention to her this week, and what struck me — helped by that 5 rounds rapid line — is that she is quite artfully recapturing an element of the Brigadier that was in danger of being lost. He’s such a ‘much loved’ character that it’s easy to forget the extent to which he represented highly questionable actions and ideologies. He was very far from being an unambiguous good guy. I think one reason many people are suspicious of the Pertwee era is that they think it valorises the Brigadier’s point of view. Redgrave plays Kate with a coldness that is actually rather unnerving, but which helpfully reminds us that she is not a companion of the Doctor. She is her father’s daughter, and she has her own agenda which has more in common with his than with the Doctor’s.


      • encyclops
        November 8, 2015 @ 10:41 pm

        This is a good observation and I agree with it. As I said in a hopelessly nested comment on part 1, UNIT’s job to some extent is to get the wrong answer: to be the people who shoot first, try to neutralize a threat before fully understanding it. And to be somewhat sympathetic in that point of view, though of course not fully.

        That said, I don’t care whether Kate Stewart is a white hat, a black hat, or somewhere in between as long as I (me me me) find her compelling to watch. This week I totally did.


    • Derik
      November 8, 2015 @ 9:55 pm

      I don’t think we’re meant to like Kate Stewart. Her stated goal to reform UNIT with the scientists in charge instead of the soldiers ran aground when she turned herself into a soldier, which happens sometimes.

      She’s a good character, but she’s also an antagonist for the main characters to push against, just like her father was.


  23. mimhoff
    November 8, 2015 @ 8:09 pm

    The problem really is that all the alien species in New Who have been written to consider Earth to be terra nullius at best. How many times have we done the “we lost our home planet, so the Doctor should sympathise, but setting up a new home here means getting rid of the humans, so it’s us or them”?


  24. Scott
    November 8, 2015 @ 10:13 pm

    I’m not sure how this fits into the overall critique of revolution and the metaphors at work, but like Citizen_Alan said above, it’s perhaps worth remembering that the Zygons originally came to Earth as invaders intending on wiping humanity out and recolonising the planet, and that assimilation was itself a compromise to begin with. The situation is thus a bit more complicated than a wholly innocent downtrodden community righteously taking arms against a wholly unjustifiable and unreasonable oppression, since Bonnie is in essence restarting a conflict that the Zygons themselves started in the first place.


  25. orfeo
    November 9, 2015 @ 12:01 am

    I watched both “Zygon” episodes today, and… what can I say? They were excellent. The climactic speech was electrifying, but really it worked the whole way through. The jokes, such as they were, weren’t cheap, and everything felt like it was part of a single story.

    I think one of the most satisfying things about it was that using the Zygons made sense. Doctor Who is always better when a particular alien is used for a particular reason, not just because someone looks at a list and decides it’s about time Monster X was wheeled out again. But this story is fundamentally about the fear of unknown threats, of not knowing who’s a foe. Do you blast everyone to make sure you’ve neutralised the threat?

    Best story so far this season.


  26. crossie
    November 9, 2015 @ 12:34 am

    The assimilation politics thing is just a byproduct of this is an episode at least nominally set in the modern day, where, you know, they kind of have to stick to the status quo of reality, i.e. no giant tentacle monsters walking around in broad daylight every time another episode is set, you know, now. And I’m not even talking about budget, here; let’s face it, it would be less realistic than “oh, by the way, for this episode, the moon is an egg” and Harness would be the “really unrealistic premises” guy. The only other feasible option would be to announce to the world the Zygons were here, but allow individual Zygons to reveal themselves. Which would of course open up a whole different set of awkward implications.

    Meanwhile, the “anti-revolutionary” whiners have even less point; they’re so busy whining about how the Doctor wasn’t progressive enough to break his own show that they missed that a character who is explicitly tied to ISIS, i.e. the modern Western world’s premiere political boogeyman, is not only NOT killed at the end of the story, but actively forgiven.

    In a culture where revenge is the primary motivation for entire genres of storytelling, an anti-revenge story is kind of revolutionary.

    Perhaps the most surprising thing is, however, this wasn’t the only over-half-century old British franchise famous for recasting its lead actor to do an anti-revenge story this weekend.


  27. EvilBug
    November 9, 2015 @ 2:46 am

    This episode featured an appaling treatment of redshirts. I understand that nobody would mourn nameless extras, but people died! I think Bonnie said that she can’t back out now and this was perfectly true – she is a criminal, a warmonger and a traitor to her own species. She wouldn’t and shouldn’t be forgiven.

    Either way, whatever was happening on Earth was obscured, but it drove lots of Zygons into homicidal frenzy. You can’t ignore social issues like this as a child’s tantrum anymore than you can ignore smoke from the engine of your car or vomiting blood.


