KT knows apes better than you know yourselves.
DOCTOR WHO: 5.08 “The Hungry Earth”
I have to admit, I didn’t realize this was a two-parter until the end. Suppose I should have, considering the pacing, but maybe I’m getting too used to the sudden, panicky, clock-ticking conclusions of some New Who stories.
As it was, the pacing was really a bit saggy in the middle, wasn’t it? All of the fiddling with surveillance equipment turned out to be completely useless, which makes me wish that section of the episode could have been put to some more interesting use – especially since the Doctor’s plan as he explained it to Elliot was already more implausible than usual. You’re going to sonic the bad guys through the security cameras? Seriously? I give this show a lot of leeway with implausible, but that was too much, even for the increasingly all-powerful sonic screwdriver.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This week we find ourselves in Wales, as we do periodically in New Who, since that’s where the show is filmed. And if you’re going to be in Wales, it makes good sense to do a story about mining. Conveniently, it’s a very small, scientifically oriented drilling operation where we can meet everyone involved in a few scenes. The character who shows the most promise is Nasreen Chaudhry, who describes the drilling project as her life’s work and has a Sherlockian willingness to go along with the Doctor’s improbable version of events. The others are a family group: mom, dad, grandpa, little boy.
There have been more kids this season than we’ve seen in New Who — I talked about this with a friend recently, and except for the abyssmal “Fear Her” and the prop-like kids in “The Next Doctor,” all the child characters we could think of come from Moffat-penned episodes. (I wonder if we’re building a theme here.) Moffat wasn’t the main writer on this one, though, and Chris Chibnall doesn’t manage to make Elliot as real and kid-like as Moffat has in his episodes. Elliot’s sweet, but he’s precocious in a very TV kid kind of way. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that because he’s so very sweet and precocious — and because I don’t think this is a show that can kill off child characters — I think the Elliot’s safe, and I think his parents probably are, too (even though the mom hasn’t been made very likable). Play along next week and see if I’m right.
Metaphorically speaking, Rory and Amy are still on shaky ground, it seems, which is a little bothersome after last week’s conclusion that Amy really is very much in love with Rory. Why are they so surprised to see that they’re still together in ten years? Speaking of shaky ground, though, Amy promptly gets pulled down through some very literal shaky ground. While she’s out of the picture, Rory gets some time to shine, and he really does pretty well, which is fun.
After the saggy middle, the episode picks up a bit once the Doctor and company manage to trap one of the reptilian Silurians, whose underground refuge has been disturbed by the drill. Alaya’s make-up is great and so is the conflict she presents. Entirely hostile, she makes it quite clear that she considers her death a willing sacrifice for the good of her people, while the Doctor gathers the remaining humans and tries to impress upon them her individuality and personhood and inherent right to exist. Leaving her in the hands of Rory, Mo, and Ambrose, he exhorts them to be their best selves.
The Doctor always does want to believe the best of humanity, but Alaya’s here to be a foil for him. “One of you will kill me,” she says — which might make part two tense and mysterious. I think Alaya is probably right, and I’m fairly positive about who it will be… but what do you think?