With pristine location filming now a distant memory, how long will the honeymoon period last?
The opening titles immediately provoke a reaction from Sue.
Sue: Is this the first time we’ve seen the words Doctor Who and the… in the title?
Me: The first and only time.
Sue: You sound annoyed. What’s wrong?
Me: Well, you probably won’t have a problem with it because you think the character’s name is Doctor Who.
Sue: It is Doctor Who.
Me: Well, I don’t agree.
Sue: Even in the face of all this mounting evidence? You’re insane.
Me: The title of this story is wrong on so many levels, it’s difficult to know where to start.
The story itself begins with two potholers exploring some caves.
Sue: This doesn’t look like it was shot on film. We’re back in the studio again, aren’t we? That’s a shame. Still, at least the sound is OK, even if the colours are a bit smudgy around the edges.
The potholers are suddenly attacked by a dinosaur.
Sue: At least the director is doing his level best to hide the fact that the monster isn’t very good. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it effect, thankfully.
We then cut away to the Doctor tinkering with a vintage yellow car.
Sue: You see! His number plate is WHO. Why would he have that number plate if his surname wasn’t Who? You’ll just have to accept it, love – that’s his name.
Talking of names, it’s here that the Doctor decides to christen his new mode of transportation.
Sue: I had no idea that his stupid little car had a stupid little name. How quaint.
The Doctor and Liz take Bessie for a spin over to Wenley Moor’s nuclear research facility.
Sue: So is this supposed to be a British version of the Large Hadron Collider?
Me: Sort of.
Sue: Do they end up sucking everyone into a black hole. Is that the plot?
Me: And where exactly does the dinosaur fit in?
Sue: Don’t look at me, I didn’t write it.
In the reactor room, where Dr Quinn runs the show, Sue is amused to see him use a complicated intercom system to ask his colleague, Miss Dawson, to join him.
Sue: Why doesn’t he just turn around and wave at her? She’s standing two feet away behind some glass!
And no, she doesn’t recognise Fulton Mackay from Porridge. It’s either early-onset Alzheimer’s or she genuinely doesn’t care about the same kind of shit that I do.
Sue: So is the Brigadier in all the Jon Pertwee stories?
Me: He’s in most of them.
Sue: Good. Oh, that poor bloke can’t close his briefcase properly but he’s carrying on with the scene anyway. What a trooper. And he’s got the serious hots for Liz. He’s borderline creepy when he’s in the same room as her.
As the scientists conduct an experiment, a Cyclotron technician starts to behave very oddly indeed.
Sue: Are the aliens hypnotising the humans again? It’s the same old story every week!
Incredibly, something that has changed is Sue’s appreciation for the show’s incidental music.
Sue: I really like the music in this one. Is it Dudley?
Me: No, it isn’t.
Sue: I didn’t think it was. It’s a lot better. I love those oboes.
The episode concludes with the Doctor being attacked by the same dinosaur that we saw at the top of the show.
Sue: Oh dear, that really does look a bit naff.top
Sue doesn’t say very much during this episode, which, as regular readers of the blog will know, is a very good sign.
In fact, the only thing that drives her mad is the identity of the actor playing Captain Hawkins.
Sue: I know that voice. I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere before.
Me: You have. He’s very famous.
After spending several minutes trying to place him, she gives up.
Sue: Just tell me.
Me: It’s Paul Darrow!
Sue: Is that supposed to mean something to me?
Me: He’s Avon! From Blake’s 7! We named a cat after him! She’s out there playing with Blake and Orac the hedgehog right now. How can you live with me and not know this stuff?
Sue: I thought Avon was a girl’s name!
Me: I thought the cat was a boy. How did I know Avon was going to get pregnant!
Sue: But we’ve never watched Blake’s 7 together. I thought we were going to save that for the sequel? Adventures with the Wife and Blake? His voice is very familiar though. Would I have seen him in anything else?
Me: Well, he did insult some of my students last week.
Sue: That’ll be it.
I should probably interject here and explain that part of my job entails me teaching students the finer points of Blake’s 7 during a lecture on 1970s telefantasy for a university module called MAC387: Science Fiction and Fantasy Television. I am not making this up. I even talk about the Silurians. Anyway, each year I show them the climatic last five minutes of Blake (it’s technically from the 1980s but what can you do?) and, without fail, they always laugh their socks off. So, Paul Darrow, beautiful man that he is, recorded this for me, so I could play it to them as their laughter subsided.
