Doctor Who Reactions: "Doctor Who and the Silurians" (SPOILERS)

1)This was one of the first Doctor Who stories I ever saw, way back in the dim and distant era known as the 1970's - and I still find it quite watchable today, nearly forty years later.  Apparently it stemmed from Malcolm Hulke saying that the new "Earthbound" format for the show limited them to two kinds of stories - "Mad scientist" and "Alien invasion".   Terrance Dicks suggested that they could get around this by using the theme "They have always been here" and Hulke ran with the idea. The story itself is said to be heavily-influenced by something called Quatermass and the Pit, which, unfortunately, I have never seen.


2)I find that for all they were re-invented for the Fifth and later the Eleventh Doctors, I find I still like these original Silurians the best, even if the costumes are a bit primitive. Of course, I liked the Sea Devils better than any of the Silurians. I liked the "triple lens" effect they did to show the Silurians' point of view, that was an interesting idea. As for their "pet" - well, 1970's Doctor Who just should not have tried to do dinosaurs. Much has been made of the fact that the "Silurian" era was the wrong era for intelligent dinosaurs, I still kind of like the name.


3)Lots of good guest cast in this - especially Nyder as Dr Lawrence. (Yes, I know he's really Peter Miles, but when I see him, I always immediately think "It's Nyder!") No one does a control freak losing control like Nyder does.


4)Quinn - yet another "Human who thinks he can use the alien menace for his own purposes" - is played by Fulton Mackay, who apparently was considered as a possible Fourth Doctor, but wasn't available at the time.


5)Masters was played by Geoffrey Palmer, who would later return in "The Mutants" and "Voyage of the Damned".  I always think of him as "that guy who was in that one Britcom my Old Man used to like". He always seems to get killed when he comes on this show, doesn't he?


6)Bessie debuts in this story. I always liked that kind of car.  I gather Barry Letts wasn't happy with the license plate being "WHO1" - apparently he thought a was a little too "inside baseball".


7)Liz is quite good in this - very smart and helpful.  Shame they weren't able to keep her aorund longer.


8)The Brigadier was pretty hardcore in this - pulling a gun on the guy at the hospital and blowing up the Silurians the minute the Doctor was safely out the door.


9)I particularly liked how the Doctor went all "Columbo" on Quinn at the cottage, always one step ahead of him.


10)I thought the music for this was very good - worked very well for this story.


11)I hadn't thought about it, but one of the extras pointed out that you don't see many young people in these early Pertwee stories - especially in contrast to the Troughton era, where they often ran into young people for Jamie and Zoe to hang out with.


12)Considering how fast-acting this plague is, it's a wonder the Brigadier and Liz don't come down with it, antibiotics or not. I will say the scenes of the plague spreading in the city are quite effective.  In the new series, they just don't have time to build stories this way.


13)Some fun quotes:

  • "Hullo. Are you a Silurian?"  "Could I interest you in a really fine set of encyclopedias?"
  • "Unless you Silurians tell us what you want, the humans will destroy you!"  Of course, they'll   destroy you even if you do tell.
  • "I'm beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life - and that covers several thousand years."  He was older when he was younger, apparently.
  • "I'll try fusing the control of the neutron flow."  Almost there...



  • Episode 1: An unconvincingosaurus menaces the Doctor!
  • Episode 2: A Silurian menaces Liz!
  • Episode 3: A Silurian approaches the Doctor!
  • Episode 4: The Young Silurian attacks the Doctor!
  • Episode 5: The Doctor and the Brigadier find the first victim of the plague!
  • Episode 6: The Silurians attack the Doctor!
  • Episode 7: Not really a cliffhanger, but - "They were an intelligent alien race, and he's just wiped them out."  It's a wonder he went on working for UNIT after that.



This is quite good - a little padded, perhaps, but one can see why people began taking a new interest in the show around this time.


[Part of list of Doctor Who episodes here.]

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Quatermass and the Pit was the third Quatermass serial. You might actually have seen the colour Hammer film version as it was called Five Million Years to Earth (1967) in the US. It starred Andrew Keir and followed the serial closely. I'm surprised to hear it cited as an influence on the Silurians story. They both involve menaces from the past, but of quite different kinds.


The serial version of Pit survives, incidentally. I watched it in a set with the second one and the surviving two episodes of the first a few years ago. There's also a fourth serial, from 1979, starring John Mills. The serial version of the second one has a journalist character played by Roger Delgado.


The Hammer film versions of the first two serials were B&W and starred Brian Donlevy. According to Wikipedia's page on X the Unknown it was originally intended as a sequel to the first one.


I thought the Silurians serial was unclear as to whether the caves had been blown up, or just sealed. The Doctor acts as if it's the former, but doesn't the brigadier's dialogue imply the latter?

Yeah, it does seem a bit ambiguous at the end.

5)Masters was played by Geoffrey Palmer, who would later return in "The Mutants" and "Voyage of the Damned".  I always think of him as "that guy who was in that one Britcom my Old Man used to like".

But that sitcom makes me think of him as "that guy I'm going to be in 20 years."  Also, it makes it hard to keep a straight face when I see him on screen with Judi Dench in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Geoffrey Palmer also turns up in a couple of episodes of THE AVENGERS, one with Cathy Gale, one with Emma Peel, both times playing bad guys. I love AS TIME GOES BY, Lionel Hardcastle is my favorite character in the show. He's the smartest, and most reasonable.

I heard that they did 3 7-parters in a row because the cost of doing SPEARHEAD on film (due to a strike) just wiped out the budget.

