The Hungry Earth
This week's episode is Part 1 of 2 and marks the second story in season 5 to get the "two parter" treatment. The Doctor, Amy and Rory take a wrong turn on their way to Rio and end up in the small Welsh village of Cwmtaff circa space-year 2020. The episode was written by Torchwood and Life on Mars writer, Chris Chibnall and he has been tasked with bringing us the return of the Silurians. The Doctor (John Pertwee) first encountered these dirty lizards in a 1970 episode called simply, “Doctor Who and the Silurians”. There was no messing around in those days.
The episode opens with an introduction to the workers of a mine. They searching for rare minerals so they need to drill down 21 kilometres, further than anyone on Earth has drilled before. Pleased with their good work in reaching their target, they all trundle off home and leave night shift worker, and father, 'Mo' on guard duty. All alone he is alarmed when the security cameras suddenly cut out and the ground starts to shake. Just as he's making a run for it he gets pulled into a hole in the ground. Hmmmm, Graboids?
The next day the Tardis pulls up in the village. Amy and Rory are a little disappointed that this isn't Rio, as the Doctor promised them, but once the Doctor's spidey-sense tingles that there's trouble a-brewing, Amy quickly cheers up and drags Rory along to help with the investigating. Rory notices Amy is wearing her engagement ring so quickly runs it back to the Tardis for safe keeping. Oh his way out of the Police Box, he gets mistaken for the police and is side tracked into helping out a woman and her son (Wife and Son of Mo). They are curious as to why bodies are disappearing from graves, without the graves being dug up. I really liked how Rory was played in this scene, he didn't know what was going on and was thoroughly confused. The boy ran rings around him intellectually and that made for some nice comic moments. Week on week I'm liking Rory more and more. He's the complete opposite of the Doctor, slow witted, scared and perpetually confused. I like the dynamic it creates with Amy in the middle of the two of them.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Amy arrive at the mine. They introduce themselves to Nasreen Chaudry (Meera Syal) and her assistant, Tony Mack. They notice the hole in the floor (that sucked Mo down the night before) and then the ground begins to shake. As they are running out Tony is caught by the “attacking ground” and starts to get pulled down. Amy stops to help him and is caught herself. The Doctor tries to help her while Nasreen and Tony stop the drill; but it's too late and Amy is lost... for now. After he gathers himself the Doctor realises while the miners where drilling down, something else was drilling up and it's about to arrive. They grab the equipment and run for it back to the village.
Looking up to the sky it seems the creatures from the deep have set up a dome force-field over the village. As the Doctor, Rory, Nasreen, Tony, Ambrose (the mother) and Elliott (the boy) go into A-Team montage mode, they barricade themselves into the Church. They set sensors everywhere so they are prepared for the arrival of the beasts. Quickly this plan comes to nothing as the approaching Silurians block out the sun and overload all the sensors. They're here.... At this point they also lose Elliott, who's gone to get his headphones for some reason. On his way back something starts to follow him across the dark graveyard, naturally he's alarmed that he's being chased by a Silurian. He knocks on the church to be let in, but just as they get the door open, he's gone.
So the Silurians now have three hostages. The Doctor has worked out who he's dealing with, so he sets about trapping his own hostage. Using some heat-vision sunglasses he lures a cold-blooded Silurians in. Just as it pounces, the Doctor gives it a spritz with a fire extinguisher then traps it in the back of a meals on wheels van. Then they chain the lizard in the basement so the Doctor can try to reason with it. He argues that the humans would fight back against the “small tribe” of Silurians and the odds aren't good when it's “billions against a few dozen”.
Getting nowhere with his reasoning, the Doctor and Nasreen leave the Tony, Ambrose and Rory to keep 'Alaya the Silurian' safe. Alaya is fairly miffed and doesn't trust the dam dirty apes. She tells them she knows one of them will kill her. Tony, who has been stung by a poison Silurian tongue, and is fast getting a nasty infection, would be the most likely candidate.
Oblivious to this, the Doctor and Nasreen enter the Tardis intending to go down to the Silurian cave deep in the Earth. But they don't have time get the Tardis working because it's straight away sucked into the Earth, landing with a bump down at sub-level 5 million, Silurian city. And it's bigger than the Doctor thought (That's what she said). Amy isn't doing too well either, after awaking in a glass coffin, she is gassed, paralysed and tied to a chair. Here she meets Mo, who's in the operating chair next to her and he tells her a Silurian is about to come along, cut open her chest and do some vivisection. Cue the cliff-hanger. This time it wasn't spoiled by the BBC's cartoon Graham Norton.
“Dear Aunty Beeb; Well done on your excellent end of episode cliff-hanger work. I just had to write into 'Points of View' to praise you on your continued great work. Yay BBC”
I enjoyed this episode. It didn't try to do anything new, but it also didn't try and do something 'whacky' with a straight-forward story. It stuck to the plot and the episode felt like it flew by really quickly. That's all you need to set-up for next week's conclusion. The dialogue wasn't quite the best the season has had to offer, but it was okay and fit with the emotional sentiment of the episode. I was also impressed by the Silurian make-up. It looked really solid and didn't wobble around or flex like some of the cheaper rubber monsters in the past couple of years.
On the acting side, Matt Smith had to dial back his funny side for this one. After losing Amy he was noticeably more serious and didn't have anyone of Karen Gillan's calibre to riff off of. The rest of the cast also did a great job, the boy and his mother were great. A child actor who isn't annoying is fairly rare and his scene with the Doctor was well done. I was a little disappointed with Meera Syal and she didn't have much to do. Since she's underground with the Doctor for part two, she'll probably have some better lines and a task or two to do next week.
Looking forward to part 2, “Cold Blood”, next week.