“Cold Blood” Review

If The Hungry Earth reminded me of a myriad of Pertwee episodes then there was something of the Davison about the second in the new-Who “Doctor Who and the Silurians” double.

Was it the studio sets and cryogenic chambers reminding me of the truly dire Warriors of the Deep?  Was it the laser guns?  Or was it just me?  Because if it was deliberate, it was a risky strategy.  I’m sure those of us familiar with the Pertwee era were happy to go reference spotting when we were being reminded of the some classic stories (and that applied once tonight with the Doctor’s acknowledgement of the Brig’s naughtiness in and the Silurians), but reminding us of serials we’d rather forgot is less a sepia-tinted nostalgia-fest and more a painful memory.  To add insult to injury, there were two references to the equally awful but considerably more recent The End of Time: firstly Marvin the Paranoid Android’s opening voiceover in the style of Timothy “Rassilon” Dalton, and secondly the hologram projected above the conference table.

Ultimately that meant more came down to whether the episode was good enough to stand alone, and that’s always tougher for the second of a two parter. While its predecessor’s lack of originality meant it perhaps felt a little less than the sum of its parts, some of its parts were exceedingly good resulting in a fairly respectable sum anyway. This time, there were fewer good bits, although the complete change of scene helped keep it fresh and the pacing remained good.

Where “The Hungry Earth” barely put a foot wrong, two things niggled at me here that in a better episode would not have merited my attention. One was the two way video link – I just hate that “magic” technology. The other struck deeper at Who lore: the notion of their being both fixed time with fragile nexus points, and flexible time has been used frequently to try to reconcile the contradictory concepts of time travel that have been used over the years in the show. Essentially this puts pivotal and far-reaching events which drastically change history (such as the course of an entire race’s destiny, for example, as in The Waters of Mars) being in the former category, while less consequential events are just “corrected” by time which eventually gets itself back on course. It’s all pretty woolly and daft, but it’s sufficiently general to make sense of most stories despite their apparent contradictions. But “Cold Blood” seems to contradict even this catch-all theory by making suggesting a massive change to the human and Earth history the Doctor is familiar with could be feasible without threatening massive damage to the web of time…

Ah well. So what of the episode itself? I’m still not quite sure. While it’s still generally quite forgettable, it all kicked off with some thrilling and emotional scenes in the closing five minutes.

The change makes me suspect that it was The Moff rather than Chibnall writing the closing (arc-related) scenes, although another factor was both Matt Smith and Karen Gillen really taking their performances up yet another notch as the TARDIS dematerialises.

Overall, a bread-and-butter double. Satisfying, if nothing fancy, with the first bite proving the most enjoyable.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

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