(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
“We’re not going to have a look, are we?”
So, the head writer of Torchwood writing for Doctor Who? He did write the pretty good ‘42’, and to be fair, Torchwood was enjoyable trash. I expected a Torchwood-esque Doctor Who, especially as The Hungry Earth was set in Wales. Cue Welsh accents, dodgy acting/scripting, incomprehensible plots, yet still lots of fun and enjoyment. This episode followed a similar path, with all of the positives and negatives that such a path demands…
So we find out that we’re in Wales, 2020 AD, in a rural, unfamiliar town. Either way, it resulted in unexpected tranquil scenes; none of the fuss of big city scenes. It was very reminiscent of the old Doctor Who, where a plethora of rural countryside scenes ruled the roost. People are drilling…to the centre of the earth? Everybody knows what happens next; it’s a similar storyline to The Impossible Planet. They have awakened an ancient evil…it was The Beast in The Impossible Planet, and it’s the Silurian’s in this episode. However, in that two-parter, they were drilling for energy. In The Hungry Earth, they appear to be drilling for the sake of drilling; the typical human desire to go where no one else has gone before. (Coincidentally, it aired at a time when a real life drilling-gone-wrong situation is spinning out of control near Florida. Damned BP! Doctor Who has never been more topical!)
This theme of this episode fits in with one of the running themes of this series; something unknown hiding down below. There are more subtle nods to this theme throughout the series, such as the frequent glimpses at the space below the TARDIS control panel show. Once again, it happens again in ‘The Hungry Earth.’ Our first shot of inside the TARDIS scales up from below the control panel. We also see that the future Amy and Rory are still together. They wave at their present selves from the distance and The Doctor points this out to Amy and Rory. What about crossing your own timeline? Is this a hint that that rule will be no longer applicable? The Doctor mentions something about the human desire for nostalgia; will he give in to that very same desire sometime soon? Amy seems surprised to hear that she and Rory are still together ten years into the future. In Amy’s Choice, she saw her future as pretty boring and insubstantial with Rory; now she sees the two of them trying to relive the days with The Doctor. Can she stand being without The Doctor and his incredible adventures? Rory himself asks how easy it will be to fall into their old lives, “the nurse and the kissogram.”
“Excuse me! I am making sense, you just aren’t keeping up!”
The pace of the episode was a little uneven, as was the pace of many Torchwood episodes. Essentially, not a lot happened. Humans drill into the earth and awaken ancient evil. The Doctor goes down to confront them. But of course, it’s the journey that matters. It always is in the first part of a two parter. The explanation and the action are usually left until the second part, and this was true in The Hungry Earth. At times it was plodding, with dull-as-dishwater dialogue replacing a forward-looking plot. Once again in this series, the enemy is not really an enemy at all; just a species afraid of invasion. There was no real enemy in ‘The Beast Below.’ The Daleks, the Weeping Angels, and the Saturnynians were all fighting for the survival of their species; they were the last of their kind. Who’s invading who in the episode? The humans have trespassed on Silurian soil; surely the Silurians have the right to defend themselves?
However, the new characters added no real substance to the story. It did veer into silly Torchwood territory at times. As for the Silurians, was the resemblance (of the mask and the heat-sensing vision) to the Predator accidental? I prefer the old-style Silurians, but they would not stand up to scrutiny today, so change is necessary. And they did have human-like features, making some link between the Silurians and humans. The massive tongue whip was unnecessary, another Torchwood throwback.
There were equal amounts to like and dislike in ‘The Hungry Earth.’ It had the usual failings of the first part of a two parter: too much padding, too much laying the ground for the second part. I’m sure it could have been condensed into one episode, or been paced more effectively. However, the theme of humans doing something simply because they can and encroaching on another’s territory was handled well. It’s been done before, but the Silurians added an extra dimension. The Silurians themselves were a mixed bag. They looked better with the masks on than without them! But we shall see how the second part wraps it up…
VERDICT: 6/10. A flawed episode, but still packed with enough meat to give you something to chew on.
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 7: Amy’s Choice)