Sunday 23 May 2010

The Hungry Earth (Part One of Two-Parter)

The Eleventh Doctor finds a Welsh village threatened by reptilians from the earth's distant past.

Its always the small things that irritate. When the TARDIS crew arrive in the Welsh village, Amy says that she had dressed for a beach in Rio. Really? A leather jacket. Tights. Boots. No Haviana flip flops. She seems to be dressed as she usually dresses for adventures.

Okay, got that one off my chest. This was a delightful story. The best so far. Obviously, a story that is set in Britain and involves Eocenes (originally and anachronistically called Sillurians) and a drilling station is going to conjure up the Pertwee years, but the storytelling genuinely feels like classic Doctor Who. While I am enjoying the current series, The Hungry Earth really has given me extra confidence in the production team.

Having Amy removed for much of the episode was an inspired decision. One consistent failing of the current series is that it has repeatedly had Amy providing a solution to every crisis and being the real hero. There has been little room for the Doctor to just be the Doctor and do his job. Not that Amy does not impress in this episode. I like her protests at being shushed while being imprisoned.

Matt Smith gives the best performance so far in Hungry Earth. He is no longer constantly spitting out smart one-liners. He has learned that sometimes silence can be effective. So it looks like my two problems with Matt Smith's Doctor have been remedied in this one episode. Well done, Mr. Moffatt.

No doubt every fan was delighted to hear about the return of the Eocenes. The idea of a lost reptilian civilization is a fascinating one. However, their previous return in Warriors of the Deep was a sad moment in Doctor Who. The failing of that story was that the viewer found it difficult to sympahtize with the Doctor's attitude to the creatures. They came across as dangerous and evil and needing to be destroyed. The Doctor's reluctance to fight them (with the resulting deaths) came across as pathetic.

Can this story avoid the failings of Warriors of the Deep?

One obvious way that the production team have approached this difficulty is by changing the appearance of the Eocene. She has a name, has an human-like face and wears clothes. She is a character that viewers can empathize with. I am not sure I like this approach, but perhaps it was inevitable. The orginal Eocenes really were menacing.

Whether this story works will depend upon whether the Doctor will be willing to take action against the Eocenes if necessary. The Doctor shows his pacifist tendency in this episode by rejecting the collection of guns and his expressed determination to find a non-violent solution. But if this fails, he must be prepared to use violence or he will lose our faith like the Fifth Doctor did.

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