Season Fnarg’s second two parter plays like Classic Who’s Greatest Hits.
The drill reminded me of Inferno. The forcefield reminded me of The Deamons. Unless you’re exceedingly good at avoiding spoilers (and I’m not) you’ll know who the returning monsters are, and so I was reminded of And the Silurians. I was even reminded, by the Welsh setting, of The Green Death. There’s no doubt in my mind, Chris Chibnall’s been down to HMV and bought them out of Pertwee DVDs.
Of course, the vast majority of the audience won’t have seen any of these Pertwee stories, so revisiting some old ideas, dusting them off, and reheating them for today’s viewers is perhaps a bit of a no-brainer. The silurians, who are not my favourite monsters anyway, have generally been served poorly by their scripts. Of the stories in which they feature, my favourite is Bloodtide and I would probably have enjoyed it even more if the silurians weren’t in it. So improving on that isn’t hard. But for the audience who knows, it’s going to be a test to deliberate remind them of the Deamons, when that will inevitably tempt them to give the episode a miss and spend the time watching their old VHS copy instead. I know I was tempted – right up to the point where I remembered I don’t have it on VHS. Or a VHS player.
Fortunately, the script and production were both excellently crafted, re-tooling the classic silurian story (“they’re not aliens, they’re…Earthians”) for the post 9/11 immigration fixated climate we’re in now. This season has been ruthless in dialling up the terror factor and this episode has been no exception (I’m going to have nightmares about that scalpel like I haven’t had since Davison was the Doctor and I was seven). This is helped, in no small measure, by keeping the special effects to a minimum and the monsters in the dark.
Matt Smith is just excellent, again, with three moments in particular standing out: his vulnerability when he is forced to reveal to Rory that he has lost Amy, his pep talk to the representatives of humanity as find themselves facing the prisoner’s dilemma, and when he makes wearing shades in the dark look just so cool.
Elliot’s reference to his dyslexia appears to have had not further bearing (so far) on the plot. Is Gallifrey Base even now going to be awash with threads accusing the Moff of having a dyslexic agenda? And a clue for the future: this was the Amy-lite episode. So will Amy feature in an episode that is Doctor-lite (much as Tennant and Tate alternated in Midnight and Turn Left)?