Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Amy: 'Oh please, have you always been this disgusting?'
Doctor: 'No, it's recent.'

To some degree, this whole episode felt like an homage to the Pertwee era. The return of the Silurians was the most obvious tip of that hat, but there was also the TARDIS landing in the wrong place, at the wrong time (as was the norm in Worzel's day); the mining plot, which shared many story elements with 1970's episode 'Inferno' (i.e. a team of science boffins, drilling through the earth's crust, attempting to mine its rare resources... etc); and the idea of brokering a peace between the Silurians and mankind was an idea first explored in the imaginatively named 'Doctor Who and the Silurians'. I guess, after 47 years, it's only natural that a show's going to repeat itself.

As someone who remembers the Silurians from the good old days, I have to say, the years have been kind to them. I remember their old look—vividly! Particularly their wibby-wobbly hands. Thankfully, since their last appearance in 'Warriors of the Deep', the art of prosthetics has come on in leaps and bounds, meaning that—visually, at least—the modern day Silurians are a vast improvement over their latex-clad ancestors. The addition of CGI, however, was less impressive. I'm pretty sure we could have done without that tongue lashing out. What on earth was that about? It looked dreadful.

Whether the Silurians are a strong enough adversary to carry a two part story, I guess time will tell. It's hard to judge after just one episode. But I like them in theory. I know that aliens trying to take over the earth is a relatively jaded concept, but having the Silurians pre-date humanity is an interesting twist, raising the age-old ethical question: who has the legal right to claim it as their home? Its native (albeit hibernating) inhabitants, or the current (albeit long-residing) populace?

They even gave us a lady Silurian! Alaya was kind of pretty, too. A reptile with breasts? Inexplicable, but cool... I guess. Oddly enough, I find Neve McIntosh more attractive in character (prosthetics and all) than as a normal person. I'm not sure what that says about me. Nothing good, I suspect. And I hate to keep banging the Matt Smith drum, but, he was brilliant again tonight. When is he going to be crap so that I can slate him? Intellectually, the Doctor's a giant, but Smith's boyish exterior fools you into thinking that he lacks experience. There's just this vulnerability about him. I was quite moved when he said to Rory 'I need you by my side'. It's as though he thrives on having good people around him.

There's nothing of Tennant's messianic hero about Smith's Doctor. When Ambrose started laying into the Doctor for losing Elliot, I kept trying to picture in my mind Tennant acting out the same scene, and couldn't. Smith takes what's written on the page and makes it breathe in a way that's unique to him. But sometimes, his Doctor is so focused on the chaos going on around him, that he loses sight of the fact that the humans aren't seeing things the same way he does. He forgets he's there to protect them. When he was being scolded by Ambrose, his face was an absolute picture. He looked so guilty... and so young: like a naughty schoolboy in front of an irate headmistress. But underneath the surface there's still that sense of menace, bubbling away—most notably present when he refused to take up arms against the Silurians.

Amy had a quiet episode in comparison, but what we did get of her was both claustrophobic and unsettling. Her getting sucked into the earth was bad enough—did they really have to incarcerate her in a glass container and then gas her as well? I did laugh at her 'are you shushing me?' outburst. Goodness knows where the bravado came from—I'd have been screaming the place down. And I don't know whether anyone else's noticed, but Amy smiles a lot around the Doctor. Every time he does something eccentric she has this big grin on her face—which is more than can be said for Rory. He spent much of tonight's episode thoroughly miffed at the Doctor. After the promise of Brazil, Wales must have been a let down, and the Doctor losing Amy didn't help matters.

I wasn't overly impressed with Meera Syal's contribution. Her portrayal of Nasreen Chowdry felt lacklustre, though whether that was because of uninspiring dialogue, or mediocre acting, I'm not sure. I did enjoy her solitary clap at the Doctor's motivational speech, however (quickly followed by a close examination of her nails), but her romance with Tony lacked any real impact. I hope it's not some weak set-up for an 'unexpected' death next week.

Other Thoughts:

—I wonder if Elliot's dyslexia will have any significance later in the story? It may just be a character trait, but they did draw our attention to it several times.

—Nice use of silence when Elliot asked the Doctor whether he missed home.

