Intelligent Alien Beings (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood)

(102 comments)

Karen Gillan is a particular specialist at the "pretend you're
in the middle of an earthquake" aspect of acting in Doctor
Who.
It’s May 22nd, 2010. Roll Deep remain at number one with “Good Times,” which is unseated after a week by Bob and Bruno Mars with “Nothin’ On You.” with Jason Derulo, Usher, Fyfe Dangerfield, Leeds United Team & Supporters, and the cast of Glee also charting. In news, the so-called Borisbus design is debuted. Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, and David Miliband all announce that they’ll stand for leadership of the Labour Party. And not much more happens.

While on television, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, a nice, meaty, two-parter. Which is to say, a relic. The two-parter, as a story structure, has seemingly been deprecated, becoming the pure historical of the new series. Like the pure historical, it lingers into the second major creative era of the show before being quietly and unremarkably done away with - two-parters are a mainstay of Series Six Part One, and have suddenly vanished by the back half.

Moffat has spoken about two-parters skeptically as a structure, arguing that the way in which they can be made to work is to have the second episode start in a markedly different place from the first - a logic that, when taken to its extreme, eventually gets you things like The Snowmen and The Bells of Saint John or The Name of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor in which the broadest form of the two-parter is preserved, but the individual stories are wholly distinct. And sure enough, the five two-parters of the Moffat era almost all do this, with  the setting change in Flesh and Stone, the unexpected time jump in Day of the Moon, and the introduction of the Ganger Doctor in The Rebel Flesh. There’s a notable exception here, of course, and it’s this story.

It tries, certainly - the switch to a historical narration from the perspective of 3020 is an attempt to make Cold Blood a materially different sort of story than The Hungry Earth. But it’s a feeble attempt designed to try to cover up the truth, which is that The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood is a case of the new series doing a two-parter that is utterly faithful to why there are two-parters in the first place, namely a desire on the part of Russell T Davies to preserve the cliffhanger structure of the classic series. 

In this regard the most interesting question about these episodes, in many ways, is what Tat Wood is going to think of them. As one of the few people capable of suggesting that the new series ought be more like the classic series without sounding like an utter fool, these episodes ought be of particular interest to him. Not least because they harken back consciously to the Pertwee era in more than just the choice of antagonists. The opening sequence is drenched in Pertwee iconography, from a giant drill (Inferno) to the bucolic Welsh setting (The Green Death). There’s talk of jungle planets, and Nasreen is fairly straightforwardly modeled off of Liz Shaw. And, of course, there’s the antagonists. 

But that’s just iconography. What really jumps out here is the structure - the fact that the way that The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood was structured as a two-parter was by increasing the number of major secondary characters (four Silurians and five humans) and by taking large amounts of the storytelling very slowly. The four minute cold open of The Hungry Earth is not outlandishly long, certainly, but it’s worth thinking about how this would have been handled in other stories. It’s difficult to imagine this story being handled this way even as early as Season Six, and unfathomable that it would be structured this way in Season Seven. These days we’d collapse exposition, introducing the human characters alongside the explanation of the drill, using the need to explain the plot to Amy as an opportunity to handle all of this. Instead we get it done in multiple scenes. Likewise, we have an entire thirty second scene devoted to the Doctor getting through the main gate with the sonic screwdriver. Again, what’s striking is not how torturously long this brief scene is, but rather that it exists at all, it being exactly the sort of thing the Moffat era eventually starts trimming with abandon. 

Even where things change from how they’re done in the 1970s, it comes down to finding like-for-like replacements in a new iconography. In 1970 the human weaknesses that derail peace were the usual concerns of the 1970s: military thinking, economic greed, lust for power, all that jazz. This time it comes from a mother being overprotective of her family, which, although Moffat backs away from motherhood as a theme very soon after this, is at this point still a major and recurring theme of the new series. And, tellingly, the 1970s motivations and iconographies are all still there - they’ve just been ported over to the Silurian side, who do in fact have overly militaristic warriors and blinkered scientists of the sort who were all the rage in early 70s Doctor Who.

The result of all of this is a story that feels like the era it’s emulating more, perhaps, than any other new series episode. We’ve had occasion to look at episodes and say “this feels rather 80s” or “this is a callback to the 60s,” but we’ve never had something quite this imitative. At times it seems like the script is more interested in engaging with the Pertwee era than it is in the audience. Certainly Nasreen’s presence makes a lot more sense when read as an occasion to give Liz Shaw a departure story. And the reveal that the Silurian faces that were initially teased are just masks covering expressive faces that will actually (for the first time) allow the Silurians to actually function as individual characters instead of as people in monster suits, while clever, is also blatantly a case of saying “look, we can do things from the 1970s better now.” This is true as a statement of fact, but it’s telling that the entire reveal of the Silurians is structured around this reveal.

Admittedly, the reveal coincides with the revelation that the Silurians are individual characters. But while this was hugely notable in The Silurians, it’s somewhat less radical in 2010, when we’ve already had “the monster isn’t actually a monster” in The Beast Below and aliens with individual personalities are a standard component of the show’s bag of tricks. The moment where “the monster” becomes “Alaya” doesn’t serve as something that fundamentally reconceptualizes the entire story, not least because it’s not until Cold Blood that we get even the first hint that there are good Silurians. But more broadly, it’s because the central brilliance of The Silurians is now standard operating procedure - we haven’t had a single season of the new series that hasn’t featured monsters with individual personalities, and the “aliens are not equivalent to villains” idea has similarly become standard, if perhaps still less common than would be ideal in 2010.

Which gets at the biggest problem with redoing the Pertwee era, or at least The Silurians in 2010. What is often forgotten about The Silurians is that it’s the second Doctor Who story after a complete reconceptualization of the series’ premise. The TARDIS neither appears nor is mentioned at all - the Doctor is just a weird guy working for UNIT, and even that’s only been set up in the final episode of the preceding story. The Silurians trades heavily on the fact that the nature of the show was truly up in the air such that the idea that it might become about sharing a planet with lizard people is within the realm of possibility. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood doesn’t have that luxury, even with its near-future setting: the show is far too cautious in 2010 to do something like declare peace between Silurians and humans to be an imminent moment of future history.

There’s a bitter irony to all of this. In 1970 it was conceivable that the Silurians could actually serve as something other than antagonists, except for the fact that the show wasn’t capable of doing anything with them besides have them be men in generic monster suits. In 2010, on the other hand, the Silurians aren’t really capable of serving as anything other than glorified monsters, even though the show finally has the technical capabilities to do what Malcolm Hulke was trying to do in 1970. Instead the show ends up taking the predictable route, carefully making sure the breakdown of the peace process is ultimately the Silurians’ fault, albeit after some considerable human provocation on the part of Ambrose, and putting all the toys back in the box. 

There are, of course, ways around this that we’ll see in later stories. For all that the resolution of The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood falters, it at least gave the series Silurian costumes and, perhaps more importantly, Neve McIntosh, who will work out much better later on in the form of Madame Vastra. Obviously we’ll talk about her more when the time comes, but it’s worth pointing out that she takes the idea of the Silurians to its logical endpoint instead of attempting a straightforward Malcolm Hulke imitation: she decouples the Silurians from the monster/people line and simply functions as a character. Yes, that means she also lacks the postcolonial aspects of the Silurians proper, but if The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood is how those are going to be played out, with the story ultimately siding against the Silurians while putting on a fairly banal show of pretending it cares about moral complexity, that’s probably an acceptable sacrifice.

