The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in a small Welsh town where an ambitious drilling project is about to reach a point deeper beneath the Earth’s crust than ever before. However, the Earth is fighting back.
When I was came to revisit this episode, I found myself quite pleasantly surprised. When I think of this coupled with the concluding part, Cold Blood, I found myself being quite negative about both parts, however, when I came to rewatch it for the blog I quite enjoyed it. I’m not going to stand here and argue that this is a classic, but it does a good job of bringing the Silurians into the revived series.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at this first part is that it feels derivative of The Silurians, which certainly seems valid. The Silurians is one of my favourite Jon Pertwee stories but I do think it is difficult to do something different with them without utilising elements from the classic serial. What this feels more similar to is the first two-part stories of every series under Russell T Davies which would either introduce or reintroduce a classic or recurring foe, and in a way this feels quite out of place in Steven Moffat’s first series as show runner, where changes had started to be made to the usual format. Unlike stories like Evolution of the Daleks, Rise of the Cybermen or The Sontaran Stratagem, this does not include the name of the alien in the title and actually holds off on revealing the Silurians until around the 25 minute mark. In this way, casual viewers or those who did not follow the show obsessively (like myself in 2010) were left surprised when this foe came back. This allows for some nice atmospheric moments where the Doctor and the viewer aren’t aware of the identity of the foe. Additionally, thinking about the episodes listed above and this story’s similarities to The Silurians, they all present the main antagonists main motivations, whether that be wiping out all other life in the universe or reclaiming the planet from the ‘apes’ that are now occupying the surface.
The story is also similar to a base under siege story with a small guest cast and the small town being sealed off by the Silurians. The reintroduction of the Silurians is quite effective, especially in the scenes of them flitting through the darkened graveyard and Neve McIntosh is great as the captive Alaya in the lead in to the cliffhanger. McIntosh’s delivery of the majority of her lines, especially when talking about homo sapiens is fantastic and I absolutely bought her hatred of the human race. The interrogation scene is probably a high point of this episode. It is rare to see Smith’s Doctor deal with his PTSD from being the sole Time Lord survivor of the Time War – off the top of my head, I can think of his response to House in The Doctor’s Wife. Alaya’s the only Silurian we get a clear look at, and I especially love the direction of the shots of the Silurian scientist through the frosted glass.
With regards to the central cast, it is another strong showing for Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill, whilst Karen Gillan is reduced to the role of damsel in distress for most of the episode. In fact, this is a story where the Doctor and companions spend some time apart, with Rory off with Ambrose and Elliot investigating the bodies disappearing from their graves and the Doctor establishing the situation around the disappearance of Mo. We also get a repetition of the concept of the Doctor not realising the impact of his actions on those around him, demonstrated by him allowing Elliot to go and get his headphones despite the Silurians arriving. The majority of the small guest cast are rather non-descript with the exceptions of Meera Syal as Nasreen, whose performance I really enjoyed, especially when she is onboard on the TARDIS and Robert Pugh as Tony, even if his inclination to immediately dissect Alaya seems a bit out of character.
Verdict: A better first half of this story than I remembered, it has some nice moments of suspense. 7/10
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Neve McIntosh (Alaya), Meera Syal (Nasreen Chaudhry), Robert Pugh (Tony Mack), Nia Roberts (Ambrose), Alun Raglan (Mo) and Samuel Davies (Elliot)
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Ashley Way
Behind the Scenes
- The first appearance of the Silurians since Warriors of the Deep and this story introduced a new branch of the species and female members of the Silurian race. It is the first television story to mention the name Homo Reptilia, although this was originally included in the novelisation of Doctor Who and the Silurians.
- The story is set in 2020, which places it 50 years after the broadcast of The Silurians. Due to the UNIT dating controversy, it is unclear as to when the story is supposed to have taken place in universe.
- Matt Smith’s 27th birthday took place during the filming of this episode.
- The first story since the revival to feature a returning monster not to credit the creator of the alien species.
- Neve McIntosh would go on to play Madam Vastra, who would go on to appear in A Good Man Goes to War, The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, The Name of the Doctor and Deep Breath as well as reprising this role for Big Finish and play Silurians in the UNIT series.
- Robert Pugh had previously appeared in the Torchwood episode Adrift and went on to appear in one episode of the second series of The Diary of River Song for Big Finish.
- Nia Roberts was in The Wrath of the Iceni for Big Finish, as well as appearing in the Torchwood audio play The Hope.
The interrogation scene between the Doctor and Alaya.
I’m the last of my species.
Really? No! “Last of the species”. The Clempari defense. As an interrogation defense it’s a bit old hat I’m afraid.
I’m the last of my species.
No you’re really not. Because I’m the last of my species and I know how it sits in a heart! So don’t insult me!Alaya and the Eleventh Doctor
Previous Eleventh Doctor review: Amy’s Choice