03 Jul 2003Doctor Who And The Silurians, by Paul Clarke
03 Jul 2003Doctor Who And The Silurians, by Alex Wilcock

Following the superb ‘Spearhead From Space’, the production team wisely changed tack and tried something rather different, instead of trying to repeat the success of Pertwee’s first story. The result is a longer, almost ponderous story, but one that approaches its subject matter very well and delivers a morality play unlike anything seen to date in the series. It also goes a lot further towards established Jon Pertwee’s Doctor after his comparatively short and action-packed debut.

It should come as no surprise if I note that the strength of ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ lies in the characterisation, something for which Malcolm Hulke is justifiably renowned, and which I’ll inevitably come to later. This however overlooks the significance of the plot, which is unlike any story seen so far in the series. Whereas in ‘Spearhead From Space’ the Doctor confronted an alien invasion from outer space, a plot with precedents in the series, in ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ the threat is not from outer space, but from an “alien” species native to Earth and with a claim on the planet that predates humanity’s by many thousands of years. The only other “home-grown” menace defeated by the Doctor in the series is WOTAN, which was a new creation, whereas the Silurians have been in hibernation for aeons. This immediately provides the moral dilemma faced by the (alien) Doctor, since he finds himself caught between two species which both live on Earth and which both have a valid right to exist there. And therein lies rub; we immediately have a tragedy in the making, as anger and hostility on both sides scupper the Doctor’s attempts to negotiate a peaceful coexistence between Silurian and Human, resulting in attempted genocide by parties in both groups. With a plot such as this, the conclusion is inevitable; the series format does not lend itself to actually letting the Doctor negotiate peace between the two species, and so the story advances towards the climax with the viewer realizing that the Silurians are not going to get to reclaim their planet. It is this foregone conclusion that provides the framework for the marvellous depth of characterisation presented by the script, but most notably, it allows us to get to know the Third Doctor in more depth.

It is in ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ that Jon Pertwee really establishes himself. During ‘Spearhead From Space’, his extended periods of unconsciousness meant that the Doctor didn’t get much to do for more than about two episodes. Once he had recovered, the four-episode length of the story meant that the remaining screen time was devoted to foiling the Auton invasion. Here however, the Doctor gets seven entire episodes to involve himself in the story, and we really get to see his new character at its best. Firstly, after the jovial nature of the final scene of ‘Spearhead From Space’, we get to see his relationships with Liz and the Brigadier after some time has passed, and they have developed somewhat in the intervening time. The Doctor and Liz clearly work well together as a team, even more so than in ‘Spearhead From Space’, and he seems to appreciate having a capable scientist as a companion, especially during episode six as he tries to find a cure for the Silurian plague. His relationship with the Brigadier is more complex. They are still clearly friends, but there are hints of strain, the Doctor making several jibes about the Brigadier’s military approach to the problems facing them, which eventually visibly start to erode Lethbridge-Stewart’s usual diplomatic attitude. Despite this, his respect for the Doctor seems undiminished, and they continue to pull together under stress, as witnessed in episode seven when they communicate volumes simply by making eye contact. 

In fact, I suspect that the Doctor is almost exclusively responsible for the tension between himself and the Brigadier; there is a general feeling that his relief at being given somewhere to stay and resources with which to repair the TARDIS at the end of ‘Spearhead From Space’ has been rather tarnished as the fact of his exile sinks in. Whilst he has agreed to help the Brigadier (and is willing to do so when the situation merits his involvement) he clearly resents the Brigadier summoning him to the research centre in episode one and refuses to go until Liz talks him into it by massaging his ego. By the end of the story, this situation is rather worse; the Doctor is frustrated by his failure to negotiate peace, and make clear his intention to revive the Silurians one at a time in an attempt to reason with them. Then the Brigadier blows them up. The final scene, as the Doctor tells Liz that this is murder, is remarkable and shows Pertwee on his finest form. The Doctor seems genuinely stunned that the Brigadier has committed such an act, despite the human casualties of the Silurian plague and the fact that they tried to wipe out humanity a second time by using the disperser. It shows the Doctor’s high moral values and his disappointment when others don’t live up to them. In short, the entire story shows this new Doctor to be a strong moral character and Pertwee conveys well his frustration when humans and Silurians alike make peace impossible. 