Meanwhile, back in Doctor Who and the Silurians (sigh), the Brigadier is annoyed that there are now two monsters for him to deal with.
Sue: I’m glad there are two monsters. The first one was shit.
And then we get our first look at a Silurian’s third eye (from its point of view).
Sue: Is the red bit on top of the lens there because it’s bleeding? This POV sequence is very good, actually. It reminds me of Halloween a bit.
As Quinn heads for the Silurians’ base, we are treated to our first blast on a kazoo.
Sue: OK, the music has gone a bit mental now. Bring back Dudley. No, wait. Hire someone else.
When the Doctor and the Brigadier gang up on Dr Lawrence, Sue finds their rapport to be quite charming.
Sue: It’s obvious that the Brigadier and the Doctor have a lot of mutual respect for one another. I really like that. He’s basically a companion, isn’t he?
The episode concludes with Liz under attack from a Silurian in a barn.
Sue: Poor Liz. I’m sorry that I didn’t say very much about this one. That’s the trouble with the good ones: I get too wrapped up in it to say anything.top
Sue: It must be really hard to get around with vision like that. I’d constantly bump into things.
It’s around this point that Sue believes she has finally identified the titular monsters.
Sue: Have we seen these aliens before? Are they the Ice Warriors? They aren’t? But they are reptiles, aren’t they?
When Dr Quinn turns up at the barn, miles out of his way, the Doctor’s suspicions are aroused, but Sue has far more important things on her mind.
Sue: Bessie is going to get soaked in all that rain. He should have put the roof up.
She is, however, impressed by the big-budget helicopter sequences.
Sue: It’s looks great but what are they trying to do with those silly flares?
And then Dr Quinn activates the recall device given to him by the Silurians.
Sue: You know, I’m sure I’ve heard that sound somewhere before. It’s driving me mad.
Me: When you picked me up from that Doctor Who convention on Saturday, Paul Jones was doing an excellent impression of it behind your back. To tease you.
Sue: I knew I’d heard it somewhere before! So is that what you fans do at these conventions? You sit around doing impressions of Doctor Who sound effects all night?
Me: Not all night, no. By the way, how did you find the convention? You stayed for all of one hour. Well, when I say “stayed”, you actually hid in the restaurant for a bit.
Sue: The food was terrible. The prawn starter was an Asda ready-meal that had been smothered with balsamic vinegar. It was awful.
Me: Yes, but apart from that, what did you think?
Sue: It was a lot more normal than I imagined it would be. A bit boring, really. I thought everyone would be dressed up. I did see the back of Peter Purves’ head at one point – not that I would have known if you hadn’t pointed it out to me – and I got to meet that nice Rob Shearman, which was nice. You never told me he was so nice.
Me: So would you go to another one, if, say, it was all about Matt Smith and you could meet the Moff and have your picture taken with him?
Sue: Really? I could meet the Moff? Would I be able to go for a drink with him so we could have a chat?
Me: No, you’d have about 30 seconds with him. Tops. They’ll probably call security if you refuse to leave.
Sue: Right. OK, I’m game. How much?
Me: (cough) 100 quid. 120 if you want a photo with the Moff.
Sue: 60 quid each doesn’t seem unreasonable. Book the tickets.
However, when I go to the website to book the tickets – she still allows me to buy them when discovers the real price – there is no tick box available that will guarantee a photo-op with the Moff. So she tells me not to bother. I really am not making this up.
Meanwhile, back in Doctor Who and the Silurians (sigh).
The episode concludes with our first good look at a Silurian.
Sue: Is that a fish?
She’s not sure what to make of the “aliens” (“It’s hardly worth dragging out the surprise for three episodes”) but she’s convinced that she’s met them somewhere before.
Sue: Are you sure we haven’t seen this lot before?
Me: They turn up quite a lot in the Matt Smith era.
Sue: Do they? I think I’d remember them if they did.
So I show her an image of a 21st century Silurian.
Sue: Piss off! They look nothing like them!
Me: I know! Ridiculous, isn’t it?
Sue: The new ones look so much better. The old ones look terrible.
We then get into a big argument about which Silurian is best – the ones that look completely “alien” or the ones that look they’ve just walked off the set of Star Trek.
As I am the one writing up this blog entry, I win.top
Sue: I’m really surprised they killed Dr Quinn like that. Off-screen, as well. I thought he’d be there to the end.
