"The Brigadier won't listen to reason. Maybe the Silurians w
Crazy Fox | Chicago, IL USA | 06/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I fondly recall watching this classic Doctor Who storyline as a teenager in the 1980's and being utterly blown away by its moral complexity. Decades have passed, I'm older and a fair bit more jaded, and it still blows me away! The somewhat unusually titled "Doctor Who and the Silurians" is perhaps one of the most intelligent stories penned for what is typically a very well-written series, and this in a manner cleverly conducive to the tale's good old thrills & chills and general entertainment value. If anything demonstrates that a show can be sophisticated and fun at the same time, this does in style.
Part of what makes this one so great is that it takes one of the most tired clichés of sci-fi and turns it on its head. Reptilian invaders? Well, sort of, except for the fact they were here first. The eponymous Silurians evolved on Earth millions of years ago and developed a highly advanced civilization before an impending catastrophe drove them to seek shelter underground, waiting in suspended animation for the disaster to blow over. The inevitable malfunction keeps them slumbering much longer, until an experimental nuclear power plant built into the caves of England's countryside circa 1970 jolts some of them awake and they start preparing to take their planet back regardless of the johnny-come-lately hominids that seem to have taken their place. The premise alone is incredibly imaginative and astutely draws upon some of the latest geological theories of the day while providing the crux of the story's mature complexity: there are no absolute good guys or bad guys here, only conflicting interests who through mutual fear, suspicion, misunderstanding, and xenophobia both end up tragically resorting to violence rather than the compromise and coexistence the Doctor tries and fails to broker between them.
Speaking of the Doctor, it's hard to believe that this is only Jon Pertwee's second story in the role. He's already quintessentially the third Doctor: dapper, dashing, and dynamic, delightfully sarcastic with petty authority, an eccentric individualist incongruously stuck with a hierarchical military organization. The camaraderie and conflict between him and the Brigadier is well depicted, and the clash between one's martial pragmatism and the other's principled idealism (both understandable under the circumstances) propels the plotline forwards and gives the conclusion its forlorn sting. The Doctor's assistant, Liz Shaw, is more than just a pretty face here, but one can see her scientific expertise already slipping inexorably to the back burner despite the production staff's best intentions. Last but not least, a great variety of supporting characters with memorable personality quirks and motivations all add essential twists and turns to the story's tragic progress, and a strikingly bizarre soundtrack (sounding like a schizophrenic mix of Stravinsky and Javanese Gamelan music) gives it an unforgettably appropriate eerie ambiance.
In short, "Doctor Who and the Silurians" is every bit as excellent as I remember, and it looks even better. The version I saw in the '80's was patched together from color and black & white episodes, while for this DVD all seven episodes have been painstakingly restored--in full color as originally intended and as sharp an image as possible under the chancy circumstances of its survival. Of course, the Silurians appeared a bit more convincing in monochrome as I recall, so the gain in authenticity and quality is ironically somewhat of a mixed blessing. But to expect a BBC production in 1970 to display the whiz-bang special effects of today would be unrealistic folly in the first place. Instead I would suggest losing yourself in this adventure's consummate science fiction storytelling at its best, then your imagination will do the rest.
P.S. As fate would have it, this was not the last time the Doctor would try to referee between two sets of Earthlings, reptile and mammal, and "Doctor Who and The Silurians" can be purchased together with those later two adventures conveniently in one set: Doctor Who - Beneath The Surface (Doctor Who And The Silurians / The Sea Devils / Warriors Of The Deep)."
"Everything leads back to those caves, Liz..."
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 07/20/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As is mentioned multiple times on the DVD extras, DOCTOR WHO AND THE SILURIANS began life as a discussion between author Malcolm Hulke and script editor Terrance Dicks. With the show now centered on the Doctor's exile to Earth, Hulke reckoned that there were only two basic story types in this format: alien invasion or Earth-based mad scientists.
THE SILURIANS was an attempt to escape from this way of thinking by presenting a story in which intelligent reptiles have been in hibernation for millions of years while the Earth and humanity evolved and changed around them. Awakening in the present day they claim ownership of the planet not because of their advanced weaponry (although this they posses) but because of their ancient claim of original ownership. It's a nice spin on the alien invasion story, although I wonder if holding it back a season or two would have made it a little more effective. It's difficult to notice or absorb the subverting of a format during only its second story.
