Doctor Who – The Hungry Earth (S05E08) – Episode review

The Hungry Earth sees our intrepid TARDIS crew arrive in Wales in the not too distant future. After a couple of very cleverly written episodes, we’re heading back into “epic two-parter” territory. Still, I liked that before the episode got properly underway, we got a little more Amy and Rory action: first,  with the discovery that she’s started to wear her engagement ring again (victory for The Doctor!) and second when we see future versions of Amy and Rory waving at them from a distance. It’s an intriguing scene – are they trying to warn themselves of impending danger? – and kind of leads us to believe that whatever happens in this episode, everything will be alright.

And on to the Siluran story. A quick bit of history here: the Silurians are a [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]] villain from the classic series. They’re the original inhabitants of Earth, far predating the human race. The lizard-like creatures hibernate deep under the Earth usually until random human activity provokes them, and then they opt to go into battle with the humans.

So…basically a large drilling project in the Welsh countryside awakens the slumbering race, and they begin to drill upward. In order to create a bit of intrigue, they also pull humans through shifting holes in the Earth’s crust. And also dead bodies from a nearby graveyard. The Doctor must protect the remaining inhabitants of the Welsh village while the as-yet-unknown menace makes its way to the surface of the Earth.

[[The Hungry Earth (Doctor Who episode)|The Hungry Earth]] is quite a fast-paced Doctor Who adventure, with plenty of excitement. The Doctor seems to have once again over-promised on the protection of his companions, with Amy getting sucked under the Earth and the little boy Elliott being captured by the Silurians.

Perhaps the key scene in the episode for most viewers was [[Matt Smith]]’s Doctor trying to broker peace with the captured Silurian, Alaya. When he takes her mask off, he coos at her like a museum curator discovering some long-lost artifact, but he becomes insulted and stern whenever she tries to claim she’s the last of her species. This is perhaps the first time we’ve seen Smith’s Doctor tackling big, diplomatic issues, trying to secure peace or at the very least, avoid a full-scale war. Hilarious that the Silurians mistook the drilling project as a threat to their civilisation.

For the first part of a two-parter (continued in next week’s [[Cold Blood (Doctor Who episode)|Cold Blood]], this held up very well. It set up the Silurian threat beautifully, and there are plenty of cliffhangers: will Amy get dissected? Will one of the humans kill Alaya? Will the SIlurian race rise up and reclaim the Earth?

I have to say, this series of Doctor Who really turned a corner after the overblown and very self-conscious Weeping Angels episodes. Once again outside of spacey and city locations, The Hungry Earth allows for a slightly different type of story to be told, without the usual conventions to fall back on. And like a lot of classic Who fans are saying, this felt like a classic episode, but without the noodly cheap music and sets and hammy dialogue that made old Doctor Who a major turn-off for me.

By the way: I reckon The Doctor might have been hiding what future Amy and Rory were really doing. Might they have been warning instead of waving? Is something about to happen that they both want to avoid?

Themes

Thought I’d introduce a new section this week – themes that cropped up in this episode. I thought there were a couple of intelligent themes that the story brought forth. You guys might want to discuss them in the comments…

Dissection: notice the parallels – The Doctor tells the little band in the church to be the “best of humanity” and not to dissect or harm their prisoner in any way. At the same time, we later see Amy and the drill worker in captivity, and the SIlurians have clearly wasted no time in whipping out the scalpels for their own experiments.

Martyrdom: Alaya seems convinced that one of the ‘Apes’ will kill her, sparking a war with the Silurian race. She tells The Doctor: “I’d gladly die for my cause. What would you sacrifice for yours?” That’s a familiar theme to his conversation with the ‘mother’ alien in [[Vampires Of Venice (Doctor Who episode)|Vampires Of Venice]].

Ownership of the planet: I like this as a clever rebuttal of the hostility toward immigrants we have in Britain. Humans discover that they’re not the first sentient species to occupy the planet, and a longer established race decides to reassert their claim on their ‘territory’. Kind of turns that “our country” keep the foreigners out type of ‘Britishness’ on its head and make it look silly. I realise it’s still just a story, but I like the mini-allegory contained within.