—How does Alaya know who's going to kill her? Is that third eye in there somewhere... giving the Silurians new abilities?

—Syal's the second member of the Goodness Gracious Me team to turn up in Doctor Who this season. Nina Wadia played the part of Dr Ramsden in 'The Eleventh Hour'. I wonder when Sanjeev Bhaskar and Kulvinder Ghir are going to turn up for some steak and kidney pea (sic).

—What's going on with Tony? His shoulder was all green (not to be confused with Al Green). Obviously that completely unrealistic Silurian tongue packed a venomous punch. I'd love to venomously punch whoever was responsible for that crappy CGI.

—The Silurians settlement looked lovely. I know I've been knocking The Mill a lot of late (most recently in the sentence above), but nice job chaps.

—Amy seems able to integrate herself seamlessly into whatever situation she finds herself in. Rory, by comparison, always seems lost at sea. He was even intellectually bested by a ten year old boy tonight. Oh, the shame, Rory.

—Nice catapult. It reminded me of the Doctor pulling out that water pistol back in season four's “The Fires of Pompeii”. The amount of crap he must have in those pockets.

—Why did Rory make such a song and dance about Amy's engagement ring? Was it just a plot device to draw him away from the main pack? Or is there something else going on, of which we're not yet privy?

—Will future Rory and future Amy's presence turn out to be important later, I wonder? There were quite a few strange things thrown in tonight. They must surely be there for a reason.

—What was all that nonsense about Amy dressing for Rio? She always wears short skirts, doesn't she?

—Mo was reading 'The Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson.

Quotes:


Doctor: 'Behold... Rio!'
Amy: 'Nu-uh!'
Rory: 'Not really getting the sunshine carnival vibe.'

Amy: 'Oh please, have you always been this disgusting?'
Doctor: 'No, it's recent.'

Nasreen: 'What are you doing here and what are you wearing?'
Amy: 'I dressed for Rio.'

Doctor: 'Ministry of Drills, Earth and Science. New Ministry, quite big, just merged. There's a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. Don't like to talk about it.'

Amy: 'What's pulling me? What's under the earth? I don't want to suffocate down there.'

Tony: 'You're not making any sense, man.'
Doctor: 'Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense. You're just not keeping up.'

Elliot: 'I can't do the words, I'm dyslexic.'
Doctor: 'Oh, that's okay. I can't make a decent meringue.'

Elliot: 'Have you met monsters before?'
Doctor: 'Yes.'
Elliot: 'You scared of them?'
Doctor: 'No, they're scared of me.'

Rory: 'Can't you sonic it?'
Doctor: 'Its doesn't do wood.'
Rory: 'That is rubbish.'
Doctor: 'Oy, don't diss the sonic.'

Amy: 'Did you just shush me?'

Doctor: 'Oh I do hate a monologue. Give us a bit back. How many are you?'

Alaya: 'I'm the last of my species.'
Doctor: 'No you're really not. Because I'm the last of my species and I know how it sits in a heart.'
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

5 comments:

Mark Greig said...

This story seems to be the entire Jon Pertwee era condensed into two-parts and minus some UNIT shaped cannon fodder and fussy civil servants. Not sure if Chris Chibnall is paying loving tribute or shameless plagiarising Malcolm Hulke. I’ll wait until part two has aired before passing final judgement.

shawnlunn2002 said...

This episode wasn't a fave of mine. Not bad in places but could've been better. Maybe the next one will be stronger.

Michael Colvin said...

I still really continue to enjoy Matt Smith. Did you notice how he came up with the 12 minutes, he did this thing with his hands. Just clever. He acts not just with his face but with every bit of his body. Just kudos to him.

sunbunny said...

Eight years later...so I really hate that Ambrose blamed the Doctor for losing Elliot when it's like, lady that's your kid, your responsibility. Matt is my favorite Doctor (at least so far) the way he can turn from childish flapping to ice king in half a second is so incredible.

It's always bothered me that 'Amy dressed for Rio.' She's wearing tights! Who wears tights to the beach?

An Honest Fangirl said...

This episode was 8 years ago? Oh, now I feel old! It can't have been eight years since Matt Smith's first year as the Doctor. Right?