The Philly station skipped SPEARHEAD, so THE SILURIANS was my very 1st exposure to the TV series (after having seen both Peter Cushing films several times apiece). For whatever variety of reasons, as a kid I found it very hard to manage to see EVERY episode of anything, especially if it was running 5 times a week, as WHO was. So I have a very clear memory of seeing the first 3 episodes, and then, incredibly, missing the next 4 in a row!  Then I saw the first 3 episodes of THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH, but missed the next 3, but, I did manage to catch Part 7, the ending, so that was something.  Then, somewhat determined, I caught every episode all the way until they stopped-- with DAY OF THE DALEKS (4 stories too soon). Which means INFERNO was the first one I saw the whole thing.

A year or so later, they reran the same episodes, but this time, at a rate of one per week, late Saturday mornings. But I didn't find out until they were halfway thru THE CLAWS OF AXOS.  So AXOS Part 3 was probably the first episode I saw TWICE.

Every episode was also cut for commercial time, so I never got to see any of these uncut until they turned up on PBS in the mid-80's. About 2/3rds of the Pertwees went back into circulation right around the time of THE FIVE DOCTORS, but they didn't show any of the ones they only had B&W prints of-- or, SPEARHEAD either, for whatever reason.  So INFERNO became the 1st Pertwee story to turn up on PBS, after THE FIVE DOCTORS.

You know, it's really great to have all of these things on videotape all these years, so I can watch them whenever I want, and if I wanna SKIP any stories, I can do that too, rather than miss them due to schdeule or some TV distributor's or programmer's idiot decisions.

IIRC, the Silurians decided to "hibernate" to avoid the ecological disaster they predicted would result from "something from space" approaching the Earth. I don't recall if anyone in the story ever actually said "the Moon", but that would have been consistent with the "captured satellite" theory that still had some traction at that time.

Nowadays, that theory's pretty much rejected by everybody except the guys still looking for the hole to Pellucidar. So either (1) the Silurians were lousy astronomers or (2) they didn't really mean the Moon (but they’re still lousy astronomers because they predicted a "near impact" from something else that didn't even remotely come to pass) or (3) Earth's prehistory in the Whoniverse is radically different from that in our universe, even if you leave out all the ancient aliens stuff.

Of course, the current prevailing theory of the Moon's formation -- collision with another planet-sized object knocks a big chunk of Earth’s mantle into orbit, where it coalesces into the Moon, all back when the Earth was a big pile of hot rocks – isn’t exactly consistent with the “Earth is a Tootsie Roll with a Racnoss ship in its ooey, gooey center” story either.  So that ship may have already sailed (so to speak).

The Doctor does say it was the Moon when he first talks to the Old Silurian.  I figure what with Mondas and the planet of the Fendahl and so on, the cosmology of the Solar System was just somewhat different in the Doctor's universe. As for the Silurians, they did seem to be a mixture of brilliant and stupid.

As for the Silurians, they did seem to be a mixture of brilliant and stupid.

I can relate.

Nowadays, that theory's pretty much rejected by everybody except the guys still looking for the hole to Pellucidar.


I wish those guys would hurry up and find that, I'd like to visit there.

More from the blog.  Enjoy!
"The lesson is not, I think, that priority of settlement is good or bad, but rather that superiority in science - in Civilisation - wins. The Silurians will beat the Apes because they are better at biochemistry. In all the panic, we forget that men are better at making bombs. At making The Bomb. (This is February 1970. The first SALT negotiations began in November 1969.)"

This seems a good place to point out that "BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES" came out in May 1970.

"THE SILURIANS" was (after the 2 Cushing films) my introduction to the TV series. Philly's Channel 17 stupidly decided to skip "SPEARHEAD" and stopped with "DAY OF THE DALEKS", and as the show was edited for commercial time (YIKES!) my 1st view of Pertwee's Doctor was when he walked into the research station with a HUGE chip on his shoulder. What possible connection could there be between this arrogant, egotistical person and the pleasant, likable scientist-adventurer with the time machine, I wondered?

As a kid (I was 11) I had a lot of trouble, for whatever reason, watching every episode of anything back then, and frankly, after the cliffhanger where The Doctor is confronted by The Silurian face-to-face... I missed the rest of the story, not managing to turn it on again until "THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH, Part 1". So I never got to see the 2nd half of this thing, until it finally resurfaced in the mid-80's (by which point, it was no longer in color).

I was delighted to see the opening sequence (completely missing on the commercial station) where The Doctor shows off "Bessie" to Liz. It was, if memory serves, the only time in the entire story that he genuinely comes across as likable! The moment he arrives at the research station, the "new" Doctor finally makes his debut in character.

Bit of a shock to go back to this in the 80's and see that "Nyder" (Peter Miles) was every bit a pain-in-the-ass in this story, even when he wasn't an evil character. Or that "Avon" (Paul Darrow) was Captain Hawkins in this. Or that "Heironymous" (Norman Jones) was Major Baker in this! Even more so, 2 decades later, to realize "Lionel Hardcastle" (Geoffrey Palmer) was "Masters", the man from the Ministry.

In one of those weird quirks of syndication (among other things), I got to see "THE SEA DEVILS" in its entirely a year (or was it two?) before I finally managed to see the end of this one. (And "WARRIORS OF THE DEEP" even before that.)

It's amazing how, to me, these 7-parters drag on so, while "THE WAR GAMES" doesn't.

Sad to hear that Peter Miles has died.  Miles played who played Doctor Lawrence in this story, later he played Professor Whitaker in "Invasion of the Dinosaurs".  His best-known part in Doctor Who was as Nyder, Davros' aide in Genesis of the Daleks.  Nyder was one of the all-time greatest Doctor Who  villains.

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