This serial is one which I have always attempted to like, but one which I appreciate more on paper than I do in actuality. The story is strong at times, the set pieces are impressive and the acting is good. But it's a serial made up of seven 25-minute episodes, and really only has enough material for four or five. While the padding is generally good and effective, it doesn't quite distract from the fact that the clock is moving and the plot isn't really going anywhere.
Also, several items about the production unfortunately tend to drag down the story. Whenever one notices the incidental music, it's because the sound is annoying and/or bizarre. While the DVD extras tell us that Carey Blyton was attempting to use historical musical instruments, the end result is something that sounds like an electronic kazoo (someone one would expect from a Joel Robinson invention exchange). It starts silly and gets sillier.
As with many Doctor Who monsters (and as Terrance Dicks points out on the commentary track), the Silurians are much more frightening when they are shadowy figures lurking behind the scenes causally killing people and causing general mayhem. They not as effective when they're standing under bright studio lights where every costuming join is visible. Adding to the reduction in terror are some of the choices made by the actors in the rubber suits. One actor is so unbelievably over the top that when the Young Silurian kills his rival, one almost expects the victor to rip off his mask to reveal Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace" fame. ("I am the leader now! Me! Just Jack!")
Of course, credit is due where the serial succeeds. The sequences where the Silurian-released plague is sweeping through central London are very effective and well-staged. The search for the cure is slow-moving but the pacing is tight. Of course, if the story were written today, David Tennant would simply wave his sonic screwdriver over Geoffrey Palmer and an episode and a half worth of tension would vanish in three seconds.
The serial has quite a strong cast and the guest stars are particularly strong. Geoffrey Palmer and Peter Miles always receive well-deserved praise. But I particularly enjoyed the performance of Fulton Mackay as Dr. Quinn. His style is very natural. Dr. Quinn's personality and mannerisms (if not his motivations and actions) reminded me of a few scientists and professors that I've met.
This is a DVD heavy with features. The commentary track features a revolving door of characters, with the following members of the cast/crew appearing for various lengths of time: Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, Peter Miles, Geoffrey Palmer, Timothy Combe, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. This is a very pleasant commentary; the brave crew even get cups of tea delivered to them in the middle of episode three. It's notable that when producer Barry Letts (who is becoming one of my favorite commentary participants in these DVDs for his combination of information and dry humor) is out of the recording studio the train of the conversation veers wildly. I imagine it's tough work trying to stay focused and think of things to say for seven full episodes.
The additional DVD documentaries are also worth watching. WHAT LIES BENEATH is an informative look at the world and political context in which THE SILURIANS was initially broadcast. Many of the arguments are obvious, but some are intriguing. COLOR SILURIAN OVERLAY is also a must see. The original color print of this story was lost years ago and all that remained was a high-quality black and white film print and a low-quality color VHS print (recorded on a home video recorder by a fan in the 1970s). The CSO short goes through the fascinating process of joining the two together.
Despite my lukewarm reaction to the story, this was still worth the DVD purchase for me, just to see this serial in color. It's nice to watch the relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier this early in "exile" storyline. And while the script at times has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, it has interesting things to say and its foundation is still a good, fun, exciting story."
Earth's first race awakens and only the Doctor can save them
Jacob | Virgina, USA | 03/01/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Doctor exiled to Earth by the time lords finds himself trying to save a race that has been asleep for millions of years on Earth. In the episode entitled "Doctor Who and The Silurians". Outside of London UNIT has been sent to one of its newest atomic testing and power plants. The Director of the facility is outraged that the militray is here, let alone the Doctor and trying to figure out why power drains are happening. A spelunker finds himself in a cavern that isn't supposed to be there. And sightings of a strange creature roaming the farmlands outside of the plant have been sighted by the locals. The Doctor and Liz Shaw think many of these events can be placed in the plant itself, while evidence of a much older yet more advanced technology then mankind can create is at work. The Doctor decides to investage the caves that seems to be where everything is happening. Once deep within he encounters a reptilian race he calls "Silurians". There to avoid a solar flare millions of years ago they placed themselves in suspended animation until the time was right to revive and return to the surface world. But they have slept to long and now awaken to find that man has taken over thier planet. Outraged by this the Silurians want to wipe out mankind and take back the Earth. The Doctor tries to stop them and broker a peace between them and mankind to show that they can live on Earth togeather and not have to kill one another. Both sides have hidden agendas and the Doctor is trying to make peace. Can the Doctor save both of them from destroying themselves or will mankind die so that the Silurians can live again?"