Chris Chibnall is one of those writers in the Doctor Who stable that some fans just seem to love to hate. I’ll admit that his work tends to be more uneven than that of other writers, but I just don’t get the hate*. (Hell, even “Cyberwoman” has a few redeeming qualities.)

But as a whole, this two-parter really drives home the uneven nature of Chibnall’s scripts. After the pretty good set-up of the last episode, we’re treated to a thrilling story about people sitting around a table and talking. There’s a lot of running around, mostly between the same three underground locations, in place of real action or dramatic tension. In fact, the entire enterprise feels very reminiscent of a Pertwee era story. And that right there is the biggest problem. The episode slides over from paying homage to a Third Doctor style of story into more or less being one. Including the running around, the kill crazy military officer, and a nagging suspicion that the entire enterprise is at least a half-hour too long.

As I said before, a certain amount of rebooting was probably necessary to make use of the Silurians in a contemporary context. And while “The Silurians” is one of the best stories in the show’s history, it didn’t really need to be remade. All the big motifs and plot points are lifted from that original story. We even get a genocidal Silurian killing one of their own for wanting to live peacefully with the humans again.

That just leaves the big shock of the episode, the apparent death of Rory, as an original idea. Companion deaths are so rare in the series as to be noteworthy when they do occur, but the “shock” of this one is mitigated somewhat by the audience prep for it that took place in “Amy’s Choice.” In hind-sight, that was fairly blatant fore-shadowing, but to add “everyone forgets about Rory” on top of his apparent death feels almost like cruelty to the audience. It’s a standard “heroic sacrifice” death, yet another innocent who dies to save the Doctor from the minor inconvenience of regenerating.

We’ve already been given numerous hints this season that time can be changed, so it wouldn’t be too terribly surprising if Rory’s death is undone or modified in some way, making his fake-out death in “Amy’s Choice” even more foreshadowey in retrospect. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing. As I said, the death of a recurring character on the show is such a rare event, it feels like the dramatic impact of it, and the psyche-shattering effect it had on children, would be diminished. I mean, I’d feel pretty cheated if Adric suddenly turned up and revealed that no, actually there was a Vortex Manipulator on that space-ship and he didn’t get blown up after all.
Okay, that’s a bad example…

* It’s not like he’s Pip and Jane Baker, people…

9 Responses to ““What were you saying?””
  1. JauntyJohn says:

    *sigh*

    Well… first off, it’s just not very much fun, is it.

    Plus, as two-parters go, it had all that fuse and no boom.

    Watching “Cold Blood” I pretty much felt only an inexorable dread as we slid towards the completely predictable death of Ayla (Alya? whatever) the Lizard Warrior/Hostage. “Whatever you do, don’t kill her!” Uh oh. Well maybe if you hadn’t brought it up…
    And now — what are we, half way through the season? — I can say with certainty that whenever any of the good guys says “no one is going to die!” that someone is going to die within the next five minutes.
    It’s practically a drinking game at this point.

    It’s as if The Message in this ep (never a good thing when you can put caps on that in a story) got shoved into the story sort of unfairly, and it didn’t fit — which again kind of undermines the Doctor’s credibility with me. “Humans need to be better, we need to rise above. We can be so brilliant.” Okay. Well trod but still worthy ground to cover I suppose. But for all our human failings — apparently embodied in poor worried/frightened mother-wife-daughter Ambrose — she certainly had higher motives for her violence than Ayalala, who was not exactly Lizard Ghandi (Lizard Mandella? No! Lizard Luther King!) down there in the root cellar, what with all her “you damn dirty apes” and “I can’t wait for your family to die” and “We’re going to wipe you from the face of the earth, apes!” That’s some pretty extreme provocation. Ambrose wasn’t hell bent on killing, as Ayalaylala was. So I got a little tired of all the scolding of the humans when their was a damn lizard military coup going on right there, *plus* live vivisections and ‘accidental’ torture, and for a long time no guarantee that the boy wasn’t next on the table for a wide-awake slice-n-dice. Oh, and meanwhile, back in the conference room, sorry about your dead creche-sister, Major-General Lizard Lady, but as the story itself spanks humans for once again falling so very short of being the best we can be (as if the Doctor’s scoldings weren’t enough), might someone please ask her what the hell she’s doing running around with an armed military detachment she clearly had to have just thawed?

