Tag Archives: silurians

The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

Epic finales have capped the past four and a bit seasons, so it was no surprise that season 5 went all out. In a scene reminiscent of what Russell T Davies probably intended in The Stolen Earth, every single available alien, robot and creature from the past five years gathers together at Stonehenge 102 AD (including, bizarrely, the Silurians, who shouldn’t even be awake at this point) to trap the Doctor in a giant box, thus stopping him from destroying the Universe when his Tardis explodes in the future.

The Universe's largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

The Universe’s largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

It’s a good twist, because you spend most of the first episode thinking there’s a monster inside the Pandorica, but in fact the monster is the Doctor and all the bad guys are there to save the Universe for a change. It must have taken an incredible amount of planning on their part, though. They had to read a psychic imprint of Amy’s mind to create the trap, ensure the coordinates were written on a painting that would get passed down to River Song, who would find a way to escape prison and bring the Doctor to the right place. Convoluted isn’t the word! You also have to wonder, if keeping the Doctor sealed away for eternity is so important, why make the Pandorica so easy to open again from the outside?

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated. With the first episode ending on the most extreme of cliffhangers, the Tardis exploding, the Doctor trapped forever, and the lights in the Universe blinking out of existence, it takes a hell of a job to undo it, but this is one of those occasions where it mostly works satisfyingly, thanks to Steven Moffat’s knack for planning out long-winded and complex plots and believing in the audience enough to keep up with it. Through a series of time jumps, the Doctor sets into motion an elaborate plan to rescue himself and works out how to undo the erasure of the Universe. These sequences are both amusing and clever, not to mention logically consistent (a rarity in a show that supposedly deals with time travel), so it’s a shame that a large part of the climax revolves around, basically, magic.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

This annoys me, because the story could rely on its use of hard temporal mechanics to sort itself out, but instead descends into wishy-washy metaphor. Erased from existence, the Doctor is brought back into the Universe by the power of memories or love or some such nonsense. How does that make any sense? The mind is not some magical thing that can overcome the laws of physics – either somebody exists in spacetime or they don’t. So now we have a situation where the Tardis was actually blown up, but now it wasn’t because it was undone, except that it still did happen because they remember it and still need to work out who was responsible for it, even though it quite obviously didn’t happen because the Tardis still exists. The Doctor was at the heart of the Big Bang version 2, except he clearly wasn’t because he still exists, and he only exists because Amy and Rory remember him… and so on, and so forth.

It's not quite as bad as "the whole world prays for the Doctor" but it's the same sort of thing.

It’s not quite as bad as “the whole world prays for the Doctor” but it’s the same sort of thing.

Well, whatever issues there are with the plot, I can’t deny that it’s bloody ambitious. I also love how the previous episodes from the season are incorporated into it, with Vincent’s painting passed down through history, and then later with the Doctor revisiting Amy in their previous adventures and finally explaining that weird scene from Flesh and Stone. Amy’s story arc also reaches a conclusion, with the mystery of her vanishing parents solved, the crack in her room being sealed, and Rory coming back into existence in time for their wedding day.

It's hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words "something old, something new, something borrowed... something blue". Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

It’s hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words “something old, something new, something borrowed… something blue”. Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

I suppose what I liked most about this finale is that all the overblown threat is contained with a minimum of bluster within part 1. After the big incident, the second part is relatively low-key. There’s this wonderful mix of the utterly bleak (all the stars have gone out, the Tardis is burning in the sky for two millennia, and the Earth will soon disappear), the heartwarmingly lovely (Auton-duplicate Rory standing guard over Amy for 2000 years) and the bloody funny (the stuff with the mop and the fez). There was never any doubt that everything would turn out fine in the end, but getting there is a fascinating journey. For that reason, it’s the best season finale of the new series, despite the problems I had with it.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

I was hoping to have revisited Matt Smith’s entire run before season 8 begins, but as I type this, Peter Capaldi’s debut is just days away, so I’m going to take this opportunity to take a ‘deep breath’, enjoy the new series and come back to this in a little while.

The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood

When I first watched this two-parter in 2010, I was aware that the Silurians had previously featured in Doctor Who, but that was about it. They are not your typical overused villains; in fact, this is only their third appearance, or their fourth if you count their aquatic cousins, the Sea Devils. Mind you, given the physiological differences, these Silurians are pretty much distant cousins too… unless we’re to believe that those old rubber suits were supposed to be masks also.

The Doctor removes Alaya's mask.

The Doctor removes Alaya’s mask.

As the intent here is to sympathetically paint the Silurians as people rather than monsters, they have humanoid faces under those masks, but the de-monsterfying goes further than that. There is discord between the civilian government and the military, who are considered old-fashioned warmongers who need to change their ways. Cold Blood focuses on the attempt to build a peaceful relationship between the Silurians and the human race, amid tension surrounding the death of one of their soldiers, with the Doctor struggling to prove that humans aren’t a threat to them. It’s not dissimilar to his attempts at peaceful negotiation in the first Silurian story, which had a rather unfortunate end for the ‘monsters’. The resolution here is more optimistic, and perhaps another story will revisit the Earth in the year 3010.

