With ‘Doctor Who and The Silurians’ (to give it its full and accidental title) Malcolm Hulke takes the alien invasion story and flips it on its head. What could’ve so easily been nothing more than a simple tale of human battling lizard men becomes a morally complex thriller thanks to Hulke’s intelligent storytelling and sharp characterization. It's a masterpiece and one of my personal favourites from Worzel’s tenure.
Instead of the invaders being a bunch of aggressive extraterrestrials from beyond the stars we have the inaccurately named Silurians. They’re the original reptilian inhabitants of the planet who have been dormant underground for 200 million years and now want to rise up and reclaim their planet. But while they were sleeping a load of damn dirty apes started squatting on their property. This places the Doctor into something of a tricky situation. While the humans see monsters and reach for their shotguns and pitchforks he recognizes the Silurians as an intelligent and advanced species with a legitimate claim to the planet. But at the same time he can’t exactly tell the human’s to clear off and find somewhere else to live. For better or worse this is their planet now.
Being neither ape nor lizard the Doctor is the only genuine alien here and the ideal neutral party to try and bring the two sides together. It’s a role that suites Pertwee’s Doctor perfectly but at times he allows his own naivety to get the better of him. The Doctor is often so consumed with stopping the humans from causing trouble, worried that their inherent fear of the unknown will result in bloodshed that he fails to see the threat the Silurians pose until it’s too late. His efforts to bring the two races together and negotiate a peaceful settlement are constantly undone by fanatical factions on both sides.
It’s certainly one of the bleakest endings the show has ever done and one that definitely puts a strain on the Doctor’s friendship with the Brigadier. Back when the Doctor was shorter, scruffier and altogether more likeable, the two of them had a much smoother working relationship. But now that he’s taller, debonair and altogether more irritable, things are constantly prickly and intense between them.
With the Doctor and the Brigadier constantly at logger heads with each other it is easy to forget that Liz is there as well. The snarky remarks have been thankfully toned down but she’s still struggling to display a distinctive personality of her own beyond “I’m a scientist”. And for someone who was an independent woman when she was first introduced I’m surprising how easily she backs down whenever the Doctor tells her to be a good girl and do as the Brigadier tells her.
Notes and Quotes
--First appearance of the Doctor’s beloved yellow roadster, Bessie – a car of great character.
--The Doctor claims to have lived for several thousand years. That’s inconsistent.
--The design of the Silurians is impressive but too rigid with limited movement, forcing the actors to shake their heads a lot.
--The Doctor appears to be quite the speedy little sketcher.
--Blake’s 7 fans will no doubt recognise Captain Hawkings as none other than a young Paul Darrow.
--Those caves sets do look awfully good, don’t they? Especially considering this was all on a Doctor Who budget.
--In the show’s grand tradition of rubbish monsters the Silurians’ pet dinosaur isn’t very convincing. More to the point is it supposed to be their pet or their great Uncle Gerald?
The Doctor: My dear Miss Shaw, I never report myself anywhere, particularly not forthwith.
Dr. Lawrence: You’re not proposing to dismantle a piece of equipment worth fifteen million pounds with a screwdriver?
The Doctor: Well, it’s not worth fifteen million pins if it doesn’t work, is it?
The Doctor: Hello, are you a Silurian?
Dr. Lawrence: This is the Permanent Under Secretary.
The Doctor: Yes, well, I've got no time to talk to under secretaries - permanent or otherwise.
The Doctor: That’s typical of the military mind, isn’t it? Present them with a new problem and they start shooting at it.