The Silurians

Region 1

Region 2
3-story box set
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 52, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Malcolm Hulke
  • directed by Timothy Combe
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • music by Carey Blyton
  • 7 episodes @ 25 minutes each, re-colourized
Story: A new underground government facility accidentally reawakens a hibernating race of intelligent reptiles, who have a legitimate prior claim to inhabit the Earth. The Doctor's attempts to investigate and mediate this dispute are hampered from both sides.

The friction, tension and plot continue to escalate in this fascinating character study - one of Jon Pertwee's very best Doctor Who adventures, now restored to full colour for BBC Video.

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Timothy Combe, actors Caroline John (Liz Shaw),
    Peter Miles (Dr. Charles Lawrence), Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), and Geoffrey Palmer (Edward Masters).
  • "Going Underground" making-of featurette (19 min.) with Letts, Dicks, Combe, Caroline John, Courtney, Miles, and designer Barry Newbery.
  • "What Lies Beneath" documentary (35 min.) on the influences on this story as well as general sci-fi of the 50's, 60's and 70's.
  • "Now and Then" location featurette (9 min.)
  • "Musical Scales" featurette on the experimental music during 70's Dr. Who (14 min.)
  • Colour Restoration featurette (4 min.)
  • Isolated music by Carey Blyton
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery music montage (6 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

Doctor Who really embraces its largest demographic - ADULTS - with this highly mature-minded adventure, a fact nicely highlighted by producer Barry Letts on the audio commentary as he sets the record straight on this show's actual and intended audience. Through an extremely well-portrayed cast of colourful real characters, many perspectives on important issues are brought up and milked for dramatic potential, producing an adventure that keeps up a good pace throughout its long run. There are a few caveats, as some of the philosophies, costumes, and music cues of the second half will appear somewhat outdated by more modern standards, but by and large this remains one of the better stories of one of the classic show's best seasons.

Doctor Who and the Silurians

The TARDIS makes no showing in this adventure whatsoever, and is surprisingly neither needed nor missed. The Doctor is a completely understandable character all the way through, without us needing to know any real details of where he comes from or how he got here, and all the other characters are at home in these normal surroundings. Fulfilling the role of the Doctor's vehicle of choice in this story is a bright yellow vintage roadster. The Doctor introduces us to "Bessie", and lets us know that he's made some modifications to her that will allow many humorous "secret agent" moments to pop up throughout the series.

The Rise of Doctor Who's Social Conscience

This story marks a shift towards more "societally conscious" content in the sci-fi series, an exploration of the social philosophies and attitudes that define a culture and harmonize it with its neighbour, with nature, and with the environment. We've seen the likes of this trait before in stories like "The Daleks" (story no. 2), "The Aztecs" (story no. 6), "Galaxy Four" (story no. 18) and "The Savages" (story no. 26), but here it gains more weight via more mature levels of complexity. The characters in "The Silurians" are really well developed, each one seeing the world through his or her particular paradigm and acting on the beliefs that follow. This is one of the great strengths of writer Malcolm Hulke, who in particular is most widely associated with the "societally conscious" writing tangent and seems to make it the number one priority when crafting his stories.

Hulke misses a few key elements that limit his writing however. For a detailed dissection of the story, with all the plot-spoilers that that entails, read the in-depth analysis version of this review here.

Briefly though, notice how often the characters of this story fail to value the way another person views the world, and fail to appreciate that other person's paradigm. The best that most of them manage is to ridicule the way that the other person thinks with some accuracy, which predictably only creates more conflict. Hulke expertly uses this conflict to his advantage, as it is a natural source of increased friction and drama, and it provides many opportunities to raise the stakes in the plot again and again. However, it does tend to leave me itching to apply a good dose of Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", with all the overlapping paradigms and true seeking to understand one another that that would entail.

The Doomsayer

Hulke is already beginning to limit the Doctor's heroics to "Doomsaying". He has his hero state a problem correctly, with punctuated emphasis, as though that in itself is a great achievement. Well how about some solutions? Doomsaying is not enough to impress me very much.

"Good. Only it is rather like the reptile house in the zoo, isn't it?"

