Companion: Liz Shaw
Written by: Malcolm Hulke
Directed by: Timothy Combe
Background & Significance: When Jonathan Nathan-Turner took over as producer of Doctor Who in 1980, he brought with him what I consider to be the most underrated "rules" of classic Doctor Who: The ideal story length for any Doctor Who story is four parts.
Unfortunately, over ten years before he instigated what would be canon for his ten year run as producer of Doctor Who, the folk running around making the show throughout the 60's and 70's were just interested in making it as cheap as possible so they'd have a job next season.
Jon Pertwee's first season is a prime example of that.
After the end of the remarkably expensive three-year run of Patrick Troughton, the BBC sought to reduce the budget of Doctor Who drastically in order to compensate for the newly approved decision to film in colour. One of the outcomes of this decision was the "Doctor banished to Earth and working for UNIT" status quo. Another was the decision to make the stories ridiculously long, so as to save on sets and having to pay more writers, guest cast, and crew for different stories over the season.
This means that of the four stories in Pertwee's first season, three are seven parts long, which, if you do the math, is twice as long as the "ideal" Doctor Who story.
So this story (and by the way, before we go any further, can we all decide that this title is stupid? No, really. If you just called it "The Silurians" it'd be rad, but no. You had to go ruin it by using that title, didn't you?) is remarkably long. It's also in the early days of UNIT, so Jo Grant hasn't even shown up yet and Pertwee's hair is hilarious.
The Time Lords have confined The Doctor to Earth, though. So he has to have an adventure with The Brigadier and his first companion, the oft forgotten Liz Shaw...
So let's get to it!
We open in a cave, where two miners are attacked by a giant lizard looking thing that growls. Rawr. One of the miners (the fat one of course) gets swiped and goes down and then the other runs away like a child.
We then move to UNIT, where new companion Liz meets The Doctor as he finishes fixing up his new antique roadster Bessie.
Also, his first season haircut is hilarious.
Liz has a message from the Brigadier, saying they need to come out and visit some nuclear research center near some caves because they work for UNIT and that’s his orders (but really people and power have gone missing, so it’s time for a mission). They arrive and enter a meeting with The Brigadier, where they find Dr. Lawrence, the director of the facility.
They split up into task forces (ex. The Doctor is in charge of the scientific angle of the investigation, Liz is in charge of personnel) and then The Brigadier gets right in this guy’s face.
And this is funny, because it allows me to talk about something I’ve been sitting on for a while. And that’s “The Fancy Brigadier”.
See, the way I see it, The Brigadier is totally Classic Who’s version of Jack Harkness, except a bit… fancier. He’s always so dapper, so trim, and with a very fine fine mustache. In my world, he’s quite a dandy and a total fancy lad, so if it ever seems like there’s some sort of homoerotic undertone with him, know that that’s what I’m seeing.
Partially because it amuses me, partially because I think it’s also fairly true. And good on Classic Who for having such a rad character be fancy like this. Totally wonderful.
After looking around at the rest of the facility (where information will go missing and people like Dr. Quinn won’t even think it a big deal), they come across the miner who ran screaming from the lizard. Turns out he lost his mind and draws on walls like Fred from Angel, only not as cool.
Oh, and he’s a strangler.
While this is going on, Dr. Quinn and his assistant Ms. Dawson are both acting very suspiciously and very strangely, as though they know what’s going on and need to keep it secret.
Oh right. That’s because they do.
The Doctor and The Brigadier both witness a power fluctuation, which involves power being siphoned off to somewhere, but they know not where. In the middle of this, some bloke named Roberts doesn’t do his job because he’s all entranced, and when she tries to get him to do it, he attacks Ms. Dawson.
Liz and The Doctor suss out that Roberts spent an inordinate amount of time in the Cyclotron room, nearest to the caves, which must be the connection between him, the miner who died, and the stranglin’ miner who writes on walls.
The Doctor descends into the cave and begins exploring, trying to find out what it is exactly that’s going on in the caves.
He hears growling and goes towards it, only to find—
A huge ass dinosaur.
And then, in what will be a running gag in just about every cliffhanger in this story, The Doctor makes a face.
