"Step right up! Fingers on buzzers!"
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor must convince the Zygon rebellion to stand down.
REVIEW: If part 1 of this story felt like it was conflating anything and everything relating to tensions between minorities and the majority, part 2 brings it home by reducing it to one simple idea, the cycle of violence. And I'm sorry if I'm skipping to the end here, but the final act, in the Black Archive, with Kate and Bonnie facing each other with a "scale model of war", with access to two reductive outcomes (victory or defeat, genocide or suicide) at the press of a button, only you don't know which is which, gets me a-blubbering every time. It's become fans' favorite 12th Doctor "speech", but it's really a long back and forth as the Doctor uses everything he can, everything he IS, to convince UNIT and the Zygons to stand down and restore the peace. It's a very full scene, with black humor and deep emotion, wonderfully played by all involved, and all the more shocking when you realize just how much this is a sequel to The Day of the Doctor. It's not just about the Zygon treaty brokered in the 50th Anniversary special, but about the resolution of the Time War as well. When the Doctor would have pressed another button on another box in just as reductive of a symbol for war. Capaldi is so strong in these moments, and his Doctor so sincere when he thanks Kate for backing down. The scene is even more powerful for the boxes being empty. Why is the Doctor so desperate to make Bonnie not press a button that wouldn't do anything anyway? Because what's at stake isn't the Earth, but her very soul, and by extension, his. Making Jenna play Bonnie is a stroke of genius too, not just because she's terrific, but because it plays nicely into the plot. The Doctor knows that face, and he knows when she's finally changed her mind. It's lovely that Clara did the same to him as recently as The Girl Who Died. "Gotcha" indeed.
The game show set up - a game that isn't a game - was heralded by the whole Truth or Consequences thing (see Theories for more), and is a interesting leitmotif that, looking back, you can also find in The Zygon Invasion. Several times, characters are asked questions, with differing consequences based on their answers. The soldiers at the church (I've read that the old game show hosted by Bob Barker featured soldiers reuniting with their families, makes me wonder) ask questions of their "loved ones". The Zygon in New Mexico asks questions of Kate to find out if she brought back-up. And here we have Bonnie's lie detector interrogation of Clara, and continuously, the Doctor apparently testing Osgood by asking her to reveal if she's human or Zygon even though the answer seems fairly clear, at least by the end (track the broken glasses; or is it?). Osgood finally gets an invitation to travel in the TARDIS, and she's shown such leadership and even wisdom in these two episodes that I would actually have been okay with that, but it plays as a final test of her resolve in keeping the peace. Sadly, Bonnie as Osgood 3 didn't pay tribute to yet another Doctor. Ah well. Kate also "plays Zygon" as an additional mirror effect, but as a ruse that's a bit of a cheap trick, but her saying "Five rounds, rapid" is probably a punch-the-air moment to fans of the UNIT era (I'm hoping the Brig's secret memoirs have the same title as Nicholas Courtney's).
And though the final sequence is so thunderingly good that you sort of forget all that went before, I do want to praise the sequences in Clara's "mind palace", the sort of unfinished dream reality that the experienced companion has ready tests against (she did live through Last Christmas, after all), and can use to her advantage and to give the Doctor more time (totally down with him having a Roger Moore parachute). It's all very clever and well used, and allows her to call the Doctor "from beyond the grave", continuing to foreshadow her death/non-death in later episodes. Their final moment in the TARDIS where he calls the 5 minutes he thought her dead "the loneliest month of his life" is another highlight. When asked about the discrepancy: "I'll be the judge of time." The sadness that comes with the hopelessness of his "duty of care" coming in loud and clear.
THEORIES: How many times has this happened before? I ask because it may just "fix" some of the episode's outstanding plot holes. Before he zaps Kate's memory, he flippantly mentions the 15 other times they might have gone through this scenario, which makes it sound like the Doctor has had to make this impassioned speech many times since The Day of the Doctor. Perhaps it's not fifteen, but it must have happened before, perhaps with the Zygon leadership represented by the two little girls, but most likely with Bonnie herself. Two things make me say that. First, he insists on calling her Zygella as if he knew her from before her Bonnie identity. Second, is it a terrible coincidence that the Zygons' slogan and one of their home bases are both "Truth and Consequences" AND turns out the Doctor put those very words in the Osgood boxes? In part 1, he even seems mystified by the phrase. Could it be that Zygella has gone through this before, and the words have filtered through to her subconscious, leading her to adopt the slogan and take over the town so named? The Doctor might then be wondering why his words are in the Zygons' mouths. We can at least agree that the Zygon radicals never got this far before, and that perhaps, neither did the Doctor. That is to say, he never really convinced Zygella and had to wipe her memory, simply setting her group's plans back. This time, she had too many followers for the revolution to be so easily stopped.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Would get my highest recommendation just based on that final key sequence, but the rest of the episode has some terrific bits both before and after that scene as well.