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      Doctor Who — Twelfth Doctor

      Preview: The Zygon Inversion

      Who do you trust?

      The Doctor thought he knew. And then his plane was blown up. Tonight, we find out what happens when a rebellious Zygon faction wants to take the world - and has already succeeded in taking over London.

      Shapeshifting Zygons are everywhere in the UK, and there is no way of knowing who to trust. With UNIT neutralised, only the Doctor stands in their way. But how do you stop a war? And what can the Doctor do to save his friends?

      The BBC has released two spoilerific clips, but if you'd already gathered that the Doctor and Osgood survived that explosion, this one isn't going to ruin your enjoyment of The Zygon Inversion:

      In our review of The Zygon Invasion, we said:

      "Although it's been billed as such, it's simply not a thriller. Tonally, too, this isn't a sequel to The Day of the Doctor. It stands as an entirely separate entity, and with expectations altered, and the plot set up, I have every hope that next week's The Zygon Inversion will excel."

      Written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, The Zygon Inversion airs tonight (7th November) on BBCOne at 8pm.

      Review: The Zygon Invasion

      Once upon a time, there were three Doctors, two Osgoods, and one peace treaty.

      The Day of the Doctor seems so long ago now, the show tonally changed, but I'm definitely behind the school of thought that Doctor Who should link to the past, building on that continuity, without leaning too heavily on its history. Series 9 has done this well with nods and allusions to Harold Saxon, Destiny of the Daleks, Journey's End, and Kill the Moon. The Zygon Invasion is the only one so far, however, that directly follows on from a past story.

      That might sound a brave move, but the 50th anniversary special was watched by 12.8 million in the UK alone (not including cinema screenings or iPlayer) and this was a dangling plot-thread that needed to be cleared up. It's fair to say the majority who saw The Zygon Invasion recalled the events of The Day of the Doctor.

      But was it a wise move? It's an interesting step, almost asking for comparisons between a blockbuster event and this two-parter, nestled near the middle of Series 9.

      Just like Day, it changes the pace of the show quite considerably, moulding it into something slightly more akin to Spooks (or MI5 in America) at times – with lashings of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

      As a 'sort of' sequel to The Day of the Doctor, Death in Heaven, and even Terror of the Zygons, with political ideals, morality questions, UNIT, and the task of bringing back Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) in a justified way, this episode had a long checklist, and as such, it ends up being a real mixed bag.

      Its sombre tone is a good extension of the last episode; fortunately, a lot more happens to keep us interested. Nonetheless, there's something missing. The Zygon Invasion doesn't instantly grab you and refuse to let go. Previous serials like The Caves of Androzani, The Waters of Mars, and The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon manage to remain brooding but are still fast-paced and engaging. They have a drive and excitement about them that this week's offering simply doesn't.

      The story is certainly an interesting one, though. Anyone could be a traitor; anyone could turn out to be someone else. There's suspicion in the air, and indeed, someone everybody trusts turns out to be a Zygon. It was quite obvious, especially after Clara, a responsible teacher, leaves a vulnerable child in a decidedly dodgy situation – not to mention her glee at supposedly despatching Zygons in the underground tunnel.

      It doesn't matter: Jenna Coleman is utterly brilliant here. Her reveal is perfectly handled. It looks as if next week's episode will focus largely on Clara/Bonnie, and after her barely being in The Woman Who Lived (and considering she's leaving sometime during this run), this is more than welcome.

      In fact, I'm really pleased we get to see an evil take on the character!

      Knowing UNIT has been almost completely eliminated is shocking, but this UNIT is far removed from the force we saw in serials like The Daemons, Battlefield, or even The Power of Three. Still, it was surprisingly horrible to know Jac (Jaye Griffiths) had been killed, and so horribly too. After briefly appearing in The Magician's Apprentice, she wasn't afforded great dialogue – "pardon my sci-fi, but this is beyond any human technology" is not a line any member of UNIT should be using – so it's testament to Griffith's performance that she comes across as a warm and smart person.

      The most stand-out element of The Zygon Invasion was its direction and location work. This is a stunning-looking story, unlike anything we've seen; the nearest comparison would be the Eleventh Doctor tales set in America, including A Town Called Mercy. The colours and light are stark and rich, the environs immediately beautiful. I'd be more than happy to see Daniel Nettheim return to the show on a regular basis.

      So if the plot isn't to blame for its less-than-captivating feeling, it might be the failing of characterisation and individual narrative strands. Frankly, there were too many dumb things crowding an otherwise smart tale. Several things just didn't ring true.

      Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) is remarkably slow when confronted with supposedly the only person to survive a Zygon attack on the city of Truth or Consequences. (My money's on her shooting the alien with the gun she had tucked away in her jacket, and impersonating the Zygon.) Similarly, why did the head of UNIT not have any back-up with her at all?

      Probably the dumbest scene is at the church in Turmezistan: you can maybe believe one officer falling victim to the pleas of an alien pretending to be his mum... but all of them? Not one soldier kept their wits about them; not one decided not to shoot but nonetheless keep their distance. It's very unlikely.

      The attack on the village using the drone was far more realistic. One person's inability to carry out a strike on people who have taken the faces of loved ones is entirely believable.

      Elsewhere, however, this was a very clever story, paralleling real-world events and forcing us to confront topics that are permanently in the news. It brings us back to the meaning of the words 'alien' and 'invaders'. The Doctor aptly notes, "This is a splinter group. The rest of the Zygons - the vast majority - they want to live in peace."

      The opening gambit from the two Osgoods also hits home the message straight away. Sure, it's a little on-the-nose, but sometimes, we need that. It remains a grey area, with plenty to talk about, and that's what Doctor Who is about a lot of the time – the Third Doctor era most notably!

      The message does tend to get in the way, sadly. Its moody tone doesn't really let up: that's fine, except the Twelfth Doctor here is written as if he's in the same mindset as during Series 8. But he's not that man anymore. I've praised the fact that Capaldi's Time Lord has had an extra injection of humour this series, but that's absent throughout The Zygon Invasion (bar one or two lines). Even the scene with the Doctor in the playground lacks anything to raise a smile.

      This is such a massive shame because Peter commands better than that.

      And despite his admittedly blood-soaked hands, the Doctor's care-free "try to kill as few of them as possible; I need to have someone to negotiate with" isn't right at all.

      If this all sounds very negative – unfairly so, in fact - it's because the story stumbles under the weight of expectations. The pace isn't break-neck, so it's not engaging enough, despite conveying intriguing notions that really should capture the audience. Although it's been billed as such, it's simply not a thriller. Tonally, too, this isn't a sequel to The Day of the Doctor. It stands as an entirely separate entity, and with expectations altered, and the plot set up, I have every hope that next week's The Zygon Inversion will excel.

      Lovarzi's Series 9 Guide: The Zygon Invasion/ The Zygon Inversion

      Transmission: 31.10.2015/ 07.11.2015.

      Writer: Peter Harness.

      Director: Daniel Nettheim.

      Guest Starring: Jemma Redgrave; Jaye Griffiths; Ingrid Oliver; Rebecca Front; Aidan Cook; and Tom Wilton.

      The Zygons are back – and so is Osgood, the Doctor's biggest fan. But she's dead... isn't she?

      We're officially in the second half of Series 9; episodes 7 and 8, and the third two-parter of the run (or fourth depending on how you categorise The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived)! This one has an international scale: because the Zygons are amongst us. Everywhere.

      Following the events of The Day of the Doctor (2013), there's an uneasy peace on Earth. Humans and Zygons live together – but not in perfect harmony. The Doctor and Clara are called in by UNIT when Osgood, somehow now alive, is kidnapped by a troublesome faction of the shape-shifting aliens.

      We're on the brink of a global crisis, and the Doctor has to learn that peace is never easy.

      Rebecca Front's Colonel Walsh sets out the problem quite succinctly: "Any living thing in this world, including my family and friends, could turn into a Zygon and kill me any second now. It’s not paranoia when it’s real."

      "If it's about anything," Peter Harness told Doctor Who Magazine, it's about the difficulty of maintaining a ceasefire. That's something Steven [Moffat, showrunner] really drew out of it; how in a very realistic way, in a very human way, how difficult it is to stop people fighting each other."

      Harness returns to the series, fresh off the TV adaptation, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and showrunning Wallander; last year, he contributed probably the most controversial episode of Doctor Who Series 8, Kill the Moon. This year's contribution is very different, however: more of a political thriller... with an added injection of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

      Peter Capaldi is particularly enthusiastic about having the Zygons back. He told Blogtor Who: "I was very lucky, I made a film many years ago with a very little part called Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close and John Malkovich which was set in the 18th Century and had the most beautiful costumes. The costume designer was James Acheson, who had created the Zygons. Because he worked on Doctor Who, before he went on to great success and acclaim in the movies, all I wanted to do was talk to him about Zygons! He created those things with limited resources; I think it’s a great testament to his talent."

