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It's time to admit a harsh truth, Whovians: throughout Season 8 of Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor was consistently underwritten, never being allowed to fully live up to the promise that his skill set has shown us he could fulfill. The same goes for Jenna Coleman's Clara, as she was reduced from a curious and creative character to a lovelorn mess of a character in that same season. Yet in “The Zygon Inversion,” Doctor Who not only undid the damage of Season 8, it gave both characters the most meaningful plot-lines they've ever taken part in – allowing them their most brilliant moments.
With the two part plot involving a rogue contingent of Zygons, and their obsession with the notion of “truth or consequences,” their battle came to a head this week when The Osgood Box was discovered to be not one, but two boxes – each as powerful as the other when it came to the destruction or preservation of the cease fire arranged in “The Day Of The Doctor.” While both boxes were “empty,” and did nothing at all, the moment where Kate Stewart, who survived her brush with a Zygon last week, and Bonnie, who was experiencing interference from the real Clara throughout the episode, was the most tense this season.
In this moment, Peter Capaldi was given a showcase to truly display his talent, with his mannerisms and physical attributes mirroring not only Matt Smith's big speech moments from his tenure as the Eleventh Doctor, but also Tom Baker's wild eyed “old man” incarnation of the Fourth Doctor. The result was of a level of intensity that Capaldi has never been allowed to display thus far on Doctor Who, and it was a spectacularly late christening into the character proper. With this scene, the Twelfth Doctor had his big anti-war statement, as well as his periodic reminder that he too was in the same situation as Bonnie and Kate.
What's interesting is that The Doctor remembered not only his actions during The Time War, but he also remembered the moment where all three Doctors decided not to use The Moment to wipe out Gallifrey in “The Day Of The Doctor.” He displayed that memory by citing Clara Oswald was the reason he didn't hit the button, as he let her in his head. As he sentimentally noted, she'll never be out of his head. You can practically see the heartache coming in that moment, and in that moment – you have to wonder if he knows what's coming? All of this, conveyed in one moment that took way too long to actually happen. You can watch this moment yourself, in the clip below:
As for Jenna Coleman, her performances as both Clara and Bonnie were of particular note during the two part duration of “The Zygon Invasion” and “The Zygon Inversion.” The battle between the two over the information pertaining to The Osgood Box was an exercise in making the character relevant again, especially considering it restored the spunk and resourcefulness that Coleman brought to the role ever since we first saw her in “Asylum Of The Daleks.” Clara's role as a member of U.N.I.T., as well as Bonnie's role as the leader of the insurgent Zygon population, both gave Coleman something that was worth her time as an actor – and it gave us in the audience a tremendous gift as well.
“The Zygon Invasion” is a reminder of what Doctor Who can be at its best. Even better, it's a reminder of the power of a kind, rational voice in a room full of irrational people. With a proper follow-up to “The Day Of The Doctor,” the series has cemented its status as a reinvigorated entity – ready to take on the future. Which means that if next week's found footage episode, “Sleep No More,” sets the season back a bit, we'll just chalk it up as the exception to the rule. Either way, we're ready for more Doctor Who, next Saturday at 9 PM EST on BBC America.