But equally, an awful lot of what’s frustrating about this story really does come out of that /. As a single episode in which the pace is quickened and the pressure increased, this could have been at least an interesting experiment. But at the pace of two episodes and ninety minutes, with its over-inflated cast of characters it crawls, and it’s nearly impossible, at the end, to feel like this was worth doing. There may be enough good parts across the two episodes to justify doing them, but there’s not enough over ninety minutes to justify taking that long. And that, perhaps, is the true nail in the coffin of the two-parter. Because here we have a story that could have been a pretty good single episode turned into a tedious two-parter.

Curiously, though, all the extra space fails to find room for Rory, whose pseudo-death serves as the episode’s climax. That the death is temporary seems relatively clear from the episode itself, as it’s a terribly unsatisfying conclusion to that story, not least because of Amy’s forgetting Rory existed. Beyond that, given that this is Rory’s second death in two stories, the sense that there’s something wrong with the twist is so clear as to seem deliberate.

Nevertheless, it seems strange that Rory should be on the sidelines for so much of an episode where he provides the climax. His lack of any sort of hero moment leading up to his death certainly increases the sense of wrongness, but it becomes a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul - it may pay off in the eventual resolution of Rory’s plot for this season, but it only highlights the difficulties of this story, coming off as one more way in which the emphasis and focus was put in the wrong places. 

And yet for all of it, it’s hard to complain that the story exists. There are enough people who have always been inclined to insist that the new series should be more like the classic series in various ways that the temptation to try something like this had to be enormous. It was worth trying, to see if, against the odds, it could be made to work. It didn’t, which certainly isn’t proof that it couldn’t or can’t ever, but it at least serves as a needed warning sign to anyone who thinks that a medium can just be rolled back by forty years. As “great ideas to bring back” go, the Silurians looked like a good one, and again, this serves as a warning against the instinct that says that classic series concepts are inherently worth revisiting, and proves the end of the “bring back a classic series concept every year” logic. And the two-parter, by this point an instinctive and default aspect of the series’ production, stands revealed as something that can easily do more harm than good. 


The point of mistakes is to learn from them, and in every case the series did. Whatever might be said of the rest of the Moffat era, they never screw up quite like this again. This story feels, in many ways, like the moment where a lot of received dogma about how Doctor Who was supposed to work got cast aside and the Moffat era resolved to not play it safe like this again. As with many of the moments when a particular way of doing things starts to break down, it doesn’t cover itself in glory, but that’s not the point. This is, at least, an important story, if not actually a very good one.

Comments

Carey 3 years ago

Regarding Rory being sidelined: this is in part one of the mysteries of The Hungry Earth, because as originally written the narration would not have been provided by the Silurian but by Amy, and would have led up to the revelation of Rory's Death By Crack, and the reason behind the narration being the Doctor desperately trying to get Amy to remember Rory before she forgets him forever.

And this makes complete sense of the slightly fractured narrative of The Hungry Earth, the bizarre changes in characterisation (the Silurian scientist going from Dr Mengeles to a really nice chap); the ham fisted peace negotiations, etc.

Why it was changed, I have no idea (especially because Moffat was reported to be really impressed with Chibnall's script)-- I do wonder whether it telegraphed Rory's Death By Crack too much. But it's inclusion would have made the story fit far more into series 5's theme of memory.

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Daru 3 years ago

"There are enough people who have always been inclined to insist that the new series should be more like the classic series in various ways that the temptation to try something like this had to be enormous."

Ian Levine has been pretty vocal about his desire for the new series to mimic the old - even to the point where he edits all new episodes down to two classic era length episodes, even inserting cliffhangers! Listen to the two part podcast interview with him where he talks about this (amongst lots of other interesting gold) at: http://news.drwho-online.co.uk/DWO-WhoCast-256-Ian-Levine-Interview.aspx

In one or two other podcasts I have listened to there does seem to be the opinion in some that despite not working now, the classic way was best. I heard one duo rave about how the Sontaran two-parter in Tennant's time was one of the best things they had seen.

Not my view - whilst finding these kind of episodes enjoyable on a fluff sort of level, I in the main find them rather empty in the end. Interestingly the three other two parters that had actually worked for me up to this point were Moffat's writing.

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Daru 3 years ago

Think I would have preferred that. I do feel that it is a totally wasted opportunity to sideline Rory here, especially just after introdicuing him. I imagine if this was a single episode, then we would have less characters - Amy could get taken as scripted, but Rory could go with the Doctor down below?

And yeah the narrative does have holes in it - just like the Vampires episode (which had bigger holes for me) - I just think it would have spun along nicely as one episode.

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T. Hartwell 3 years ago

There's always something that rankles with me about the Silurian re-design, and I think it's with what you said here about the reveal of their individual characters coinciding with the reveal of their actual faces. Because with that, it feels like they're only allowed to become sympathetic once they look human- yeah, human with green scales and the like, but still recognizably human.

And there's just something really unsettling to me about that- that in order for these aliens to cease being monstrous and villainous and instead gain any sort of depth or sympathy, they have to first start looking like us. And to me I'd much rather a story where they get all of that while still looking monstrous or inhuman. I agree the additional expressiveness allowed in the redesign is a definite boon, but in this episode it just leads to so many unfortunate implications for me.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

The opening where Amy is surprised that she and Rory are still together feels off coming after Amy's Choice. At the time it felt as if Amy's Choice ought to have resolved that, and I think it contributed in some circles to the dislike of Amy. If it were Amy's after the fact narration trying to remember Rory that would be an in-universe justification, but I don't think it would work for an audience who couldn't see what you're doing.

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Daru 3 years ago

Aye, think what you are picking up is generally for me narration does not work anyway. I do find it lazy it terms of storytelling. And the story does feel inconsistent - still could have done with more Rory!

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dirkmalcolm.com 3 years ago

I do wonder if Moffat already had the idea of Vastra as a recurring character in mind so asked for the redesign. The photos of the initial S5 design look so much better in my opinion, though since we never saw it moving or interacting with other actors it's probably unfair to judge.

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Spacewarp 3 years ago

The point of mistakes is to learn from them.

And yet in the case of "bringing back classic monsters" the mistake is never learnt. This is the second time the Silurians have been brought back and it shows all the hallmarks of why it doesn't work as expected. Because it's not the monster you're trying to bring back, it's the impact of the monster, which in the case is of course a tremendously creepy 1970s story about reptiles hiding in caves. The majority of online fan complaints were probably from those who hold either "The Silurians" or more likely "Warriors From the Deep" in high regard. We saw the same kind of reaction to the return of the Cybermen, both in "Rise/Age" and previously in "Revenge".

Interestingly at the time of Series 2 there was much discussion on GB as to when the Cybermen were at their best, and this was almost completely driven by the age of the particular poster. Those born in the 70s tended to think "Earthshock" era was the zenith, while those a decade older preferred "Revenge" and those older still preferring the 60s.

We also saw the same effect when getting to the Ice Warriors in "Cold War."

To my mind the only way to make a returning 70s or 60s monster successful is to recreate the 70s or 60s story it was in. The only real success story in the new series has been the Daleks, and you only have to look at the structure of "Dalek" to see why. With just a bit of tweaking to reduce some of the moral ambiguity (and quite frankly just kill the Dalek at the end) you could practically drop "Dalek" into a Troughton or Pertwee season without anyone noticing.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

There are reasons to bring back classic monsters. The problem is that the genre of 'story that brings back a classic monster' cannot take advantage of them. The reasons to bring back a monster (classic or not) is that you can skip a lot of exposition and start playing with a readymade toolbox. But if you're bringing back a classic monster you still have to do all the exposition for those people who don't know what it is, so you're basically just treading water.