      Director, Daniel Nettheim is new to Doctor Who, although he did work on four episodes of K9 in 2010. Further credits include Line of Duty, Humans, and Whitechapel. He's responsible for giving the show an international feel, with a narrative that takes us to New Mexico, through London, and to the fictitious Turmezistan.

      UNIT is back, spearheaded by Kate Stewart who we last saw in the series opener, The Magician's Apprentice – and Osgood is a further returning face. Yes, she died in 2014's Death in Heaven, but when has death ever got in the way of a good story? With shape-changing aliens involved, for anyone thinking they've got the solution to her resurrection down to a tee, Peter Harness says, "It isn't quite that simple..."

      The Zygon Invasion airs on BBCOne at 8:15pm on 31st October 2015, only the second episode of Doctor Who to ever screen on Hallowe'en!

      Review: The Woman Who Lived

      An immortal girl. An alien artefact called the Eye of Hades. Notorious highwaymen. This had all the ingredients to become an instant classic.

      Sadly, there was just something missing and resulted in a story that was – dare I say it? – a little dull.

      There were a lot of good things here too, but the pace of the narrative just overshadowed a number of brilliant elements. Let's start with the writing. I like Catherine Tregenna. She wrote some of the most notable episodes of Torchwood, including the vicious Meat, the wonderfully-creepy Adam, and the absolutely beautiful Out of Time, surely a contender for the stand-out story of Series 1. Even though showrunner, Steven Moffat had to coax her into working on Doctor Who, I had high hopes.

      The story was fine: not as subtle as I expected but Tregenna adapts well to a character and notion thrust upon her. Nonetheless, she didn't have to study Ashildr (Maisie Williams) in The Girl Who Died – her personality is a stark contrast to the hopeful storyteller of last week. That sounds like a criticism and true, I was initially skeptical of that change.

      It makes sense, however. As we briefly glimpse snippets of Ashildr's now-immortal life, you can understand why she's altered so greatly. I prefer the intelligent, bright-eyed girl who stood up to the Mire, but 'Me', as she now calls herself, is nevertheless an intriguing person with plenty of traits and history to explore.

      Unfortunately, that's not exactly what we got. Again, we were presented with snippets of life, almost egged on by an oddly-whimsical soundtrack. The tone didn't fit, as if these events – the Black Death in 1348, the Battle of Agincourt, a bout of scarlet fever – were mere comedy sketches, bookended by Me's lamenting her own life and the ignorance of those around her.

      It means that while Williams plays the anguish convincingly, the audience feels somewhat removed from the emotion as her character loses her children. (Anyone questioning why she didn't use her spare medical kit to turn one of her babies immortal may not realise they would stay the same age forever, just as Ashildr/Me has, that she'd have to choose which to save, and that she wouldn't wish immortality on anyone, let alone her own kids.)

      Still, there's real sadness for her predicament and the Doctor's realisation of the implications of his prior actions. There's a selfishness about him: he saved her life because he was essentially responsible for her death; furthermore, he won't take her with him. Even if the latter is so that they keep a sense of perspective, it's very harsh on Me. Plus, it's clear she does lose perspective, so her presence would only hamper him.

      That's not a bad thing: we should be reminded of the Doctor's alienness and his long life becoming a burden. It's a theme we've pondered frequently in the past, but the Doctor's one of the sole characters on television who can properly explore the notion, so of course it's right that there should be a bit of brooding.

      The Woman Who Lived, as a whole, is a brooding piece, however. Once the closing credits come, we're left in no doubt that this episode is just a prime example of foreshadowing. We'll see Ashildr again. She'll keep an eye on the Doctor. And Clara will go the same way as all the rest.

      Jenna Coleman's absence is an odd move, considering this is the last run of stories to feature the companion. Perhaps it's to give us a taste of the Twelfth Doctor on his own – or at least becoming a sort-of companion himself. However, it doesn't entirely work. Without a secondary lead figure, each scene just plays out, not intersected with any further peril or, indeed, perspective. Splitting the action keeps a piece alive and driving towards a conclusion where different plot strands meet. This was a simple affair – again, not necessarily a negative thing, but the pace suffers considerably.

      Rewatching the episode, unburdened by expectation, is a more pleasant experience. You're not waiting for a distraction from the Doctor and Me discussing the duration of their lives. Still, there's not enough incident or horror.

      Leandro (Ariyon Bakare) is an old-school antagonist, duping Me into basically giving him the keys to the kingdom. He's not an effective enough threat, though, staying in the shadows for much of the drama and growling, snarling, and presumably prowling – fairly uselessly, it has to be said – in his final scene. This wasn't particularly anyone's fault, but is by necessity of being a sub-plot.

