Saturday 13 August 2011

264 Doctor Who and the Silurians: Episode Seven

EPISODE: Doctor Who and the Silurians: Episode Seven
TRANSMITTED: 14 March 1970
WRITER: Malcolm Hulke
DIRECTOR: Timothy Combe
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Beneath the Surface (The Silurians / The Sea Devils / Warriors of the Deep)
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording recoloured using 525 off air video

I'm afraid Liz and I were despairing a little after watching the first few episodes .....

As the Silurians kidnap the Doctor Liz (Ayres - this is going to get confusing, roll on Terror of the Autons) wonders why do the Silurians head bang when using their mind powers? Liz (Shaw) figures out the Doctor's formula and has it distributed. The Young Silurian ("Our leader is dead, I killed him, I am Leader now!") has a back up plan. Liz (Ayres) then jokes that the Silurians are playing a game of "Simon says" except using "Leader Says" - "I didn't say Leader says!". The Silurians bring their weapon to disperse the Van Allan belts and The Doctor to the reactor control room. The Doctor overloads the reactor, which will then explode so the Silurians retreat to the shelter to go back into hibernation and sleep out the period of radioactivity. The Young Silurian stays awake to operate the now damaged hibernation mechanism. With the reactor about to melt down I turned to Liz and said "I predict some polarity reversal coming soon". So close and yet so far because the Doctor stops the reactor by "Fusing the control of the Neutron Flow!". The Doctor ventures into the caves to negotiate with the Silurians and tell them that the explosion has been averted. The young Silurian attacks him but the Brigadier kills it. The Doctor plans to revive the Silurians one by one and goes to London with Liz to fetch equipment. As they leave they witness explosions as the Brigadier seals the caves, the Doctor believing he has killed the Silurians within.

The dialogue between the Brigadier and the trooper makes it seem like the caves have just been sealed whereas the Doctor thinks they've been killed: Later events would support the initial conclusion. This episode sees the debut of part of the Third Doctor's catchphrase: "Reverse the polarity of the Neutron Flow", which became famed once Pertwee and Terrance Dicks start telling stories at conventions about how Pertwee found he could remember the line by setting it to a tune and thus it got slipped into every story. Now we get a lot of reversed polarities, and a lot of things done to the Neutron Flow but it only gets reversed ONCE during Pertwee's tenure, during this story's sequel The Sea Devils before making an encore performance during the Five Doctors.

The Silurians themselves have proved popular over the years: as we mention there's an on screen sequel during the Pertwee years in The Sea Devils, they appear in at least one of the wonderful but woefully uncollected back up stories during the early issues of Doctor Who weekly, return for a team up with the Sea Devils in Warriors of the Deep and have been back in the new series. I can see the appeal of the concept of a creature that lived on Earth before us coming back to life and wanting it's plant back, but I don't think this story works well on screen. It's possible that people's fondness for it stems from the Malcolm Hulke novelization of the story as "Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters", one of the first Target books released that has recently been reissued.

Back to the Pertwee archive: So we've got two copies of the Silurians: a high quality black & white film and a low quality colour video tape. What if it was possible to lift the colour signal off the video tape and apply it to the black & white film? Bonkers ides, but that's exactly what the Doctor Who Restoration Team did, first producing a version of the Daemons for it's 1992 repeat that was released shortly after on video, then applying the same technique to the Silurians (released on video in 1993) and Terror of the Autons before running into technical difficulty with Ambassadors of Death (see episode 2 of that story for details in a few days time). The process was repeated for the Silurians and Terror of the Autons for the 1999 repeat season, this version of Terror never seeing the light of day in the end, and again for their DVD release in 2008 & 2011 respectively. The 2008 Silurians version, part of Doctor Who - Beneath the Surface along with The Sea Devils & Warriors of the Deep is jaw droppingly good when compared to the previous versions.

I said that was mad. Wait till you see what they've thought up now for recolouring black & white stories when we get to Mind of Evil & Planet of the Daleks episode 3!

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