    • Riggio
      November 9, 2015 @ 10:34 am

      It’s not about ignoring crimes. It’s about forgiving them if the perpetrators accept the new peaceful regime. In my own blog post on this episode (, I discussed the example of the Good Friday accords, in which a lot of people who were known to be in the IRA and participated in murders and bombings (as well as those who were in the IRA with a wink of plausible deniability like Gerry Adams) were allowed to join the new way of politics in Northern Ireland without prosecution. That’s how peace with a former insurgency works. You drop the desire for retribution in return for everyone joining hands to repair society.

      That’s what the Osgoods do at the end of the story. Bonnie eases down the rebellion and starts work as an Osgood, a peace-maker repairing the relations between humanity and Zygonity.


      • John G Wood
        November 11, 2015 @ 7:33 am

        I’m with Adam on the political level, but I do think the show itself was guilty of poor redshirt treatment. I don’t think anyone even mentioned the other people on the plane – the ones who didn’t get out? That’s not to do with revenge vs forgiveness, it’s just a lack of… well, remembrance. Acknowledge those who died.

        (Ten failed capchas – I’m rying reloading the page.0


  28. Prandeamus
    November 9, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    I’d say I’d enjoyed this episode more than any other this season, and what I adored was Capaldi’s performance with that near-monologue. And Coleman was

    But. Hinchcliffe or not, I didn’t get why all those people were staring around listlessly. Were they Zygons or Humans? Either way, wouldn’t they care what was happening to the sad-Zygon-guy? Did I miss something in the info dump?


    • Froborr
      November 9, 2015 @ 8:23 am

      Yeah, that confused me too. What was up with the expressionless people like the cops or the kids watching the guy who had his ability to maintain his form taken away?


      • William McCormick
        November 9, 2015 @ 11:48 am

        I thought it was clear that everyone out there was a Zygon and this was part of Bonnie’s plan.


  29. Pôl
    November 9, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

    I am 100% convinced that “Basil” is, in fact, the Doctor’s real first name.


    • Jarl
      November 9, 2015 @ 10:25 pm

      Sir Doctor Basil Bad Penny Funkenstein-Song of TARDIS XII(-ish)


  30. Prandeamus
    November 9, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

    In that case, since Bonnie was threatening their very lives in hiding why did they not react? Zygons can be pretty emotional.


  31. Prandeamus
    November 9, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

    Obviously a reply to the one above etc etc etc


  32. Shannon
    November 9, 2015 @ 11:43 pm

    I agree that the assimilation message could be problematic, but I do wonder if some of the work that the Osgoods are doing is lessening the backlash if/when the Zygons were revealed. I suspect this isn’t going to be the first time this will happen. They weren’t ready this time for it, but she’s doing this work so eventually, there won’t be a violent backlash from the humans when they are exposed. It seems like the ideal is a balance where the Zygons who are fine as humans can stay looking that way while still being “out” as Zygons and those who want to look like Zygons can if they want to.
    More importantly, I think the most important message is that we can actually communicate openly and discuss issues rationally with violent extremists. In the U.S., I think that is a shocking idea for a lot of people – look at the reaction to the Iran deal. To then go even further and show the violent extremist turning away from that violence and the “good guy” forgiving them is truly a radical idea.


  33. Roderick Long
    November 10, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

    “the politics score is unambiguously pro-immigrant, pro-refugee, anti-UKIP, and pro-EU”

    The first three, yes; but I don’t see how it’s pro-EU. But then as an anarchist I don’t see pro-EU as a natural corollary to anti-UKIP.


  34. EvilBug
    November 11, 2015 @ 9:54 am

    The more I think about the story the less sense it makes.

    “No, Bonnie, don’t reveal Zygons to the world, humans will kill them all. By the way, you are not oppressed, don’t be silly”


  35. TommyR01D
    September 18, 2016 @ 11:36 am

    The main flaw in this story was that it was obviously trying too hard to be the Very Special Episode of the series. The Zygon-ISIS analogy had no subtlety whatsoever and the entire two-parter seemed to exist to facilitate the Doctor’s big speech, which could well have been a deliberate “Oscar Moment” (or equivalent) to get the critics fawning.

    Furthermore it suffered from lack of scope. For all the reminders that the violent Zygons were a tiny minority, it wasn’t until far too late that we even saw a single example of the pacifist majority. Indeed, the persistent problem throughout the whole story is that the action is entirely confined to the Doctor, the UNIT crew and a few Zygon leaders. Despite this being a global phenomenon the rest of the world’s population barely gets a look in.


  36. ShowBox
    August 15, 2017 @ 11:50 am

    I loved Zygon Inversion so much! Had watched almost all of their episodes.


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