Quotes from The Hungry Earth

  • Amy: That is breaking and entering. The Doctor: What’d I break? It’s sonicking and entering.
  • Amy: Oh please, have you always been this disgusting? The Doctor: No. It’s quite a recent thing.
  • Rory: “Doctor, there’s something going on here. The graves are eating people.” The Doctor: “Not now, Rory.”
  • The Doctor: “No, no weapons. That’s not how I do things…Oh, Ambrose, I’m asking nicely. Put them away.”
  • Elliott: Have you met monsters before? The Doctor: Yep. Elliott: Are you scared of them? The Doctor: No, they’re scared of me.
  • Rory: “Can’t you sonic it?” The Doctor: “No, it’s wood”. Rory: “That is rubbish.” The Doctor: “Oi! Don’t diss the Sonic!”
  • Tony: “You’re not making any sense man.” The Doctor: “Excuse me, I’m making perfect sense. You’re just not keeping up.”
  • The Doctor: “I do hate a monologue. Give us a bit back.”
  • The Doctor: “There’s still hope, Ambrose. There’s always hope.”
  • The Doctor: “We got it! Defending the planet with Meals On Wheels!”
  • The Doctor: “Welcome aboard the TARDIS. Now, don’t touch anything.”
  • Alaya: “Shall I tell you what’s really going to happen, Apes? I know Apes better than you know yourselves.”
  • Alaya: “I’d gladly die for my cause. What would you sacrifice for yours?” The Doctor gives her a slightly distracted look before turning away.

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13 Comments

  1. Rosie-Lee

    A fun first parter, which had everyone working like the A Team to monitor what was coming up from within the Earth.  Interesting role reversal, with the Silurians doing the dissection on the humans.

    I thought, during this instalment, how well Matt Smith is filling the Dr. Who shoes.  He just seems to be getting better and better.

    Nice to see Meera Syal and veteran actor Robert Pugh doing good stuff too.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I meant to mention Meera’s performance. A few reviewers have castigated her for being wooden or unconvincing. I thought it was nice to see another person who enthusiastically endorsed what The Doctor was revealing to them. She was bubbly in places, and I love that she’s gone off with The Doctor – in another reality she might have been a companion? Of course, with that thought in mind, she’ll definitely be dead before the end of the next episode!

  2. jefft

    No sooner does Amy have the ring restored, than it comes off again.

    I’m watching for stuff now.. here’s a couple of ‘I wonder’ style observations.

    Series 3 Martha got cloned by the Sontarans and it although would have been easy to spot the clone by the absence of the engagement ring, the Doc resorts to some fluffiness like ‘Martha would have cared’.

    Maybe this time around, while it is still demonstrably in the box, we may encounter an Amy wearing a ring like we did the future doctor in Flesh and Stone.

    Although the Amy & Rory in the distance were waving, there’s no promise that they were an Amy and Rory from the actual year the TARDIS landed in, so no promise of 10 years together.

    If they were sightseeing, they’ve been told to keep away in order not to mess up the timelines. But if so, why wave, instead of hiding in the woods with binoculars?

    Odd that the binocular view was still so small that they weren’t really clear..

    Loved the fact that the Doc had an enormous catapult stowed away about his person, even though the jacket was supposedly of Earth origin and wouldn’t have had the 10th Doctors ‘bigger on the inside’ pockets.

     

     

     

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I had some thoughts on this. One of the early William Hartnell episodes featured him faking a fault with the TARDIS in order to convince his companions to go exploring their surroundings. How do we know this Doctor isn’t trying to trick Amy and Rory into staying away from their future selves? Then again, with a knowledge of how events transpired, why would future Amy and Rory go to the village to forewarn themselves if they knew that they wouldn’t get a chance to speak to themselves?

      This one’s a head-melter.

      I like your suggestion that the ring is a clue and that Amy may pop into scene at some point wearing one. It would almost definitely have to happen before the end of Cold Blood, because she could put it on again at any point after getting back into the TARDIS. But what if we saw an Amy wearing a wedding ring?