      The dynamics between the Doctor and Me were central; there's no doubt about that. Both Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams react to one another perfectly, helped along by the truly sparkling dialogue.

      The pair speak with poetic fluidity, their rapport contrasting greatly to the 'dumb' conversation of those around them. No one else is really given enough to do to expand their characters and their motivations, yet it's sufficient in highlighting how the Doctor and Me almost exist on a different plane. Real people might not speak with such elegiac rhythm, but these two aren't like us.

      Comparisons to smoke and mayflies are particularly noteworthy for their elegance.

      The script wasn't completely without humour though: Sam Swift (Rufus Hound)gets a lot of witty dialogue (and naturally, it's delivered perfectly), and it's pleasing to see that Series 9 writers have remembered that Capaldi made his name on a comedy show, so yes, he can deliver comic material. I especially enjoyed his realising why he had named his curioscanner as such.

      Ed Bazalgette, director, has more to work with this week than last: before, he was confined largely to Ashildr's village, but this time, he gets different locales both geologically and in relation to time. Things are grander here, not only in the quarters of Lady Me but also in the house she and the Doctor go to rob.

      Nonetheless, there's a homely charm to its limited cast, and pleasing mirroring when a village becomes the harbinger of danger towards the tale's conclusion.

      Everything seems a tad too dark, however. Yes, it still looks stunning, but its lack of illumination at times makes for a gloomy story, both physically and figuratively. This is the very essence of a brooding piece.

      The Woman Who Lived isn't a success; nor is it a failure. It's simply a story whose parts are better than its sum.

      Images: BBC.

      Lovarzi's Series 9 Guide: The Woman Who Lived

      Transmission: 24.10.2015.

      Writer: Catherine Tregenna.

      Director: Ed Bazalgette.

      Guest Starring: Maisie Williams; Rufus Hound; Gareth Berliner; Elisabeth Hopper; Struan Rodger; John Voce; Ariyon Bakare; and Karen Seacombe.

      It's 1651, Hounslow, and the Doctor is using his curioscanner to track down an alien artefact – when he accidentally interrupts a highway robbery. This is the notorious highwayman, The Knightmare, and his sidekick, and they form an uneasy alliance. But both sides have secrets.

      The Knightmare, for instance, hasn't mentioned the lion-esque fire-breathing alien...

      If you've seen The Girl Who Died, you'll know exactly who the title of this episode refers to: Maisie Williams is back as Ashildr, having had the responsibility of immortality thrust upon her by the Doctor. Or maybe she's learnt about recklessness, because here, she's not the trustworthy storyteller we saw defending the Viking village last week.

      "Maisie's fantastic," writer, Catherine Tregenna told Doctor Who Magazine. "What she has to encompass, in this case of this particular character, is huge and I think it requires a lot of layers. She's got to be a match for the Doctor and outwit him... It's an incredibly layered and nuanced performance and I'm really impressed."

      This is Tregenna's first script for Doctor Who¸ but fans will recognise her name from Torchwood of which she wrote four episodes, Captain Jack Harkness, Meat, Adam, and the fan-favourite Out of Time. Since then, she's been working on shows including Law & Order: UK, Lewis, and DCI Banks. Though she particularly loved last year's Listen, penned by showrunner Steven Moffat, this script is more akin to Robot of Sherwood – at least in the way the Doctor deals with the people around him.

      We'll obviously explore Ashildr further, but producer, Brian Minchin says "comedian, Rufus Hound [steals] every scene." Hound, who appeared on 2013's The Next Doctor Live when Peter Capaldi was announced as the Time Lord, plays highwayman, Sam Swift, and he says he's pretty keen to return... as the Doctor's companion!

      "What he represents is a kind of 'seize the day' attitude," Tregenna explains. "Bless him, he's got most of my silly jokes."

      Ed Bazalgette returns for directing duties, while another familiar face also returns. Sort of. You might recognise his voice but he played another face: the Face of Boe. Struan Rodger was the (mostly telepathic) voice of the giant head that the Ninth Doctor and Rose first met in The End of the World (2005), but who returned for New Earth (2006) and 2007's Gridlock. This time, we'll actually get to see what he looks like!

      This episode mainly focuses on the Doctor and Ashildr, exploring the consequences of the latter's seeming-immortality, so it's a somewhat companion-lite story. But don't worry: Jenna Coleman will be back for the following week's The Zygon Invasion...

      The Woman Who Lived airs on 24th October on BBCOne at 8:20pm. Keep your eyes peeled for our review over the next few days.