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Commander Maxil 3 years ago

Whilst I agree that the two-parter is perhaps largely played out now as a format, with seemingly ever decreasing returns on its use in the new series, I can't hep but feel a little sad. One of the things I always enjoyed about the classic series was the Doctor/companion exploring and interacting with the world they are in before they get dragged into the plot. Another thing I often feel as well is that some of the more recent stories feel a but rushed. For example I found I was very disappointed with The Rings of Ahkaten as it all seemed a bit easy for the Doctor to get to the end point. He didn't seem to have to work at it at all. I felt it was an extra 10-15 minutes away from being brilliant, which is how I often feel. Maybe 60 minutes is the optimal story length for me, not so slow as the classic series, but not over in a flash. If the Doctor can pitch up in a new world and then, essentially in 45 minutes of real time defeat any menace he faces then somehow it feels like its all getting a bit easy for him.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

For reference.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

I don't like this story, for many reasons. Reasons I won't go into because it'd take me a long time.

What I will say, however, is that the second two-parter of Series 5 ends with a giant crack. But whereas one helps resolve the plot (Angels, nom!), this one EATS RORY SADFACE. Just an interesting mirror, that the two lengthier stories both end with the same sort of visual. Good or lazy? You decide.

@themindrobber on Twitter, just yesterday, made a couple of good points about this story too, and I'm inclined to agree with him. This was very "paint by numbers", and very hollow/bad.

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Daru 3 years ago

One of the things I was thinking is that there might be possibilities for the two-parter being used to explore a more experimental form of working with stories. Rather than just treading the boards and trying to make the usual sort of story, why not just jump to something radically different in the second part, but keeping linked into some kind of narrative?

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Bennett 3 years ago

Lewis Christian - "Good or lazy? You decide."

'Lazy' is a charge that I would not accuse of any episode of the revived series. Eight years of paratext has convinced me that there is not a person working in Roath Lock who does not give their all to each and every task they are assigned. As Davies said in a recent Toby Hadoke's Who's Round nobody obsesses over the small details of Doctor Who as much as the people who commit their professional (and sometimes personal) lives to making it.

Now whether what they produce ends up being 'good' (whatever that means) is up for contention. But 'lazy'? Never.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

Chibnall might've put his all into the script, (and admittedly 'lazy' is maybe the wrong word and an assumption) but this story does follow the same sort of structure/story and has the same ideas that the Pertwee story had. In that respect, one could see it as a lazy rehash (just as Terry Nation's Planet of the Daleks is arguably a lazy copy of The Daleks). Sure, spend all the time in the world writing it and making it 'right', but when I view the story, it feels so 'wannabe Pertwee' that I almost cringe, wondering whether Chibnall deliberately wanted to echo The Silurians or whether he just watched it and then wrote a shorter, smaller version for Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.

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Liam 3 years ago

I kind of like the idea of the 1970s Silurians making settlements on Earth and being recurring characters through the Third Doctor era. Well, it would have required better costuming and advance plotting than was available at the time, but it would've been an interesting concept.

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Spacewarp 3 years ago

Also just because a classic monster was successful back in the day does not guarantee it'll be successful today. The only thing you can guarantee is that the nostalgia factor will draw viewers in. Unfortunately the same nostalgia factor will play against you if you don't make the monster sufficiently similar to how it was back then. Again the Daleks are the benchmark here as they never change. The Silurians on the other hand bear only fleeting resemblence to the versions they are copying:

1. They're from Earth's distant past
2. They've been awoken from hibernation
3. They want their planet bakc
4. Ummm...
5. ...that's it

In fact compare the story background to "Runaway Bride". You could actually tell this story with something like the Racnoss, and you wouldn't get half the stick from the fan community about how the Silurians didn't live up to expectation.

In fact, going back to my earlier point, I think "Dalek" is the only new series story where the return of a classic foe has been successful. At the time we thought it was going to be the way of the new series, innovative new creatures and rehabilitated and reimagined old ones. Sadly the law of diminishing returns seemed to set in with the Cybermen and it's been fairly ho-hum ever since.

Unless you're 7 years old, in which case Doctor Who's great as always!

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Spacewarp 3 years ago

One man's lazy rehash is another man's loving tribute.

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Scaedura 3 years ago

The problem with the two-parter format seems to be the small amount of writers who are actually good at writing them. IMO of course, but the episodes that I consider to be truly great are either written by Moffat, Cornell or RTD (I'm sort of counting Satan Pit as a RTD script here). Now, the last two don't write for the show anymore and the first one decided to not to do them in the first place. Basically, I don’t see why so many fans are asking for the return of the two-parter, when every single one not written by Moffat, RTD or Cornell had a mediocre to bad reception.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years ago

I think Closing Time does a returning villain the complete proper way. Cold War does right by the Ice Warriors in a completely different way.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

"One man's lazy rehash is another man's loving tribute." - fair comment! :)

For me personally, I think it strikes both. On the one hand, yeah, it feels like a nice nod to the past. On the other, it just feels so clumsily done.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

For what it's worth, I always felt Vastra looked and acted more Draconian than Silurian, frankly.

On a similar note, I always felt the Judoon costumes would've looked better on the Sontarans (just tweaked to fit the heads).

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

See, that's just infuriating to me. It's a gorgeous update of the classic design, and very much more in keeping with the Doctor Who ethos to write good, individually characterized roles for creatures who look like THAT instead of taking the easy way out and making them sexy lizard ladies. Yes, I understand that the simpler, more humanoid makeup is less expensive and quicker than the mask, but jeez.

What if they had split the difference and had only the leader be this style Silurian, and make all the others (including Dr Mengele) females in the other style? It would still be annoyingly heterosexist (in that classic sci fi manner of having alien females always be conventionally "sexy") but at least we'd have gotten that awesome mask on screen.

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Commander Maxil 3 years ago

You are correct, they have largely been disappointing but surely it would be possible to do successful two-parters, ninety minutes is hardly too long to tell a story in without having to resort to padding. The fact that those writers were able to produce such good stories shows it can be done (in fact most of my absolute faves of the new series have been the two parters) but I agree that too many of them have been lacklustre so perhaps the current resting of the format is sensible

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Philip Sandifer 3 years ago

I think it's interesting that they kept the sense of sameness by hiring Neve McIntosh to play both female roles, though - which is an interesting way to get that.

But mainly, I'm unconvinced it's possible to sell the audience on individual characters without giving them ways of distinguishing themselves on first glance. Costume can help with this, certainly, but having the audience invest in individual, distinct characters who all look basically identical is a big ask. I think you can humanize individual faceless aliens, but it's very difficult to individualize a group of them just on the levels of appealing to how humans process information and read emotional cues.

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T. Hartwell 3 years ago

Well, I don't think a more inhuman design necessarily means facelessness across the board- you could do something like what Henson (or rather, Brian Froud) did in Dark Crystal, where the Skeksis all look relatively inhuman, but are all designed differently enough to be recognizable as individual characters.

The question there, of course, becomes "does Doctor Who have the budget to create even 3 or 4 massively distinct alien costumes for a race that may not appear more than a few episodes?", which is certainly a valid question.

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

Plus, it has to be said, the cliffhanger ending to "Bad Wolf" is one of the all time greats. I don't know anyone who wasn't bouncing around like an over-sugared 10 year old after that.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

@Seeing_I: "What if they had split the difference and had only the leader be this style Silurian, and make all the others (including Dr Mengele) females in the other style?"

Frankly, that's what I wished they'd done - if only to "bridge" the different designs together. These new look Silurians got the helpful "another branch (hence they look different)" line but I think it would've helped if they'd at least made one of the proposed masks for an Elder Silurian.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

When we get there, I'm going to make a case that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is the best use of the Silurians since the 70s.