So just before this dinosaur eats The Doctor, this weird see-saw like whistling makes The Dinosaur run away. Which is weird. Because there’s a dinosaur being Pavlovian.
Meanwhile, The Brigadier and Liz mount a search team, but The Doctor shows up before they get too far with it.
The Doctor tells The Brigadier what he saw in the caves, but he’s unable to clarify exactly what it was. The Brigadier decides to head an expedition down into the caves and, when Liz demands to come too, citing feminism and woman’s liberation as a reason to let her accompany them, they laugh in her face.
I love that about testosteroney Doctor Who. Telling you over and over again that the companion is literally there to be eye candy.
As the exploration starts, Major Baker comes across a weird figure. He tells it to stop, but it runs away amidst kazoo music (which shall be its theme. Not joking) and it’s hit by gun fire. The Dinosaur (hereafter referred to as “Dino Danger”) appears and attacks Major Baker and he goes down.
The Doctor and The Brigadier hear about the weird thing Baker saw and shot and realize that whatever Baker shot must be both wounded and on the loose.
Sure enough, the creature (spoilers: it’s a Silurian) is wounded, but what they don’t know is that it got out to the surface and is running amok around the countryside. They soon figure it out, though, and the manhunt is on, the Silurian running into a barn as night falls.
It is most fortuitous, because UNIT decides to call off the search for the night.
How insane is that? There’s a wounded subterrestrial running around the rural English countryside and you decide to stop for the night? I dunno if that’s the smartest of ideas. Maybe you should just man up and pay for the overtime.
During the night, Mysterious Dr. Quinn heads through the caves and reaches a futuristic looking control room, where he is briefed by a warbley voice. In order for the voice to give him the knowledge he wants, the good traitorous Dr. will need to return the wounded comrade, and because he’ll need it, the subterrestrials give Dr. Quinn a nifty remote control device that makes a wailing noise.
Also, not much has happened in this serial yet, I know. But we’ll get there. I promise.
The next morning, at the barn, the farmer finds a reptilian arm. His mouth goes wide and he tells his wife to call for the police, and then he gets killed.
The Doctor, Liz, The Brigadier, and UNIT are brought in (despite The Director’s angsting about a military operation in his research facility) and examine the situation, realizing it was the creature. The Doctor and The Brigadier go question the completely terrified wife, leaving Liz and UNIT behind at the crime scene.
And somewhere in here, The Doctor learned how to draw these creatures without ever seeing one.
The woman manages to squeak out that she saw the creature in the barn, leading The Doctor and The Brigadier to realized that the creature is still in the barn.
Which I highly doubt, I mean really, it’s a scared subterrestrial. I very much doubt it stuck around in the barn. And TWO. If this creature was still in the barn, what the hell did UNIT do when they got there? Haven’t they heard about clearing the crime scene?
Obviously not, because Liz, who’s being all forensicsy, gets attacked.
Dr. Quinn excitedly shows Ms. Dawson the device the Silurians gave him, and she tells him about the Doctor and Brigadier running out to the barn, and Quinn hypothesizes that the Silurian came out of the cave from there and is just bombing around cuz it’s scared. He heads out to chase after it.
The Doctor and The Brigadier (and the rest of UNIT, who were doing NOTHING after Liz screamed really loud) break in and find Liz knocked unconscious, but otherwise not too harmed.
Unfortunately, The Silurian got away, which leads to a countryside-wide manhunt.
Liz still recuperating, Dr. Quinn arrives at the barn, which is in no way conspicuous. It’s not like he went miles out of his way to get from his cottage to the barn when he was supposed to be going to the research center.
Maybe something’s up with him?
Just maybe, of course. I mean, it’s not like he then turns around and drives into the massive UNIT manhunt and turns on the screeching device, calling the creature to him.
And even when he’s spotted by a UNIT helicopter, he continues to drive around the heavily searched countryside for the monster.
That is some dedication.
On the bright side, his dedication pays off and the creature does come to him and somehow he totally evades UNIT forces. Which is insane. Shouldn’t they be watching his every move and escorting him out of the area?
The Doctor and The Brigadier find tire tracks and monster feetprints, which leads to the deduction that someone must be helping out the monsters. The Doctor suspects Dr. Quinn, so he goes to visit him.
AND IT IS ONE OF THE MOST AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS EVER.
Back at the research institute, The Doctor breaks into Dr. Quinn’s cabinets and find a small globe that reflects the Earth during Pangea times, which is… odd.
Ms. Dawson enters and gets indignant, but The Doctor convinces her to trust him long enough to tell him what she knows. And then The Brigadier walks in and ruins everything.
This freaks out the concerned Ms. Dawson enough to make her talk to Dr. Quinn, where he confesses to having the creature and his plans to hold it hostage until it gives him the secrets of life etc. that he wants.
Let’s watch this not backfire on him at all.
And then we get a great power struggle scene around a table, which is in no way loaded down with tons of posturing and vying for being strongest in the room .
I think this picture sums it up.
I love how The Doctor, Liz, and the Director are all pretending to not be in the middle of these two getting into a slapping fight.
While everyone stands around arguing, The Doctor slips out and heads off to Dr. Quinn’s cottage in an attempt to bring the episode to another cliffhanger.
Hahahaha. Pertwee’s end face is win.
So The Doctor’s come face to face with a Silurian. He tries to reason with it, and it seems amiable and understanding, but then some cars show up and the Silurian freaks! It runs out and away.
And… yeah. I’m trying not to go overboard on the youtubes, but you just have to see the crazy much sexual tension in this scene between Major Baker and this patrolman and then afterward between the patrolman and The Brigadier.
So. Much. Innuendo.
So Major Baker’s escaped into the caves, where he has a gun. Because he doesn’t know where he’s going, though, he steps into a small, midget sized hot tub and gets stuck. And the Silurians capture him through the use of the third eye on the top of their head.
Back at home base, The Brigadier and Liz are arguing about what to do now that Major Baker’s out all alone in the cold. The Doctor enters and tells everyone to chill out, shut down the installation, and stop going into the caves. But no one listens.
And then The Doctor tells Liz that Dr. Quinn is dead, and it’s implied that no one else knows.
Haha. I wonder how long this’ll stay a secret.
The Doctor decides to head back down into the caves again, and Liz comes with him, blackmailing him by telling him that if she doesn’t come, she’ll go right to the Brigadier with what he just said to her.
So they head into the caves, using the transceiver The Doctor picked off of Dr. Quinn’s dead corpse to open the Silurian doors.
Inside, they find an entire lab with a few Silurians and a caged up Baker. They manage to tell Baker that he needs to weasel all the information he can from them so they know what the Silurians are up to.
And then the power flickers and we see that The Silurians are waking each other up from hibernation, which explains the power spikes and drains from the research center.
Liz and The Doctor try to race to the surface to warn everyone of the coming threat, but are soon beset by Dino Danger!
Upstairs, The Director gets a visit from the Permanent Undersecretary, who wants to get everything back on schedule. The Director explains that it’s just a few setbacks (which includes people dying and lizard people) but he can right the ship (bold words. Just admit you love him. Isn’t that enough? Must you overexert and prove your love to him?)
The Doctor and Liz enter, followed soon after by The Brigadier…
And oh man is there sexual tension. It’s like a hawt knife thru buttah. All these men want each other. You can just feel it.
But what about Liz, you say? Yeah? Well I say what if she was more attractive? OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…
Oh and to make everything more hilarious, did I mention that the director of the facility also played Nyder a few years later for “Genesis of the Daleks?” True story.
The Doctor tries to convince everyone not to attack the caves, volunteering to be olive branch guy between the humans and Silurians.
And that’s when buzzkill Ms. Dawson enters, saying that Dr. Quinn is dead and sending Pertwee into some “whoops” face.
So she tips the entire balance because he “showed her a special favour” (probably) and says that the creatures are hostile and we should xenocide all of them. The Doctor panics and races down to the caves to warn the Silurians.
And when he warns them, he literally makes it to within three feet of them before making his presence known.
