The Silurians are the latest classic monster to be brought back in this gripping two-parter. Although it was in many ways a rehash of the same themes featured in previous Silurian stories, I think this story stands in its own right and does a fantastic job of re-introducing this classic villain to a modern audience, just as The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky did with respect to the Sontarans and Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel did the Cybermen. The story successfully established who the Silurians were, what they were about, and even gave us a privileged glimpse of the Silurians’ civilisation. Accordingly, the story adroitly avoided casting the Silurians, or anyone really, as the “bad guys”, except for perhaps the deranged warmonger Restac, and the theme of the story was the same inter-species political dilemma that played out in Doctor Who and the Silurians and other Silurian/Sea Devil stories.
In general this story had a very interesting and compelling plot, although my major criticism of the story would be that it seemed overlong. There simply wasn’t enough happening to fill the full ninety minutes and keep the viewers interested. Perhaps more plot could have been written to convincingly fill the two episodes, but, as it is, the story felt slow. That said, I thought the first episode, although not all that much necessarily happened, was more exciting than the second half. It played out as a unique iteration of the base-under-siege format as the humans attempted to hunker down in an old Welsh village church while unknown subterranean enemies assailed them from beneath the earth. It was seized with urgency and irresistible mystery and made for very gripping viewing. The second half had more in the way of plot and action, but somehow seemed to plod along without the urgency of the first half. One thing I’ll say for the second episode, though, is that it offered wonderful insight into the Silurians’ civilisation, with stunning scenes of the Silurian city and tantalising glimpses of their technology and science and social organisation. It felt like convincingly alien surroundings, something a show about space and time travel doesn’t, presumably for budgetary reasons, show as often as you’d expect it would.
Like the classic Silurian stories, these episodes were heavy with political undercurrents and intelligent parallels with real-world political issues. Does not the conflict between a group of original owners of a territory and that territory’s present inhabitants carry certain pertinent real-world associations? I’m reminded of Israel and Palestine, or issues surrounding indigenous peoples of the world and settler populations, such as in Australia and North America. Like these real-world issues, the Silurian situation has no easy solutions, and, to its credit, the story confronted and recognised that. Other parallels with these real world-issues were seen in the conflict between the more conciliatory tendencies and the more hardliner fundamentalists on each side, with Eldane and Malohkeh representing the conciliatory voices among the Silurians and Restec representing the militant fundamentalists, while Ambrose arguably represented hardliner attitudes among the humans. I think the script’s moralising about sharing and finding common ground between disparate groups was a refreshing and heartwarming ecumenical message, but I found it did get a bit cringe-inducingly preachy at times, as near the end where the Doctor was telling the humans to spread the “prophecy” that the Earth was to be shared.
There were robust performances all-round in this story from the leads and the supporting cast. Elliot was an endearing child and the child actor Samuel Davies really made the audience care about his character. Meera Syal was excellent as Nasreen Chaudhry, a singular, spirited woman who had the potential of a fantastic would-have-been companion. Nia Roberts was also very strong and convincing as the flawed but redeemable Ambrose. Matt Smith delivered an understated but commanding performance as the Doctor—there were no standout “Doctor” moments as such in this story, but there were several subtle little moments where Matt shined, such as his confrontations with Alaya and Ambrose. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill were both excellent, as always. Particularly in that whopper of an ending. Rory’s death and Amy’s desperate struggle to cling onto her rapidly fading memories of Rory were heartbreaking, tear-jerking stuff. Both Gillan and Darvill are to be commended for profoundly affecting performances. Moffat has really upped the ante here in regards to his series arc, though; you know now that the “cracks in time” motif is building up to something big. Really big.