The characterisation of the supporting characters is what makes ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ famous. Whilst Hulke has a reputation for creating what Terrance Dicks calls “people monsters”, this is only half of the equation. The human characters are just as complex and flawed as their reptilian counterparts. To start with the Silurians, there are only really two that we get to know in any detail, the Old Silurian and the Young Silurian. The Old Silurian represents the Doctor’s best hope for peaceful co-existence, since he realises that the primitive apes of his time have evolved into an intelligent species and agrees to try and live in peace with them. Had he survived, the denouement might have been very different. Early on during the story, the Silurians as a people are clearly shown to be rather more than just a new race of monster; as the Doctor points out, the Silurian wounded by Baker doesn’t kill anyone deliberately except for Quinn, who tries to take it hostage. The dinosaur that attacks people in the caves is twice called off before it can actually kill anyone (although of course it does kill one of the pot-holers in episode one). This suggests that the Silurians can be reasoned with, and the Old Silurian embodies this. Then in episode five, the Young Silurian infects Baker with the plague and any hope of a peaceful solution is dashed. For all the Doctor’s optimism, it seems unlikely that the humans would forgive this attempt at genocide (which results in a significant death toll in London), whether all of the Silurians supported it or not. Once the Young Silurian kills the Old Silurian, the situation becomes even more clearly irretrievable, as this angry creature, furious that his home has been invaded by apes, single-mindedly focuses on reclaiming Earth from the animals that have overrun it, too arrogant accept that they are intelligent, and too blinded by hatred to seek a peaceful solution. Yet for all that the Young Silurian is clearly a “villain” in the traditional Doctor Who sense of the term, Hulke refuses to make him some two-dimensional ranting madman; earlier in the story, he seems to be simply power-mad, but in episode seven as he announces that he will accept the responsibility that he has claimed as leader and will sacrifice himself to ensure that the rest of his people are saved, we see that however evil and misguided his actions are, he is genuinely motivated by the welfare of his people. 

The humans are just as well characterised. All of them have complex motivations, and do not divide easily into good guys and bad guys. Doctor Lawrence is presented as a deeply obnoxious, unpleasant man, who shouts and sneers his way through the story before meeting his end in episode six. Yet despite this, he is an understandable character; his career is on the verge of collapse, destroyed by forces totally outside his control. In episode one, in a brief flash of conscience, he shamefacedly apologizes to Quinn, telling him that he knows that everybody is doing his or her best to find the fault in the cyclotron. Then there is Doctor Quinn, an initially rather likeable character and ironically a unique example of human/Silurian peaceful interaction. But any chance he represents of peaceful coexistence between the two species is blown when his greed for knowledge motivates him to take a Silurian prisoner, resulting in his death. This also has a visible knock-on effect; his confidant Miss Dawson, on discovering his body, becomes a fierce proponent of revenge attacks against the Silurians, urging Masters to order a full frontal attack to wipe them out. She has no knowledge of why Quinn was killed; she merely assumes that the Silurians are hostile. Both her response, and those of Quinn and the captive Silurian are understandable, emotional reactions, and yet it is precisely these reactions that stand in the way of the Doctor’s desire for peace. Then there is Major Baker, misguided and trigger-happy, yet also with the best of intentions and a fierce, blinding loyalty to his own kind that reflects that of the Young Silurian. And of course Masters, a seemingly reasonable and rather likeable civil servant, trying to do his job, surprisingly willing to listen when enough evidence can convince him, and yet so thoughtlessly self-important that it doesn’t even occur to him that he should stay in quarantine. This results in not only his own death, but those of dozens of people in London. This is why ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ is such a tragedy; everyone’s motives are understandable, if not excusable, yet they make a peaceful solution utterly impossible. 

Production wise, ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ stands up well. It can’t help looking slightly shabby next to its glossy predecessor, but the sets are effective, and there is some excellent direction, including the Silurian viewpoints in episodes two and three. The notorious incidental music isn’t too bad either, mainly because it is used at just the right moments to be effective. Overall, ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ continues the high standard of Season Seven begun by ‘Spearhead From Space’, and really establishes the Third Doctor’s characteristic strong sense of morality.

