Doctor Who and the Silurians

Doctor WhoUNIT and the Doctor are summoned to a nuclear power research center located near a complex of caves; something has been slowly driving members of the center’s staff mad, one by one, and at least one spelunker has been killed in the caves. The Doctor investigates the caves for himself, uninterested in what initially seem like personnel problems at the center, and finds a living dinosaur inside them; he also discovers evidence of a bipedal reptile species, both in the caves and outside. The center’s director doesn’t believe the story he’s being told, but the Brigadier prepares UNIT to defend against a possible invasion. The Doctor is convinced that the reptile humanoids are Silurians, the original inhabitants of the Earth before a mass extinction wiped out most of the large reptile species and allowed humans to evolve and thrive. The few survivors of the event went into underground shelters, and the energy released by the research center is slowly awakening them. The Doctor is determined to contact them and try to talk them into coexisting peacefully with humans on the surface, only to find that warlike factions exist among the Silurians as well – and some of them will be satisfied with nothing less than wiping out humanity.

written by Malcolm Hulke
directed by Timothy Combe
music by Carey Blyton

Guest Cast: John Newman (Spencer), Bill Matthews (Davis), Peter Miles (Dr. Lawrence), Norman Jones (Baker), Thomasine Heiner (Miss Dawson), Fulton Mackay (Dr. Quinn), Roy Branigan (Roberts), Ian Cunningham (Dr. Meredith), Paul Darrow (Hawkins), Pat Gorman (Silurian Scientist), Dave Carter (Old Silurian), Nigel Johns (Young Silurian), Paul Barton, Simon Cain, John Churchill (Silurians), Peter Halliday (Silurian voice), Nancie Jackson (Doris Squire), Gordon Richardson (Squire), Richard Steele (Hart), Ian Talbot (Travis), Geoffrey Palmer (Masters), Harry Swift (Robins), Brendan Barry (Doctor), Derek Pollitt (Wright), Alan Mason (Corporal Nutting)

Broadcast from January 31 through March 14, 1970

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

In 1984, after years of running through all of the Tom Baker and Peter Davison episodes available, Oklahoma public TV began broadcasting the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who at long last. Pertwee began appearing every night for 25 minutes at a time, and though I was simply intrigued at first, my mother had made up her mind – Jon Pertwee was her Doctor, and I could keep my Peter Davison. Still, I was thrilled to be watching new Who, and what adventures they were! This one in particular, I recall, stopped just short of giving me nightmares, despite the fact that I was just entering my teens. It still gives me the willies, through the combination of one of the best-scripted stories in the entire Doctor Who canon, Jon Pertwee’s emerging command of his ultra-serious portrayal of the Time Lord, and possibly the all-time best latex and rubber creations ever to emerge from the BBC’s makeup and wardrobe departments. And see if you can spot young Paul Darrow, still seven years away from filming his first scenes as Blake’s 7 anti-hero Avon, taking orders as the Brigadier’s “number one,” Captain Hawkins. Those who can ignore the very 60s set dressings and sound effects, spooky creatures who speak in broad rural English accents, kooky music and the primitive special effects (The Silurians saw the first ever use of chromakey blue screen in Doctor Who) are rewarded with a combination mystery/horror/ science fiction/suspense thriller. The acting ages very well, including the omnipresent Peter Miles, often cast as a nasty; you may recall he also played the part of Davros’ sneaky right-hand man in 1975’s Tom Baker classic Genesis Of The Daleks. Another welcome appearance is made by the Doctor’s scientist sidekick Liz Shaw, a female physicist whose character was allowed to be a lot more intelligent and decisive than most of the Doctor’s prior or later companions. An example: when the Silurians abduct the Doctor from the lab where he is working on an antidote to a plague the Silurians have released to eradicate humankind, Liz continues working on the cure until she finds the formula herself. Let’s see Leela do that. Unfortunately, the fans didn’t seem to react to her very well since she didn’t cower in the corner at the first sign of trouble, nor did the 1970 production team seem to want to stop actress Caroline John from allowing her contract to expire quietly and uneventfully. A pity. This episode especially shows the Doctor and Liz Shaw working together not unlike a certain couple of possible future UNIT agents – Mulder and Scully, I believe they’re called.

If you’re looking for some of the best Who out there, skip the other recent video releases and jump straight to this little-known gem. If you’ve got almost three hours to kill – or half an hour nightly for seven days – this is a story that will do more than thrill you – in a way seldom equalled by other Doctor Who stories, it will scare the hell out of you. With Pertwee’s first story Spearhead From Space, Doctor Who settled firmly on Earth, but it is with The Silurians that the show entered the world of more mature storytelling. Here we have prehistoric reptiles attempting to infect the entire human race with bubonic plague, the prospect of the Brigadier and his soldiers reciprocating genocide upon the Silurians, the government repsonding clumsily to an epidemic of the Black Death, martial law, and other trappings of armageddon. If you thought Doctor Who was a silly kids’ show, you need to check out The Silurians…but don’t do so in a darkened room.