The humans and Silurians attempt to arrange peaceful coexistence.

The humans and Silurians attempt to arrange peaceful coexistence.

The Doctor has come a long way since then. His grumpy third persona was dragged into these facilities by UNIT, but Eleven is positively giddy with excitement upon laying eyes on the big drilling thing and wants to get himself involved right away. While Three thought badly of humanity and was proved right, Eleven loves humans and what they can be, but is let down. Additionally, you probably wouldn’t see the third Doctor making jokes in the face of danger or running around using a sonic screwdriver like it’s a gun, which unfortunately happens here, but frankly, I’ll take that over agonisingly drawn-out seven-part serials.

Look, it lights up. Bang, bang!!

Look, it lights up. Bang, bang!!

That said, however, The Hungry Earth is a little drawn out itself, teasing the reveal of the creatures below the Earth. It’s the schlocky monster movie to Cold Blood’s political drama, and does less to set up the human characters than the second part manages under a tighter time limit. I didn’t really care about any of them in part 1, but by the end of part 2, I found them quite likable and believable. As an ensemble piece, it’s well-balanced and everyone has something to do. Rory is particularly good again.

Amy is pulled into the ground by forces unseen.

Amy is pulled into the ground by forces unseen.

Unfortunately, poor Rory gets a raw deal. It’s not good enough that he gets killed shortly before the story is over, he has to be erased from history and forgotten too. The last few stories have shown that the two companion dynamic works brilliantly, so to see him written out like this is disappointing. He will come back later but, appropriately enough, I’ve forgotten how (sorry, Rory)! The sudden appearance of the crack and the piece of Tardis shrapnel is forcibly squeezed into the closing minutes, killing the pace with a pointless mystery. It’s not the subtlest of season arcs, this crack thing, is it?

Riddle me this. Why couldn't the Doctor throw Restac's gun into the crack, thereby erasing it, and Rory's death, from history?

Riddle me this: Why couldn’t the Doctor throw Restac’s gun into the crack, thereby erasing it, and Rory’s death, from history?

Warriors of the Deep

Whenever I hear the word “Silurians”, I can’t help but hear it in Jon Pertwee’s posh lispy voice. It’s been a long time since they or their Sea Devil cousins appeared in Doctor Who, in two fairly poor serials, and now they’ve teamed up for round three.

The Sea Devils look like samurai. With ray guns. They are awful shots, though.

The Sea Devils look like samurai. With ray guns. They are awful shots, though.

Although the rubber suits are better, the story sadly isn’t. A group of surviving Silurians has awoken an army of hibernating Sea Devils and plans to attack an underwater base and use it to push the Earth into a nuclear war, wiping out the “primitive” ape life and reclaiming the surface for their own kind. As ever, this comes down to a clash of opposing sides, Silurians versus humans, and, despite the Doctor’s reservations, always results in one side snuffing it. I just don’t think the Silurians and the Sea Devils are interesting foes. There could be a good story to tell, but this is just your typical monsters/aliens attack story.

The inevitable end, but the Doctor doesn't like being forced to kill.

The inevitable end, but the Doctor doesn’t like being forced to kill.

It’s not even particularly well done. Yes, the costumes are a lot better (particularly the Sea Devils – their military armour is a massive improvement over their awful chain mail), but there’s still that very cheesy “man in a rubber suit” effect that dates it so badly. The Myrka is even worse. Ambitious though it may be to have a giant quadrupedal lizard roaming the halls of a sea base, it just looks so bad; it’s like an oversized pantomime horse. The shootouts are cramped and badly staged, the laser effects weak and ineffective, and when Dr. Solow fights the Myrka, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry – she does some sort of judo kick slash interpretive dance in front of it, before it zaps her. It’s so hilariously bad, in fact, that I’m going to link to a clip of it.

"Roaarr!"

“Roaarr!”

On the plus side, the actual sets are well made, with a clean white aesthetic and one room even features a pool! Some of the miniature model work is nice, but you don’t see much of it. The computer stuff is in a dated 8-bit retro style, but the concept of a human/computer interface is at least nicely sci-fi-y, although it amounts to nothing in the end.

The sea base control room.

The sea base control room.

As for the Doctor, I think he’s developed an edgier personality, or the writers just wanted an excuse for him to have more fights. He gut-elbows and face-kicks a couple of the security guards before threatening to blow up their reactor “to keep them busy”. Granted, it’s arguably self defence, but it’s a bit more vicious than his usual routine, and let’s ignore the fact that he’s just infiltrated a secure military facility and shouldn’t be there anyway. I blame the new haircut.

The Sea Devils

The Silurians were not the only race of subterranean reptiles hibernating underground – a similar species, living in a fault line under the ocean, have now awoken, and are once again a bit annoyed that apes are running the planet, and want it back.