When the Doctor is confronted by a Silurian he immediately offers his hand in friendship.
Sue: I love that. That sums up the Doctor for me. Anyone else would run away or shoot at it.
As the Doctor rues the fact that Silurian ran away from him, Sue picks up on Pertwee’s enunciation.
Sue: Has the Doctor got a lisp?
Me: Have you only just noticed that?
Sue: Yes. Is it part of the punishment doled out by the Time Lords? He can’t speak properly and people won’t take him seriously? Is that it?
As the Brigadier and the Doctor lock horns over the best way to proceed, Sue frowns.
Sue: I’m picking up quite a bit of tension between the Brigadier and the Doctor all of a sudden. The Doctor doesn’t trust the Brig, does he? It’s difficult to watch because I like both of them. I do have a problem with this story, though.
Me: Oh yes? What’s that?
Sue: It’s all the funny noises. They must be using frequencies that our dog can’t stand. Look at her – she’s leaving the room to get away from them. It’s not right.
Deep beneath the Earth, the Silurians question the captive Major Baker.
Sue: These Silurians strut around like they own the place.
Me: They do own the place.
Sue: Yes, but they are walking around like they are super-cool dudes. I’m not saying they look cool, they just think they look cool.
When the Doctor and Liz are harassed by a dinosaur, Sue exclaims:
Sue: I’m pretty sure that’s Chroma.
OK, she didn’t really say that. What she really said was, “That looks a bit dodgy”. Ha! Just you bloody wait, love.
And then Geoffrey Palmer turns up as a Permanent Under Secretary.
Sue: Oh, it’s him! You know! Him.
Several hours later, she will finally remember that it’s “him out of Butterflies“, which I will take as a victory. Until she starts singing the theme tune (that’s usually my job whenever she cooks).
Sue: This is very gritty episode. It’s like we’re watching an adult drama for a change. This is definitely not for the kids.top
The biggest topic up for discussion throughout this episode is the young, hot-headed Silurian, or as Nicol so eloquently puts it as she strides through the living room.
Nicol: It’s Jar Jar Binks!
Sue agrees. I patiently explain to them both that the Silurian who wants to destroy humanity with a deadly plague is nothing like the lovable Gungan from the Star Wars prequels, but they aren’t listening. And it’s all because he keeps shaking his head uncontrollably when he walks and talks.
Sue: Maybe he’s got Parkinson’s Disease?
Me: It’s Packer doing the Silurian voices by the way. You know, Paaaacker.
Sue: What? All of them?
Sue: **** off!
Me: I’m not making it up. It’s Peter Halliday from The Invasion. The actors are probably overcompensating with their body movement because they aren’t the ones doing the talking.
When we finally discover the truth of the Silurians’ predicament, Sue is incredulous.
Sue: That’s one hell of a lie-in!
She is, on the whole, rather taken with the idea that the Silurians are an indigenous lifeform. But she’s also sure that she’s seen it all before.
Me: You have. Matt Smith did a two-parter with practically the same plot and the same aliens. This one is better.
Sue: I wouldn’t go that far.
Me: Do you want me to sleep on the couch tonight?
When the younger Silurian plots our downfall, Sue believes that the Doctor has been tricked.
Sue: Has the Silurian gone back on its word already? That was quick!
Me: No, this is a completely different Silurian.
Sue: They all look the same to me.
As Masters assures Dr Lawrence that he will try to save his career, Sue just can’t help herself.
Sue: Hang on a minute, this guy’s name is Masters. He’s not the, you know, is he?
Me: No, he most certainly isn’t!
As Masters prepares to leave for London, he doesn’t look too well.
Sue: It’s probably just Ria’s cooking repeating on him.
The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive at Wenley Hospital to find Major Baker expiring from the Silurians deadly disease.
Sue: Don’t touch him, you idiots! Opps, too late. I hope it’s just measles.
Sadly, it isn’t measles and Baker is dead. And, as the Doctor says, he’ll be the first of many.
Sue: Oh, it’s all gone a bit Survivors, now. What would Greg do?top
Sue: Hang on a minute, the Doctor just called it an ‘alien’ disease. Are the Silurians alien or not?
Me: I think he means “unknown”. Don’t be so pedantic.
Sue: It’s a crucial point, surely.
As the Brigadier barks some orders into his personal radio, Sue smiles wistfully.
Sue: We couldn’t afford walkie-talkies when we were kids, so me and our kid would steal car aerials and just pretend.
