Doctor Who The Hungry Earth (Series 05, Episode 08) Review

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What’s It About?

Aiming to take Amy and Rory to Rio, The Doctor finds himself in a small Welsh Mining village in the year 2020. Blue grass and ground that devours people …

Review It

Writer of Torchwood’s Cyberwoman episode, Chris Chibnall, enters the world of Who proper with the first of a two-parter that re-introduces the ancient Silurian (or eocene) civilization to audiences. The story borrows much from the original seven parter – possibly too much to appear original. Stories in the past have successfully drawn from the non-TV stories (usually by the original authors) but taking directly from the series itself seems a bit of a betrayal to me. But maybe I’m a cynical old Whovian who’s griping at nothing!

The essence of the story is appealing – playing on the fear of the ground swallowing us and the classic Who element of a remote human endeavour, in this case a mining operation. The episode is pretty standard fare – mainly set up for next week’s episode which made it a bit

Some of the dialogue is sharp, but at other times seemed a bit flat and formulaic. A scene where the Doctor requests that no weapons be brought into the defence doesn’t gel somehow and neither does a scene where he questions a hostage. The delivery is fine, but the words themselves seem the least 11th Doctor of the series. Which is a shame considering the consistency of dialogue in the series so far. Also, the Doctor allows a civilian into the TARDIS and into danger with him with no qualms – a far cry from keeping Amy safe with Churchill in Victory of the Daleks.

A strong round of applause to the cast though – on the whole they perform their roles believably and appear to have a genuine regard for the material they are performing.

And the niggles?

My main issue here was the redesign of the classic “monster”. The new Silurians would be more at home in Buffy or Star Trek – green scaley humans with spikey bits. Personally, this made the race far less believable than even the old rubber-masked design. Where’s the psychic third eye? The wobbly protruding mouth?

Secondly, the story borrows far too heavily from the original Silurian story – even down to moments of “Silurian vision” camera shots. It seems that this episode was mainly padding – if I was more cynical, I’d think that it was a last minute decision to use this as a two-parter and the majority of this episode was scripted after the story proper.

In summary: A story with as yet unrealised potential. The re-invention of the Silurians has so far fallen flat for me – here’s hoping for a triumphant conclusion that blows my disappointment clear out of the water.

Rate It: 3 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 3.
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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7 comments

  1. Red Five /

    You know by now that my opinion of the latest regen is a negative one, but I will say that things looked set to speed up from The Time Of Angels but it seemd to only last through to Vampires In Venice. This episode and it’s predecessor just seemed lacking in dialogue and just weren’t gripping at all. I found myself yawning and constantly clock-watching to see how much time the episode had left to pull me in.

    That time never came.

    As much as I feel let down by the DW team this series, I will continue to watch it all, as I feel a fair judgement cannot be made without at least giving the whole thing a try. But really, really disappointed.

    • I think the previous episode is in my top three since 2005, however I did find that this episode felt more padding than anything.

  2. Jonny /

    I thought this was the best ep so far. The weapons scene did feel out of place, it just felt it wasn’t played right. He came across as a mole (joke not intended) by disarming people who where clearly terrified seemingly trying to weaken them further rather than show theres 2 sides to the coin.

    As for allowing a civilian into the TARDIS was a great thing, a possible plot device and easy to understand why. She wanted to explore, to meet these people. The Dr needs mutual understanding between the 2 camps to prevent an outright war and she was willing to reach out and understand the world around her. The other 3 tho represent fear and the “normal” human way of thinking.
    Rory will be interesting tho, hes not a natural hero and is still coming to terms, unlike Amy, of the Drs way of thinking. Left totally alone this ep to explore and make decisions on his own will be a huge maturity step in his character…..if the writers are developing him properly.

    Over all this has been the best ep so far tho Im disappointed the cracks in space seems to be totally on the backburner.

    • I see what you mean about letting the geologist on the TARDIS – maybe Doc 11 has a bit of Doc 7 in him and plans ahead more than he lets on? Agree about Rory too.

  3. Spikey_p /

    I HATE the fact that they have basically made Silurians into cyborgs – they look okay with their battle mask on and I can buy the whole “they’re a different tribe” bit, but as soon as the mask comes off…

    It’s something that some (non-telly) stories have done with the Ice Warriors in the past too, to emphasise that the helmet has cybernetic enhancements in there and it’s not actually part of their body… Although in the case of the Ice Warriors, the Doctor spots a bit of circuitry in Warrior’s visor in their very first episode, so its much less of a drastic retcon. That hasn’t stopped some writers from portraying them as 3rd rate Cybermen with hissy voices.

    But this – in the original story, the Silurians were much MORE interesting than cyborgs because they had genuinely biomechanical technology. They have clawed hands that are not really much use for delicate work or operating machinary using buttons or switches but the third eye (which has a basis in actual reptile biology) allows them to develop and exploit a technology by focusing their psionic powers, as well as allowing them a level of telekenesis, self defence and presumably telepathy. Watch those first 7 episodes, they use that third eye for *everything* (making it so much more disappointing when they never used it at all in Warriors of the Deep). It’s easy to mock the jerky,exagerated way they seem to move and the fact that their mouths barely move when they speak, but it seems obvious that they have no tongue nor teeth and so must be communicating via a combination of guesture and telepathy, rather than vocalising. Which explains also how they are able to speak English.

