Cold Blood

Leslie Ash - not in Doctor Who: Cold BloodPhew! What a relief! I was getting myself into a right state there for a while. Not because it looked like the Silurians were about to start a deadly war on us apes. No, my serious case of the jitters came about because, unlike most people I know, I really didn’t like The Hungry Earth, and I was concerned that Cold Blood would leave me, erm, cold. Thankfully though, bar a few reservations (which I’ll save for later) it turned out to be a bit of a corker.

For starters, the Silurians (I know, I know, we can have a big debate about what to call them – but I’m way too lazy to keep on typing Homo Reptilia) are back on form. Despite the absence of a third eye, silly voices, and Leslie Ash style trout pout, these are clearly the same reptiles created by the late, great Malcolm Hulke. This story has the exceedingly beautiful lizards sneering at us humans, boasting of their technological superiority, and almost immediately forming factions comprising of ‘kill the apes!’ and ‘learn to live with the apes!’ supporters.

This is all classic stuff, and a suitably respectful nod to Hulke. Crucially, too, we are forced to ask who the real monsters of the piece are – just as the Doctor raged against the Brigadier and UNIT for bombing the Silurian base back in those halcyon days of capes, Bessie and Liz Shaw, so now we have the Doctor shouting “What did you do?” at the blundering ape that is Ambrose. Just where did she find that Tazer anyway? In a mining village populated by one small family? Maybe it was used to stun the Police and ‘scabs’ during the miners’ strike? The point, of course, is for us to question the Doctor’s faith in us. His exhortation to Nasreen and Amy to “be extraordinary” was well made, as it is the all too ordinary behaviour of a threatened human that prevents any real chance of compromise between the two races.

Leslie Ash - not in Doctor Who: Cold Blood

The Silurians’ makeover has been a total success in my view. While I loved the Target novel Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, I do remember finding it a bit hard to get into the psyche of some bloke in a big old rubber suit in the televised version. That’s the thing about Silurians – they’re not evil, they’re clever, civilised, and they have a right to be here. All of that is what makes them so fascinating, and now we’ve lost that rubber barrier. The make up and costumes are astonishingly well realised for these modern Silurians, and I wholeheartedly applaud all those involved for creating convincing reptilian humanoids whose emoting we can now actually see. Furthermore, we’ve been blessed in this story with some really top notch acting, with all the key Silurians giving plausible, and at times, moving performances. Just try not to be distracted by Kevin the teenager’s dad trying to negotiate for the future of planet earth.

I’d like to end this review on a positive note, so I’ll get my gripes out of the way. Why is the village so devoid of human life? Can you really conduct a hi-tech, groundbreaking (sorry, couldn’t resist!) drilling operation with one bloke reading The Gruffalo? Where did all the surveillance tech and weapons come from in a deserted village? Chris Chibnall continues to have a flagrant disregard for credibility, matching the daft pub quiz security system, and essential buttons being located on the outside of a spaceship in 42.

Much worse though, he has now committed a cardinal sin. He has given all those people who bang on about the sonic screwdriver being a magic wand a whole pile of ammunition. Time is running out, the poison gas is going to be released, the drill is coming closer, and the ‘kill the apes!” Silurians are closing in. Brilliant! Tension, excitement, danger. This is what Doctor Who is all about. And the Doctor whips out his sonic screwdriver and disarms a whole platoon of angry reptiles. Terrible. For all the world, it appears that Chibnall wrote himself into a corner, and just played it the easy way. I’m still in shock that Steven Moffat didn’t tell him to go away and rewrite it. Sigh.

Still, this episode is not without considerable merits. Yet again, I find myself enchanted by Matt’s portrayal of the Doctor. He deals with every situation with flamboyance, style and gravitas. From the cheeky “squeaky bum time!”, to the heartbreaking scene of the Doctor pulling Amy away from the dying Rory, we know exactly where we are with this Doctor. Oh, poor Rory. I loved Rory, and he really hasn’t been around for long enough. I doubt that he’s going to make a Rose/Donna style comeback, but then, you never can tell. So, Arthur Darvill – you were fantastic, Rory may have been erased from time and memory, but your performance certainly hasn’t.

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