Aired 22 May 2010
The Silurians make a long overdue return to Doctor Who in ‘The Hungry Earth,’ the opening of a two-part adventure set to reintroduce the original denizens of this planet. The Silurians have never been the most menacing of villains, though they certainly possess a sinister edge wholly unique to their race, but writer Chris Chibnall is very respectful to the fantastic backstory and culture that they possess and provides a superb update for this classic foe in the process.
Armed with the extra time that a two-parter affords, Chibnall takes his time with the revelations and stays very much in line with the classic format. As such, much of this first episode is spent in establishing the situation and supporting cast in a buildup to the eventual revelation of the Silurian race. This is best highlighted as a child is chased through a graveyard and people are forcibly pulled underground, all to great effect. Quite quickly, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory- missing their destination of Rio de Janeiro and instead landing in Wales ten years in the future- meet Meera Syal’s Nasreen Chaudhry and Robert Pugh’s Tony Mack, drillers who have drilled deeper into the crust than anyone else.
As Chaudhry’s team drills down, it’s quite apparent that something is forcing its way up at the same time. Everyone is more or less trapped in the immediate vicinity, and the episode continues to build up its tension throughout. A Silurian rapidly becomes a prisoner of the humans, and the lovely conversation and interrogation between that prisoner and the Doctor serves to emphasise the Silurians’ generally peaceful ambitions as well as the power they hold when antagonised. Indeed, the Silurian’s calm accusation that one human would kill her is chillingly disturbing and certainly will become a turning point in the future if that premonition manifests as reality. Humans are certainly capable of terrible things when afraid, and everyone on both sides is certainly afraid right now.
Unsurprisingly, the security guard who gets pulled into the Earth early on makes a return appearance later on, but not until Amy also joins him beneath the surface. This premise serves to sideline Amy temporarily and to instead put the focus more squarely on Rory, a chance that Arthur Darvill takes full advantage of to further explore his character. In essence, Rory still remains quite distrustful and suspicious of the Doctor’s motivations, and he’s certainly not what one would consider an instant friend of the Doctor’s as so many companions seem to become. Instead, Rory realistically lets his frustrations show when the Doctor fails to save Amy, and his unease at seeing who he believes to be Amy and himself waving back at themselves early on in the episode will surely come back in some form in the future. While no crack is apparent in this episode, timelines are still very much in play.
‘The Hungry Earth’ pays homage to many classic horror tropes, and the moody atmosphere and lighting further heightens the tension of the proceedings. Much of the action is very understated, the episode instead choosing to solidly lay the groundwork for what should be a superb payoff in the upcoming ‘Cold Blood.’ This is very much a new Doctor Who episode that revitalizes the concepts that made classic Doctor Who so successful, and the Silurians make the transition to modern screens effortlessly as a result.