Doctor Who and The Silurians, Part 6 (and, incidentally, my 300th post!)

Masters finishes infecting London, then graciously dies. (Source: Doctor Who and the Silurians DVD screen capture. Copyright 1970 by The BBC.)

Okay, so UNIT really dropped the ball on this one. They were so eager to confront the possibility of a Silurian invasion that they failed to quarantine the power plant even though evidence of a plague was present. Sure, it makes for great drama as Masters stumbles through London, people dropping in his wake, but it makes UNIT look a bit ineffective. The bureaucratic storm that must have occurred after this story (you know, between stories) must have been massive.

With their leader now dead, the anti-human Silurian takes charge and initiates a series of guerilla attacks against the UNIT soldier. At this point, The Doctor’s goal of peace is probably shot. While a larger war may still be preventable, violence is now inevitable as the new leader will not negotiate. UNIT soldiers are being killed; a plague has been unleashed by The Silurians. Unless something big happens in the next episode, I don’t see that a peaceful solution is going to work here. Possibly the only option would be to supplant the current Silurian ruler, which would only work if the majority of the Silurians were neutral on the humans. It happened once before, with The Sensorites, after all.

Hot science action! (Source: Doctor Who and the Silurians DVD screen capture. Copyright 1970 by The BBC.)

I enjoy that this episode has a science montage. While watching The Doctor and Liz try one drug after another on the infected blood sample, I couldn’t help thinking how this is one area in which the classic series is different from the new series: it shows the scientific process. In the new series, the Doctor talks and rambles his way to a solution. We don’t often see him engage in the scientific method; we only ever see the end results. I suppose this is dictated by the format of the new series, a type of trade-off we get in order to have sexy David Tennant, high quality special effects, and inexplicably complicated plots. All science is now done by the sonic screwdriver, I guess.

Oh, and 300 posts! How about that?

Doctor Who and the Silurians, Part 5

The anti-human faction of Silurians enact their plan to attack humanity. (Source: Doctor Who and The Silurians DVD screen capture. Copyright 1970 by BBC.)

Everything is set out nice and clear now, both from a plot perspective, but also the theme. We will start with the plot.

The Silurians ruled the Earth millions of years ago. They had an advanced civilization. One day, they detected a small planet on a collision course with the Earth, so they put their entire civilization into hibernation until the cataclysmic collision was over and the Earth’s atmosphere had stabilized. What they failed to account for was the Earth’s gravitational pull, which pulled the small planet into orbit rather than collision. The small planet became the moon. The Silurians slept. They are now waking up and many of them want their planet back. The Doctor has taken it upon himself to broker a peace between Silurians and humans because the alternative would be war. The Doctor is, ultimately, in a difficult position as neither side is entirely willing to trust him. He is alien, thus he may have sympathy for The Silurians. He looks like a human, therefore he may have sympathy for the humans.

This brings us to the theme. Doctor Who and The Silurians has quite a few thematic elements. As with most Doctor Who of this (and previous) eras, it has a strong Cold War element. You can read UNIT and the British government as a stand-in for The West, and The Silurians as a stand-in for the communist East. It can also be seen as a commentary about racism in an increasingly diverse Britain. The DVD includes a documentary called What Lies Beneath that unpacks quite a few ideas that permeate this story, intentionally or not. There is a lot to explore in this story, and I love that.

Doctor Who and The Silurians, Part 4

Source: Doctor Who and The Silurians DVD screen capture. Copyright 1970 by BBC.

How does one reboot a monster?

Between 1989 and 2005, Doctor Who was able to pass into a type of background consciousness. When asked about it, people would have probably made reference to The Doctor, scarves, a police box, or Daleks. Memories of Silurians would have been limited to a niche group of fans. So, when Steven Moffat chose to bring the Silurians back in 2010, the question of reboot must certainly have applied. Does one resume from where the classic series left off? Does one completely reimagine the Silurians?