Filters: Series 7 Third Doctor Television

"There's a wealth of scientific knowledge down here, Brigadier - and I can't wait to get started on it."

There are few Doctor Who stories about which I have such a wealth of feeling and which have had such profound effects on me. This may, on the face of it, seem a little strange - after all, I wasn't born when it was first transmitted, and didn't actually see it until the not terribly impressionable age of 21. This is, of course, because when I watch it now, it seems inseparable from Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, a closely related story indelibly imprinted on me from the day I bought it (as pictures of little blond me clasping it excitedly to my little bosom on the way home from Blackpool will testify).

It's a cracking story - slow and grim, but feeling unusually 'real' and undoubtedly the series' best 'world disaster'. One of the few seven-parters that seems epic enough for its length, this is easily the best Pertwee for me, and one of my all-time faves. It's the only Third Doctor TV adventure I find as good as the book, a great relief after finding several of those other strange TV stories that came to me as 'adaptation of the novel' such a let-down. 

Despite my delight in it, I can see a few flaws from the off. Some Who stories work best watched episodically rather than all in a bunch, but this is not one of those stories. It's not hard to see why, stretched over seven weeks, it didn't capture such a huge audience in the most recent BBC repeat (but it cheered me up, as at the time I was mostly working in Wallasey, hundreds of miles from my beloved and thoroughly cheesed off in a grotty hotel. Besides, it was jollier than listening to The Massacre on headphones). Although it builds up brilliantly by the end, it doesn't start by following on from Spearhead with anything like the same punch, verve or on-screen expense. It could do with a bit of a kick near the beginning to draw people in.

Starting off on colourised video, it immediately looks cheaper than the preceding story, and the dodgy T-Rex is no help. Not as dodgy as Bessie seems, though; with the Doctor tinkering to get her going, you reckon that the Brigadier bought it for him from a scrap merchant to save on the budget. Once the story gets going, it's terrific, but it seems to take an age to start up, and the 'mystery' of the opening episode isn't pulled off as excitingly as it should be. But at least - despite the opening - it seems much more cerebral than last week (must be all the scientists about). 

What makes Doctor Who and the Silurians work right from episode one nonetheless is the quality of the characters, and the actors playing them, even before we come to the first not-all-bad 'monster' characters since Varga. It's striking that no one character that can be labelled as just utterly evil, or completely insane (at least to start with), the usual Doctor Who shorthands for the villain. Malcolm Hulke captures a fatal flaw in the Doctor here, perhaps more craftily than at any other point in the show. He writes for Pertwee at the perfect time when he's still new and appealing and can get away with lines that make him less likeable, without coming over as merely unpleasant. Liz Shaw remains one of the most fabulous companions, despite being treated appallingly at times - already sidelined in just her second story, it's sad that in a saga full of doctorates, only Dr Shaw is deprived of hers and made to work as a secretary: "Personnel will be handled by Miss Shaw." Among many guest appearances, Peter Miles stands out in the first of many shrill, manic parts, and Fulton Mackay steals the show with the charismatic Dr Quinn. He's frightfully good, very laid-back and with a little humour, though with an unmistakable undercurrent of bitterness. It's a real shock when he dies so early, adding to the unexpected realism. Perhaps the standout performance, though, is Nick Courtney's Brigadier, who in a story crammed with much better-drawn characters than we usually get still emerges as the most complex of the lot. While not playing the lead in the way he did in much of Spearhead, he manages to move from hero to villain while remaining entirely true to the spirit of the man. 

What story we get in the first episode largely consists of a spy plot, which might work a little better if it wasn't dropped so quickly not because of underterrestrial evidence, but because the plot no longer needs it. Quinn and his strumpet are briefly implicated, his throwaway line about knowledge to be gained providing the most intriguing moment. We hear about a planned programme of sabotage, but it never quite gets going. The Doctor, however, is on a planned programme of really winding everybody up. He's already far less likeable than he was in Spearhead! "It's not worth 15 million pins if it doesn't work, is it?" never fails to make me smile, but it's not a line calculated to win co-operation. His threat to Dr Meredith that he can do whatever he pleases is also jarring; in the past, he may have said such things as a Provincial Officer or an official Examiner, yet that was play-acting, and our Doctor now appears to have become an authoritarian for real. Thank heavens the Brigadier is there to take him down a peg. Can you imagine anyone else getting away with dismissing all his clues and calling him "Dr Watson," a bright remark which sends the Doctor into such a sulk that he decides to go down into the caves very suddenly. As if just for the cliffhanger.

