Welcome Whovians, to the new incarnation of Who·ology here on Reel World Theology. Unlike the return of Missy to this season of Doctor Who, we have reasons for the regeneration of this weekly feature from podcast to written review, but suffice to say, we still love Who and still plan to bring you our take on it each week to hopefully stir some discussion. So let’s get to it!
Put down your electric guitar and sound the alarm- we have entered the nightmare scenario. While it seems like terminology meant for a much more dire situation than we have, it signals the arrival of the Zygon invasion. It’s a frightening concept if you think about it. Look up from reading this article and realize the first person you see could be a shape-shifting alien bent on taking over the world. It’s one of those cool “what if” scenarios presented by Doctor Who. The concept of twenty million Zygons living in disguise among us is an awfully overwhelming number to consider.
The exploration of this wonderfully bad sci-fi alien race has been a lot of fun so far, though I am still waiting for it to go somewhere. Our fourth, two-parter of the season is definitely back loading its thematic ideas. The result of this is that in part one we end up learning much more about our surrounding characters and our villains than we do about the Doctor or Clara.
Osgood: “Any race is capable of the best and the worst. Every race is peaceful and warlike. Good and evil. My race is no exception.”
Behold, another hybrid. Osgood returns as we expected- some sort of half human, half Zygon. I’m glad she is back. She is a wonderful representation of a Whovian in the universe. She also gets added to the list of potential candidates to fulfill the Galifreyan prophecy mentioned earlier this season by Davros. The list is now longer than I can count, but it continues fascinate me. I love this line from Osgood. It leaves open the idea that this prophesied conjoining of two warrior races is still just as capable of the best of those two races, as it is the worst.
This season seems to be mostly about discovering our true nature. The Doctor is discovering his playful side, becoming one who hugs instead of one who shrugs. Ashildr discovered her purpose out of her rebellion. Perhaps the most surprising example of this is the Zygons. The motivation for their uprising is strictly because they want the truth of who they are to be revealed. They want to live as Zygons without scrutiny. They want to be known.
I don’t consider it an accident that the song the Doctor was picking around on his guitar at the beginning of the episode was Amazing Grace. The song is about the transformative grace of God, and how it is only through His grace that we can be saved, know truth, and live in true joy and peace. How integral the idea of grace is when we want to be truly known. The true face of our human nature can be pretty ugly, and for us to be truly known it takes a whopping amount of grace, of which only God is capable of giving. So what does that mean for us imperfect creatures?
Kate Stewart: “You left us with an impossible situation, Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Yes I know. It’s called peace.”
I’m going to be a little bold here and state my belief that the idea of true world peace is impossible. I don’t have enough faith in humanity for it to be possible, not to mention my belief that this world isn’t eternal. But I do very much believe in peace. It too, however, can often be an impossible situation. Why? Because it requires grace. Peace, by definition, is an agreement between two opposing factions to disagree, yet to not be hostile. In order to do that, you have to shed your notion of self-righteousness and have grace for the other party. That is notoriously hard for anyone to do when faced up to the most volatile opposition to your opinion.
I won’t go into examples because we have a fine example in this episode. Could humans co-exist on the same planet with a race like the Zygons? The Zygons have a faction controlling them here that calls for war and global domination. What’s more, they’re icky and covered in suckers- not exactly the most comfortable beings to rub up against in public. Suffice to say it might be difficult, but as the Doctor implies here, it is not impossible. Nothing is ever impossible for grace. And that’s the message inside this crazy, quirky episode of science fiction- grace makes peace possible. Bet you didn’t expect that from a story about giant lizard-like creatures covered in suckers.
Next time on Who·ology: A Zygon as Clara immediately leaves open the notion that if Clara dies, she can still come back. But while this Zygon two-parter is certainly a fun little distraction to the over arching season story, it feels like things are going to start getting dire for the Doctor and Clara pretty quickly. We’ll see if it starts with the Zygons, or if next week we’ll just be talking about how a race of strange alien creatures found acceptance for who they are. Either way, I’m excited. I hope you’re enjoying this season as much as I am.