06/03/2020

The Silurians Episode 6 review


Season 7@50 Unexpectedly this episode seems gruesomely topical right now and judging from this week’s headlines very little has changed when it comes to dealing with a dangerous virus or infection. What was entertainment fifty years ago is now a reality though I doubt if a race of subterranean lizards are responsible. Given this accidental topicality it is even easier to admire the manner in which the production handles it. Plotting the outbreak from Masters to the ticket collector to other passengers and then a phone call that reveals the first foreign case you can see how easily something like this can take hold. Just like our current coronavirus the Silurian’s version doesn’t infect everyone but some die quickly. I think the way the production conveys all this is masterful and quite bold. After all imagine that back in 1970 over seven million viewers watched several minutes of two actors doing chemistry, putting blood samples on slides, making notes and looking at the sample under a microscope. Somehow in the current light it seems much more urgent and serious than it might back then.



While some of this progress is conveyed by phone calls- Nicholas Courtney once again proving how skilled he is at pretending to listen to information on the other end of the line- there is also enough budget in the tank to stage some gripping location scenes at the station- as we later learned the collapsing victims are mostly members of the series’ production team. Cross faded with shots of the Brigadier fielding calls it is all very effective contrasting with the concentrated scenes of the Doctor in the lab. The narrative is less specific as to how the virus is transmitted though.

Chasing the virus is very much the crux of the episode though there are a few diversions notably Doctor Lawrence’s final moments conveyed (apparently in one take) by Peter Miles with appropriate mad rage. “Are you going!” he yells after having two attempts at sweeping everything off the desk but it does sound like he’s shouting “Are you game?” before attacking the Brigadier. Though the character has been increasingly sidelined as the story progresses you do have to feel some sympathy for Lawrence. Peter Miles' performance means he swipes the crazy acting award from the overtly Cockney soldier chewing gum who gets offed by a Silurian. Lethbridge Stewart incidentally seems remarkably immune to contact with plague victims. It’s the end, too, for Masters, in the episode's best directed scene (and this episode that’s saying something) as he stumbles and falls against railings.

We don’t see too much of the Silurians save for Young Silurian’s gleeful to camera declaration “I am the leader now” after which I half expected him to do a little dance. We do discover their ability to burn their way through solid rock and metal as they invade the research centre. They’ve clearly had some training too on how to make the holes neatly curved! Actually the glowing effect with smoke pouring into the picture does give a good impression of enormous energy being used. 
The Silurian Hypothesis 
An unexpected legacy from this serial is something called The Silurian Hypothesis which looks at whether modern science would actually be able to detect evidence of an advanced civilisation that existed millions of years ago. It was put forward in a 2018 paper by astrophysicist Adam Frank from the Universty of Rochester and Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute.  They wrote, "While we strongly doubt that any previous industrial civilization existed before our own, asking the question in a formal way that articulates explicitly what evidence for such a civilization might look like raises its own useful questions.”  They added that the chances of finding direct evidence like artefacts or structure is very unlikely. What is more likely would be evidence in the chemical composition or in the isotope ratios of sediments. They named this document after the 1970 story inspired by it's idea of a hitherto unknown species having previously lived on Earth.

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