It's not as if the first cliffhanger is even much cop. We may have had a little tension from ancient mind-destroying horrors, all very At the Mountains of Madness and Quatermass and the Pit, but they lose their nerve and reach for the unconvincing T-Rex (or "some sort of dinosaur") when it comes to something to bring us back next week. It's then lured away by the sound of someone having sex on creaky bedsprings. I'm scared. As if to draw further attention to budgetary shortcomings, Lethbridge-Stewart admits he only has 5 or 6 men - and they really have a Brigadier in charge of them? The Doctor even returns from his deadly cliffhanger with no ill effects at all. Fortunately, it's about this point that things really take off, with Baker swiped in the caves and the reptile person emerging into the light and wandering about so gorgeously shot it's as if the director's just woken up. Simmering tensions between Lawrence and Quinn come crashing on Miss Dawson, and all at once the stakes seem raised - it's only part 2, and the director's already demanding UNIT be recalled.

Admittedly, Farmer Squire's wife isn't a patch on Meg Seeley, but I'm always a sucker for that Quatermass-style selective race memory, and the great three-eye-view of Liz as she's attacked for the cliffhanger is actually rather gripping. Amazingly, the pace keeps up, and the Doctor both spots what's suspicious and doesn't help very much, forcing Quinn onto the defensive instead of gaining his confidence. And, gosh, they've got a 'copter for the search (which is done rather well). It all looks much darker than Spearhead, and the tone's darker too, with very little comic relief and rather less pizzazz - but it no longer feels cheaper, and by now it's drawn you in.

The Doctor's baiting of Quinn at his cottage is well done, and finally gets under Quinn's cool, but it's a shame; if the Doctor had still been Troughton, he might have charmed him into something, not just got his back up. It's a miracle that he nearly gets something out of Miss Dawson, given that she and Quinn are so blatantly both in love with the same person - Dr Quinn. It remains difficult not to feel rather sad and rather regretful at the Doctor's tactics when we find Quinn dead, despite the rather good cliffhanger to introduce the new race. Given all that, the bathos of the following scene is shocking. Is "Hello - are you a Silurian?" the silliest line the Doctor's ever uttered?

Hulke's characterisation of the Doctor in regularly giving him such 'foibles' as being a git and lying to people, rather than making him entirely heroic, again come to the fore when his not informing the Brigadier of Quinn's death instantly begins to undermine his position with Lethbridge-Stewart. While there's perhaps a little much dodging in and out of the caves, Baker being trapped in the foaming rock pool looks rather nastily effective (and more interesting than the more prosaic mantrap of the book). The Doctor and Liz going down and then Liz popping up again seems a little easy, but it sets up the arguments which make up most of the next episode, and concludes, in effect, the first story. Yes, that's right. It’s really two stories meshing in the middle, rather as if the Holmes 'split story' technique had come in early: Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters (ooh, what's going on in the caves?) followed by Doctor Who and the Silurian Plague, with a whole new set of issues once all the first have actually been resolved. Perhaps it's this aspect that makes the serial seem to go on far less long than many other six-or-seven-parters, even with if it means one story ends with a rather unimpressive gurning cliffhanger.

Perhaps resting on the cliffhanger point itself is a little unfair. Watching it now, it's striking that the real revelation - and of course the 'message' - that we have by the end of part 4 is that both sides are very similar people, and not in a very attractive way. The immediate ancestors of this story are not the more straightforward monster tales of the Troughton era, but Whitaker's historicals and accounts of high-ranking intrigue. I wonder if Galaxy 4 would have had the same effect on me? I suspect not, with its simpler "Beautiful can be bad, ugly can be good" reversal rather than shades of grey and two races each split into myriad fears and hopes, and without the critical innovation of the 'prior claim' on what we think of as our planet. It's on these people that the story turns: a politician trying to do what's best but with the minimum of embarrassment; Morka arrogantly refusing to see any other view than that the planet belongs to his people; the Brigadier increasingly frustrated as the Doctor's behaviour and lack of trust forces him into a corner; Okdel hesitantly prepared to exchange knowledge; Miss Dawson gunning for the 'monsters'. Having said all that about 'character', it's interesting that Vietnam-era aggressor Morka (so much more memorable a name than 'Young' - presumably he wears a leather jacket and, aged only 65,226,801, is much more hip than Old Okdel's ungroovy 65,226,858) is the only reptile person that sounds like he's doing an American accent. Satire, or just bad acting?

