After establishing the research centre and its main personnel last week, this time Malcolm Hulke’s script focuses on what lies beneath, with most of the episode following three expeditions into the caves, and the flight of an injured Silurian across the moors.
This gives Timothy Combe the chance to direct this like a horror movie. The cave sets, which were apparently cobbled together, don’t look it because the lighting is great – gloomy, full of shadows, and suddenly suffused with scarlet when Dr Quinn goes to meet with his dubious associates. Our first full glimpse of a Silurian, which is shot and wounded by Major Baker, is as a shape in the shadows, there for a moment then gone.
In general, the way the monsters are introduced is great – we saw Spencer’s cave drawing of them last week, and this week the Doctor does a hasty sketch of one of their faces, so we’ve already got a sense of them before the big reveal – which is still held back. Instead, aside from the glimpse mentioned above, and an absolutely gorgeous shot of the creature emerging, in silhouette against the setting sun, onto the moors, they’re confined to details – a clawed arm; a crocodile-like back. The Silurian attacks are presented as point-of-view shots, always quite effective. Even Dr Quinn’s parley with them focuses on details of their base – the weird, scaly viewing screen and restraint chair. It’s all really good.
After Spearhead from Space treated the new Doctor like Hulke treats the Silurians, holding back too much of the reveal, Doctor Who and the Silurians is giving us ample opportunity to see him in action. He’s starting to crystallise as a man impatient with authority or pretence, always eager to move on to the next mystery (while the Brigadier heads into the caves to investigate the mysterious figure that attacked Baker, the Doctor wants to get back to his lab to test its blood). He’s arrogant and high-handed with no tolerance for the same failures in others (‘Present [the military] with a new problem and they start shooting at it’), but has enough self-awareness to recognise when he’s being an idiot, and deflates himself as often as others have to take him down a peg or two – here, he angrily denies having only encountered dinosaurs in museums, but checks himself and backs down:
DOCTOR: Well, it was certainly some kind of dinosaur. Certainly nothing that I’ve ever seen before, though.
BAKER: In museums, you mean?
DOCTOR: No, I do not mean in museums… Well, on second thoughts, perhaps… Perhaps I do, yes.
He’s also very hands-on and practical, thinking nothing of throwing on a lab coat or caving gear. While the second Doctor loved dressing up, the third seems happy to dress down.
Next episode: Doctor Who and the Silurians – Episode 3