After their little dream adventure last week, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in the near future of 2020 in a little Welsh village where a wee bit of drilling has been going on. It’s a story by Chris Chibnall, the writer who at the time of typing this has just taken over the reigns of showrunner for the Doctor Who. I think that it’ll be interesting to go back and watch this adventure since it’s one that I’ve not really seen too many times before. Maybe it’ll give us some insight into what his series of the show might look and feel like. First of all I just want to say that this story isn’t anywhere near as much of a straight forward copy of Doctor Who and the Silurians as I had always remembered it to be. We are reintroduced to the Silurians, having last seen them in Warriors of the Deep.
Happily, I must admit that this has quite a few callbacks to the Jon Pertwee era of the show. First of all it features the Silurians who were introduced in 1970, we also have a small Welsh village like in The Green Death, a mining project as in Inferno and the village being cut off from the outside world with an energy barrier like in The Daemons. Naturally I like these minor story elements that get revisited here.
I would say that something that Chibnall seems to excel with here is the relationships between the characters that we are introduced to. With the exception of Ambrose (who is just bloody annoying for most of the proceedings), all of the characters seem very real, with the young boy Elliot being one of my favourites. Fortunately not only is the role a very well written one, but we are treated to seeing a child actor convincing enough to take it on. Samuel Davies does a great job with Elliot, and makes him feel like a real person with endearing moments and reasonable flaws. Some of his scenes with the Doctor are my favourite in the story. For example when he feels bad about being dyslexic, the Doctor reassures him and tells him just how brilliant he still is.
Before we are plunged underground for the second half of the story, we spend a lot of time with the Doctor, Rory, Ambrose, Nasreen, Elliot, and Tony while they hide out in a church. Amy doesn’t get to do a lot in the opening half of the story before she is pulled underground seemingly by the Earth itself. It’s a sequence that is very well handled, with Karen Gillan and Matt Smith acting their socks off and making the scene very believable. It’s a strong scene that propels the rest of the adventure into motion. Although it’s not a complete carbon copy of Doctor Who and the Silurians; it does feel a little bit like that story on acid. There is still the idea of a Silurian giving a Human an infection or poison, much like in the aforementioned story, although this time it doesn’t seem to be contagious. Then we still have the Doctor wanting to set up an alliance between the two races to share the planet – just to be foiled by the Humans again. After so much fuss being made about fixed points in time over the last year or so on Doctor Who, it’s quite refreshing to hear the Doctor state that this is not one of those occasions. If the Humans and the Silurians decide to share planet Earth right now, then time would change to accommodate it.
Aside from Elliot, another of my favourite characters in these two episodes has got to be Nasreen. At the opening of the story it seems as though she might be a bit of a two dimensional business woman – but quite quickly she trusts the Doctor and is keen to follow him on this adventure. I love her back and forth that she has with the Doctor, and to be honest I think that I would much preferred her as a companion than Amy. It would have been refreshing to have a middle aged companion who had absolutely no romantic interest in the Doctor whatsoever (I know that we’ve just had Donna, but there aren’t enough characters with that kind of relationship with the Doctor).
At the end of this adventure it would seem as though Rory’s fate is sealed. Therefore it’s nice that the first half of the story allows us to get to know him a little better. Even though the Doctor somewhat allows Amy to be taken by the Silurians for analysis; Rory shows that he completely trusts and wants to follow the Doctor by this point. While the Doctor is below the surface with Nasreen, Rory follows his instructions and you can tell that he’s really sorry if he ever lets him down – or more specifically when Ambrose lets them down on multiple occasions. I think it’s that which initially makes his death at the end of the story feel much too soon.
We’d only just started to get to know Rory in last couple of stories so it did feel much too soon for his character to not only get killed off, but completely erased from existence. Having learned bits and pieces about the crack in time throughout the last few episodes, our knowledge is furthered a little when the Doctor reaches inside the crack and pulls out a fragment of the exterior of the Tardis. He sees that the piece of wood matches the front of his Tardis. I can remember being rather confused at why the shrapnel was inside the crack. It furthers the mystery of why the cracks exist in the first place.
Let’s talk about the Silurians themselves for a bit. Although it is rather on the nose with the military Restac; the story does a good job with showing how some Silurians are good and some are not so good, just like with the Human race. They aren’t an inherently evil species. I must say that I am not at all keen on their redesign for the new series. Although they weren’t looking their best in their last appearance either, I would have much preferred to see more of an update on the original design (as with the Sontarans for example) rather than a complete redesign. While I must admit that they do look very reptilian, possibly more than their previous look and it does allow us to actually see the faces of the actors meaning that it is in some ways superior to before. I just can’t help but wish that they had gone with more of a similar look. I suppose they can get away with it a bit by saying that they are a different branch of the same species, much in the way that the Sea Devils were. Aside from saving on the prosthetics budget I can’t really see why they would choose to wear masks either. There seems to be no reason for it in the story and it’s not really explained. I’m also not very keen on the huge lizard-like tongues that the creatures now have.
When we are finally introduced to the settlement of the Silurians they appear to be a lot more impressive than the ones that we’ve seen previously, albeit not guarded by a dinosaur this time. Although the green screen shots are often fairly easy to spot, you can’t fault the ambition of the design team. The lush green exotic plants mixed with the deep orange tones of the surrounding lava make the place look rather beautiful.
By the end of the adventure, the Doctor along with Eldane, puts the Silurian race back into hibernation for one thousand years in the hope that by that point the Humans will be ready to share the planet. It will be interesting to see if this is ever followed up on, the next time that the writers want to do a proper Silurian story. Maybe at some point we’ll see the Doctor travel to 3020 just as they are about to reawaken. Looking at this story as a whole, it’s great that we are reintroduced to the Silurians, although I generally find their design a little bit disappointing. I love all of the additional characters except Ambrose who is often just used whenever the story needs to go wrong. I originally gave Doctor Who and the Silurians eight out of ten, and I don’t feel like I can give this any higher rating. But I think that I’m going to give The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood eight charred pieces of the Tardis out of ten. It makes the Silurians feel fresh and exciting and gives us some excellent characters.
Current Rory death counter: 3 + 1 bonus erasure from existence.