Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood


WARNING: major spoiler if you have not already watched these two episodes

Rating 2¾

Written by Chris Chibnall

Directed by Ashley Way

Starring Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory), Meera Syal (Nasreen Chaudhry), Robert Pugh (Tony Mack), Nina Roberts (Ambrose Northover), Alun Raglan (Mo Northover), Samuel Davies (Elliot Northover), Neve McIntosh (Alaya / Restac), Richard Hope (Malohkeh) and Stephen Moore (Eldane)

The TARDIS materialises in what the Doctor thinks is going to be Rio de Janeiro, but actually turns out to be the small Welsh village of Cwntaff, the centre of an ambitious drilling project going deeper into the core of the planet than has ever previously been achieved. When Amy is sucked into the ground, the Doctor realises that something deep inside the earth is coming up and soon he is faced with an old adversary, the Silurians.


The second two-part story of the fifth season, ‘The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood’ pays homage to the old “classic series” and in particular the first season that starred Jon Pertwee in the lead role, originally broadcast in the first six months of 1970. That season, the seventh of the old series, introduced the Silurians in a tremendous story called ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ that followed a storyline very similar to this new one. The Silurians, who are also referred to as the Eocenes and “Homo reptilia”, made a second appearance in 1984 in the story ‘Warriors of the Deep’.

Watching ‘The Hungry Earth’, the first of these two new episodes, for the first time I came away feeling a little disappointed, but when I watched it a second time that changed completely. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy it, I also started to pick up on many little subtleties in the writing. I suspect my initial reaction was simply a subconscious expectation that it wouldn’t live up to my memories of the old series from what remains my favourite era of the show. ‘The Hungry Earth’, in fact, proved on second viewing to be a very tightly written and well structured episode with a real emotional resonance to it.

‘Cold Blood’ had a lot to live up to and, ultimately, probably did not quite manage to pull it off, despite a powerful ending. That ending, which should have come as a rather shocking surprise, was slightly dampened for me because of something I read in The Guardian newspaper that morning that alerted me to what was coming – and the television critic responsible should be ashamed of himself.

I felt that in the middle of the episode ‘Cold Blood’ seemed to veer off into ‘Star Trek’ territory, with the Doctor acting as a kind of slightly high-handed diplomatic envoy, creating, by using almost bullying tactics, an atmosphere in which negotiations could take place between two opposing factions, a la Captain Picard. These scenes were effective enough, without injecting much drama into the proceedings, but more than that they were never very believable, even within a context that is already, if we think about it, fairly far-fetched to start with.

The storyline dabbled in some moral issues. The Silurians, although aggressive, were not the aggressors per se and the humans failed to, as the Doctor put it, “be the best of humanity.” Whether or not, however, this ultimately amounted to very much is somewhat debatable. It worked well enough, without really giving pause for thought. Having said this, it was more than made up for by the simple fact that the two episodes had a good feel to them. For an old-timer like me it did feel like “old Doctor Who”, without stripping away all the things that have made the revived series so successful.

There was a nice little nod in ‘Cold Blood’ to the Peter Davison era, with the Doctor’s comical reference to celery and all in all it was not too much of a letdown after the tremendous opening episode. The closing scenes, however, made it a whole lot more important, with the death of Rory. A central character dying in Doctor Who is still something of a rarity, enough so that it does come as a shock when it is not expected. Joss Whedon made killing off main characters into an art form, but he has done it so often now that it has become very tired and boring, simply too predictable. Rory’s death in Doctor Who didn’t fall into this trap, although I am very sorry to see him go so soon. However, many fans doubt this is the last we will see of him and suspect he will be back in some guise or other before the season is done.

‘The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood’ were watched by what might be the lowest audience numbers since the series was revived back in 2005. That is a pity because this new season is proving to be very good indeed, although the low viewing figures are probably not quite the cause for alarm that some fans have been suggesting. Somehow, I do not think the series is in danger of being cancelled just yet.

Review posted 31 May 2010


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