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Alan 3 years ago

Everything I have learned about Ian Levine since discovering this blog leads me to the conclusion that he is a creepy fetishist with mental health issues, to the point that I hope that when Tom Baker dies, he is cremated, lest Levine try to have him stuffed and mounted and permanently on display, like Juan Peron did with Eva.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

The problem with the two-parter format seems to be the small amount of writers who are actually good at writing them. IMO of course, but the episodes that I consider to be truly great are either written by Moffat, Cornell or RTD (I'm sort of counting Satan Pit as a RTD script here). Now, the last two don't write for the show anymore and the first one decided to not to do them in the first place. Basically, I don’t see why so many fans are asking for the return of the two-parter, when every single one not written by Moffat, RTD or Cornell had a mediocre to bad reception.

I think, as Phil notes in the essay, this may be in some small part down to the fact the Moff-era episodes tend to whizz by and practically throw ideas at us at breakneck speed. Let's Kill Hitler, for example, and arguably The Wedding of River Song. I think some fans now find episodes /too fast/ even in 45mins, or that they have even more crammed in than before ("blockbuster of the week" suggests they're going for big sweeping ideas and non-stop excitement) and, as a result, because 45-min episodes are now so packed, they probably /could/ fill a two-parter (in some cases; not all).

The ideal, for me, would be to have every episode 60mins. Especially with the Moff-era, and the sheer amount of stuff we can get in just one episode now.

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Alan 3 years ago

It's so strange to me that Moffat apparently has disdain for the two-parter when he wrote what I consider the most successful one: Empty Child/Doctor Dances. It had an awesome cliffhanger and a story that couldn't be told in 45 minutes (and definitely benefited from having enough time to slowly build the creepy atmospheric mood).

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Alan 3 years ago

I am personally of the opinion that the Silurians are and always were a colony of ancient Draconians who forgot their roots. That would get us over the fact that they make no scientific sense at all. In The Sea Devils, Three smugly pointed out that they can't possibly be from the Silurian era and should properly be called Eocenes ... which is also impossible from an evolutionary standpoint. But neither of those is as howlingly bad as Eleven referring to them as Homo Reptillicus, thereby suggesting that we share the same genus as a race of humanoid reptiles.

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Alan 3 years ago

Others (including Phil) have covered my primary objection to this two-parter -- that the pacing is incredibly dull and the story is a beat-for-beat rehash of The Silurians -- so I'll move on to my second complaint: that the plot depends on the Doctor being a complete idiot. First, the boy gets captured because the Doctor, in the midst of fortifying the base, simply forgets he exists. This from a guy who remembers what Rory's ID badge looks like from seeing it across a field. Second, having lost the kid to the Silurians, the Doctor then leaves the hostage in the hands of an obviously distraught and terrified woman whose husband and son have been kidnapped and whose father is apparently dying of poison, with only a vague warning of "don't let anything happen to the hostage or it will start a war or something." The only sensible person there (other than Rory) was Meera, so naturally he doesn't leave her behind but instead lets her tag along to meet the lizard people because he's amused by her scientific curiosity. I think Midnight was probably the last time things went so completely pear-shaped purely because of the Doctor's dumbassery.

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xen trilus 3 years ago

But is the alternative to two-parters, producing an entire series' worth of distinct single part TV stories, potentially putting a strain on creativity?

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Philip Sandifer 3 years ago

I think there's a fairly self-evident case to be made that 90 minutes is a great length for an adventure serial, and we'll be covering it in just a few weeks in between Series Five of Doctor Who and Series Four of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

But it's notable that a two-parter isn't a 90 minute run. It's two 45 minute runs, or, more accurately, a 168.75 hour run. It's the need to pick up the story at a point of excitement that gets tricky. Moffat is critical of The Doctor Dances in this regard, and I suspect he's right - it works great when you watch the two episodes back to back, but if you actually wait a week between them it feels like they've been standing around in that hospital forever.

Which is why Moffat eventually settled on the reasonably successful structure of a cliffhanger that changes the nature of the story. Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways is the original version of this: once the Daleks show up and the Doctor declares that he's going to rescue her, the story is fundamentally not the same one that we'd been watching for 45 minutes.

Likewise, although Silence in the Library has a fairly generic cliffhanger, Forest of the Dead starts with Donna in the virtual world, which feels entirely different because it's a whole new story strand. Flesh and Stone makes a pointed (and literal) jump, so that it's first scene is "the Doctor is in a new place," which is a forced way to accomplish it, but it gets the job done. The Big Bang, of course, is the most thorough execution of this - it has to start in a different place from The Pandorica Opens due to the fact that the entire universe has been destroyed. And then Day of the Moon has that great "three months later" jump. All of which is really just a way to deal with the fact that a two-parter and a ninety minute episode are not at all the same things.

The current mode of doing things, as I said, just pushes this idea further. The Snowmen and The Bells of St. John, Name of the Doctor and Day of the Doctor, and even A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler all work like two-parters, only they take the "start in an entirely different place" ethos to its fullest conclusion.

What's lost is the idea of Doctor Who and soap operas belonging to the same stylistic tradition of serialized television - that rhythm of cliffhanger and resolution.

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Robert Lloyd 3 years ago

"I think it's interesting that they kept the sense of sameness by hiring Neve McIntosh to play both female roles, though - which is an interesting way to get that."

Besides that - and the fact that McIntosh does a good job with the roles - it was likely another cost-saving measure: they were able to avoid casting a different actor's face for future makeup.

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

Random thoughts, I loved Nasreen and almost feel like it would be worth doing a sequel to this story just to have her back.

As much as I loved Amy's indignant reaction to being locked up in a glass case ("Did you just shush me!?") the Silurian scientist was just awful - the utter inconsistency of his characterization and the way he got "off the hook" without a second thought for his live vivisections. Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Thomas Lawrence 3 years ago

The homo Reptilia thing amused me endlessly, purely because it continued the tradition that each retcon to the Silurian's proper scientific name and actual origins actually makes things worse in scientific plausibility terms. I look forward to the eventual story where the Fifteenth Doctor has to walk back the "homo" thing, like "of course they can't really be the same genus as humans, that's just a nickname. Really the proper term is Sauria erectus" or some such nonsense. Maybe we'll get a discussion of cladistics into televised Doctor Who! Shortly before the show is cancelled...

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Scaedura 3 years ago

Moffat’s starting in a new place is a good idea (although every RTD finale had of course already done that), but not all well regarded two-parters do this like Human Nature and, as mentioned, Empty Child. These might be better viewed as a single entity, but they are still very successful and show that the “let’s just continue what we were doing last week” approach has the potential to work in the hands of the right writer. This compared to Rebel Flesh, which still feels like it has too little plot to fill its running time even with the focus change in the second episode.

I do love Moffat’s new approach and I can’t say that at this point I’m really missing the traditional two-parter of the New Series, but, you know, I hope they try them out again in a couple of years’ time with the right writers.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Another reason why it's so odd that Moffat should be the one to reject two-parters is that of all the writers who have worked on the new series he is the one least suited to the single-episode form. The amount of stuff that he tends to cram into his stories often cannot be adequately accommodated in one normal-length episode. I don't think it's an accident that the period in which I'd say his arc storytelling was basically working was the one in which the stories that were heavily focused on advancing its plot were The Eleventh HOUR and a bunch of two-parters (ATOA/FAS, TPO/TBB, TIA/DOTM), with A Good Man Goes to War as the only normal-length singleton. I think it started to go to pieces in large part because, as Lewis said, Let's Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song just didn't have enough time. Even 70 minutes didn't let The Time of the Doctor do more than gesture at most of the things he had piled on the heap. It's like the makers of James Bond declaring that from now on they will not do more than one location shoot per film.

