A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “The Hungry Earth”

Doctor Who


Onwards and downwards! It’s evident early on in the episode that that’s the direction this Doctor Who story is going. While the Doctor and his companions are accustomed to dealing with extraterrestrials, in “The Hungry Earth” they’re confronted by, uh, innerterrestrials?

It’s the return of the Silurians anyway, a reptilian race last scene in the 1984 original episode “Warriors of the Deep” (thanks, internet). Guess they’ve been napping down there for the last 36 years (this new story is set in Wales in the year 2020). Between naps, it’s all about extreme makeovers down in Silurian town. Check out this incredible before and after:

No more third eye; new poisonous tongue! The redesign, spearheaded by the show’s writer and producer, is explained by labelling these Silurians as a different branch of the same species. Their new, more humanoid look supports one of the main ideas behind “The Hungry Earth”—that humans and Silurians have evolved alongside each other, at a similar pace, and on a shared Earth. But guess which species is completely oblivious to the other’s existence? Until now.

Smart people can be so dumb. When two pioneering geologists get the bright idea to drill down as far into the earth as they can (honestly, who, for one second, thinks that sounds like an intelligent undertaking?) they inadvertently set off the Silurians’ security system, triggering them to go on the offensive.

That incongruous bluegrass (the plant, not the music) the scientists were inspired by? It wasn’t a signpost bidding them ‘Dig Here!’; it was a warning.

Strangely, Silurians aren’t cool with a giant drill tunnelling into their homes and destroying their entire civilization. So the core-dweller’s revenge involves kidnapping several Welsh townspeople, some corpses, and one companion. Poor Amy. This is so not the trip to Rio she was promised. The crazy thing is, being swallowed up by the earth turns out not to be the worst part of her day. More on that later.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver are on display here (busts through padlocks with a single zap; has no effect whatsoever on wood) and so is his commitment to pacifism. When one of the townspeople begins stockpiling weapons to fight the Silurians, the Doc chastises her, instead setting up a clever sonic-based trap… that the Silurians instantly disarm. Still, don’t diss the sonic.

It’s interesting to watch the Doctor try to negotiate a peace between two sides that are so similar yet so divided. Both inhabit the Earth, both instinctually want to obliterate the other, both sides are quick to resort to war and violence, and, as we see near the end of this two-part episode, both are inclined to vivisect specimens of the opposite species.

Redesigning the Silurians to look more human-like was a great way to illustrate that they aren’t alien to the planet—humans descended from apes, Silurians from lizards.

The Doctor doesn’t buy it. His hunch is proved correct at the episode’s cliffhanger end when he and one of the geologists find themselves under the earth’s surface and face to face with a massive Silurian metropolis. Now if someone will just give them directions to that lab where Amy is being held. And quickly.