Known only as “The Doctor” for 50 years, the Doctor revealed Basil to be his first name Nov. 7 in “The Zygon Inversion.” Seriously?
The Doctor has seemed to be having a bit of an identity crisis of late. In the first half of this two-parter, “The Zygon Invasion,” he called himself Doctor Disco and Doctor Funkenstein. In this episode, along with Basil, he called himself Doctor John Disco and Doctor Puntastic.
Still, I’m assuming that his parents were well-traveled Time Lords with a sense of humor. Perhaps they had spent time on Earth and become extremely fond John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty character. They might have saddled their son with such a name.
Very well, then. Until told otherwise, Basil it is.
Anyway, this conclusion of the Zygon episodes had a lot to offer. Not the least was Basil’s anti-war message. Although he didn’t really cover any new ground, Peter Capaldi’s impassioned peace argument as two characters stood with fingers poised over destructive choice buttons was emotionally stirring and noteworthy.
“Why does peacekeeping always involve killing?” he asks Kate Lethbridge-Stewart after she shoots two Zygon guards.
Basil’s monologue was a brilliant way of getting Zygon Commander Zygella/Bonnie/Evil Clara and Kate to look beyond the present to both the “truth” and “consequences” of their decisions. He adds humor to the situation by occasionally jumping into game show host mode.
He points out that wars usually conclude with both sides meeting. Had they done that in the first place, the war could have been avoided.
“Break the cycle.” he urges. “Sit down and talk.”
“I just want you to think,” he adds. “Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.”
During most of the episode, Clara, the original human version, is trapped inside a Zygon stasis pod while Bonnie impersonates her and takes care of business. Clara’s viewpoint from inside the pod is creatively done.
She appears to be in a small apartment, but the Zygons are unable to produce fine details of her illusional environment. The digits on her alarm clock are reversed. The printing on a newspaper is mostly gibberish.
Clara and Bonnie are linked to the point of having synchronized heartbeats. This proves to be the ultimate lie detector, but it gives Clara a measure of control over her evil doppelganger.
Bonnie is unaware that Clara has been able to influence her actions, such as throwing her aim off as she shoots down the jet carrying the President of the World. She is also able to make Bonnie call Basil on her cell phone, sending the text message “I’m awake.” More importantly, the message also let Basil know that she is still alive.
When Basil calls Clara on her cell phone, he comes face-to-face with Bonnie, but Clara is winking at him through her link with the Commander. Clara is also able to turn the mind link back on Bonnie, briefly forcing her back into Zygon form. All very clever stuff going well beyond the standard Pod People transformation story.
Stepping into the limelight in this episode as the Person Fans Would Most Like To See As A New Companion is Petronella Osgood. She was introduced in “The Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary episode. Duplicated by a Zygon, she and her “sister” had become indistinguishable from each other to the point of refusing to say which was which. One was killed by Missy in a later episode, but the surviving Osgood is still not saying whether she was originally Human or Zygon. To her, they are the same.
Osgood provides some of the most memorable moments in the episode. As she and Doctor (not yet Basil) are walking away from the site of their parachute escape from the plane shot down by Bonnie, we get:
“Any questions?” the Doctor asks.
“Why do you have a Union Jack parachute?”
“Yes. We’re in Britain.”
Osgood’s glasses are broken in the landing, so the Doctor lends her his sonic sunglasses.
“Sonic specs?” she inquires.
“Isn’t that a bit pointless, like a visual hearing aid?”
“What’s wrong with pointless? I once invented an invisible watch. Spot the design flaw. Don’t look at my browser history.”
“Yeah, I said don’t.”
The most endearing conversation she has with the Doctor most qualifies her as a future companion.
“The first thing I’d do if I was to invade the earth would be to kill you,” Osgood tells the Doctor.
“I wouldn’t even let you get talking, like you always do. Bullet between the eyes, first thing.”
“Again, thank you.”
“Twelve times, if necessary.”
“Ah, yes, why limit yourself? You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
“I’m a big fan.”
It’s in a later exchange with Osgood that the Doctor drops the Basil bomb.
“What’s your name?” he asks Osgood.
“No, no, no. Your first name.”
“What’s your first name?”
“Let’s just, uh, stick with what we had.”
Anyway, conflict resolved and selected minds wiped for the 16th time, the episode takes us back to the TARDIS, which Basil says stands for “Totally and Radically Driving in Space.” Basil, recognizing Osgood as a worthy companion, invites her to come along. Osgood, ever the dutiful public servant, declines, noting that she continues to have Earth to defend.
She surprises Basil when she is joined by another duplicate Osgood. Having given up her plans to wage war, Bonnie has opted to step into the “vacancy.”
Osgood and Oswald exchange quips.
“You take care of him, Osgood says. “Don’t let him die or anything.”
“What if he’s really annoying? Clara asks.
The final scene brings back the reminder that this series will be the last for Clara Oswald as she and Doctor Basil prepare to depart in the TARDIS.
“So, you must have thought I was dead for a while,” Clara says.
“How was that?”
“Longest month of my life.”
“It could only have been 5 minutes.”
“I’ll be the judge of time.”