Doctor Who #264: Doctor Who and the Silurians Part 5

"But don’t you see that small planet was drawn into the earth’s orbit and became the moon? Your catastrophe never happened!"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.28 1970.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor brokers peace with the Silurian leader, but another faction attacks humanity with a plague before a treaty can materialize.

REVIEW: So why is the Doctor so intent on helping the Silurians survive and thrive when THEY seem intent on destroying humanity? Well, humanity's position on species relations isn't much better is it? He sees a bigger picture, and respect both species' claim on the planet. Though each believes he's playing for the other side, he's actually neutral in this brewing conflict, only trying to avert it. The first Doctor was a victim, more on the run from the monsters than actively trying to fight them. The second took the opposite view, saying that the forces of evil "must be fought". The third lives in a more complex universe, seeking to give the monsters a chance to back off or repent. Maybe he doesn't believe in absolute, irredeemable evil anymore, and it's an ethos that lives on in the Doctor to this day. It's interesting to note that peace, in this story, is perceived as a form of betrayal. The Doctor betrays humanity by undermining their military efforts, present and future, against the Silurians. And the Silurian peacemaker loses his place and life for daring to think of peace. Fans of the New Series will recognize the Doctor's arguments about sharing the planet from the recent Homo Reptilia episodes, truly a remake of this story. The two discussions, separated by more than 40 years are shockingly similar.

It's a mirror of what's going on upstairs with the humans. Liz is the Doctor's mouthpiece, preaching peace, while Dawson, obviously wanting to avenge her lover's death, is all for war. Dr. Lawrence, in the middle, represents those who do not even accept there is a threat, much less have an opinion about how to deal with it. He's is driven purely by selfishness (is a parable about the Vietnam war and similar conflicts happening "over there, but not here" starting to bubble to the surface?). Masters surprises us in keeping an open mind and rejecting a knee-jerk reaction, but his slowness to make a decision may be seen as an indictment of the government as well.

The Silurians are an animated lot, their harsh movements creating the energy lost by their mostly rigid features. When they argue, it's a violent thing. The younger Silurian, with its high-pitched voice, not only mounts a coup, but commits genocide as well (if its plan works anyway). So down below, bureaucracy is less of an impediment than up above. At this point in a 7-part serial, the production does the right thing and throws in a new complication with the plague element. Major Baker - whose predicament evokes the Planet of the Apes more than a little - will be patient zero, and the show plays the risk of contagion straight and suspenseful. People move away from Baker at the Doctor's urging - a tense scene - and the understated cliffhanger in which the Doctor announces that Baker's death is "the first one" is quite wonderful.

THEORIES: Let's talk Silurians. Obviously, their name is just a translation of whatever they call themselves and has nothing to do with their home era. The Silurian Era was the time of fish and trilobites, and this strain of Homo Reptilia (the program will introduce three different species who apparently lived around the same time but are physically quite different) has a pet dinosaur, so it's more likely that they evolved during the Cretaceous. But is that when their culture reached its apogee and went into hiding to avoid an apocalypse that never came? They refer to humans as "apes" and have pictures of apes on file. That puts their civilization much later than the extinction of the dinosaurs, so their apocalypse can't be the same one. Quinn's globe of Pangaea isn't proof of anything except his interest in the subject, so we should probably reject the 200 million years ago figure and think more in terms of 35-25 million years ago. They would be a dinosaurian species that survived the mass extinction (which in Doctor Who was caused by Cybermen plunging a ship back at Earth through time) thanks to their intelligence, much in the same way humanity survived the Ice Age. They would have kept some dinosaur pets alive, and/or manipulated them genetically, which explains their guardian carnosaur. Of course, we also need to contend with the cause of their going into hibernation, a small planetoid heading for Earth, but which, according to the Doctor, became the Moon instead of hitting the planet. When did THAT happen? Well, evidence suggests the Moon's been the Earth's companion since the beginning, but I suppose the Whoniverse might have a different history for our satellite. The Silurian scientist doesn't really react to the Doctor's revelation, so that would seem correct - he likely never saw a moon in his own sky. Or is the other planet that never collides with Earth perhaps Mondas on a particularly close pass? I don't think so. The Silurian says it was a small planet, and Mondas should be the same size as our own world. We'll just have to believe the Moon is only some 25 million years our partner then. It's ok, because it doesn't need to play a role in tide-mixing primordial amino acids to help create life on Who-Earth. We've got the Jagaroth for that (among other culprits).

REWATCHABILITY: High - Malcolm Hulke really gets to the crux of his theme and raises the stakes considerably.


Anonymous said...

Coulda been the "moon" in question was Cruithne:

Anonymous said...

Good post today. The Doctor's actions in this episode (or the previous, I can't recall) lead directly to the deaths of several UNIT personnel. Major Baker is quite sympathetic to me when he wants to get his hands on the Doctor and I think the Brigadier lets him off quite easily.

Agreed, they did the plague quite well.


Siskoid said...

Anon: My mind is blown. Why have I never heard of this before?

Jason: One could argue that it's the Silurians and UNIT's hostile postures that caused those deaths. Had they listened to the Doctor... But yeah.

Anonymous said...

"My mind is blown. Why have I never heard of this before?"

Well, I would argue that Cruithne isn't a moon in any sense I would consider the term, in that it doesn't orbit the earth at all; even Wikipedia is clear on the point that it orbits the sun:

I love QI, but QI is sometimes in the habit of exaggerating its claims. In case you're not up on the QI, catch some clips on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

Oh, here's the QI with David Tennant as a guest:

Also, that Bill Bailey feller was one of the soldiers in "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe".

Siskoid said...

I've seen QI, but I can't stand to watch a lot of You-Tube, but thanks for the links.

Oh ye of little faith... I know Bill Bailey. I've featured him on my Doctor Who cards as the New Adventures Meddling Monk, and presented his Belgian Who video in these very pages.

Toby'c said...

Heh, I love that QI bit, especially Jeremy's "the song is "Blue Moon, I saw you standing alone", not "with a small friend"! And I love how Rich never lets that go, to the point where he set off the klaxon for asking "Which moon are we talking about?" last year.

Also, there's a scene worth looking for where David Mitchell asks Jimmy Carr "Are you suggesting that disabled access is a Dalek conspiracy?!"


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