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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Watching New Who: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

November 10th, 2013 at 20:48

silurian_v4Tansy and Tehani love this season so much we’re making David do more work – we’re changing up our usual plan and reviewing each episode, in sets of two.

TEHANI:
Well, I’d completely forgotten what this one was about until Tansy nudged me violently. And so I dove into rewatching with quiet joy, which I can’t talk at all about because of David (hurry up and CATCH UP!) :)

Looking back, I can’t quite tell why I would have forgotten it, because there’s some great stuff here. I have a feeling I confused it in my head with “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” from season six, which is silly because I like this loads better…

TANSY:
This two parter, and “Cold Blood” in particular, is my least favourite part of the season. There’s a lot to like here – and I do like many aspects, particularly the return and redesign of the Silurians, a lot of the dialogue, and the chilling bookend of Amy and Rory waving to themselves, and then Amy alone after Rory has disappeared. Acting highlights include Meera Syal as Nasreen Chaudry (blatantly auditioning for a run in the TARDIS) and the lovely Stephen Moore as the Silurian leader. Not to mention Neve McIntosh playing two distinct characters excellently beneath what could be quite unforgiving prosthetics.

However…

who-hungryearth2The character of Ambrose is a big problem for me, largely because she is written and played so harshly that she is a) deeply unlikeable and b) consistently stupid. In fact, there is a term for her role in this story – the stupid ball – which means she is forced by the script to act in a stupid way, in order to make the plot work.

This might be less grating to me if it wasn’t for the fact that the other glaring problem of the story to me is also gendered. I quite like the idea of the military caste of the Silurians being represented by the women and the science/thinky caste being men, BUT what we get in the script is the female Silurians being violent and irrational and the male Silurians being calm, sensible and charming.

TEHANI:
Darn it Tansy, I was so busy being impressed by the way the Silurian society worked I didn’t consider all that…

TANSY:
This combined with the violent and irrational Ambrose representing humans is … a bit icky to me. Even worse, the Doctor notes and condemns the irrational violence of Ambrose and the female Silurians, but embraces Dr Malokeh as a brother in science and generally finds him adorable despite the fact that Dr Malokeh has basically been quietly and gently torturing humans in the name of science.

TEHANI:
But not the children! :)

TANSY:
The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

TEHANI:
I’m not sure the men looked completely rosy though. Tony does suggest he’d betray humanity if Alaya cures him, and he also suggests dissecting her for defence purposes…

incoldbloodDAVID:
When I was making notes about this story, I wrote:

“Don’t forget Malokeh was dissecting humans!”

Admittedly I spelt his name wrong, but the point remains. He had been dissecting prisoners and, as Tansy points out, he basically gets a free pass from the Doctor.

TEHANI:
I agree that the Doctor gives him a free pass, but he also gives Ambrose a free pass, despite the fact her actions led to such a terrible outcome (for Rory at least, if not necessarily the Silurians, because I kind of think there was no way almost-present-day society would have accepted them – we can’t even accept each other :( ). He wasn’t nearly so angry at her as I expected, given what happened.

TANSY:
He’s pretty scathing, I thought, and the scene at the end he appears quite contemptuous towards her, making it clear that her job is to make up for what she did by helping her son on his quest to “get humans ready” for the Silurians. So she doesn’t even get to redeem herself directly, either, only through her child!

DAVID:
Something I found interesting about this episode, though, was the many parallels between this story and the first appearance of the Silurians. You have the more moderate leader trying to rein in the younger hot head, the blinkered viewpoints of some of the key humans, the Doctor desperately trying to keep the peace, an accidental death derailing the best efforts of those trying to find common ground between the two species – and, of course, the Doctor enraged by humanity giving into its worst instincts and making his displeasure very clear. Obviously they invert some of the situations, but there are a lot of similarities.

TANSY:
Yes, I quite like that part. The actual shape of the story I don’t mind at all – even the mining set has a bit of the Pertwee vibe about it. And I haven’t forgotten that the Doctor being patronising about humans and violence and exhibiting double standards depending on how much he likes you is also a carry over from the Classic series.

Silurian historicalLikewise, the Silurians here are given a much more complex and inclusive society than the rather dull men in rubber suits from the old days.

TEHANI:
See, I have no idea what you’re talking about! I figured Silurians had appeared in the classic series, because it’s specifically discussed, but I’ve been tricked like that before!

DAVID:
I didn’t really understand the complete redesign of the Silurians, though I do think they looked good, I would have preferred to see an update of the classic design. I did like the subtle dig at the dodgy dating of the species, though!

TEHANI:
I loved the prosthetics! Fantastic makeup and design, that’s for sure.

TANSY:
And a brilliant portrayal by Neve McIntosh as the female Silurians which, cough, will have far greater and more awesome ramifications.

TEHANI:
Indeed… :) I thought Amy and Rory were both excellent in this too – Amy once more charging into danger and poking her fingers in where she probably shouldn’t, and Rory being completely the “best of humanity” the Doctor is aiming for.

TANSY:
Yep, shame they killed Rory off at this point, he had real potential as a great companion. The scene in the TARDIS with Amy trying and failing to save his memory is one of the most genuinely emotionally excellent moments of Doctor Who. Chilling stuff.

dwcoldbloodTEHANI:
Yes, a shame Rory is completely dead and gone now. Very sad. But it is absolutely a great scene, agreed.

DAVID:
I thought the scenes where you can see the couple in the distance, and then the changes, particularly effective.

TEHANI:
But completely sad, right? Cos Rory’s dead, don’t you know? I just watched a bunch of Classic Who and it’s quite amazing how quickly they get over the loss of a companion – wonder how quickly Amy and the Doctor will move on…

PREVIOUS “New Who In Conversations”

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Series One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani

“The Christmas Invasion,” 2005 Christmas special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion,” S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, S02E12/13
Series Two Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
The Shakespeare Code & Gridlock, S0302-03
Human Nature/The Family of Blood S0308-09
Blink S0310
Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords S0311-13
“Voyage of the Damned,” 2007 Christmas Special
Series 3 Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy

Partners in Crime, S0401
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S0405 S0406
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S0408 S0409
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, SO412-13
Series 4 Report Cards: Tansy, Tehani, David

The Specials
The End of Time

The Eleventh Hour, S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks, S0502-3
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice, S0504-5

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3 Responses to “Watching New Who: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood”

  1. Grant Watson Says:

    I believe the Sontaran redesign was partly cost-related (40% budget cut between Seasons 4 and 5, remember) and partly to enable the actors to perform more easily.

  2. Grant Watson Says:

    And by Sontaran, clearly I mean Silurian and will now go hand in my Doctor Who fan card.

  3. David Says:

    Haha I am sure that the relevant authority will make an exception in this case, and take in to account your impeccable record.

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