Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood

"I'm making perfect sense. You're just not keeping up!"

That's a wonderful, and very Doctorish, line that allows Smith once again to demonstrate his irresistible authority in the role, and it's one of the highlights of this story.

Mid-season two-parters can, if they are not aggressively marketed as 'event' episodes, sometimes feel like a digression, a longueur in which progress towards the conclusion of the series' arc becomes stalled. But while there is a slowness to The Hungry Earth, it is thoughtful rather than ponderous. The situation is established with much care and attention to character, and the tension builds as we wait for the Silurian's to rise from the ground and attack. Things slide a little in the remainder of part one. I can only roll my eyes when the Doctor takes Nasreen away - she's the only competent human available and her removal from the surface makes it painfully obvious and inevitable what will happen. Still, things pick up nicely in Cold Blood, just in time to be dashed all over the floor by the return of The Crack and the loss of Rory.

Poor Rory hasn't really got the hang of this yet. He has more or less blundered his way through these three (four including The Eleventh Hour) adventures, albeit with flashes of bravery. It doesn't help that the Doctor hasn't really got the hang of Rory either - he basically abandons him for most of this two-parter, either oblivious to or uninterested in his new companion's learning curve. Never mind, things will change for both of them soon enough.

Overall, this is not so much New Who as Neo-Pertwee. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood seems to have been deliberately constructed as an homage to the Third Doctor's tenure. The return of the Silurians is an obvious link back to the early Seventies, but then there's the Welsh setting which evokes The Green Death, the drilling project (Inferno), the dome over the village (The Daemons), and the Doctor brokering a peace deal (many stories, including Frontier in Space). We even get a weird unexplained time travel effect where Amy and Rory see their future selves, like that in Day of the Daleks. In short, it's extremely surprising that neither the Master or UNIT put in an appearance.

It's nice to honour the history of the show (I can't wait for the McCoy tribute episode: all straight-blowing jazz, liquorice allsorts and dark scheming) but this two-parter does rather end up feeling like a mere cover version. The 1970 original (called, wait for it, Doctor Who and the Silurians), in which the Doctor discovers a cell of Homo Reptilia has been discovered, tries to broker a deal which then founders due to aggression and suspicion on both sides. This adaptation doesn't progress things much further. The resolution this time is a little more optimistic, offering the hope of an eventual Human/Silurian compact, a thousand years down the line, but this hardly constitutes a twist.

There is one change. At the end of Doctor Who and the Silurians, the Brigadier, the original human belligerent, was unrepentant about having bombed the lizard men, trapping them underground. His thinking was, at least as he was concerned, pragmatic and militarily sound. His equivalent, Ambrose, similarly represents human aggression, but she is motivated by fear and maternal anxiety. They both get stern admonishments from the Doctor - but in Ambrose's case it is also an exhortation to do better, to be an example to her son Eliot. She does not argue. 

If nothing else, this story makes clear that the serving up past glories is done for the benefit of today's children, not those of the Seventies. There's clearly a lot of nostalgia built in to this two-parter, but really it is designed to be enjoyed best by those who don't remember the Pertwee era. The kids (rightly enough) don't care two figs that the Silurians have been redesigned or that this has all happened before. And I don't really mind either.


No comments:

Post a Comment