A chilling image, creatures emerging from the sea.

A chilling image, creatures emerging from the sea.

The “sea devils” are not very interesting creatures, really just a similar take on the Silurians, except they can swim and they have (admittedly pretty cool) heat guns. The plot takes too long to get anywhere interesting, and even the reappearance of the Master does little to help. If anything, the prison escape parts of the story slow everything down; and, if I’m being picky, the Master’s motives for his involvement are paper-thin at best.

That said, I liked the fact that the Doctor and the Master have a sword fight and chase each other in jet skis, and that he pulls his rubber mask trick at the end and escapes again. He’s such a devious cad! There’s also lots of footage of boats and explosions, and apparently the Royal Navy was involved in its production in some way, which shows.

The obligatory "annoying authority figure" forces the naval base to launch an attack.

The obligatory “annoying authority figure” forces the naval base to launch an attack.

But, alas, this was all very slow and boring. It was too long and the drama regularly fell flat. In addition, I must mention the music. I can accept “synthy” as a style, but this has some of the worst music I have ever heard in a television show – often so bad that it blurs the line between music and sound effects, regularly distracting me from what’s actually happening, stylistically ill-fitting with the modern day setting and tone. Did somebody give the BBC sound engineer a keyboard and say “go nuts”? Because that’s what it sounds like. Zzzzappp!! Brrrpp!!! CHNGGG!!!! The whole way through. Maddening.

A peculiar moment in which the Master watches an episode of The Clangers in his prison cell.

A peculiar moment in which the Master watches an episode of The Clangers in his prison cell.

I’ve noticed some sexist attitudes lately, particularly apparent towards Jo. Although she rescues people in this story (including the Doctor), she’s treated like a child (literally called one at one point) and the Doctor continues to do that patronising thing where he holds her chin and tells her to run along or whatever.

Nothing else about this was memorable, except for an historic moment, as the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver for something other than removing screws! It’s apparently able to detect mines, and explode them, and later able to burn open a locked door. How handy!

The Silurians

The fresh new look for Doctor Who dissolves away again as it returns to the studio sets for this disappointing seven part serial. I was looking forward to the introduction of another ‘villain’ I recognise, but unfortunately The Silurians was terribly dull.

UNIT sets up at the nuclear power facility.

UNIT sets up at the nuclear power facility.

All time and space antics are forgotten about here, as the Doctor is now a full-time UNIT employee, and the threat conveniently comes to England again. There’s not even a glimpse of the Tardis this time; the story plays out more like an episode of the X-Files, with Mulder (The Doctor) trying to convince a skeptical Scully (Liz) about the existence of aliens living underground beneath this new nuclear power facility.

The Doctor visits the caves to negotiate with the Silurians.

The Doctor visits the caves to negotiate with the Silurians.

They’re not really aliens, though, as they’ve been living under the ground for hundreds of millions of years, and now awaken to find they are no longer the dominant intelligent lifeform on the planet. The Doctor spends most of his time trying to strike a deal with their reasonable leader, who is later killed by a more aggressive Silurian, and a back-and-forth show of force occurs between the Silurians and the UNIT soldiers. Naturally, one of the facility personnel is secretly working with the Silurians in exchange for knowledge and power, and he predictably dies.

The Silurians capture the Doctor while he works on a cure for the virus.

The Silurians capture the Doctor while he works on a cure for the virus.

The plot is flabby and leaves things unexplained. The Silurians have a huge dinosaur that they control… but where did that come from and what happens to it when they all go back into hibernation? It’s never mentioned again. What was the deal with the people being paralysed by fear at the sight of these creatures, but later on able to see each other and talk normally? What was that all about with the particle accelerator room giving people headaches? Was that related to the fear thing?

Attacked by the Silurians, the Doctor does that face again. I hope that becomes his "thing".

Attacked by the Silurians, the Doctor does that face again. I hope that becomes his “thing”.

There were some good bits. When the creatures are unseen, they’re more effective. There are some first-person shots of the injured Silurian running around outdoors that work quite well. It’s only when you see them in full that they just look like blokes in suits. (Video recording under studio lights do not do these costumes any favours, they look silly.) Most of the banter between the Doctor and Liz is good fun, and I could happily watch him mixing chemicals and looking at slides under a microscope for hours. I also like the Doctor’s new car, with number plate “Who1”. Also the ending is kind of bleak, with the military deciding to just blow the Silurian base up, killing them all, despite them being no threat anymore. The Doctor is not going to be happy with the Brigadier after this, I’m sure.

The Doctor and Bessie.

The Doctor and Bessie.

Other than that, I didn’t really like this one at all. It was too long, not very interesting and it looked cheap. As this was originally a monochromatic print that was combined with the colour from a poor quality NTSC broadcast, the result is very patchy and inconsistent. Sadly, inconsistent colour is going to be a problem for a little while yet. Hopefully, boring stories won’t be.