Hulke's love of reptiles begins to show on Doctor Who in this story, and will continue through the rest of his offerings to the program. Despite the production team kicking themselves for not having used a puppet T-Rex enlarged through CSO, Timothy Combe makes very good use of the man-sized version he gets, and viewers everywhere might be glad that the beast turned out so well in the end. Combe proves adept in getting the best out of a good cast playing straight, completely understandable characters experiencing dramatic events. Peter Miles, Norman Jones, Thomasine Heiner, and Geoffrey Palmer all put in top notch, enjoyable performances. Paul Darrow, most famous in sci-fi circles for playing Avon on Blake's 7, is on hand to take his turn as the Brigadier's right hand Captain in this one, and manages to look like better army officer material than ex-army officer turned actor Richard Franklin. Peter Halliday is on hand to do monster voices, and does a vastly better job of the Silurians here than he did of the Cybermen (or Packer) in
"The Invasion" (story no. 46), probably due in large part to the fact that he is allowed to put lots of emotion into the voices. "Silurians" give us perhaps the best of Caroline John as Liz Shaw, and as far as season seven goes, the best of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. The very top acting marks, however, must go to Fulton MacKay and Jon Pertwee, whose playing off of each other is the greatest fun to behold.

Musically, Carey Blyton starts off on an excellently spooky stride ("In the Caves"), and manages to achieve some strikingly good and memorable stuff before the adventure is over, not least of which includes lighter morning music for Squire's farm ("A Close Encounter"), a mock-important UNIT military theme ("March: The Brigadier"), and a lovely bit of primitive tinny percussion that effectively encapsulates the Silurians' view of human beings. (Most of these feature in re-recorded, expanded arrangements on the CD pictured at right). However, many of the later stings and linking cues are extremely jarring, the most memorable being a thematic Silurian phrase of three identical notes followed by three ascending or descending ones. Although in danger of making the Silurians seem tired and listless as it gets attached to them, this phrase-theme can and does work on menacing and cultural moods in various places in the story. More often than not it is played on some instrument that sounds like a kazoo with little or no accompaniment, and on these occasions it does not work at all, sticking out like a sore thumb and even interrupting some scenes like an alarm siren without a cause. "Silurians" winds up containing some of the best of the season's music along with its absolute worst.
Music by Carey Blyton
3 re-recorded tracks expanding on the main themes of the score feature on:
Audio CD - Sherlock Holmes meets Dr. Who

More info & buying options

The ancient globe depicting all of the continents on one side is almost laughable if you stop to think about it, although the production staff of Doctor Who is no worse off than the bulk of the scientific community of the time for not thinking about it. Water seeks its own level, right? This is simple enough to visualize on a relatively flat piece of land, but on a 3D model like a planet, the centre of gravity should be the defining factor for exactly where the drop of ocean will coagulate around the Earth's solid portions. With all known continental mass on one side, (often labeled as a super-continent named "Pangea"), the centre of gravity should shift slightly towards that side, pulling the Earth's ocean over that way just enough to flood over some of that land mass, and leave some previously unrecognized pieces of land sticking out on the other side as unknown continental masses. Names from mythology like Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu spring to mind to fill the void gap of this unknown, and huge ocean shifts like these give credence to astronomical evidence of the Earth wobbling on its rotational axis over long periods of time. My personal theory is that substantial land mass MUST stick out on the other side of this ancient "Pangean" Earth for the ocean to achieve gravitational balance. We can at least thank this story for bringing up interesting subjects!

"Silurians" is extremely memorable for its ending - not so much its dramatic climax as the aftermath. Perhaps we have Terrance Dicks to thank for that as well as the last minute addition of Bessie throughout the script. The Doctor's yellow roadster is a most welcome addition to the mythology of the show, and this adventure is a big winner in the end, one of the very best of the Pertwee era and of Malcolm Hulke's work as well.

This story is available on DVD and VHS video.
If you've only seen it on TV in black and white syndication,
get yourself the re-colourized video and enjoy it the way it was meant to be seen!

Single Story versions:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
See box set below
VHS Video, re-colourized
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.

"Beneath the Surface" 3-story boxed sets:
(Story Nos. 52, 62, & 131: The Silurians, The Sea Devils, & Warriors of the Deep.)
DVD NTSC Region 1
"Beneath the Surface"
3-story box set
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
"Beneath the Surface"
3-story box set
for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Ambassadors of Death"

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