BBC Video // 1970 // 175 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kristin Munson (Retired) // June 25th, 2008
"There are times, Doctor, when you sorely try my patience."
Doctor Who and the Silurians comes from a period where the program was undergoing some growing pains and it shows. A tautly plotted serial is stretched into an endurance test but the two-disc DVD set leaves room for an orgy of extras.
Deep under the hills of England, problems are brewing in a nuclear research facility.
Power failure problems.
Mental health problems.
Monsters with giant, pointy teeth problems.
UNIT is sent out to investigate, including new members Liz Shaw and The Doctor, and it's not long before an ancient reptile race reveals itself to the humans. The Silurians gave up the earth a few million years ago and now they're taking it back.
I've got to hand it to the folks assembling Doctor Who DVD content: they're thorough. Every bit of analysis that I wanted for my review, all the comparisons and historical observations I made while watching are extensively covered in the main featurette, "What Lies Beneath". I could have still used it but I was afraid that when they got the DVDs for themselves that hoodwinked Whovians would hunt me down, tie me up with comically long scarves, and force me to endure endless debates of which is the better companion. Which is why, boys and girls, you should always take your medicine and never nurture your imagination.
The first three parts of Silurians play like a really good B monster movie, with genuine suspense, reckless humans, and some great sequences from the monster's point of view. Scriptwriter Malcolm Hulke kick starts the action when he tosses a creature sequence into the first five minutes of the story and saves the Silurian reveal for later. The last two episodes in the sequence are a tense fight to stop a deadly plague. All of this would add up to a great serial, if the episode wasn't actually seven parts long.
Doctor Who was still making the transition from kids' show to family program this season, complete with longer story arcs, and the writers are still obviously working out the kinks. Because of this, the middle section is bogged down with bureaucratic conversations that wreck the momentum and the Doctor sneaks in and out of the Silurian base so many times you'd think they has a catflap big enough to accommodate his bouffant. There's also too many characters, most of them in identical lab coats or uniforms, that make things more confusing than they have to be. Still, the episode has a few nice surprises.
Geoffrey Palmer (As Time Goes By) shows up later on and Jon Pertwee strips down to a t-shirt to reveal a surprisingly buff physique (And a tattoo!). I'm still well-behind on my classic Who so this time around I get to meet Liz Shaw. Shaw (Caroline John, ) is obviously a product of the late '60s; a proto-feminist whose coat reaches lower than her skirt. I liked her strong attitude in this serial but hated how she'd almost always back down again and be pushed into a secretary role.
Doctor Who and the Silurians is bursting at its rubber monster seams. All the usual stuff is here: episode retrospective, production subtitles, and commentary. Seven different people pop in on episodes. By now, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks have their interaction down to a science but Caroline John is fun to listen to too, and impressively up-to-date with the modern Who. Along with the main 35-minute documentary, there are mini-docs about location and music and an Easter egg tucked into the seventh episode's closing credits.
Apparently Doctor Who and the Silurians only exists in black and white in the BBC archives and the Restoration Team had to perform digital surgery to join a fuzzy color recording to a black and white print which is detailed in a segment called Color Silurian Overlay. The end result looks no different than other episodes from the decade and I'd never have guessed it was a computer job.
The camp factor is high for this episode, and whether this is a gripe or a rave depends entirely on your taste. Scientists have deadly serious conversations on microphones, oblivious to the fact that there's no glass in the barrier between the control room and the rest of the nuclear plant. The workers are menaced by a lumpy dinosaur that shows up on a different quality film stock and one of the actors decides his Silurian should move with the same twitchy mannerisms of an epileptic who's stuck a fork in an outlet.
Carey Blyton's score takes corny musical cues and layers on shrill electronic noise to make them more alien and the DVD menus use the most obnoxious sound effects from the serial.
The serial itself may have some problems but the five good episodes make up for the two dull ones. A gargantuan list of bonuses eases the usual hurt of shelling out big money for a single story and provides a Time Lord overdose that will last for days.
Review content copyright © 2008 Kristin Munson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney, Peter Miles, Geoffrey Palmer, Timothy Combs, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks
* "What Lies Beneath" How the politics of the sixties shaped the story
* "Going Underground" Making of Featurette
* "Musical Scales" The Music of Doctor Who
* "Now and Then" Location Featurette
* Color Silurian Overlay
* Isolated Music Track
* Photo Gallery
* Radio Times Listings
* Production Subtitles
* Easter Egg
* Restoration Team