But he’s captured and thrown into a cage next to Major Baker. He advises the Silurians of all the humans’ plans (which does seem a bit shortsighted), and they respond by taking in their silly Russian accents and moving their bodies to the rhythm of the words.
Which is totally not funny and dreadfully serious.
Did I mention that the Silurians take The Doctor’s information and use it against him, ready to set a trap for the humans as they head into the caves? This trap involves lowering a rock wall behind The Brigadier and his men, trapping them.
And then one of the Silurians meets with the the Doctor (we’ll call him Stereotypical Asian Silurian) and gives him the good old third eye of death (I call it the stinky third eye) and then The Doctor makes cliffhanger face.
The Leader Russian Silurian comes to The Doctor’s rescue and slaps down The Asian Silurian, saving The Doctor.
In his cave The Brigadier and his men are trapped and try to dig their way out. The Brigadier talks to one of his lieutenants, saying they’ll run out of air eventually. And then he gives the lieutenant a “Well… if we’re all going to die…” look.
And this is how he looks about twenty minutes later…
Heh. See? This is why The Fancy Brigadier is so funny.
Upstairs, Liz, the Undersecretary, and The Director discover the loss of contact with The Brigadier and Ms. Dawson enters, demanding they blow the Silurians out of the earth.
Turns out, she’s ridiculously bloodthirsty and cutthroat.
Liz lets slip that The Doctor went down to convince the Silurians that the humans mean them no harm and everyone else loses their nonsense because they think he’s a traitor who’s sold them out.
Little do they know, The Doctor manages to convince the Leader Russian Silurian to let him out so that they can talk civilizedly. He also hears Baker call him a traitor and has a hard time shrugging it off.
Oh really, Doctor. Like those words really burn. You can take it.
The Doctor learns of the Silurian history, which is interesting, but they need to explain it in every Silurian story, so it’s a bit tired cuz I’ve been through two big Silurian stories lately… The whole Silurians used to control the world and then they went into hibernation and the hibernation went wrong…that stuff…
He tries to convince the Leader Russian Silurian that humans and Silurians can co-exist in peace on Earth, and Leader Russian Silurian goes with it, despite the ridiculously annoying Asian Silurian coming in and spouting his pro-Silurian, genocidal desires.
Asian Silurian heads off to another Silurian and says that he’s going to be leader and the two team up. Asian Silurian grabs an ancient virus they used to use on humans and plot to use it on Major Baker.
They let him out of his cage and infect him with the virus.
In the war room, Liz, The Director, the Undersecretary, and Ms. Dawson are arguing about what to do next. It’s only really significant because there’s a part where Liz says “The Doctor and the Brigadier are risking their lives to clean up your mess”.
And then the Director goes “That’s a matter of opinion.”
HOW IS THAT AN OPINION?! They’re risking their lives. That’s clear. Are you a fool? Oh wait, guess you are.
The Leader Russian Silurian resolves to let The Doctor head off to the surface, but he’ll need to tell the other Silurians first. He leaves The Doctor to do some miming and discovers his people’s use of virus.
He gets REALLY mad at the Asian Silurian, saying that was out of line. Asian Silurian says the Russian isn’t fit to lead, to which the Leader Russian says “I should kill you if you defy me again.”
And let’s be real here. The Asian Silurian attempted to kill The Doctor in cold blood and then SET LOOSE BIOLOGICAL WARFARE IN THE FORM OF A HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS VIRUS FOR WHICH THERE IS NO CURE against the species which the Leader Russian was just negotiating a peace for.
I think that’s some pretty heavy defying. Why you haven’t killed him yet I don’t know.
Leader Russian heads to The Doctor and tells him what happened. He gives him the base bacteria for the disease in the hopes that The Doctor can discover a cure and lets him go without telling anyone.
The Doctor races Major Baker back to the surface, but arrives too late. Baker’s already telling The Brigadier, Undersecretary, and Liz everything he can about The Doctor’s betrayal. He tells everyone to back off, including the shadow of a camera.
He calls out Major Baker on being infected with the virus, and Major Baker sees the deterioration of his skin. He starts to realize his cold sweats, and then he passes out.
Oh. And the Asian Silurian kills the Leader Russian Silurian.
