Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

One of my favourite Doctor Who stories for so many reasons.

1. It's a great story.

Although repeatedly referred to as "aliens", the Silurians are anything but, having evolved on Earth millions of years before humans. Though that doesn't give them the moral high ground to exterminate mankind, it sure does give them the right to live on our planet. The story's message of treat others as you would like them to treat you comes through loud and clear, without anyone having to ever say it. (thankfully)

2. It's got a fantastic castlist.

Jon Pertwee (the Doctor), Caroline John (Liz Shaw) and Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) are joined by Paul Darrow (Captain Hawkins), Peter Miles (Dr. Lawrence) and Fulton Mackay (Dr. Quinn)!

As that last fellow potters around his house alone, I really got the impression that he was being followed about at his heels by his faithful dog Sprocket from Fraggle Rock.

Then, as if all that wasn't enough, in episode four Geoffrey Palmer suddenly walks in as Permanent Under-Secretary Masters, and with typical candour exclaims "Any chance of some coffee?"

3. It's a long one. (seven episodes)

With so many formidable characters being portrayed by such a strong cast, the ensuing dialogue-based drama has real space in which to unfold and breathe. Everyone has their own agenda to campaign for, except for Liz and Hawkins, who are just extensions of the Doctor and the Brigadier respectively. On the whole though, this enables a real attitude of "What do we do now" to emerge. Even the Doctor concedes that he needs to get Whitehall on his side for there to be a chance of peace.

Doctor: "Look, Mr. Under-Secretary, surely this is a government matter - it cannot be decided at this level!"

At the fantastic end of the story, the Doctor actually gets his chance for peace, only for his friend - the Brigadier - to betray him. Now there's characterisation for you.

The penultimate episode is devoted almost entirely to the outbreak of the Silurian plague, as the dying Masters' dizzy location work around London gives the threat a real relevance that no amount of paid extras in Cardiff can.

Unfortunately this sequence also demonstrates one of the serial's weaknesses, on my copy at least. Some of the picture quality on this VHS release is pretty ropey.

Masters' final journey was shot on film (twice due to damage), then transferred to videotape, then transferred via a TV to a black and white film recording, recoloured from an NTSC copy, then remastered for distribution and finally copied onto the VHS tape that I bought.

One consequence of all this generation-loss is that many scenes probably work far better on this release than on the more recent digital cleaning-up for DVD, simply because, when seen clearly, those monsters look awful.

Why sure, of course there's no reason why a reptilian biped from millions of years ago shouldn't look just like a guy wearing a costume with a big headpiece, but when coupled with such human gestures, we may actually be better off with fuzz-o-vision. Basically, these villains look at their most threatening in their opening episodes, in which they don't appear.

Even the incidental music does the Silurians few favours, the composer apparently deciding to emphasise their menace with a kazoo.

Otherwise the music is good, trumped however by the sound effects, which are AWESOME! The squeaky cue for the villains' telekinetic powers is terrifying.

As I said at the start, I think Doctor Who And The Silurians must rate as one of the series' best outings of all time. One of my other favourites stories is Mawdryn Undead which I used to think contradicted this one by retconning it all into having taken place in a different year.

Not so now that I've just watched it again. Masters' cab driver can clearly be heard to charge him in shillings, so I'm saying this one's contemporary.

Mind you, I think I'll just ignore the Doctor's claim to have lived for thousands of years…

There's also another retconny continuity-ish moment when James Stevens - co-author of the 1996 book Who Killed Kennedy - rings up the Brigadier. I gather he's in The Mind Of Evil somewhere too!

Finally, even this story's title is a mine of trivia.

It's the only TV story to date to feature the prefix "Doctor Who And…". This is a shame considering how so many story-titles actually had those words added to them for their book versions, so this really should have become the first novelisation to bear the correct name. Alas no. Presumably because of the scientific inaccuracy of the word 'Silurian', the author carefully avoided using that word in his text, and re-entitled the story Doctor Who And The Cave-Monsters. D'oh!

Later Doctor Who episodes further retconned the 'Silurians' into 'Eocenes', which is apparently also the wrong term. When borrowing elements from another canon, I do think it's important to be consistent with it, but hey, they did try.

Therefore my closing words on this have to come from Justin Richards and Andrew Martin's publication Doctor Who - The Book Of Lists, which contains the following profound observation on that title Doctor Who And The Silurians:

"He isn't called Doctor Who, and they aren't actually Silurians."

Which means things aren’t looking too great for that conjunction in the middle either…


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