The Silurians

DVD NTSC
Region 1

DVD PAL
Region 2
3-story box set
VHS Video
NTSC
PAL
(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.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


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There are a few caveats, as some of the philosophies, costumes, and music cues of the second half will appear somewhat outdated by more modern standards, but by and large this remains one of the better stories of one of the classic show's best seasons.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 recolourized version of this story presented on BBC Video reconstructed the title sequences from scratch, choosing to duplicate the error in the story title caption in the spirit of restoration. I find it strange that any Doctor Who story's first broadcast in England is treated as such a holy event, casting the "proper" cinematic format of the adventure in stone. The essence of good story-telling deserves more restoration than production oversights, in my opinion. If it was me doing the job, this definitive version of Jon Pertwee's second story would finally come out with the title that Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, and Barry Letts had wanted and decided on: "The Silurians". It's a cool sounding word, deserving all the attention that the useless "Doctor Who and...." portion of the brief credit takes away from it, and so many other Jon Pertwee stories have such less unique names, overusing simple non-descript words. The word "Monster" is the most redundant of the lot, as it sounds particularly childish in addition to its lack of setting a story apart from all the others. Hulke's first working title for this adventure was just "Doctor Who and the Monsters" which says nothing and can be applied to the whole 30+ year history of the series, particularly if one wanted to firmly establish simple children as the major intended audience. The word "Silurians", scientifically inaccurate as it may slightly be, is a VAST improvement.

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.

Unfortunately, he also writes in a terribly pessimistic mode towards society's chances of overcoming their social issues and differences. As the plot progresses, the characters come to know each other better, but still none of them are capable of valuing the way another person views the world, or appreciating 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, when it comes down to the climactic final confrontation, believability is not all that it should be. The most ruthless and arrogant Silurians are angry enough to wipe out the crafty humans face to face, such that trusting all that they say enough to leave them to the mercy of a different catastrophe appears to be a real contrivance to put some kind of successful resolution onto the plot. It does tend to leave me itching to apply a good dose of Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Absent from Hulke's script are the overlapping paradigms and true seeking to understand another that would make an optimistic resolution, or at least lend a bit more credibility to the climactic bluff. It is quite curious here (and ominous on Hulke's part) that the threat of personally triggering a catastrophe becomes the hero's tactic of choice.

The Doctor may be seen attempting to make a stretch towards the Silurians' point of view in the middle episodes, but really he is only liking one Old Silurian who happens to be the most similar to himself. He forges his bond with this character at the expense of turning a deaf ear to the rest of the human characters, and a blind eye towards the sentiments of the rest of the Silurians. They are as complex as we are and deserve a fair hearing, but if that hearing really is fair, we must be prepared to judge the bulk of them guilty of being a serious threat to society. For all their high-technology, their system of social order is no greater than despotism and, by the demonstration here, lacks its own internal accountability to good principles. The Doctor himself also resorts to secrecy, thus dragging down his own integrity. It takes a secondary hero in his own separate paradigm - the Brigadier - to bring eventual balance to the story's conclusion.

The Doomsayer - "Major Baker.... YOU are ILL."

Hulke is already beginning to limit the Doctor's heroics to "Doomsaying". Major Baker is hysterical enough as it is after his return from the Silurian base; is pointing the finger of doom at him in a scolding fashion really going to help matters or begin to calm him down? Hulke has his hero state the problem correctly, with punctuated emphasis, as though that in itself is a great achievement. Well how about some solutions? How about beginning to show understanding of Baker's point of view and admitting to holding the wrong impressions of some of the Silurians at least? Gain Baker's trust! How about asking for his help in defeating their biological weapons plan? 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" gives 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 In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Ambassadors of Death"



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