How I ever mentioned how much I love the Silurians? Have I ever mentioned how incredibly frustrated I am by them every time they come on the screen? They’re a double-edged sword for me.
The idea that an earlier sentient race evolved on Earth before man is one of Doctor Who’s best-ever concepts for a menace. How many science fiction movies and books have taken the trope of mankind being launched into the future (or perhaps returning to Earth after abandoning it millennia ago) only to discover that some “lower order” of life has evolved into man’s former niche of dominant sentient being on Earth?
The Silurians take that idea and flip on its head. What if we were the later usurpers of the sentience throne on Earth? How would they feel? How would we feel?
It’s probably right to say that human opinion, given similar circumstances, would be divided. There would be those that saw it as an opportunity for peaceful coexistence and those that saw it as a battle that could only result in the total annihilation of one species or the other.
I would imagine most people would fall somewhere on the spectrum in between.
This is what I liked originally about the “Doctor Who and the Silurians” (the only televised episode to include the name “Doctor Who” in the story title.) The Silurians represented us – none wanted peace as their first course of action, but there were those that could be convinced of peace, those dead set on war and those that had their prejudices and could be led into war.
In the original story, the humans reflected the Silurians almost perfectly – it was only the Doctor, the outsider who could see the situation as an opportunity for peace first.
This is why, long and a bit slow that it is, I love “Doctor Who and the Silurians.”
Even the original story; however, frustrates me – mostly because of the gross scientific errors introduced into the Doctor Who timeline.
Later episodes have just squandered the Silurian concept. Still during Pertwee’s era, the Silurians returned in the form of their underwater cousins, the Sea Devils, this time being egged on by the Master in a tale that used the Silurian backstory only as a shortcut to further the Master’s plan for escape and revenge.
And then the Silurians were left for a long, long time only to finally both return in the 20th anniversary season’s story, “Warriors of the Deep.”
At some point in the future, mankind remains locked in the Cold War (oops, failed to predict that in 1983.) Now, hidden undersea bases wait to rain down Proton Bomb annihilation on the enemy at any moment. It is a tense time and the world is on the brink of war.
The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough arrive just in time for (A) enemy agents to sabotage the base and (B) the Silurians and Sea Devils attacking the base with the plan of destroying the human world with a Proton war, leaving the planet devoid of humans and perfectly suited for reptiles.
A typically pedestrian story follows. The Doctor and crew are captured as spies just when things start to go bad, the Silurians inexorably take the base with lots of tedious scenes of “we can’t stop them” type battles and finally the Doctor, failing the Silurians again and being forced to kill them.
And let’s not even mention the Myrkah, the Doctor Who monster effect that single-handedly raises the reputation of the Pertwee-era “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” out of the mire of the bottom of the worst.
Of course, I was looking forward to the Silurians’ return (less so the Sea Devils) but this story is so generic that any alien menace could have been substituted – and the story would have had less baggage.
That brings me to the second area of disappointment. It’s as if the writer of the story knew nothing more about the Silurians and Sea Devils than what they read on the back cover of the Target novelizations.
Disappointed as I am with the story, there is one thing I like: The set design.
During the later Tom Baker and early Davison eras, set design took on an industrial look. I thought at the time that it immediately looked dated and, to my now 25 year older eyes, it does; however, once in a while – and I can’t say why – one of the sets looks good. The sea base sets look functional and believable.
Yep, set design, it’s the best I could come up with.