    If you flipped the races in this story I guarantee that the Doctor would be making some speech about how “they were only trying to protect themselves and their young!” I think it’s fun and fresh to put the humans in the ‘victimized’ role for a change — but how did we still wind up, as far as the Doctor and the story’s narrative tone go, *still* the bad guys? (After all, the catalyst for the whole plot was the drilling — and it wasn’t some crazy corporate greed thing, or some evil military experiment — it was pure scientific exploration.)

    And now I’m really nit picking, and I apologize, but … bugle guns? Really?

    Okay, okay, again I say, it’s only forty minutes and change, hard to quite fit everything in. And some ideas one might have done differently in hindsight.

    Moments I loved: The Doctor apologizing to the boy for “taking his eye off him” — very nice. And Amy’s whole “the Doctor would know” and then putting things together herself. Very nice.

    Except… now Rory’s dead and forgotten (!), and it looks like the Tardis, which we only *just* got (as far as this iteration) is going to be destroyed too.

    Well, I guess we just can’t have nice things.

  2. Kevin Mallone says:

    Not a great episode, but I dug it.

    Even a weaker episode like this is pretty enjoyable thanks to the interactions between the Doctor, Amy, and Rory.

    Usually I hate shows that play the whole “military = bad, science = good” thing, but I think it worked here. Maybe because the human scientists were the ones who screwed everything up in the first place?

    The crack in time still rules, when the Doctor pulled out a piece of the TARDIS I actually said “What the hell?”.

  3. RDaggle says:

    “It’s practically a drinking game at this point.”

    Indeed. And another drinking game this season is the ‘I promise you’ speech from people who have no business making those promises. That’s not tragedy — it’s irresponsibility, stupidity.

    It really devalues the characters, IMO.

  4. Evan Waters says:

    I was just disappointed that, instead of this being the story where the two races have to actually try and cohabitate as promised, the Silurians just go back to sleep again. Even though it’s already set in the future so you don’t have to worry about a disconnect with the real world. Felt like a cop-out.

    I’m willing to see what’s done with Rory- I got the feeling that if this was the last of it he would have just died and not got et by the crack and forgotten. I’ll give them a chance on this.

    That said, there were parts of the story that I liked- that they really pulled off an alien/Earthlien culture instead of cobbling together bits of machinery. Also there was Stephen Moore.

  5. Tim O'Neil says:

    I think this was almost as bad as the Shakespeare Code (my go-to example of just how bad the new series can go when it wants). Wanted to be grand and epic, just came off as preachy, arbitrary, and most importantly – Boring!

    And yeah, dollars to donuts we haven’t seen the last of Rory.

  6. Bill D. says:

    Rory was dispatched a little too quickly for that to truly be the last word on him, and I’m sure we’ll see him again in some way, but I’m now very curious to see the effects this has on Amy’s timeline. Is it still the night before her wedding back home? If so, is she marrying that other guy now (Jeff, I think)?

  7. Not with his internet history!

    I feel I should apologise for my comments last week. Totally forgot that this was a twofer, and came close to spoilage. Sorry, gang.

    Thing is…you know the end bit. Before the bit in the TARDIS. The word I want to say here is “radius?”

    Four days to the final episode, over here in the UK. *dances from foot to foot*

    I’m going back to the original series stuff after this week. Definitely trying a bit more Hartnell, after The Space Museum. If I had the ear of someone at IDW…they’d probably call the police.

    //\Oo/\\

  8. Alan says:

    Oy Dorian did you see this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl4bRRD-tQc (“The gayness of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 explored”)

    Where’s that post on Elm Street? Those were fantastic…

  9. Scott says:

    This two parter was pretty good, but it did irritate me a little about how many missed opportunities there seemed to be in the script. Like the Doctor’s complete failure to mention that the drill was being run to explore and not attack(or his failure to promise to shut it off). It felt like the script was being forced to fit around the story, and then with the last ten minutes it felt like the story got hijacked by Steven Moffett to off Rory and show the TARDIS fragment(which could have come at the end of any story). If they’d made this a one-parter they could have told another story where Rory much more deliberately sacrifices himself. With all of his talk about how he trusts the Doctor with his life and jumping in front of a bullet meant for the Doctor it seems like there must be a lot of missing adventures between episodes.

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