Ultimately, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood redesigned the creatures, but retold the same story. There are quite a few differences, admittedly, but the ultimate core of the story—contact between humans and a recently awakened tribe of Silurians and The Doctor’s attempt to prevent a war—remain the same. This is an idea I enjoy because it casts the Silurians as an intelligent race, not unlike humans, rather than monsters.

Which story does better: Doctor Who and The Silurians or The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood? I have my bias, but I’ll decide when I finish part seven.

Doctor Who and the Silurians, Part 3

Source: Doctor Who and the Silurians screen capture. Copyright 1970 by British Broadcasting Corporation.

I will delay talking about the Silurian until a future post. Honestly, there’s nothing much to talk about. It was merely a quick, cliff hanger reveal. Instead, I will talk about Quinn.

It was established earlier that Quinn knew the source of the power shortages: the creatures in the cave were leeching power. In return for access to this power, Quinn was promised scientific knowledge. Already we have the shady-human-allied-with-the-villain trope. These things usually end poorly for the human, and with the end of this episode, nothing much has changed there.

However, as villains go, Quinn isn’t really evil; he is just a bit greedy. He doesn’t want to tell The Doctor about the Silurians because he doesn’t want to share the credit. Fair enough, but this selfishness is putting people in danger; it is getting people killed.

The Doctor’s investigation in this episode reminds me, in a way, of a Poirot adaptation. The Doctor has his suspicions early on, but he must find evidence (that pesky evidence). Knowing Quinn’s involvement in something mysterious, The Doctor trails him and confronts him. The Doctor drops many hints that he knows, trying to trick Quinn into revealing the truth, before appealing outright.

Thus far, I’m enjoying the pace of this story. Things are being revealed at a leisurely pace, and each episode so far has had its own tone and focus. So far, so good.

Doctor Who and the Silurians, Part 2

Source: Doctor Who and The Silurians screen capture. Copyright 1970 by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Doctor Who has had a long streak of pacifism. Arguably, this streak became the strongest during the Pertwee years. This may be the biggest difference between the first two Doctors and the Third Doctor: violence. The First Doctor, let’s not forget, was eager to brain an injured Neanderthal just to convince Ian, Barbara, and Susan to return to the TARDIS. The Second Doctor would put companions and innocents in danger just to gather more information. While it is still too soon, at this point, to determine this Doctor’s views on violence, he seems to have turned a more critical eye toward it.

And rightly so. The Doctor is stuck on Earth. He is the lone Time Lord on a planet full of primitive (from his perspective) people. Sure, he likes humans, but they are not his equals. Thus, when a UNIT soldier opens fire on a humanoid creature in the caves surrounding the research center, it is a bad sign. First, there is no evidence the creature meant any harm. As The Doctor points out, it may have been calling the dinosaur creature away from the soldier. Second, it is a signal that the alien, in any form, is other. Perhaps it is best to shoot first and figure out the truth later. This implication puts The Doctor in danger. His human appearance, in this case, is his best defense. The Doctor has every right to cast a critical eye on the military tendency to attack because, if circumstances were different, he would be the enemy rather than the ally.

The strength of The Brigadier’s character is that he must mediate both worlds. He is human and he is defending England (at the very least) from alien attack. His first two experiences with aliens were negative. UNIT was born in violence, not peace. While The Silurians—and later threats—may not be on par with The Great Intelligence, they must still be approached with caution. UNIT isn’t Torchwood; they do not have technology to compete with civilizations that can traverse space and time. And just how does the military repel an attack from the astral plane?

But The Brigadier has a great ally in The Doctor. He must protect that working relationship, that friendship. The Doctor must act as a conscience to temper the military side. The Brigadier, unlike some military minds in Doctor Who, allows this conversation. He is willing to listen, to take advice. This is a new dynamic for the show.

Doctor Who and The Silurians Part 1

Story by Malcolm Hulke; Directed by Timothy Combe

Am I back to the episodic format? Maybe. We shall see how long it entertains me.

