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Doctor Who: What is a Zygon?

Over the weekend Whovians finally got a chance to see the full trailer for "The Day of the Doctor," and while yours truly thought it was a little underwhelming in light of how long they kept us dangling for the thing honestly, it's still the first real look at the 50th anniversary special premiering IN JUST TWO WEEKS!

There's lots going on in the trailer, but one of the things classic Whovians have been eagerly waiting for was a chance to see the Zygons back on television for the first time in almost 40 years. The question some may have is, "What the hell is a Zygon?"

It's not hard to understand why newer fans may not have heard of them. They appear on only one television story, "Terror of the Zygons," and that means that as a returning villain they have the lowest profile of any save the Macra. They've been name dropped in that in "The Power of Three" and "The Pandorica Opens," but aside from those tiny mentions they simply aren't that well-known despite their enduring popularity.

Part of that popularity has to do with the time they did appear. First, you're talking one of the most beloved Tardis crews, consisting of the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, and Harry Sullivan. For a lot of fans, especially American ones who would discover the show because of the PBS syndication of Tom Baker's run, this was one of the first stories they would have seen.

And it doesn't ever hurt to include the Loch Ness Monster in your episode.

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Terror of the Zygons
Terror of the Zygons

Zygons are a bipedal, long-lived alien race. When they are younger their skin is milky white, but adult Zygons are a sort of mottled orange. Covered in suckers and having tiny faces in large cone-shaped heads, they look much like a cross between Cthulhu and a California Raisin.

They also don't typically wear clothes... if there's anything I am eternally grateful to Steven Moffatt for it's his dedication to putting clothes on his villains.

The Zygon race is hermaphroditic, and they reproduce asexually. However, they typically only rise to the highest rank in their society, warrior engineer, by undergoing a process of sterilization. Not only does the process make Zygons more single minded and aggressive, it produces the orange skin color and iron odor that they are known for.

Like the Axos, Zygon technology is largely organic rather than mechanical, though not as completely as the Axos. They are masters of shape-shifting thanks to their body-print scanners. Subjects that are to be copied must be alive and unconscious, and the shifts generally last two-hours. Zygon clan leaders settle disputes through shape shifting contests. While their mimicry is superior as far as copying accuracy than say that of The Chameleons, its need to be renewed periodically limits its long-term effectiveness.

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While they are a warlike race, they are not overly so. Their initial contact with Earth was the result of a damaged crash landing. However, upon hearing of the destruction of their home world, the leader of the crashed ship, Broton, instructed the force he had called for rescue to arm themselves for invasion to claim Earth. Like many species that have discovered our planet, the Zygons see Earth as a place rich for settlement, even if that settlement is already occupied by races they consider inferior. This is generally seen as the British trying to be ironically funny.

One of the primary needs of the Zygons is the lactic fluid of the Skarasen, a huge, cybernetically enhanced creature that served as the inspiration for the Loch Ness Monster legends when Broton's ship landed in Scotland in the 12th century. The beasts are nigh-unstoppable, with skin and bones reinforced by metallic alloys. Though they are considered both livestock and living weapon, the Zygons appear to care deeply for the Skarasens. Twice they have accepted The Doctor's aid when he offered to help them preserve the animals. After stopping the intended invasion force in 1975, the Fourth Doctor sent the Skarasen back into the Loch, where it presumably still exists to this day.

Typcially, Zygons attack using a sting that is imbedded in the palm of their hands. This sting can deliver varying amounts of venom that can either subdue a human or kill him. They also specialize in a form of nerve gas that renders victims unconscious for body-printing, and employ disintegrators to remove corpses.

See also: Doctor Who: The 10 Best Alternative Universe Doctors

According to the Eighth Doctor, the species is also fond of board games.

As to what role the Zygons will play in "The Day of the Doctor" it's impossible to tell, though it seems that they make a pretty large impact as they appear in the trailer almost as much as the Daleks. In just two weeks, we find out the orange, whispering villains' impact The Doctor on his most feared day.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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