Me: A racist and a vandal. It’s all coming out tonight.
There then follows one of my favourite scenes from classic Doctor Who, when Masters returns to London and infects the populace.
Sue: This is a great scene. I’m not sure you’d get away with it today, not with all the compliance forms you have to fill in nowadays. It looks like the public haven’t got a clue they are appearing in an episode of Doctor Who. The camera is miles away. It really is well-directed; very gritty and realistic. It’s more Cathy Come Home than Doctor Who at this point.
However, if there is one thing that Sue has become obsessed with, it’s the Silurians’ flooring.
Sue: It looks like Terrazzo. Or maybe it’s Karndean. It’s very nice whatever it is. They are clearly the most advanced civilisation with flooring like that.
Seriously, Pixely, Wood, Miles, Shearman, Hadoke and Sandifer have nothing on Sue.
Sue: I really hope Dr Lawrence gets killed soon. He’s such a dick.
Masters collapses in the street, and half of London follows in his wake.
Sue: Bloody hell, it’s turned into Threads now. This is very bleak.
And then, completely out of the blue, the Doctor suggests that he is several thousand years old.
Sue: Hang on, I thought the Doctor was a thousand and something.
Nicol: The Doctor lies.
Oh, so she is listening, even if her face is buried in the Facebook.
When Dr Lawrence enters with half his face missing, Sue is horrified.
Sue: The make-up is really good. Too good, perhaps. This is not for kids. This whole episode would have traumatised any child who watched it.
And then Lawrence completely flips out.
Sue: ****ing hell!
The episode concludes with the Doctor being kidnapped by some Silurians who have burnt their way through a solid wall into his lab.
Sue: Can he not feel or smell the heat coming from behind him? And surely he can hear that terrible music! My poor dog.top
Sue: The Brigadier does a lot of his work on the telephone, doesn’t he? This is a masterclass in telephone acting.
Liz begs the Brig to send down a search party to look for the Doctor, even if it means talking on the Silurians in open warfare.
Sue: She’s changed her tune!
And then Captain Hawkins is shot down by a Silurian’s death ray.
Me: No! Not Paul Darrow!
Sue’s not that bothered. I tut.
The Silurians force the Doctor to rig the power complex to a device that will destroy the Van Allen Belt, which will result in an Earth so hot, it will become uninhabitable to humankind.
Sue: Can he turn it on just for a bit, so they can have a nice summer?
As the Doctor gets down and dirty with the machinery, Sue raises an eyebrow.
Sue: Pertwee is ripped. He must work out a bit. He reminds me of this old, butch lesbian I used to know with grey hair and a tattoo. She’s the spitting double of him. And the Doctor in a t-shirt, that’s not right, is it?
But the Doctor tricks the Silurians and he overloads the nuclear reactor.
Sue: The noise is so loud now I can’t hear the dialogue! What’s going on?
Me: Pardon? What did you say?
With the complex about to explode, the Silurians leg it back to their base for a quick nap.
Sue: The Doctor is just bluffing them. You’d think the Silurians would check his story before they all left.
Sue is therefore completely wrong-footed when she learns that the reactor is actually going to explode after all.
Thankfully, the Doctor saves the day by reversing the polarity.
Sue: I feel sorry for the Silurians a bit. You can see where they were coming from.
And then the Brigadier issues orders for the Silurians’ base to be destroyed.
Sue: Oh, Brigadier, I am very disappointed in you.
After a little comic relief (Sue actually believes me when I tell her that Bessie runs on human blood), the Silurian base is blown to smithereens (with, it has to be said, a tiny explosion).
Sue: I bet the Doctor will be bloody furious with the Brig in the next episode.
And then, as a very special treat (that I wasn’t even aware of) we watch a reconstructed trailer for The Ambassadors of Death that appears at the end of the DVD.
Sue: Blimey, the next one looks good as well. Oh, I could just watch some Debbie Reynolds right about now.top
The Final Score
Sue: That was excellent. Again. I might have to give this one another 10. (She thinks for a bit) No, it’s one episode too long and the dinosaur served no purpose whatsoever, except to put me off. Some of the Silurian acting was a bit over the top as well. No, I think I’ll give it -
Sue: It was very good, though. Like watching proper telly all of a sudden. Some of the location work was some of the best I’ve seen in the series so far and the plot was complex enough to keep me entertained. Are they really all this good?
The experiment continues…top
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