Doctor Who #261: Doctor Who and the Silurians Part 2

"That's typical of the military mind, isn't it? Present them with a new problem, and they start shooting at it."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.7 1970.

IN THIS ONE... There's a Silurian loose in the countryside and it's hiding in a barn.

REVIEW: Their pet dinosaur may be plastic, but the Silurians themselves are otherwise well handled in Part 2. We don't see much, of course. A clawed hand. A strange silhouette. A warbling voice. But just the same, they have the makings of an interesting monster, if perhaps a bit "Creature from the Black Lagoon". Their signature music is very strange and could evoke their native instruments, though I'll understand if you thought it was too cacophonous and experimental. Their point of view, a proud tradition in Doctor Who, involves a triple lens, the top one in red. Three eyes? (Of course, the race through the countryside doesn't seem similarly tripled, but it is an exciting POV sequence.) They have technology, and it seems vaguely organic, or just very rusty indeed. Stark pink and green lights give their environments an eerie, harsh (and again, COLORFUL) atmosphere.

SHOULD the Doctor be defending them at every opportunity? Or is he just playing devil's advocate in a place where the military mind rules and brooks no other opinion? It's true that the Silurians have called off their beast when possible, and should probably not be held accountable for the primal terror they seem to instill in humans. In writer Malcolm Hulke's world, humanity is the aggressor. Major Baker shoots the Silurian first, and it may only be defending itself in the barn when the country bumpkin du jour (complete with caricatured open mouth) tries to stick it with a pitchfork. It's a nice "He's still in the house" moment when the Doctor and the Brig realize they left Liz alone with the creature, but it's unlikely that it will really hurt her. But already the soldiers (the Brig and Baker) are readying their guns and plan to make this first contact a violent one. The Brigadier seems amiable enough, but his strategy is to keep his cool and go against his detractors' wishes with a diplomatic smile. The things that happen in small scale in Part 2 are mere foreshadowing for what is to come.

Structurally, this episode plays for time. The Doctor goes down into the caves, then comes out for a conversation just before they follow him in, then returns with the rest of the cast in tow. This back and forth is entirely unnecessary, and with Carey Blyton's music not doing a strong job with scene transitions, it seems at times like the Doctor is just in and out of that spelunking suit with every passing cut. It happens to Quinn too, through which we discover a little more of the Silurians' plans. He's letting them leech power from the project in exchange for "scientific secrets". Well, that can come to no good.

- It's padded here and there, but plays strongly on Hulke's theme of diplomatic vs. military solutions and features some nice shots of the creature on location.


Mitchell Craig said...

Some of the same themes in "Doctor Who and the Silurians" will show up in "The Sea Devils".

Siskoid said...

And Warriors of the Deep.

And The Hungry Earth.

And some other Malcolm Hulke serials.

Anonymous said...

The Sea Devils are awesome! When they're all walking on land in their blue dresses, they look like a bunch of old folks in their bathrobes trying to find the newspaper.

Siskoid said...

The Sea Devils is definitely a favorite story of mine.


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