The Doctor tells everyone to quarantine the institution, as there is very clearly a virus running around that no one knows about. Somehow, some assclown lets paramedics take Baker out to the hospital, letting the virus slip out of the controlled area.
The Brigadier and The Doctor head off to go find Major Baker and bring him back, but they find him dead.
AND THEN THE UNDERSECRETARY, WHO IS NOTICEABLY WEAKER, LEAVES THE FACILITY AND HEADS BACK TO LONDON.
WHAT PART OF QUARANTINE DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?
So Baker’s dead. That means this virus is really contagious, and it infects and kills its victim in a matter of hours. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of margin for error.
The Doctor, needing to find a solution to the virus, puts on a rad white lab coat to be scientist guy as he tries to find the antidote.
Unfortunately, The Undersecretary, growing progressively sicker and weaker, went back to London on the train, which is not a danger area rife with spreading diseases. He also manages to get out of the train station just minutes before UNIT shuts down the station.
Good lord. What an idiot. I hope he dies for this. Which he probably will.
Lucky enough, The Doctor realizes that antibiotics are keeping the disease in check, which is totally good fortune, and makes sense if you realize that penicillin is a wonder drug of sorts.
Back in the caves, The Asian Silurian keeps telling everyone that he’s the leader and mocks the humans for being ape descendants.
The Director meets with Liz, filing his grievances at his “staff taking pointless injections” and UNIT “shutting down this facility” and making him lose money. He also boldly says he doesn’t need to waste his time with silly injections, meaning he hasn’t taken anything.
Which… yeah. Hope that works out for you, man. Although, if you stopped bitching at everyone maybe you’d be spending your time more effectively, cuz this seems like a total waste of your time. You coulda had three injections at this point.
I know that it’s one of the failings of doing this blog this way, but I cannot tell you how wonderfully moronic the Director is. What a nutter. So insane and totally annoying in all the best of ways. Well done character (sort of).
The Undersecretary gets out of his cab and people ALL OVER LONDON START COLLAPSING.
So now the disease is spreading. Great. The Undersecretary is spreading the disease like mad. Thank you for hubris destroying the world.
We then get a really fantastic montage sequence of people falling and dying and visual overlays of The Brigadier making calls and The Doctor doing science and Liz reading a chart.
It’s totally exhilarating.
Checking back in with the Undersecretary, he’s stumbling and dropping his paperwork and running away from someone. And you know what? I think he might have the disease.
Which just… that whole thing makes no sense to me. Is it like a bizarre case of denial or the thought that NO I CANNOT BE WRONG. I WILL NOT. What is it? Why did you ignore what EVERYONE ELSE was saying and then run through London, slowly getting weaker and weaker as your skin starts to peel off?
What a f@&#ing moron.
We head back to The Doctor. Where he’s doing science. Literally. That’s all that we’re watching him do for like… five minutes. That’s right. That’s what kids and families want to be watching on a Saturday night: science.
In the briefing room, The Brigadier and Liz are informed that The Undersecretary is dead. And then The Director bursts in and… man. He’s seen better days.
And he’s lost his god damn mind. He’s blaming The Brigadier and acting ridiculously paranoid and is in a hell of a sight because his career is in shambles. He throws himself at the Brigadier and then drops dead. Literally.
Wow. Two stupid douchebags in the same story.
Then the two get word that SOMEHOW the virus spread to abroad and is now in Paris.
Also, this disease apparently infects and kills people in a manner of hours. If it got to Paris that fast, the world is toast. Total toast.
Meanwhile, The Doctor’s devised an antidote to the disease. And it works! So that’s good. So good, in fact, he puts on his Eureka face.
Little do they know the Now-Leader Asian Silurian (who’s still pointing out that he’s the leader) has decided to take The Doctor out, so he goes with one of his underlings to go break into the research facility, which they do with their magical glowing third eye that can do anything the story needs it to do.
Somehow they manage to find The Doctor’s lab, where The Doctor is transcribing a formula.
But his back’s turned to the open door, where two Silurians just burned a hole in the wall, allowing them easy access to reach him.