    Before, they had these hard, rough features, like real reptiles. The face and then later the chestplate was regal and resembled a carapace or tortoise shell. And no real eyes that could convey the emotions that they clearly have.

    Now we’re supposed to believe that was a mask? Bullshit! Why would a reptile species have soft, expressive, human-like eyes and a mouth full of perfect, pearly-white incissors for teeth? Why do their females clearly have a bust? Why was that nonsense with the 30 foot tongue neccessary (hardly warrior-like)? And why is all her dialogue lifted from a rejected Planet of the Apes script?

    This was a bad, derivitive script, well directed – Chris Chibnal, if you want to make a Tractators story, make a Tractators story, just don’t shoehorn Silurians into the slot just for the sake of it. And if you want to write Inferno, you’re 30 years too late.

    On the plus side, loved the kid with his audiobooks and Holmesian investigation, loved the arc stuff right at the start with the other Amy and the other Rory that gets dropped straight away (but you know that will be back) and I loved the fact that STILL, the Doctor has failed to save a single person this series… It’s quite refreshing that his perpetual absent-mindedness actually gets people killed constantly rather than saving them! And all you complaining or commenting on “civilians” in the TARDIS need to watch The Three Doctors or Earthshock – as a matter of fact, you can watch nearly any 5th Doctor story and either he or Tegan will say “Let us show you how we travelled here, we have a ship or our own, let me show it to you to prove we’re telling the truth!”

    Oh yeah, can we get on with killing Rory, please?

    He serves no purpose other than to just make Amy into a self-involved bitch when we’re supposed to really like her.

    • 100% with you on the Silurian design, it’s just not right. The originals were a truly great piece of design that could easily have been updated to not look like a rubber mask.

      On the civilians on the TARDIS thing – that was more a direct reference to taking a civilian into danger when 5 episodes ago The Doctor wouldn’t take even Amy to the Dalek Kill-Cruiser.

      Oh – had an out loud chuckle at the Inferno comment 🙂

      • Spikey_p /

        He probably thinks wouldn’t notice. Was waiting for the green ooze to start oozing out of the drillhead.

        Much as I enjoy new Who (Torchwood and the SJAs included), I feel as if a lot of the more junior writers seem to want to have it both ways in terms of old series continuity and fan service to the existing fans. Very few of them seem to get it quite right. For instance, it’s brilliant for us that the Brigadier gets to turn up in Sarah Jane to help out for her series finale end-of-the world, but that’s probably wasted on the target audience of 8-14 year olds who will just be confused. The Macra in Gridlock were a brilliant example of where it’s clever, unobtrusive and appropriate. For that reason, I came away from watching that episode for the first time with a great big grin on my face, despite the episode itself being largely quite rubbish. Contrast that to the Auton threat in Rose – great to see them, and a very easy to explain (and scary) threat to put in the Doctor’s way on the opening episode, but for the fans, it’s just a little deflating when their basic plan is exactly the same as the one before last that didn’t work.

        Likewise, in the first Ood two-parter, with all the build-up and talk of running into the ACTUAL Devil towards the end, the Doctor’s musings as to whether that could possibly be the case ring so much more true with just a passing nod to the Daemons of Daemos. It scratches an itch.

        In this case, it just makes the Doctor look like an idiot – as Monts notes on the podcast, Moffat’s hand in the scripts seems to add an additional bit of magic to the whole process, in that any question the viewer has upon entering a scene (“hang on, why is the grass blue?”) gets asked out loud by the Doctor within 30 seconds of them being raised. I believe this is known in the writing trade (according to the writers’ commentary in 52) as “hanging a hat on it”.

        Therefore, to have a drilling project cutting through the Earth’s crust at a weak point somewhere in rural UK should elicit concern and anxiety – he saw the whole Earth die in flames, screaming out in rage while his friends tore one another apart – instead, he’s pleased and proud of their achievement. When people associated with the project disappear, does he demand to know if any green substance has been ejected from the drill shaft and infected anyone? No.

        When the earth literally starts pulling live humans through it and taking them one by one, does he say “I’ve seen something exactly like this, only then it was on a colony world at the far end of the universe”? No. That could have been a spectacular double-bluff, Pond gets dragged through the soil and comes face to face with a Silurian scientist using it’s third eye to liquify the soil. They could vapourise and then reconstitute solid rock and steel walls before.

        There is a world of difference between going up to a Dalek warship with a free hostage in tow, attempting blackmail and travelling to make contact with an intelligent, reasoning culture with an open-minded accademic. Also, given that he’s planning to negotiate a peace (and knowing how that’s gone the last two times), it’s probably best to take a long a level-headed human to sit in on the talks. I’d rather bring Meera Syal with me to the conference table than Lethbridge-Stewart any day.

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