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jane 3 years ago

The accusation of "laziness" is the most lazy of critiques, and there's no "maybe" about it, on a couple of fronts. First, and I see this a lot, the critic makes the completely unfounded assumption of unfettered access into the writer's process, if not the writer's emotional reaction to their own work. This is lazy because such psychological projection is completely imaginary, having no basis whatsoever in reality.

Second, and of greater concern, it's completely dismissive of the quite legitimate use of repetition as a literary technique. Whether it's drawing on the distant past as homage or invocation, or riffing on recent story beats, repetition is crucial for the creation of patterns, from which we construct meaning. Repetition invites comparison and contrast, puts emphasis on an idea, and builds structure into a work. There are dozens of specific literary techniques which are founded on repetition.

Again, to call something that requires forethought and deliberation "lazy" while failing to engage with or acknowledge the fundamentals of the technique itself is deeply ironic. Not to say that all repetition bears fruit. It doesn't. But in such cases, one is behooved to explore the reasons for failure, which requires a bit more work than lazily decrying it as "lazy." Without it, such accusations are insulting to both the writer/production team as well as the readers of such critics themselves.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years ago

There's hardly much competition though, is there?

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Daibhid C 3 years ago

I've forgotten where I read it, but I recall one critique along the lines of "What's the point of giving the Silurians names when they might as well be Old Silurian, Young Silurian, Silurian Scientist and Young Silurian's Sister?"

In other words, the "monsters are people too" twist of The Silurians is now so much S.O.P. that attempting to duplicate it isn't even getting up to baseline levels any more.

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xen trilus 3 years ago

LKH could use more time to help River have a believable character journey (although a second draft of the script would certainly help too), but this lightning onslaught of ideas that Wedding is accused of having only really exists as a series of flashy scenarios the Doctor travels through in the first 20 minutes.
If anything, it doesn't have ENOUGH to carry it once the Doctor reaches the pyramid - the drama then has to be propelled by 'The Silence start killing everybody at no real benefit to themselves'. The self-contained bubble nature means there's not much arc stuff to get through, other than the Teselecta reveal, Dorium's little speech at the end, and Moffat's having to contort to try and give River and the Doctor the big romantic climax we've been expecting them to have...

...I'll save the rest for when we get there, but suffice to say I don't think a lack of time is that episode's real problem. And I don't see what good more running time would do for TotD, unless it meant more scenes of Matt Smith playing with children.

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Triturus 3 years ago

xen trilus
But is the alternative to two-parters, producing an entire series' worth of distinct single part TV stories, potentially putting a strain on creativity?

I think one's answer to that depends on one's view of series 7. Personally, I think series 7 is fantastic, so obviously I wouldn't say that producing more standalone stories affected creativity in this case. However, I know that there are a lot of people who dislike series 7, and they would presumably disagree.

And of course what worked (imo) for series 7 might not work every time. If you can't get 13 decent scripts, stretching one or two out into two parters might be preferable to producing mediocre stories.

Plus I think the series would lose something if it abandoned two-parters altogether. No need to arbitrarily restrict your storytelling options indefinitely.

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Triturus 3 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Triturus 3 years ago

Lewis Christian
When we get there, I'm going to make a case that Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is the best use of the Silurians since the 70s.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship has become one of my favourite episodes since the 70s. So you'll have no trouble convincing me on the Silurian front.

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Adam Riggio 3 years ago

Lewis: I am with you on Dinosaurs on a Spaceship being a brilliant use of the Silurians. My reasons for thinking so revolve around the nature of their appearance, literally as a legacy. In a way, it's a natural development of the basic idea that Hulke's initial conception of the Silurians ushered into Doctor Who: the alien race that wasn't necessarily all bad, all threatening. Aliens that were just as complex as humanity.

The next step in this was to have Silurians appear in the world(s) of Doctor Who without a necessary relationship to humanity. After all, even though the Silurians were a complex species composed of individuals, our encounters with them on the show were always in relation to humans. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was a story unfolding in the context of Silurian culture, exploring the legacy of a Silurian world.

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Alan 3 years ago

You know, one thing we've never seen that could be genuinely interesting (and thus, something we'll probably never see) is a Silurian story set at the height of their civilization rather than another of these endless diaspora stories. All that pomp about what a highly advanced people they were and all we ever see are stragglers trying to take over the planet so they can rebuild.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

Moffat is critical of The Doctor Dances in this regard, and I suspect he's right - it works great when you watch the two episodes back to back, but if you actually wait a week between them it feels like they've been standing around in that hospital forever.

Frankly, I think that view is a bit weird. Surely that's kind of the point of a cliffhanger - a moment when everything comes to a head... and then we're on edge for a week before wanting to start immediately afterwards and see how it's resolved. I much prefer those resolves which come immediately after, and not the 'cheat' ones (ie. One Year Later, or Three Months Later, or starting somewhere else).

Preferably, we'd have a mix of both 'styles' of two-parter/cliffhanger. Really hoping we get one two-parter at least in Series 8, even if only for the finale. One big problem I had with Series 6 and 7's finales is that, whilst they had epic ideas, they didn't feel like series finales in a sense. True, they don't have to be lengthy grand-standing endpost episodes, but it is nice to have a much more expansive scale and size for a finale, and build-ups are always great. I mean, you could squish BW/TPOTW, AOG/D, TSOD/LOTTL and TSE/JE down to one episode per story but you'd lose a lot. True, some of those finales do have a number of iffy scenes and even some 'padding', but I think they're the better for it, because they help the finale be something truly memorable and stand-out. A big hurrah.

/nearly-midnight-rambles.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

Other "huh" things c/o @themindrobber on Twitter (with regards to Alan's comment, note #2 is important):

1 Watching Cold Blood. Why does no-one just tell the Silurians it's not a weapon, it's a drill? So many things are frustratingly unsaid.

2 Why does the Doctor tell the Silurians that "humans attacked them" in their earlier encounter? Mention the Silurian aggression! The virus!! // In 3rd Doctor serial (who's name I can't remember at the moment), the humans attacked after the danger was over. // After the Silurians had tried to commit genocide. The Doctor could at least have given a balanced view of things!

3 How can the potential sharing of Earth with Silurians not be a fixed point? It affects every story we've ever seen set in Earth's future.

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John Seavey 3 years ago

Interesting fact: This is the only episode of the new series I've never seen. I was out of town the week it came on, and when 'Vincent and the Doctor' came on and I found out "Rory got eaten by a crack," my immediate thought was, "Oh. Well, that's all I really needed to know that I couldn't have figured out from Part One."

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xen trilus 3 years ago

What about the bit at the end where it was explicitly revealed that the TARDIS was going to explode?

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encyclops 3 years ago

Word. "I rather love you, Malokeh." Really?

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encyclops 3 years ago

I like your insight about how the more successful two-parters work in the new series. I still think that, no matter where you break your ninety minutes, just having the extra time to stretch out, create mood, fill in some details, not rush every freaking thing all the time really helps. There's no doubt that not every two-parter has been a winner, but there are enough that I don't think it's a dead format. You just need a good writer and a story that uses the time effectively. I could not agree more that this is not an example of the latter.

As for bringing back classic series concepts: we've only skipped one season there. Season 7 sees the return of the Ice Warriors, and I can't believe Peter Capaldi doesn't have a classic monster he won't lobby to bring back during his tenure, if not during season 8. For better or for worse (and yeah, usually it's been for worse), I don't think we're done with that at all. You could almost count the Pertwee-esque costume already.

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mengu 3 years ago

Clearly a political thing invented in 3020 or so...

Oh how much I want a sequel story set in 3019 when humans and silurians finally actually manage to share the planet out properly.