And then they zap him with the magical glowing third eye that can do anything the story needs it to do. And The Doctor makes a cliffhanger face.
The Doctor captured, The Silurians make a retreat, killing UNIT people as they go.
Also, The Asian Silurian is a total go-getter just like Count Grendel and others. Guy goes right into the thick of everything, stealing The Doctor personally, and sealing the giant gaping hole in the wall behind him with his magic eye that can do anything the story needs it to do.
Fortunately, one of the UNIT folk see the leftover, which is totally inconspicuous.
Liz goes to check in on The Doctor, only to find that he’s missing, but with a scrap of crumpled paper on the ground. (Also interesting to note: she walks right past the conspicuous burn hole on the wall)
She reports back to the Brigadier and starts to reconstruct the Doctor’s formula from his scrap of paper. Which she does, yay.
Asian Silurian gloats to The Doctor that he killed Leader Russian Silurian and is the leader now (OKAY. YOU’RE THE LEADER. WE GET IT.) and, now that they realize that The Doctor has formulated the vaccine and shut off the generator (which the Silurians were using to wake up their hibernating brethren), heads back to the facility in order to turn the generator back on to expedite their plans for global conquest.
They break in, taking The Doctor and everyone hostage, heading for the generator room. Once there, they reveal a giant microwave unit, which they’ll use to harness the generator’s power and disperse all the microwaves across the Earth, cooking it and destroying the ozone layer, making it habitable for Silurian life.
Also, look at Pertwee’s awesome getup. Seriously, white muscle tee and white pants? That is win.
The Silurians demand more power and The Doctor uses this opportunity to convince Liz to overload the reactor, blowing out the microwave emitter, and prepping for a total nuclear core meltdown.
Everyone starts to panic because The Doctor has no way of shutting it off. The Silurians, panicking, opt to head back into their hibernation chambers and hibernate their way past the point that radiation fills the English countryside.
Which is funny. They’re all one-trick ponies. There’s a problem? Crap! Panic! Go run away and hibernate until it’s over!
So with them leaving and locking everyone in the facility, The Doctor needs to come up with a solution and fast!
Hastily, The Doctor works to re-wire the desk in order to somehow prevent a total core meltdown. He manages to fuse the control of the neutron flow, which somehow works. Whatever, not important. All that matters is he manages to shut it down.
He heads back into the caves and confronts the Asian Silurian, who, reminding everyone that he is the leader, had to stay behind to put everyone into hibernation. He goes into anger place and attempts to kill The Doctor.
But then The Brigadier shows up AND EMPTIES AN ENTIRE PISTOL CLIP INTO THE ASIAN SILURIAN.
Which is crazy sauce. But it had to happen. The guy was kinda a dick anyways.
The Doctor thanks The Brigadier for the save and starts to try to figure out how to revive the Silurians, each one in turn so that they can reason with them. The Brigadier, however, is less than convinced.
Now that everything’s taken care of, The Doctor and Liz head back to UNIT HQ to go get some scientists and equipment so they can examine and study the caves in great detail.
They don’t get very far, however, before they have to stop and examine Bessie, the Doctor showing off his skills of automechanics.
Then, as they overlook the valley, explosions erupt below them. The Doctor watches with…what can only be described as disappointment and horror at The Brigadier’s actions, before driving away.
And really, this makes the whole story so totally worth it: the idea that at the end of the day humans are every bit as threatening as the Silurians thought and in the end, we’ll destroy them because we are afraid of them.
That’s a dark ending, man. Super bleak. Super good.
Final Thoughts?: It really is true, the thing about the four part Doctor Who story being the best.
The Silurians are also very interesting villains. Malcolm Hulke does a great job of establishing and crafting a very convincing mythology for villains that are fairly different from other villians we've seen before. It only makes sense, then, that they would be remembered for revisitations several times over the course of the rest of the show's long history.
Then again, some of the most interesting work comes from the idea that later installments see different factions of Silurians, which is interesting. But that's for later discussion.
Next Time!: 1st Doctor! Original Companions! The Past! And The Doctor gets freaky with a native! "The Aztecs"! Coming next Tuesday!