7.2 – “The Silurians”
Summoned by the Brigadier to help investigate some scientific irregularities at a new nuclear power plant (where power drainages and staff mental breakdowns have become an issue), The Doctor finds that all is not as it seems and soon discovers that the Earth’s previous occupants might just be looking to take their planet back.
My brother used to complain that pretty much all of 70’s Doctor Who could be summed up with the synopsis of two warring factions and a monster in an underground cave. Certainly there are two warring factions here and, indeed, the pre-requisite monster (a fairly rubbish dinosaur) in an underground cave. But there are other Pertwee Era cast-iron regularities that make their first appearance here. Scientific boffins meddling with things they don’t understand. A foolhardy project manager who won’t listen to reason when it’s all going wrong. The Man from The Ministry. A power plant. And, of course, a totally rubbish dinosaur. But this is still very early days for The Doctor’s third incarnation.
Joining The Doctor, Liz and the Brig are some great guest cast choices. Peter Miles (who would go on to play the slimy Nyder from “Genesis Of The Daleks”) is the sour project manager Dr Lawrence. Paul Darrow (Blake’s 7’s Avon) UNITs it up. Fulton McKay is the scientist Dr Quinn, very much in-over-his-head and taking matters into his own hands to try and gain more scientific knowledge. There’s even Geoffrey Palmer as a more understanding and less confrontational Man from The Ministry.
“The Silurians” plays out the interesting premise that, instead of alien invaders trying to attack the Earth, its the long buried original inhabitants of the planet who are trying to retake control. The Doctor, as usual, tries to find a peaceful end to the situation but shows he is not strictly on the side of the humans, taking into account both sides of the conflict. There is no happy ending here, with UNIT taking things into their own hands, ignoring The Doctor and destroying the Silurian base. There is a visible detachment between how The Doctor chooses to operate and how UNIT operates; they are on the same side but there is a marked difference in how they each behave. The Doctor isn’t keen on the way the military mind works for solutions, leaving a disappointed Doc at the end of the story as he witnesses the genocide of the Silurians at the hands of his new colleagues.
It would have been nice to see them film this on location in real caves as had originally been intended, but costs meant that they were forced into a studio production. This results in some of the underground sets looking a bit rushed and hokey, when the story could have had a more timeless look to it like the previous one “Spearhead From Space”.
Watching this for the first time since the DVD came out, I’d forgotten the Silurian’s disease that they try to spread amongst the humans and there are some really cool scenes with Palmer’s patient zero spreading illness as he disembarks and makes his way across London. You can see the massive influence this story had on Chris Chibnall’s “The Hungry Earth” Silurian comeback episodes. It follows a very similar narrative and, indeed, outcome.
There is lots to like about The Silurians. It’s the debut story of a much loved adversary, it’s a bit different in the new Third Doctor set-up for the programme and its got a pretty solid guest cast to keep your attention. The only complaints really would be that we haven’t settled into the UNIT character set-up we grow to know and love. It’s still early days with random soldiers and sergeants. The sets are a bit of a let down compared to how it could have looked if they’d filmed in Wookey Hole or one of them lads and it does feel slightly over-long with 7 episodes, and certainly by today’s TV programme standards, could have done with a bit more pace, but its a well thought out story from Malcolm Hulke with a good execution. A respectable 7/10.
Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar