The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

It’s good to see the Silurians make a return to Doctor Who after a long absence, though I’m a bit surprised that they beat out the Ice Warriors when it comes to returning monsters. I’m also a bit disappointed that the reptilian eyes and third eye have been discarded in favor of a more human-looking monster. I don’t know if it was simple design choices or cost that prompted the move, and while the new look does allow the actor to emote more from under the mask, it renders the Silurians less alien and less frightening.

As an aside, have we gotten so PC that a fictional race of prehistoric lizard men can’t be referred to as Silurians? Please. It’s a cool name, even if it is inaccurate. Keep it. Lose the “homo reptilis” nonsense.

The plot itself is reminiscent of the original Silurian storyline in several ways. A scientific project to drill beneath the surface of the Earth disturbs a Silurian colony, awakening some of the hibernating Silurians and prompting retaliation. This particular colony of Silurians has not encountered humans before, and so they steal bodies from graves and then living humans in an attempt to study how the ‘apes’ had evolved during the time they’ve been sleeping. The human scientific project disturbing a Silurian colony borrows from the original story, the attempt to drill deep beneath the earth borrows from “Inferno”, the force dome over the project borrows from “The Daemons”, and people being dragged beneath the ground hearkens back to “Frontios”, even if the culprit is not the Tractators. For those of you wondering if this story cancels out “Inferno”, don’t worry. The drill in this story has only gone 13 miles deep, while Stahlman’s project had gone 20 miles beneath the surface. So the lack of Primords isn’t a problem. Heh.

So the story re-uses a number of elements from various Doctor Who stories as well as the basic plot from “The Silurians”. I complained about Doctor Who ripping off its own past when I reviewed “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, and some of the same complaints apply here. Though in the case of the basic plot (humans disturb Silurian colony, Silurians fight back), the retread elements are somewhat excusable, since any encounter with a new colony of hibernating Silurians is likely to follow a similar sequence of events. What this story does that “The Silurians” and “Warriors of the Deep” generally failed to do is to make the Silurians sympathetic. The argument that they were here first and thus have a legitimate claim to the planet has always been a brilliant concept that raises their stories above the standard alien invasion plots. But with the exception of the old Silurian from the original Pertwee story, all others have been so hostile and murderous that the Doctor looked like a chump for trying to be even-handed with them. “Cold Blood” remedies this by giving us two reasonable characters in the form of scientist Malohkeh and government official Eldane. They’re contrasted with the bloodthirsty military commander Restak and soldier Alaya, who hearken back to the majority of earlier Silurian characters.

The story also ends on a more optimistic note than “The Silurians” and “Warriors”. Two humans remain behind as the Silurians go into hibernation with the hope that in 1000 years humanity will be more willing to accept sharing the Earth with the Silurian race. Eldane’s narration gives the impression that the attempt will ultimately be successful, and I for one would love to see that story on Doctor Who. The year 2120, and Silurians emerge from their caves to open diplomatic relations with human governments around the world. With the right writer, that could be a darn good episode.

The ‘cracks in time’ storyline gets some major advancement. Not only because Rory is killed by Restak and then erased from existence by the crack, but because the Doctor retrieves a piece of shrapnel and discovers that it’s part of the TARDIS door. So it now seems as though the destruction of the TARDIS is what caused the explosion in time that is causing the cracks in the universe! This is cool time travel storytelling. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Overall: too much re-use of elements from old Doctor Who stories is disappointing and possibly even lazy writing. And the Silurian re-designs are weaker than the original look, even if the makeup and general production values are stronger. But the story offers a few new ideas and a hope for future human-Silurian relations that hasn’t been seen before, while introducing the Silurians to the modern audience. Not the best of the season, but still a reasonably good set of episodes.

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Posted in 11th Doctor - Matt Smith

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