Cold Blood

Okay. Bringing things to order. The first meeting of representatives of the human race and homo reptilia. Ha! Never said that before. That’s fab!

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

As the Silurians wake up under the Earth’s surface, the Doctor must attempt to broker a peace between the Silurians and the human race, whilst the humans on the surface attempt to keep their Silurian captive alive.

Review

Despite my praise (and surprise) at enjoying The Hungry Earth, the concluding part is where it largely falls apart. Whilst I could largely overlook the similarities to (Doctor Who and) The Silurians in the first part, the tribute tips over into derivation more here. There are some good things, with strong performances from the central trio and a decent ending, but this episode feels like instead of building on the previous episode’s cliffhanger, it flounders and drags, perhaps because nostalgia for the Jon Pertwee story can only carry you so far.

I do feel that this story suffers from the fact that it doesn’t feel like anything drastically important happens until the closing couple of minutes. This might be down to the fact that there’s not very much that can be done with the Silurians apart from negotiate about how best to share the planet. In fact, rather than having a looming sense of threat from the Silurians, this instead comes from the humans who are threatening to reactivate their drill to destroy the homo reptilia colony. Unlike some other great late series two-parters that we have had in the revived series so far, this neither escalates majorly nor goes off in a seemingly different direction. In this story, it takes around 28 minutes for Restac to do the inevitable and awaken the Silurian army. As a result, the conclusion of the main plot feels inconsequential as the Doctor and Eldane are forced to conclude that humanity are not ready to share the planet and the Silurians are put back to sleep for a further thousand years.

There’s also some pretty poor characterisation going on here. Malohkeh is revealed to be a human loving scientist, which seems at odds to his behaviour in The Hungry Earth, where he is seen to have already dissected Mo and seems perfectly happy to dissect Amy in the set-up for the cliffhanger. Equally, the whole family dynamic seems a little bit suspect and it is difficult to feel too much for Ambrose considering her actions in this story. She is absolutely right to be concerned for her son and her father when she discovers that Alaya’s sting has poisoned him, and Alaya plays on those concerns in the confrontation scene which results in her death. However, she is not a terribly likeable person and it doesn’t really follow that she would potentially put her son and husband Mo into more danger when she tasers the Silurian. We also don’t really get to know the family terribly well, despite spending an hour and a half in their company, so it is difficult to be too concerned about their ultimate fate. The only bright sparks here are Meera Syal’s Nasreen and Neve McIntosh as Restac, who is essentially a continuation of Alaya. Nasreen though feels sadly underused, although she does provide some grounding to Amy’s more outlandish suggestions about how the planet could be shared in the negotiations with Eldane, pointing out how impossible it would be to sell this to the human race. Meanwhile McIntosh is great when she is seething with anger, and the scene where she discovers Alaya’s dead body is superbly acted and directed by Ashley Way.

The core cast here are good, and it is another strong performance from Arthur Darvill as Rory. Especially in his scenes on the surface, it is difficult not to feel a bit sorry for Rory being stuck with people like Ambrose and Tony and it is interesting to note that he tells them that he trusts the Doctor. It feels as though there are some missing adventures here (hi Big Finish!) where the Doctor and Rory start to warm to each other here. Matt Smith is good here too, and his reaction when he realises that Alaya is dead and that any hope of a deal between the Silurians and humans is pretty much doomed is well played. It is interesting watching this story relatively closely with Kill the Moon to compare the way the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors deal with these malleable points of time. Ultimately Smith’s Doctor is doing the same kind of thing as Capaldi’s in trying to ensure that humans make the decisions for the future. The Twelfth Doctor, however, is much gruffer and hands-off than his immediate predecessor, with Smith’s Doctor feeling as though he is gently guiding them, rather than the seeming abandonment in Series 8. Rory’s death in this story wasn’t completely unexpected when I was watching in 2010 but the ending scenes still pack an outstanding emotional punch thanks to some great acting by Smith and Karen Gillan, and the ultimate heartbreak when we realise that Amy has forgotten Rory is a fantastic gutpunch. It just feels as though this comes from a much stronger episode, and clearly has Moffat’s fingerprints all over it, rather than coming from Chris Chibnall.

I promise you, Ambrose, I trust the Doctor with my life. We stick to his plan.

Rory Williams

Verdict: Sadly, Cold Blood doesn’t really build to anything and feels like a bit of a damp squib. There are some good performances in here and a powerful ending does redeem it a bit, though. 4/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Neve McIntosh (Alaya/Restac), Meera Syal (Nasreen Chaudry), Robert Pugh (Tony Mack), Nia Roberts (Ambrose), Richard Hope (Malohkeh), Stephen Moore (Eldane), Alun Raglan (Mo) & Samuel Davies (Elliot).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Ashley Way

Behind the Scenes

  • Chris Chibnall wanted the second part to focus on people making mistakes whilst under massive pressure and the accidental conflict coming from attempts to protect family. Steven Moffat believed the theme of mistakes to be appropriate for the death and subsequent erasure of Rory as the Doctor ultimately causes it when he stops to look at the Crack.
  • The story was filmed in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, which had previously been used in The End of the World, Gridlock and Fires of Pompeii and would go on to be used again in Let’s Kill Hitler and Nightmare in Silver.

Best Moment

It has to be the final moments, where Rory is killed and erased from history completely.

Best Quote

Amy Pond and Nasreen Chaudhry, speaking for the planet. Humanity couldn’t have better ambassadors. C’mon! Who has more fun than us?

Is this what happens in the future, the planet gets shared? Is that what we need to do?

Uh, what are you talking about?

Oh, Nasreen, sorry. Probably worth mentioning at this stage, Amy and I travel in time.

Anything else?

There are fixed points in time where things must always stay the way they are. This is not one of them. This is an opportunity. A temporal tipping point. Whatever happens today will change future events – create its own timeline, its own reality. The future pivots around you. Here. Now. So do good. For humanity. And for Earth.

The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Nasreen Chaudhry

Previous Eleventh Doctor review: The Hungry Earth

Further reading

Doctor Who and the Silurians

Kill the Moon

The Hungry Earth

It knows we’re here. It’s attacking. The ground’s attacking us. Under the circumstances, I’d suggest…Run!

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

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.

Review

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.

Cast Notes

  • 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.

Best Moment

The interrogation scene between the Doctor and Alaya.

Best Quote

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