Doctor Who and The Silurians is off to a great start. Sure, the dinosaur in the caves looks a bit cheap, but director Timothy Combe covers for it well enough. What I find great so far is the tension. The setting is an atomic research center built in caves in Wenley Moor. This underground facility is attempting to convert atomic energy directly into electricity. However, after three months of power shortages and personnel issues, UNIT is sent to investigate. I find it a bit odd that UNIT, which has the extraterrestrial as its mandate, would investigate the viability of an atomic program, but one must justify one’s funding somehow.

Source: Doctor Who and The Silurians DVD screen capture. Copyright 1970 by British Broadcasting Corporation.

The troubling aspect about this crisis is put well by the Brigadier; he puts the technical failures over the personnel problems. The Doctor quickly intuits that the key to the mystery lies with the human side of the project. Workers have been experiencing psychotic episodes. When investigating one worker, a survivor from an accident in one of the caves, The Doctor finds a broken mind that is compelled to draw figures on the sick bay wall. Later, The Doctor and Liz figure out that all the workers who experienced the psychotic breakdown had worked in the cyclotron chamber.

So, a great start. It is also fun to see The Doctor forced to be subordinate to The Brigadier. UNIT is still a military organization, and that means there is a chain of command, a structure that must be obeyed. The Doctor needs more evidence than a man drawing on a wall. The Brigadier is right. He has to rein The Doctor in a bit. This is the sacrifice The Doctor has made to continue his own work to fix the TARDIS. He is out of his comfort zone. This creates a wonderful dynamic.

Community – Death or Renewal?

Trying to decide who goes for pizza in the Hugo Award-nominated episode Remedial Chaos Theory. (Source: Screen capture of Remedial Chaos Theory. Copyright 2012 by Sony Pictures Television.)

When watching Community, I am struck by the realization that this show is carrying the torch of Spaced. Both shows delved in to various film-making genres: zombie, horror, science fiction in the case of Spaced; mafia, documentary, western, etc. in the case of Community. While these genre games were fun, both shows are—at their core—about a cast of characters that we grow to love, a cast of characters and their relationships.

This third year of Community saw decreased ratings. The show went on hiatus for a few months, which—with post-modern aplomb—was signaled as the death-knell for television shows according to the character Abed. The show returned in April and finished its season. However, the final three episodes were shown in a single night, something that also sounds mental klaxons. The final episode of season three shows ex-lawyer Jeff choosing to sacrifice re-instatement for his friends; Abed and Troy dismantling their dreamatorium; and various other character arcs coming to a close. In many ways, the end of season three could mark the end of Community.

Except . . . it was renewed for a 13-episode fourth season. And, confirming a spreading internet rumor, the show would return without creator/show-runner Dan Harmon.

According to Harmon’s blog, this was not by his own choice. Harmon was not consulted nor given any say in the change of creative direction. With great professionalism, he emphasizes that the new show-runners are good people that are just doing a job. The real fault lies with Sony Pictures Television. So this leaves me to wonder, should I support new Community? Harmon doesn’t ask fans to boycott the show. His blog merely seeks to address rumors. What is a fan to do?

Here comes the Doctor Who (or, in the case of CommunityInspector Spacetime) angle. Sometimes the quality of a show is not contingent on the original show-runner. Sometimes, the initial vision is not the same as the later vision. While the format of new Doctor Who is similar to that of Hartnell/Lambert-era Doctor Who, the vision of the show is quite different. And, in the history of Doctor Who, a few show-runners (and actors) were forced to leave. Sometimes this led to a lesser product; sometimes it led to a greater one. In the case of Community, I want to support the careers of Joel McHale, Allison Brie, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, and Chevy Chase (in a bit of a comeback role). But with the departure of so many behind-the-scenes people, I can’t help but wonder what kind of show we will be getting.

I am hoping for the best.