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Ben 3 years ago

"Hide" to me was a story that could have definitely benefitted from more telling time. This was the blurry ghost story, the one that starts as "The Haunting" and ends as "Love Actually." Which is fine, since the mercurial is indeed part of what makes Doctor Who work. Only it's too abrupt. The spookiness doesn't lead to the sweet ending, it's just there one minute and gone the next.

I think judging the ideal length of a story on a case-by-case basis would be better than a "no two parters ever" dogma.

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Daru 3 years ago

I always thought his best era was when he surprised fandom by regenerating into Peter Kay and turned into an Abzorbaloff - genius!

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Daru 3 years ago

I do feel that the two-parters that use the structure "that changes the nature of the story" and go somewhere different in part two work best for me. I don't feel that these are 'cheats' but valid experiments - if we look at the two parters that attempt to tell a complete 90 minute story, then these have been generally appearing to be the most pedestrian.

There is also something more going on, where Moffat is interested in more multi-platform stories where minisodes, etc are used as a part of the story. Granted, these are early days for this approach - but with less people watching 'as live' then it would be a sensible way to go offering bits of the story across many media and of different lengths, offering much more flexibility.

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Spacewarp 3 years ago

I'd never encountered the "lazy writing" criticism before becoming a member of Outpost Gallifrey, and there of course you see it regularly after each broadcast. It's something I've never even thought of applying myself and even now it's an alien concept for me. As long-time commentators may realise I do bang on about subjective viewpoints rather a lot, but I do think that if I don't like something I've watched then 90% of the time it's down to me, not the story itself. In some cases I will agree that objectively there is something wrong with a story and it just hasn't worked ("Evolution of the Daleks" springs to mind), but no way would I accept that this is down to the fact that everybody who worked on that story (the writer, the director, the producer, the actors) suddenly decided they were just going to rattle any old shit off this week.

The accusation of laziness is something that particularly bugs RTD, and almost certainly Moffat too, but RTD goes so far as to address it in "The Writer's Tale" (which if anyone commenting here hasn't read, I very strongly recommend you do).

There's no such thing as lazy writing, since a lazy writer wouldn't last long in the business. Would you read consistently lazily-written books? Or watch consistently lazy television? No you wouldn't. Everyone involved in Doctor Who today is utterly committed to producing the highest quality Television they can, and to have all that dismissed in a one-word critique must be incredibly galling to them.

But that's fandom for you.

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Spacewarp 3 years ago

@Alan.

In fact going a stage further, drop Vastra & Jenny back several million years for a Sherlock-style murder investigation in the Silurian version fo the backstreets of London. It would turn the whole premise of Vastra being the out-of-time individual on it's head, with Jenny being the only human in a civilisation of reptiles, coping with bigotry because she's "just another ape".

And then at the end of it, case solved and it's time to go home, and Vastra has to choose between her love for Jenny and being reunited with her people...

God, someone should so write this.

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Anton B 3 years ago

A lot can be achieved through body language and movement. I've taught mask as part of my drama workshops and it is a regular occurrence that audiences are convinced the masks are displaying emotion using some sort of animatronic element when in fact they are immobile. The emotion is conveyed by the actors with gesture and posture, the audience's minds fill in the facial expression themselves. It's a similar effect to the way simple line drawings can convey complex emotions in cartoons. It's an effect Jim Henson understood implicitly. I wish more TV and film producers would trust their trained actors to use their skills.

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jane 3 years ago

@Spacewarp: Yes, that line of criticism is a GB disease.

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jane 3 years ago

Sadly, the "twist" in The Silurians that the monsters are individuals is neither original nor well-executed. The premise was done back in The Sensorites. As to the execution, well, all the 70s Silurians have, it seems, one motivation. They might be "people" but they're cardboard characters with no depth. Hell, they don't even have proper names.

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David Anderson 3 years ago

It's unfair and a bit dismissive to call it a twist I think. There's no point of misunderstanding where the Doctor thinks they're all the same and recognition when it turns out that they're not. They have as much depth as the story needs them to have; just as the civil servant has as much depth as the story needs him to have.
It's not like the reveal in World War Three that the aliens are one family out of an otherwise unknown species, which really just is a pointless twist trying to be more original than it is.

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jane 3 years ago

So, my obligatory review of Mythology.

Which, coming so late, is likely an indication that I don't care for this story very much. It has nothing to do with the redesign, which I frankly like, nor much with what it's trying to do. I'm reminded of Phil's discussions of the Past Adventures, which attempt to rehabilitate the eras in which they're located. I like this story more than the original Silurians, one of my least favorites of any era. But Cold Blood, which is where this story really fails in my opinion, grinds to a halt in terms of story, direction, and even its musical score. So. There's that.

Anyways, that said, there's some interesting things going on here. As I've said before, in Doctor Who stories of the modern era, underground locations tend to function as Underworlds, places that serve as metaphors for the subconscious. This adventure, then, underlines some of the psychological issues facing our characters.

For example, in the previous episode Amy had to confront the possibility of Rory dying -- and rather than deal with that, she ran away to death herself. And the Doctor "blew up the TARDIS" to escape the Cold Sun. Both of these notes are, of course, reiterated here. The Doctor discovers (in the underground) that his TARDIS has been/will be, indeed, destroyed. Amy witnesses (in the underground) the death of Rory, and this grief is almost immediately repressed by the nature of the Crack.

The Crack, being the running theme of the season, is also discovered underground; the roots coming out of the underground walls resemble the tendrils of light coming out of the Crack.

The Silurians themselves are dark mirrors of our heroes -- the Doctor has the Silurian scientist; Amy, who takes up arms, and finds peace negotiations frustrating and boring, has the warrior-woman Silurian (who also loses a loved one); Rory, who leads the group at the church after the Doctor departs, aligns with the Silurian leader.

Of particular interest to me are two Rory scenes. First, at the graveyard, we get significant foreshadowing. Rory actually steps into an empty grave, and standing in a grave is just this close to lying in one. Rory, of course, dies at the end. But, and this is just as important, Ambrose points out that bodies in this graveyard disappear -- which is more or a suggestion of the Coffin Escape trick in stage magic. So the scene also slyly points to Rory's eventually resurrection.

This play on Rory's fate is reiterated later on in the Church, when it's under attack. An earthquake shakes them all, and a Blue Chair falls off a shelf, right in front of Rory, who's the only one to notice. The Chair in the Moffat era is a symbol of Ascension -- of death and rebirth. Rory's fate -- his mantra, practically.

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jane 3 years ago

@David Anderson: You're right, it's not really a "twist" in the dramatic sense. Nonetheless, the underlying concept is poorly executed -- about as poorly executed as that civil servant. None of the characters in The Silurians has much depth, about par for the course in a typical Troughton base-under-siege. At least in the Hungry Earth two-parter the characters have multiple dimensions. Restak is both violent and mournful; Eldane both wise and wearily cynical; Malohkeh both coldly detached yet warmly enthusiastic.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years ago

Yes but the audience experience becomes a LOT more subjective than when a performer is able to use a full set of features Anton. Part of why it works in theater is that you can see all the actors on stage and are often picking up multiple sets of non-verbal ques. In a television program you are often only getting some of the actors in frame. So there is an additional level of separation AND we're getting less information. I'm not convinced Mask is the answer here.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years ago

3 is fairly easily, if cynically, explained - in the future we still think empires are a good idea. I see little reason the nth Great and Bountiful Human Empire wouldn't treat the Silurians any differently from their other subject peoples.