Altogether, this patch has got some splendid dialogue, with actors mainly arguing in twos - Young Silurian and Scientist, Doctor and Old Silurian, Lawrence and Masters, plus that great debate, with Liz speaking for the liberals, Miss Dawson subbing for the Daily Mail (string the monsters up! It’s the only language they understand!), Masterly inaction and the increasingly deranged Lawrence hilariously accusing everyone else of delusions. Who says ‘talky’ means dull? The argument between Liz and Dawson fair blazes, for example, while the discussion between the Doctor and Okdel is far calmer, with the revelation of the Moon - and Baker shouting 'traitor' (off) at him. Admittedly, I suspect the Saudis would have something to say about humanity giving away hot places, but at least it saves the Brigadier (ironically). It's still not got quite everything going for it, though, as some splendid reptile people plotting and Baker’s near-escape are made far less watchable by the music reaching new lows - this is ‘When Kazoos Go Bad’. They’re so intrusive, you could call it 'The Power of the Kazoos', couldn’t you, making the ear-splitting Sea-quel 'The Evil of the Kazoos'…

It's a good job there are so many character moments about, of course, as once again the action seems to consist of people going into the caves and coming back out again. When the mucky Brigadier responds to another childish diatribe with "I lost a lot of men in those caves, Dr Lawrence," there’s a calm pain about him that’s really impressive, and only slightly undermined by the way he’s already admitted he has very few men, none of whom were seen to die there. Meanwhile, back in the reptile people's shelter, things are no more harmonious. There's quite a savage row between the cave leaders, with Okdel basically saying "Shut up or I'll kill you." He's clearly shaken when he gives the Doctor the bacteria, though (as well as shaking!), and then Morka does the equivalent of shooting him in the back. It's not even a trial of strength! It's a shame, as Hulke has given some thought to 'creature character', yet neither their characters nor culture are as complex as the humans', and Morka in particular often comes over as caricatured (but I suppose you can't get it all right first time). Let's face it, this is hardly a very stable or civilised system of government. Mind you, the Cabinet might be more fun with third eyes; Brown boggles Blair while he’s not looking, Beckett blasts Brown over dinner, but is toasted by Jack Straw with his three-eyed glasses, and Straw’s then savaged by Blunkett's guide dinosaur... Which all makes it rather odd that, up top, Masters remains an unusually subtle and well-meaning Who politician (or possibly civil servant, as it's never made clear on screen, and the book gives him a civil servant's rank but makes him an MP!). "My report will of course exonerate you completely - I'm sure you did everything in your power," though, is just the sort of kindly way of saying "Bang goes your funding, good luck finding a university post" that actually makes you sorry for Lawrence, a wretched man with no faith but suddenly acquiring Job's job description.

This episode having been stuffed full of more drama than you find in most whole Who stories, it's glorious to reach the end and discover that the climax lives up to it. The Doctor arguing about confining Baker and not putting him into hospital is done with real conviction, and it's notable that once he returns to the surface, all the talking starts to pay off. His leaving the caves triggers Morka's coup, and gets everything moving up top. Baker is very eager to convince himself that he escaped… but it's hardly surprising, as he's been self-delusional all along, with his saboteur obsessions. Then he staggers out to die, for a staggeringly grim cliffhanger - surely the scariest in the series so far. And there are still two episodes to go…

Facing the gravest threat to humanity since the Black Death (or possibly the last story), the Doctor immediately trusts the Brigadier to act, and Lethbridge-Stewart appears to trust the Doctor again to get the problem sorted - though he's not forgotten the trouble his scientific adviser's been earlier. The Brigadier's worth his weight in gold, doing the right thing immediately at the hospital (even though that happens to be ordering people about with a gun), and the Doctor sets up his regimen of injections. Part of the implicit bargain here appears to be that when the Brigadier tells the long-suffering Liz to staff the phones and she protests, once again the Doctor backs him up! No wonder she ends up leaving so soon, and of course sooner still it's all the more ironic that the Brigadier completely stiffs the Doctor at the end, with Liz his apologist - as if even she finally loses patience with the Doctor, despite agreeing with his views (and in the book, of course, she's pissed off with him throughout).

