“Doctor Who and the Silurians” is a great episode of “Classic Doctor Who” and one I’d recommend. It is good at exploring the different factions that are at play and each of the characters gets exploration in their slow descent to become the worst of themselves. This is something the current version of “Doctor Who” has never been able to do as well, partially because it doesn’t have the 7 Part format of this era that the new era lacks.
The episode was directed by Timothy Combe, written by Malcolm Hulke and produced by Barry Letts.
The story involves the awakening of the Silurians from their hibernation from the energy that is being used by the Wenly Moor Nuclear Research Facility. It is up to the Doctor and Liz to discover what is going on as they work with UNIT and the Brig and soon find themselves pulled into a conflict where Silurians and Humans work to destroy one another as the Doctor strives for peace and the survival of both species.
The Pros: Building Tension – This is a 7 Part story and it does a great job at building tension. We don’t see the Silurian for sometime but we do see the world through it’s eyes and the fear it feels and fear it makes other feel as it is running away wounded, this perspective lends the story power and shows the fear and confusion on both sides of the conflict while also presenting some good B Grade Horror tricks.
The Research Facility – The Wenley Moor Nuclear Research Facility is a place of drama, mysterious things keep pulling the power and making the reactor unstable which leads to the government and leader of the facility always at odds. Eventually his paranoia gets the better of him and we see just how much fear has destroyed everyone. The facility is also used to trick the Silurians who are attempting to destroy the humans after a Warmonger Silurian takes over after killing the Peaceful leader. The Doctor uses the facility to force them into hibernation and ends up preventing it from exploding.
UNIT – UNIT is on top of things this episode, for better and for worse. We see them dealing with the Silurian threat, stopping the Silurian bacteria that is infecting the population with the help of Liz and the Doctor and later they mount a counterattack and commit genocide on the Silurian population, fearing another attack after having being held hostage at the research facility.
The Brig – The Brigadier is a great character! We see him dealing with government politics and ethics as the Doctor does things like talk to the Silurians that put him in a compromised position. He trusts the Doctor up until he sees how humanity is turning on itself from Silurian threat so the Silurians must be destroyed…also after nearly being killed by the Warmonger Silurian he had had enough and decided to wipe out the population. He isn’t a good guy as we know all Silurians were not bad but all he had was his experience to go off and that was witnessing two attempts by the Silurians to wipe out the Species of humanity. Nicholas Courtney is great as always.
The Silurians – The Silurians are complicated and we see a rich culture in the times we meet them. We also see that there are those with superiority comlexes ruled by fear who want the Earth back and not to coexist. This political dilemma leads to a coup and the disposal of the peaceful Leader, which spells the end of the Silurians as the attack by Morka and K’to leads to a UNIT counterattack which leads to the wiping out of their species and any chance for peace. We know they aren’t all bad as shown by their leader it was simply the few awake were ruled by fear because every interaction with humans had been hostile…showing the tragedy of the Silurian experience after their awakening.
Liz – Liz is a great companion and Caroline John is fantastic as her! She is an active companion who doesn’t take crap from the Doctor. We see her in scientist mode and she discovers that the Silurians are reptiles and large and from their helps the Doctor discover their possible origin. She is the only one not to die of fright when she sees a Silurian and we see her on the side of peace the entire time and against the actions of fear by UNIT and the government.
The Doctor – Jon Pertwee is wonderful as the 3rd Incarnation of the Doctor! In this we see him fixing his car Bessie and later using it to get around in investigating the attacks in the mine and around the countryside. He is the only one who truly understands the Silurian experience and wants peace and coexistence. He is willing to go to any lengths to do so, showing just how alien he is…where humans react with fear he reacts with understanding and asking questions and it is at the end where the sadness of humanity wiping out an entire species is only felt by him and the failures of all his attempts to reach a peaceful solution as his last regard of reasoning with the Silurians one at at time after awakening them from hibernation was ignored as UNIT destroyed the Silurians instead. Pertwee is the gruff and gentlemenly Doctor who defines himself in how he is not like humanity, even if at times he helps them.
The Vices of War and Destruction – The reason humans die from the Silurian bacteria and the Silurian species is destroyed is because of the vices of fear, anger and greed. It is greed that makes the members of the facility want nothing to do with the Silurians or the conflict only running the machine, it is fear that leads to the peaceful Silurian leader being killed in a coup and anger and fear that lead to the bombs being placed that destroy the Silurians. In this way peace was a lost cause the moment the cycle started with the Silurian injuring the miners and being injured in turn (unknown who started it though, both were in self defense most likely)..and this fed the conflict that could only have one resolution since no one wanted to listen or understand except the Doctor and Liz. The desire for control of land by the humans and Silurians is another major problem that fed the conflict. There was no sharing involved, it was all or nothing for the war parties.
The Ending – The ending is sad and powerful. It is true to reality as well as many cultures are no longer around today because of conflict and war that was started from the need for land and the people who do work for peace in conflict today are usually on the losing side since war breeds war and hate breeds hate, resolution only happens after enough people have died to get one faction to surrender. This ending illustrated that the Doctor isn’t a superhero either. He won’t always save the day because the choices of humans and Silurians are not his to make.
Okay: The Human and Silurian Antagonists – The antagonists are alright, I would have liked more on why they felt so strongly on things though. The men at the research station wanted money and knowledge and losing that drove them mad and the Silurians wanted their old home back (a good drive) but they also never experienced harm from humans first hand. If K’to or Morka had I would have put them as a pro since their fear would have greater reason behind it and not simply look cruel or for political ends.
This was an episode that showed that there isn’t always a happy ending and the Doctor can’t always save everyone…sometimes people will act whether he wants them to or not and they may or may not be right depending on the situation. This is something the New Series of “Doctor Who” lacks. It is still a favorite show but I think the longer format of the episodes of the past allowed for great exploration of the different factions and worlds and provided great rising tension rather than having everything at a break neck pace. Sometimes a story wants you to get to know the characters first before they are put in mortal danger. This is a huge reason this episode works and why it would not have worked if it had only had an hour to tell the story. This is also a story that is true to reality and just how difficult it is to make peace as well as showing us the Doctor is not a Superhero and he cannot always save the day since it is the choices of everyone that affect a conflict and it’s resolution, not just one person.
Final Score: 9.2 / 10