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Anton B 3 years ago

The most affecting image in this story for me is the scene of Amy being literally dragged into the ground, as though being eaten by the earth. The symbolism here suggesting Euridice/Persephone and other myths and folk tales of maidens kidnapped to the underworld as well as Alice's Adventures Underground. The metaphor is of the Earth (standing here for maturity) reclaiming Amy from her rejection of it to go adventuring with the Doctor (her childhood imaginary friend). Literally 'grounding' her. In other words forcing her to grow up by planting her firmly in the ground. The similarity to burial alive had also been gestured to and the obvious Freudian interpretation of returning to the womb has already been pre-echoed by Amy's dream pregnancy. The comparison of growing up to death is also foreshadowed by Amy and Rory' s vision of their future selves still together but more importantly still both alive waving to them from atop a hill. Their elevated position suggesting an ascendance. Where do this future Amy and Rory fit in the non-chronological life we are about to witness them having but have not yet seen? (Are we ever told diegetically?) It's as though the future is waving to us too; Saying "come and find us, we're a story with a happy ending!" Which of course is a lie. Rory dies at the end of this story. More, he is made to have never existed. Even more unlikely is his later resurrection as a centurion later revealed to be made of plastic and controlled by the Nestene who will kill Amy as Amy's child will kill the Doctor. Amy will be haunted by death and Angels throughout her life with the Doctor. The Underworld is as Milton describes it 'That deep world/Of darkness' that 'Palpable obscure' Where Satan and other fallen angels inhabit. Moffat is telling us that the Big Stakes of 'real life' are off the menu if you run away to the land of stories. You can die. You can come back. You can be rewritten. Rory's story begins in a hospital surrounded by coma patients representing false death. After many deaths he finally dies of old age in a hotel run by Angels of death. Amy's story begins in innocence in a garden with an apple and will end in a graveyard with the touch of an angel. Or was she buried alive?

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jane 3 years ago

That image of being eaten by the Earth has been done in Doctor Who before -- Frontios, a Fifth Doctor story. Funny enough, Frontios also gestures at the deep subconscious: Turlough carries a "race memory" of the Tractators, just as Spencer does in the original Silurian story.

It's interesting that when Amy's abduction is complete, the hole that "ate" her has grown in size -- it now resembles the shape of a grave. When she wakes up underground, she's in a glass coffin, and she's immediately put to sleep.

I like how you depict Amy as being "grounded." This is the story where her underworld adventure puts her in the position of having to take responsibility for the material world -- she ends up having to participate in a peace negotiation with the Silurians. It's a very "grown up" thing to have to do.

Amy is also mirrored by Ambrose, whose outfit resembles Amy's the previous couple of episodes. Ambrose is accused of being "a woman who can't even protect her own child," which is a fate that will eventually befall Amy. Ambrose kills Alaya with electricity; Amy kills Kovarian with electricity.

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jane 3 years ago

There's also another Circle in a Square: Amy's engagement ring, in a red box.

And I love how the episode has a kind of broken axis mundi -- on the one hand there's the drill site, which burrows into the Earth, and on the other there's the steeple of the Church, which reaches towards the sky.

Tony starts turning into a monster in front of a mirror.

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Leslie Lozada 3 years ago

Watching this for the first time, way back when, when I got in Doctor Who during the specials, I found interesting paralles with The Weeping Angels Two parter, which I may have mentioned.

The Cracks appearing, a main character appearing timey whimy wise (River, of course, and Rory and Amy noticing their older selfs), bringing back old monsters, having the two copanion dyamic only for it to end at the end of the Two parter, having a older character gain the respect of The Doctor, a significant hint to the series finale, and conversations about the cracks and memories.
All in all, it kinda contributes that Series 5 did the 'overall plot' best, with this sort of repititcion.

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UrsulaL 3 years ago

My take on "homo reptilicus" is that the Doctor doesn't care about the human rules for the scientific naming of species. And really, why should he care? He's not human, and the human naming scheme is quite limited compared to the vast diversity of life over all of time and space.

He needed a name that conveyed to the humans around him that the Silurians were morally equivalent to humans, when you interact with them. Intelligent, with their own minds and agendas, equals, despite the scales. "Homo repticlicus" - "reptile people" - does this nicely.

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Bennett 3 years ago

Another interesting element of Rory's graveyard scene is that he becomes the third of the Series 5 Regulars to be mistaken as a police officer. This is perhaps only noteworthy because each of the three respond in a different manner that is illustrative of their character. The Doctor deflects the lie (by answering questions with questions), Amy chooses the lie (to mask her own uncertainty), and Rory goes along with the lie (after failing to speak up for himself).

Now the fourth series regular is not mistaken for a police officer, but for a criminal. This still fits the pattern if we take into account the direction that River runs, and know that she will eventually adopt the title of 'Detective' (in a story where the Doctor loses his authority, and Amy and Rory choose to become fugitives, and am I going crazy or is this stuff starting to look deliberate?).

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David Anderson 3 years ago

The human characters have more character than the Troughton Bases Under Siege that I've seen, which are apparently the best of the bunch (Ice Warriors and Seeds of Death). Certainly it fails by the standards of twenty-first century television. Just as 1984 fails by the standards of modern sf. Gulliver doesn't have much depth to him either.

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breyerii 3 years ago

Personally I'm more indignant at how the mother, who killed an unarmed prisoner because she was tainting her (she could, oh I don't know, just have left the room), does not even get a scolding and is finally entrusted by the doctor to become a model to her child.

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breyerii 3 years ago

"taunting".

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T. Hartwell 3 years ago

In my experience people actually pick up *more* of those sorts of things in film and TV than they do theatre.

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encyclops 3 years ago

I think that "lazy" is often a lazy way of saying "overworked and nearing deadline, so willing to take shortcuts and overlook flaws in order to deliver on time." Whether that's a more charitable criticism than "putting all their energy and talent into every single story and still getting back some mediocre results" depends on whether you consider deliberate compromise or involuntary incompetence to be the greater sin.

In this case I'd consider "ending with the crack" to be neither good, bad, or lazy. But there are many aspects of this story that I think could have been greatly improved with maybe just one more round of tweaking, and I'm not sure it's a compliment to suggest that Chibnall and Moffat put their all into this and found it flawless.

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encyclops 3 years ago

I keep trying to compose a comment that points out that (1) we have Homo sapiens mysteriously transmuting into "Homo reptilicus" by story's end, which if it's not batshit insane as a story idea (it is) suggests some sort of closer kinship than scales vs. hair would imply, and (2) the lady Silurians have breasts. But it's always wittier in my head, so I didn't post it (until now).

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

Sandifer: "Moffat is critical of The Doctor Dances in this regard, and I suspect he's right - it works great when you watch the two episodes back to back, but if you actually wait a week between them it feels like they've been standing around in that hospital forever."

That's an odd way of looking at things, very much akin to Mary Whitehouse's anxiety that children thought Doctor Who was being held under water for a whole week (and bless her misguided heart, she seemed genuinely upset by that as well). But I certainly never experienced cliffhanger endings that way. The suspension of time, like a held breath, and the pleasure of wondering "how will they get out of THIS one?" is powerful stuff that I am sorry to see go missing from the Doctor Who experience (though RTD cleverly gave us at least a taste of that in the way he structured the cold opens).

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

She does get a pretty good scolding from the Doctor as I recall, though nothing as harsh as the whole "nobody human has anything to say to me today" line. But what's he supposed to do regarding her kid? Call Social Services and report her as an unfit mother? "She nearly caused a war with some reptile people! Hello...?" :)

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jane 3 years ago

@encyclops: I think that "lazy" is often a lazy way of saying "overworked and nearing deadline, so willing to take shortcuts and overlook flaws in order to deliver on time."