Even the Brigadier's unusually efficient bit of martial law is unable to prevent Masters reaching London, and while the journey may be less tense than in the novel, the arrival is stunning. The Marylebone scenes are extraordinarily well-mounted and scary; aliens with rayguns are one thing, but this is even worse than the more obviously memorable Autons on the high street; this is an everyday place ravaged by a horrible illness, and is horribly plausible in its turn. It looks like a documentary or some disaster drama. It makes you really proud of Doctor Who, that it can be so depressing! Oh, hang on... As the guard pitches over and the camera follows the blue lamp, it looks like the end of the world is approaching. 

Mass death and panic are brought home by also focusing on the death of poor Masters, staggering around London before toppling down, and accompanied by Morka's most chilling line so far, a whispered "I am the Leader now" that finally sounds in control, just as Lawrence is on the verge of finally losing his in winding up Dr Shaw. The effect is to suggest the Wenley Moor director is stupid and the new shelter leader isn't, but viewers will of course know they share the same critical error of disregarding the Doctor: "They're only apes," says Morka.

Lawrence's final end is striking in a number of ways - it's yet another real character who hasn't even made it to the final episode, let along out the final credits, and as well as his ghastly blistering from the plague helping bring home its threat, his raving is highly disturbing. As with the disease, this unusual story first warns, then illustrates - it doesn't just tell us that the place is riddled with nervous breakdowns, but actually shows us one, and very squirmy it is to watch, too. The story's length and well-drawn characters mean that almost uniquely in the series, Lawrence has time to descend into paranoid madness, and we care about it.

This is perhaps the most frightening episode of Doctor Who, because it's the most believable. We see the spread of the disease; we see people we 'know' die from it or lose their minds from the horror; we see our heroes desperately struggling to find a cure, or the Brigadier trying to keep the country afloat on the 'phone. Extraordinarily, rather than becoming dated, the modern advance of combined drug treatments to check the effects of viruses like HIV only adds greater plausibility - though the same can hardly be said for the line, "Some of these drugs are so new we don't even know their properties yet." So they could be, what, dancefloor fun, or antifreeze?

So caught up can you be by the terrifying culture shock of the biological warfare that it's easy to forget its instigators. Unwise, of course, but so do the regulars, and although it's interesting to see 'young stallion' Morka cutting from the front, it's difficult not to feel that the cliffhanger reintroducing a less virulent threat and carrying off the Doctor with his most unconvincing boggle actually lowers the dramatic tension rather than raise it as a climax should. Still, more room for the Brigadier to come over well ("With respect, sir, I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. …But there's no time to refer it to the Defence Committee!") before making something of a tactical blunder in allowing his mean to be lured out. 

In the endgame, it's obviously easier to convey the drama of a big ticking bomb / gun / molecular disperser than it is to show a disease being cured all round (thrilling zooms on: hospital beds and Horlicks!), even if it still feels like a lower gear than last week's. More interestingly, you can see points at which the trust between the Doctor and the Brigadier deteriorates further; after being kept waiting so long for the antidote formula, Lethbridge-Stewart would be only human to entertain the odd doubt on the Doctor disappearing in the company of 'the enemy'. The Doctor then reappearing, in white, framed by psychotic reptile people, not only looks scary - he actually shows no sign of being bothered at first that they’re going to kill UNIT's CO. It's Hawkins' attack that saves him, and only then does the Doctor appear to make up his mind (but, some might say, at least Avon gets killed). 

The reptile people’s random killing of base staff at the end is actually quite chilling, too. Monsters usually threaten; they don’t just scythe down characters straight away! It's rather more like a modern terrorist drama than typical Doctor Who, and serves to emphasise both this serial's unusually high body count and how few of those have actually died in the "thrilling shoot-out" action you'd normally expect. We're still some way off the credits for part 7, yet most of the people in part 1 are long-dead, and half the cast who made it this far will be dead by the end. It also serves to emphasise the deadly intent of the rather uninspiring prehistoric microwave with which the human race is to be cooked, though in fairness the machine also supplies more evidence of the so far somewhat sparse reptile civilisation. A bit of art wouldn't hurt, a bit more technology, or more than two sound effects while they do everything by third eye 'magic'. 

