Doctor Who and the Silurians Unreview

Kazoo, kazoo you are mine, kazoo kazoo every time
Turn it up, turn it off, turn it in

Blur, Turn It Up

An experimental nuclear research base accidentally has reawakened the original inhabitants of Earth – lizard men! Making this one of the few stories to not feature any extraterrestrials (beside the Doctor).

The Silurians want their planet back. As you can imagine, this causes conflict with the mammalian upstarts who now control the planet. If the previous occupants of your house came back after being dead for many years, what would you do? Yes, you’d call for a bouffant-headed Time Lord, a female scientist and a bunch of gun-wielding soldiers … and this is exactly what happens.

Unusually for a race of Who monsters, the Silurians are nuanced and individuals. There are some such as the Old Silurian (none of them get a personal name) who, thanks to the Doctor, think that they and the humans can live together. And there are others, who wobble their heads whenever they speak, that think that the human race should be wiped out with a plague.

This mirrors the humans. Doctor Quinn (no, not that one sadly) wants to help the Silurians while profiting from their technology. The Doctor, on the side of the humans,wants to build them “a home and furnish it with love”. The Silurians are not fated to survive the story so any thought of apple trees and snow white turtle doves are in vain.

Both the Old Silurian and Quinn get killed. This opens the way to the set piece of the story: the effects of the plague. Unlike the majority of stories where we never really see the consequences of plagues or wars etc, this time we get to see London under the threat of the plague. This conveys the threat of the monsters in a way that other stories fail.

Geoffrey Palmer is the unwitting plague carrier of London and he really convinces. Palmer is an actor who always bears watching and with his character, Masters, he is mesmerizing as he succumbs to the Silurian lurgy.

An honorary mention must also go to the actor who plays Doctor Lawrence, Peter Miles. Another of those actors that bears watching. Miles is great in this. Whenever I have seen him act, he is always:

a) snide
b) a master of sarcasm
c) an absolute shit

In this, Miles is all this and more. Brilliant. I loved the way he was denying the plague even when he was covered in weeping sores.

This story is quite odd because we never learn the species name of the monsters themselves. What? Silurian? No, it is the Doctor and the others who call them that. We never learn the name that they refer to themselves by. The term ‘silurian’ comes from the epoch (era?) of history many squillions of years ago. A period in which a race of lizard men could not possibly exist. The Doctor compounds his mistake when he says that the Silurian Era was “200 million years ago” when actually it was 443.4–419.2 million years ago.

In the novelisation of this story, The Cave Monsters, the word ‘silurian’ is only mentioned once as a password. I could refer to them as ‘Earth Reptiles’ or ‘homo reptilia’ or even as ‘cave monsters’ but for the purpose of this unreview, I have referred to them as ‘Silurians’ as the writer Malcolm Hulke intended. My spellchecker insists on calling them ‘Saurians’, which is rather neat.

In the later story The Sea Devils, the Doctor admits to his mistake but then makes another when he says that they should be called “Eocenes” after an era which is as impossible as the Silurian era. Oh, Doctor, just admit you don’t know everything!

This is the only scientific clanger … if you wilfully ignore Liz Shaw’s assertion that the Van Allen belt protects the Earth from most of the sun’s radiation. She is clearly confusing it with the ozone layer. The Van Allen belt pretty much does the opposite of what Hulke would have us believe (if I remember correctly). This is one of the reasons why our space missions always go though it as quickly as possible. Exposure to the belt would be very dangerous to us.

OK. The tedious science and obscure Doctor Who references part of this unreview are over now. Relax and unclench your buttocks.

This is the story with the worst music ever. The BBC’s kazoo orchestra must have been surprised to be offered their first-and-only commission. I cannot stress how annoying the music is but just imagine spiders in tinfoil boots hitting your teeth with tiny hammers and you’ll come close.

This is also the story with the worst sound effect ever. That rusty gate noise that summons both dinosaurs and Silurians. Nearly as bad as the kazoos.

And as for calling it, Doctor Who and the Silurians. That just gives some fans the excuse to perpetrate their theories that the Doctor is really called Doctor Who.

This is also a story that I adore. Even though it is seven episodes of kazoos and rusty gates throughout, this is a great story. The pace never falters although I’d avoid watching it in one big clump. Sublime!


About greebohobbes

All-round irritant, expert swordsman (loves lopping off the heads of ghouls), professional charlatan and outrageous wearer of black cocktail dresses...
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