Doctor Who episode 781: Cold Blood (29/5/2010)
‘Amy Pond and Nasreen Chaudhry, speaking for the planet.’ This one’s about the failure to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Homos Sapiens and Reptilia because individuals on both sides can’t be the best of their species, can’t be extraordinary, only see their own worst motives in the motives and others, and pre-empt them. This is the constant theme of Silurian stories, and it makes sense to revisit it in their new series relaunch.
The problem is, it’s done quite badly. There’s no real sympathy or understanding for Restac and Ambrose, they’re just aggressive bigots. Which means the episode lacks any nuance or tension. The Doctor siding with peaceful resolution and negotiation clearly points to the right path, so there’s no need to paint the opposition as unthinking fanatics. Might it have been more interesting, just as an example, for Restac to be willing to contemplate a different future up until the moment her sister’s murder is revealed? I suppose that might dilute the truth that there are bigots in the world, who refuse to contemplate debate, or recognise there might be other points of view.
The rest of this is similarly broad: the negotiation scenes achieve the kind of kitsch awfulness that the modern series rarely delivers, as the Earth is carved up by two latterday imperialists drawing lines on a map, in between finding the whole thing really boring. Those Australian aboriginals or Native Americans would surely be delighted to know their interests continue to be screwed over by people sitting in a room on the other side of the world. An episode that seems to seriously support the idea of handing out land over the heads of the people who live there feels like the writer hasn’t paid any attention to the history of the 20th Century. Its heart is in the right place, but its brain isn’t.
None of it matters anyway. The Silurians go to war and get gassed. Nasreen and Tony make a snap decision to get frozen for a thousand years because, ‘I’ve got what I was digging for’ (what?). Ambrose gets absolved of murder with a little grin from the Doctor. Rory dies, for the second time this year, which would have derailed the climax if it wasn’t already derailed. The overall impression is an episode that knows what it’s emulating, but has nothing of its own to bring to the party.
Next Time: Vincent and the Doctor