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Doctor Who and the Silurians

Reviewed by Ken Tod

I viewed this from the same perspective as Spearhead from Space and again (contrary to some views printed in TSV 24), this programme was transmitted in a black and white format in 1975 and has never been shown in a colour format in New Zealand. The next story screened was Day of the Daleks, which was promoted extensively before its screening as 'the first ever Doctor Who shown in colour in NZ'. Although I'm prepared to accept that I could be wrong, if our colour TV was 'on the blink' for all seven episodes, and then only when Doctor Who was on.

First time up I loved this story. It scared me shitless and the Silurians were very convincing. The best thing about watching Doctor Who at age eleven was that it was simple to follow and enjoyable to watch. At 21 I still enjoyed the story although the Atomic Research Centre is the poorest aspect of the whole story. It just isn't convincing. At 27 I still enjoyed the story (apart from the ARC) and viewed it with the added benefit of having actually been to Marylebone train station where the plague death scenes were shot; also appreciating the in-joke of members of the production team as extras whereas previously they were nobody. An excellent monster story for the Third Doctor - and very much in the tradition of Season Five Troughton stories.

I appreciated some of the more subtle humour too, such as when Pertwee enters the Silurian control room and to gain the attention of the three Silurians he clears his throat!

The actors playing the Silurians do a very good job and the voices by Peter Halliday are excellent. When compared to the more recently produced Warriors of the Deep, the Silurians in the Seventies story leave them for dead. In fact it seems that the people doing the voices in Warriors of the Deep are basically taking the piss, which is a pity. A stronger performance would have helped Warriors of the Deep immensely.

So to conclude, I enjoy both stories even third time around although some aspects such as poor sets, special effects and looking dated is starting to have an impact. As with the Sixties material I feel that early Seventies Pertwee is now at a time where the enjoyment of each story is directly in proportion to the individual's ability to 'suspend disbelief' when viewing each episode.

My final wish is for BBC Enterprises to convert all the remaining NTSC tapes to PAL which would give the chance for such stories as Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, Terror of the Autons and The Daemons to be seen in colour for the first time. Besides, who cares if they're inferior to the original, they showed the others in 1985-86, didn't they?

Reviewed by Alan Higgins

Doctor Who and the Silurians is remembered as a semi-classic from the excellent Season Seven. Again we have a situation where an extraordinary and seemingly unbelievable event occurs in a contemporary 20th Century Earth setting. Malcolm Hulke, known for his usually straightforward 'monster' plots, of which Doctor Who and the Silurians is a prime example, is careful to ensure no loose ends are left unanswered (something lacking in more recent stories). A lot of time was obviously spent to ensure sufficient background was given to all major developments.

On watching Doctor Who and the Silurians I wonder if Hulke was attempting to encourage speculation. For instance, as with his novelisation, he presents clearly both Silurian and Human viewpoints. In doing this in his novel, Hulke explored more deeply the Silurians' background. We are told of a once advanced civilization while at the same time treated to hints of Silurian views of superiority, their principal motivator in their renewed efforts to re-conquer Earth indicating the different visions within Silurian ranks. It is this picture which makes it interesting to speculate what might have happened should the older, wiser (?), more diplomatic Silurians have negotiated with the humans as suggested by the Doctor; an attempt he would later revive to prevent a similar catastrophe in Warriors of the Deep, only to meet with similar disappointment.

Aside from speculation, however, the plot, though quite well thought out, was perhaps a little padded around the middle episodes (many long stories of the time were). But despite this, Doctor Who and the Silurians, like the other seven-part stories of Season Seven, seemed to hold viewers' attentions rather well.

The supporting cast were well treated here and handled their roles with competence. Two notable names shone above all - Geoffrey Palmer as the unbelieving official Masters, and Peter Miles as Dr Lawrence in the character he plays best. I was actually quite amazed here; there was virtually no difference in the manner in which Miles played Lawrence and his later, more recognizable Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks. Also making his Doctor Who debut in this story was a then rather unknown young actor, Paul Darrow, in a small role as the UNIT Captain Hawkins. Hawkins had no character, and was only present to listen and obey the Brigadier's pompous military orders - a pity.

Of the regular cast, Jon Pertwee shone through, as inquisitive as ever in his trek to discover the truth of Wenley Moor, in his usual routine of defying the Brigadier to get evidence in an attempt to convince the apathetic research staff. Pertwee was quick to gain control in his bid to resolve the crisis presented by the Silurian threat.

On a more downward note, Doctor Who and the Silurians is not without its flaws. Having seen all of Season Seven, I suspect Doctor Who and the Silurians as having the smallest budget. In support of these suspicions I draw on the atrocious Tyrannosaurus rex in the caves. This effect was very noticeable and very laughable. Studio sets of the caves were also rather poor to the extent that they just didn't seem credible, indicating the lack of location work on this story, compared to the rest of the season. It seems a shame that such a plot suffered from technical problems.

But above all the storyline does stand the test of time to a slightly greater level than its 1983 sequel, Warriors of the Deep, which ironically looked (in most cases), better than its predecessor.

This item appeared in TSV 25 (October 1991).

Index nodes: Doctor Who and the Silurians