Again, without citing any evidence whatsoever, you're still imagining you have insight into the psychologies of the creators as they were in the midst of the creative process. This isn't critique! It's projection. Furthermore, given the realities of television production, what you suggest regarding the impact of being overworked and under deadline pretty much applies to all kinds of episodes, both those that work and those that don't. So not only does this line of thought fail as "critique" it doesn't even work on its own terms. It's an attempt to judge, to blame, to identify some kind of underlying "cause" without getting into the specifics of dramatic or cinematic analysis.

I think it's more true that the deficiencies of a story aren't always apparent on the page, but are only revealed when dramatized. At which point, given the reality of TV production, it's already too late. (So say the producers of LOST.)

Or, as Phil points out, sometimes a story fails to come off because the assumptions implicit in its conception were never true to begin with. In which case, no amount of scriptural tweaking would ever prevail (though such problems can at least be disguised or elided through slick and stylistic direction, which unfortunately does not apply here).

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

Alpha Centauri!!!!!

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

@liminal: Sure, they could share the Earth with humans possibly in the far future, but Cold Blood's discussions are all about setting up the possibility for /now/ - the Silurians waking up now and sharing Earth with humans in the 21st century, and that's where the "huh" moment comes in because if that had happened as suggested/planned in the episode, every story set after 2010 (or whenever this was specifically set) would be affected.

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Lewis Christian 3 years ago

I'm with you, @Seeing_I, on this one. I'd love for them to keep a mix of the two 'styles'; everyone's happy then. Sometimes the 'jump' works a treat (unexpectedly starting elsewhere and reveal of Amy !?!? in The Big Bang, for example) but sometimes it'd feel out of place (imagine going into World War Three or The Doctor Dances or The Age of Steel without directly resolving the cliffhanger, for example. You could do it, but those episodes benefit from carrying immediately on).

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encyclops 3 years ago

Again, without citing any evidence whatsoever, you're still imagining you have insight into the psychologies of the creators as they were in the midst of the creative process.

I'm not doing any such thing. I'm imagining I have insight into the psychologies of people who use the word "lazy" to criticize things they don't like. If by "you" you mean "people who use the word 'lazy' in this way," I'd agree. I have no stake in defending such people; I'm just speculating about their mindset.

I think it's more true that the deficiencies of a story aren't always apparent on the page, but are only revealed when dramatized.

You're probably right. I also think some scripts are probably altered in the moment for whatever reason, and there's only so much time one can take to imagine what bloggers and internet forum commenters with all the time in the world to pick one's work apart will make of these spontaneous collaborations. E.g. the Doctor kissing Jenny in "Crimson Horror," which apparently wasn't even scripted but carries a LOT of meaning for some people.

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Seeing_I 3 years ago

I agree, Lewis, a mix of the two styles would be ideal for me. The way it's done in "Forest of the Dead" or "Day of the Moon" or "The Pandorica Opens" are powerful and well done, but making that "the standard" would end up just as boring and predictable as making every one "with one bound he was free."

And I still maintain that the cliffhanger to "Bad Wolf" and the intervening week to see what happens next were one of the greatest moments in all of Doctor Who.

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heroesandrivals 3 years ago

This episode is a singularly uncompelling case for bringing the Silurians back but I think that they have benefitted the most -- moreso than any other classic monster -- from being brought back.
Not just Madame Vastra but the unspoken retcon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship; some of the Silurians moved offworld after the cataclysm. This MASSIVELY opens up the possibilities of stores it's possible to tell with them (and explains why they were part of the alien alliance in The Pandorica Opens) instead of making Silurian Episodes an endless redux of their original story.

I recognize that the new design makes it easier for the Silurians to emote but I still dislike making them more human-like. (These are obviously just yet another sub-species but it still bugs me.) I can't wait until the production starts adding more "classic style" Silurians in the background for the space-based faction to provide some variety.

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John Seavey 3 years ago

Found that out in the next week's "Previously..." as well.

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John Peacock 3 years ago

"Jings, woman! Put some clothes on! Ye look like a penis wi' arms!"

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Bennett 3 years ago

"I dressed for Rio!"

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Alan 3 years ago

I take it back. It's not a lost Draconian colony. It's a group of 30th century human lizard-fetishists who modified themselves into reptile people, time traveled back to the Jurassic era and then, over the centuries, forgot their own origins.

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Alan 3 years ago

I, for one, would be fascinated by the social implications of introducing a group of people who can disprove Christian Creationism through first hand knowledge. Co-existence of Silurians and humans would effectively mean the end of several forms of fundamentalist religion.

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Alan 3 years ago

Well, we've never seen more than three named Silurians at a time, and generally, it's implied that they all have different points of view on other matters but are generally united on the topic of "let's release our people from cryogenic tubes and take back our planet."

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Alan 3 years ago

MEGLOS!!!!

Seriously, though, there's no reason the show can't bring back aliens for vague nostalgia without making a big production of it. Take the TARDIS crew to Argolis for a vacation at the Leisure Hive and build a story about that. You wouldn't even have to reference the prior story. Just use it as the backdrop for a new story while giving old farts like me a chance to say "Hey cool! Argolins!"

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Jarl 3 years ago

The Doctor advising the civilians to start a religion devoted to the day a thousand years hence when the lizard people will rise up out of the center of the earth with peace and gifts of health and technology is probably one of the most unusual resolutions to a "these people exist in something like reality" Doctor Who story. See also homeless pig man in 1930s New York.

Speaking of a thousand years hence, this episode gave me a crazy idea a while back. There was this discussion thread on another site where the subject of "What would each Doctor get up to during the Time War" came up. I took the prompt as each Doctor being made aware of the Time War and then taking part in doctor-appropriate adventures directly related to it: One sabotaging Time Lord research labs, Two trying to reclaim Mastery of the Land of Fiction to write a better ending, etc.
The idea I had for Three was him and a team of time displaced UNIT operatives from throughout the taskforce's entire history working together to something something Time War. And being that I tend to think in prose, I immediately concocted what such a group might look like. Someone fresh out of the underground, to start with; Yates or Benton, most likely; someone from Bambera's crew, no doubt; and obviously someone from the New Series UNIT as well, but then I imagined what future UNIT might look like. And immediately, I came up with the idea of a human soldier who, upon learning that Benton or Yates was from the classic 19XX UNIT crew and worked with the Brigadier, asks "Why didn't you try to shoot him?"
Because, as it turns out, this UNIT soldier is from the year 30XX, his wife and children are Silurian, and in the distant future Lethbridge-Stewart is considered a war criminal for having killed the Silurians.

After thinking for a moment how cool that sounded, I also realized it was kinda heavy for what was supposed to basically be an amusing fan fic prompt, and abandoned it. But I think there's the thread of an interesting concept there, what a Human-Silurian future will look like. If we're going to pretend there's consistent timelines, there would logically be Silurian Time Agents, which would be fascinating.

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Aylwin 3 years ago

Disprove? You haven't really got the hang of how Creationism works, have you?

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encyclops 3 years ago

DOCTOR WHO: RETURN TO TERRADON

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John Binns 2 years, 12 months ago

The use of the children's story The Gruffalo here is interesting in the light of the season's themes. For the uninitiated, in the story a mouse escapes three predators by claiming to be friends with a fearsome monster, a Gruffalo, which he describes to them, but which he seems not to believe is real. He then meets a Gruffalo, but escapes it by revisiting each of the three predators in turn who seem to be terrified of him (in fact, because the Gruffalo is standing behind him). So, we have a trickster who survives by building a myth about himself based on the reputation of his enemies; and, depending on how you view the first part of the story, a creature (the Gruffalo) who is either thought to be fiction but is in fact real, or who is actually conjured into existence by the mouse's storytelling. (Oddly and perhaps not deliberately, the TV adaption seems to support the latter interpretation.)

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