"Doctor, what do you think you're doing?" asks the Brigadier, who by now is clearly far from convinced that the Doctor is play-acting when he goes to help the Elder Earthlings (and in that rather unwise t-shirt, he does look a bit shifty). "You mustn't help him!" he even orders Liz, who - like the audience - has more faith, but the skilful writing and Courtney's performance make his not trusting the Doctor an inch perfectly understandable. It's also rather impressive that the Doctor really does have to overload the power core to scare off the reptile people - for once, it’s not just a bluff - and that the same thing that wakes the reptile people in the first place becomes the cause of their downfall, rather than the power being merely a background detail.

With the machine blown up, the monsters in retreat and the Doctor saying "Yes, I know, I'll try fusing the control of the neutron flow" (admittedly not then the cosy nod that that sort of line has become in retrospect), you'd expect this to be the end, but the last few minutes are brilliant - just when every other Who story would finish, we get great stuff like Morka finally showing he’s not just a violent egomaniac, as he realises that leadership involves responsibility. It makes his death suddenly poignant, and rather graphic. The Doctor is really, well, Doctorish with his pursuit of scientific knowledge, and what a joy it is to see that - except for the Brigadier, who is having none of it, but not yet blustering. Lethbridge-Stewart gives him a seriously evil look as the Doctor contemplates a reptile revival, and while I'm on the Doctor's side through and through, now I can see what's brought the Brigadier to this point, I wonder if the Doctor couldn't have retained his trust, and so kept Morka's people alive. It isn't really their disagreement that precipitates the final crisis, but their distrust - it's not impossible that the Brigadier's sealing of the caves is not inevitable, but in part a lesson to the Doctor, to show him 'who's boss'. Both actors are at their very best, with shock meeting quiet, deadly efficiency. Has Jon Pertwee a finer moment than that appalled look at the exploding caves, in a fantastic Doctor scene that lures you into thinking it'll just be the comic relief? 

The Doctor loses. He actually loses. And the first person to beat him since Tlotoxl is to become his friend; it's easy to conclude that it's a shame they had to get on after this. I'm no longer sure that's true. Perhaps this is simply a better story than any that follow with the Doctor and UNIT, and none of the rest could cope with this level of drama. But perhaps also the Doctor realises that UNIT is in the right place at the right time, and could be doing the right thing if he changed tactics and tried harder to persuade them; it's a better excuse for his becoming the 'establishment' Doctor than any other I've heard, and despite his loud distaste for politicians, for once it's an argument for working 'inside the system'. This Doctor's instincts have been spot-on, and he's tried to do good throughout, but it's all undermined by his own fatal flaw: arrogance. Ironically, the Doctor realises that the solution is for everybody just to get along with each other, but his confrontational approach and unwillingness to trust people with information shows that he's incapable of following his own advice. In life, in politics and in Doctor Who and the Silurians, getting everyone's back up rarely gets you results, even if you're right.

Run end credits - and notice how much shorter they are than for than part 1. Oh, and I have to get this out of my system: he's not Doctor Who. They're not Silurians. But it's still a cool title.

This story has a lot to answer for… Reading its message that green scaly rubber people are people too turned me into a Liberal. Appropriately, it's one of the few Who stories I saw first as an adult that I can remember exactly where I was when I saw it for the first time. It was five am the day after it was released by BBC Video, and I was crashing in a sleeping bag on someone's floor (the glamour of politics) and blearily determined to get it all watched before it was time to go out for another day's trudging the streets to canvass and deliver leaflets in the 1993 Christchurch by-election, which turned out to be a great Liberal Democrat victory over the Tories. Devoted as I was to the cause, this story was still something I desperately wanted to make time for as early as possible, and I was thrilled - even though it had actually been a life-changing experience many years earlier. And without having read the book, who knows? Perhaps I wouldn't have been there at all…

Filters: Television Series 7 Third Doctor