This week, “The Zygon Invasion” revealed the shapeshifting Zygons, galactic refugees since their world was destroyed, have been secretly welcomed into the Earth population. After a rather unique peace treaty was hammered out after “Day of the Doctor,” UNIT allowed 20 million Zygons to masquerade as humans and live out their lives here.
The problem is a small minority of young Zygon extremists who object to having to live as humans. They demand they be able to live fully as Zygons, and they’re completely willing to employ violence toward that end. They go so far as to kidnap other Zygons, force them to read the extremists demands on camera, and then execute them.
You can’t miss the embedded political and social commentary.
War, Peace and UNIT
Kate Stewart: You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor.
The Doctor: Yes I know, it’s called peace.
UNIT stories commonly feature a struggle between its military nature and the Doctor’s dedication to peaceful resolution and contempt for violent solutions. However, it’s hard to believe the Doctor thought this arrangement to be reasonable and sustainable. “If one Zygon goes rogue — or one human — then the ceasefire will break,” explains Osgood in a recording made shortly after the treaty was established.
Out of 20 million Zygons, of course a few are going to go rogue. And the terms of the treaty do seem fairly impossible. Sure, the Zygons are welcome, just so long as they look like us and act like us and don’t in any way seem foreign. That’s not acceptance. That’s dangerously close to subjugation. And yet the Doctor calls this “peace.”
Osgood 1: The Zygons are a peaceful race.
Osgood 2: Their shape changing abilities 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.
Really? We’ve seen the Zygons twice before (“Day of the Doctor”, and the 1976 episode “Terror of the Zygons”), and both times they’ve been bent on the conquest of Earth, which included radically changing the environment to better suit them at the detriment of humanity. It feels more than a bit like the audience is to ignore previous encounters in order for the social commentary to work.
Kate Stewart: “In the 70s/80s, one of our staff was a naval surgeon, worked at Porton Down. Captured Zygons. Developed Z-67. It’s a nerve gas. Unravels their DNA — basically turns them inside out.”
It’s an almost nice nod to companion Harry Sullivan, whose last episode was, in fact, “Terror of the Zygons.” I say “almost” because Stewart is rather casually informing us that Sullivan, who always seemed a rather stand up guy, has been involved in the production of a weapon of mass destruction.
Because that’s what a nerve agent is.
Incidentally, what a nerve agent isn’t is something that unravels DNA and turns victims inside out. Nerve agents attack the nervous system.
Terminology aside, this revelation means UNIT has the ability to target Zygons with a chemical weapon while leaving surrounding humans completely unharmed. It’s a genocidal weapon.
At the beginning of the season, Davros referenced a Gallifreyan prophesy concerning the creation of “a hybrid creature, two great warrior races forced together to create a warrior greater than either.” It’s the overarching plot of the season, which has been peppered with potential hybrids. This week, the Doctor outright uses the term “hybrid” in reference to Osgood, but it’s really forcing the point.
Osgood had a Zygon duplicate. Both answered to the name Osgood and refused to reveal which was the human and which the Zygon. The surviving one continues this obfuscation even after the death of the other at the hands of Missy in “Death in Heaven”. The Zygon would have had the human’s memories, although there’s no way for the human one to have the Zygon’s memories.
That’s not a hybrid. That’s not what the word means. They’re trying too hard.
Still, I’ve been very happy with the writing this season. The overarching plot is not constantly being beaten down on us. Instead, it’s something that gets a reference every episode or two, like in the early seasons, such as mentions of Bad Wolf and Vote Saxon posters.
The Zygon plot concludes in next week’s “Zygon Inversion.”