Doctor Who #266: Doctor Who and the Silurians Part 7

"But that's murder."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.14 1970.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor sends the Silurians into re-hibernation, but the Brig goes for the kill.

REVIEW: Unfairly remembered as the episode in which the Brigadier commits genocide, it's really not that simple. First of all, he doesn't. His order is to "seal the caves", not "destroy the Silurians". The Doctor's reaction is the only true indication that anyone's actually been killed, and he doesn't confirm this on screen with the Brig. He wouldn't even have noticed the explosions if Bessie hadn't gotten engine trouble. This is the same Doctor who told the UNIT man "well done" when he shot up the new Silurian leader (in the back, no less) just moments earlier. The Doctor does have a beef against the Brig because he was intending on exploring the caves further, waking Silurians up one by one and starting the peace process in a more controlled environment. Now he won't have a chance to do that, and he may well condemn the solution because it's merely passing the buck to another generation, isn't it? The Silurians will wake up in 50 years and dig themselves out.

The question is, does the way it's presented on screen dilute Malcolm Hulke's message? He is, after all, asking whether we're as big a monster as the monsters. In his novelization of the story, it's very clear that the Brig only sealed the caves, so it seems he didn't want to make UNIT irredeemable either. Lethbridge Stewart DOES lie to the Doctor though, and has the explosives primed as soon as his scientific adviser is out of the building. If the Brigadier is a hero who does something villainous, the young Silurian leader also surprises us by being quite heroic. When the Doctor tricks them into re-hibernation (watch for his first mention of polarity, though he doesn't reverse its flow), he realizes one of them must stay awake to set the malfunctioning hibernation units and will die in the disaster the Doctor's made them think is imminent. And he takes that responsibility. Each side has its point of view, and it's no easy as calling things good or evil. Regardless of the way the ending is presented (and technically, it could have looked a lot more like CAVES were blowing up, but it doesn't), that's Hulke's message and his and Dicks' repositioning of the Whoniverse's morality. Incredibly, they're allowed to end the story on a sour note.

The direction continues to be actor-centric, with good and human moments for the three regulars. I especially liked the quiet round of "well dones" after the Doctor bluffs (but really doesn't) the Silurians, in addition to the surprising sacrifices and betrayals mentioned above, and the reactions to them. Technically, it's a little rougher, as the whole serial has been. The experimental music here becomes unmotivated sound effects that confuse the action rather than supports it. The editing is as brutally jarring as ever. And the effects team smokes up a field that can't possibly represent the sealed caves.

VERSIONS: Strangely called Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, the Target novelization is nevertheless one of the most beloved of story adaptations. Malcolm Hulke goes into much more detail with the Silurians, giving them names and a prologue showing them go into hiding. Major Baker is oddly called Major Barker instead, and his death is discovered by Dr. Meredith instead of the Doctor.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Hulke gets to the heart of the matter and creates a shocking rift between the Doctor and the Brigadier. We're as far from The Invasion as we can be.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - A very important serial in the show's mythology, providing a new template for monster stories, introducing the Silurians which will return in the flesh or in spirit three more times, and surprising us with a turn in the Doctor-UNIT relationship that's shockingly (and bravely) uncomfortable for the show's premise.


Mitchell Craig said...

In a way, the end of "Doctor Who and the Silurians" echoes the finale of "Earthshock" two regenerations up the road. And speaking of regenerations, I'm amazed that no one ever thought of having the Doctor regenerate after being killed by an enemy...and something similar did happen in Doctor Who: The Movie, but I discount that scene because of its ineptitude.

Siskoid said...

What do you mean? The Doctor is gunned down somewhat randomly in the TVM. Doc4 is killed by the Master, however, if that counts.


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