Sunday, October 14, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 7

The one where the Brigadier blows up the Silurians...

For the second time in as many stories, the Doctor is abducted by monsters while wearing a white smock, only this time the abductors don't try and make off in an ambulance, but through the wall! The scorch mark the Silurians leave after resealing the wall is rather lovely too. It looks like something you might see on the wall at the Tate Modern. Perhaps there's a market for Silurian art?

It's a shame the Silurians have become a generic monster race by episode 7. After the death of the Old Silurian, it seems the entire race of revived creatures bowed to the will of the bloodthirsty Young Silurian, who wobbles around proclaiming very proudly that he is the leader now. This new leader just wants to wipe out the apes and take back the planet, and his means of doing so is both extreme and unexpected.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 6

The one where the Doctor conducts some very complicated scientific tests...

For the vast majority of this episode - aside from the pre-filmed insert where he meets a doctor who I swear could be a Reese Shearsmith League of Gentlemen character - the Doctor spends all his time in a lab carrying out endless tests. It makes for seriously boring telly, with whole sequences spent in silence as we watch Liz and her clipboard watch the Doctor fiddle about with test tubes and pipettes. At one point, Liz enquires: "Have you considered the addition of A37 in the presence of Z19 might well be effective?", to which the Doctor replies, "That's a possibility, let's try", and then we have to watch Liz watching him try.

Boy is it dull, and proof that Malcolm Hulke is really struggling with this seven-episode structure. Director Timothy Combe does his best to spice up the visuals with some nicely shot - but terribly murky - location filming at Marylebone Station, but there's no escaping the truth that there's not a lot going on. We even get some really cheesy cross-fades of the Brigadier answering telephones, the Doctor conducting his tests and Liz taking blood samples like this is a 1940s Hollywood thriller. But with test tubes.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 5

The one where Silurian civil war breaks out...

First there was Captain Knight, then Captain Turner, then Captain Munro, and now Captain Hawkins. UNIT had a swing-door policy on captains in its formative years, eventually settling on Captain Yates of course, but I wonder why they didn't keep John Breslin's Munro on for this story, or Paul Darrow's Hawkins on for Season 8? Both captains were solid and reliable, and Darrow in particular makes a good impression as the Brigadier's right-hand man.

This fifth episode is a pretty pedestrian affair as it's principally made up of a lot of people talking in rooms/ caves. For the entire episode, Masters, Dr Lawrence, Liz and Miss Dawson go round in circles arguing about the pros and cons of sending troops down into the caves, getting nowhere very fast, as demonstrated when Masters insists on doing nothing until he gets his next report. Cue arduous scene with all four of them watching a telephone, waiting for it to ring.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 4

The one where we meet the Silurians...

"Hello, are you a Silurian?" What a perfect way to skewer the tension of that cliffhanger, while also adding so much to this Doctor's character and outlook. He's not scared of or threatened by the creature advancing on him, he's intrigued by it and keen to learn more about it. He offers his hand in friendship, and there's that lovely moment where the Silurian tries to reciprocate, but isn't sure how. A fantastic - and very Doctory - way to continue the cliffhanger. It's a pity it ends with the Silurian crashing his way out of the house, but then, monsters rampaging through country cottages seems to becoming a trait of the Pertwee era already!

This Doctor is very much a humanitarian, a peacemaker, and he knows already that unless he intervenes, the humans will try and destroy the Silurians. He may have a soft spot for Mankind, but he knows what we're capable of too, especially when we feel threatened. It could be said of the Daleks - "dislike for the unlike" - but it's very true of humans too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 3

The one where UNIT searches for an escaped creature on Wenley Moor...

There's a monster on the loose on Wenley Moor. Not many people have seen what it looks like, and those that have seen it are turned to gibbering wrecks (except good old Liz!). It's a cast-iron classic horror film scenario - a monster lurking on a wild and windy moor, and a desperate search by the military to capture it before it kills again. It all feels very Quatermass, but also foreshadows a couple of my favourite genre series, 1981's The Nightmare Man and 1991's Chimera (that even has a monster holed up in a barn).

Director Timothy Combe does a grand job of making the search look professional and believable, with the budget stretching to a helicopter, flare guns, military vehicles, search dogs and loads of extras. His camera shots from the helicopter are wonderful and sweeping, especially the ones taking in Dr Quinn next to his car on the lonely track. These scenes add scale and truth to proceedings, even though we see next to nothing of the creature in question.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 2

The one where we discover Quinn is colluding with the subterranean creatures...

Liz is great, isn't she? Even in her slightly diluted form here, she's not afraid to stick up for herself and speak out. It's lovely that she has very quickly sided with the Doctor, her loyalty apparent in the early scene when the Brigadier teases the Doctor about not coming up with any credible evidence of creatures in the caves. "A subterranean Loch Ness monster? Very helpful!" he scoffs, but Liz is quick to provide support for the Doctor by apparently believing that the creature could be prehistoric. The very idea of a prehistoric monster being alive in the caves beneath Derbyshire is pretty preposterous, but Liz is willing to go with it, for the Doctor's sake.

So it's a little disappointing when the Doctor lets her down somewhat when he sides with the Brigadier in refusing to let her go down into the caves with him. Despite Liz's spirited "Have you never heard of female emancipation?", she's defeated by the sheer amount of testosterone in the room, and sadly, she gives in to it all too easily. This is not the Liz Shaw of Spearhead from Space. This is Barry Letts's version of a Doctor Who companion: loyal but submissive. Shame.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 1

The one where the Doctor goes pot-holing...

After a great opening scene in which two men are attacked by what seems to be a giant lizard while pot-holing (it'd make a great pre-credits sequence), we join the Doctor flat on his back under his new car, seemingly the new wheels the Brigadier promised him last week. In a jarringly self-referential move, the Doctor appears to be fixing a new registration plate to the car, WHO 1, and has named it Bessie. I've never really wondered why the car is called Bessie before, but it begs the question of what the Doctor names the car after. Bessie is short for either Elizabeth or Beatrice, and derives from the Hebrew for "pledged to God", which gives some insight into how the Doctor might see himself - or, of course, he could have named it after his new companion, Liz!

This new Doctor is shaping up very nicely already, no doubt helped by Jon Pertwee's very self-confident performance and sense of self. Pertwee was a very confident man who knew exactly who he was and what he wanted, and this seeps into his Doctor very naturally. He is a self-assured presence in any room, but retains a rather sweet politeness, especially towards Liz. I'm not sure what happened behind the scenes between Spearhead from Space and this story, but Liz does seem to have softened a little, and her leggy attire suggests new producer Barry Letts perhaps viewed the character quite differently to his predecessor, Derrick Sherwin. I do hope the character won't get watered down too much.