    2. ghostbunny

      Unfortunately the Martha clone was wearing the engagement ring. At the end of the scene where the clone dies Martha bends down and takes the ring off of the clones finger and puts it back on to her own.

      1. jefft

        Yeah. I was saying that the presence or otherwise of the ring could have been used as something concrete and provable, instead of relying on Martha not having an off-day.

         

  3. do me a melon

    This is the Doctor Who I have been hoping for since all the changes.  Matt Smith was cracking, especially when he was provoked by the Silurian talking about being the last of her species – don’t mess!

    More good character development, particularly Rory. And Amy seems in real danger at the end of the episode, more so than at any other time so far.

    What the hell ith the future Amy and Rory? Really is a head-melter, so true.

    And really like Meera Syal – definite alternate companion in some reality.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Re: Matt Smith. I think Smith has actually had the role pegged from the first episode. The problem in places has been lack of quality material. I think he plays the role of The Doctor with just the right type of understatedness to counteract David Tennant’s more manic moments.

      When The Doctor talks about Gallifrey in this series, it’s short statements and quite clipped, whereas when Tennant talked about Gallifrey, he tended to build it up and then spill his guts – see his former conversations with Martha Jones. Yes, I like what Matt Smith’s doing.

  4. redblu

    Honestly I expected something truly dire this week. Chris Chibnall? The man behind Cyberwoman and 42? My hopes were not high.

    But it was classic who, very classic, many reused ideas (as pointed out in SFXs review) but no poorer for it.

    Ultimately not very original or clever but some very good tension and a very even pacing (one thing I’d say had been a problem with the new series). Like Vampires of Venice my personal feeling is that it’s not massively memorable, but it’s the kind of episode I’m more than happy to see as filler of the week.

    Shame about those ratings though… 4.5million? Ouch.

    1. Gerard McGarry

      I can’t believe that! 4.5 Million! The Wikipedia entry for series 5 is only updated to Vampires Of Venice, but it got 7.7 million viewers. That’s a worrying decline.

      The viewing figures have mostly been around the 8.4 mark in the early part of the series, though its highest was The Eleventh Hour with over 10 million viewers. I know my initial impressions were that it was going to be a boring underground ep in the style of classic Who, but I thought they did a good job of keeping the excitement levels high.

      What went wrong?

      1. redblu

        Vampires of Venice got only 6.14million in the overnights, so it’s actually a drop of 1.64 rather than 3.2. Expect final figures to be a little over 6million, but that’s still as the low as the new series goes.

        The theory most sites have is that it was down to the good weather, combined with the earlier scheduling of this new season most people missed it in favour of the beach. The theory is supported by the fact that the actual percentage of the audience for that timeslot wasn’t any lower.

        Still, whatever the reason it’s not a good thing, the first six episodes had averaged out at an average increase of just under 1million viewers over season 4.

  5. rickets

    Hi,

    I’m new to this site, I’ve been reading the reviews and posts and have found the discussions very interesting (the ‘two doctor’ theory is inspired, and very likely). I have to agree, I think the falling number of viewers probably ties in with better weather and possibly people jetting off on holiday. Also, a lot of students have finished their academic year so this could account for a percentage of the drop-off. It’s a shame though, I think that Matt Smith is an excellent Doctor. He has really restored my interest in the series.I seem to be in the minority of people who didn’t like Chris Eccleston’s portrayal, and I found David Tennant quite irritating towards the end of his stay, but Matt Smith’s Doctor is a fine creation; I like the quirkiness and the occasional glimpses of darkness in the Doctor’s personality. Hopefully the fall in viewing figures reflects outside factors and isn’t a reflection on the new series. I’ve really enjoyed all the episodes so far, apart from Victory of the Daleks which was awful!

    Also, the future Amy and Rory is a real brain-twister. I’m convinced that Rory is going to die at the end of the series (possibly the ‘good man’ that River Song killed/will kill?), but if that’s the case, how could he appear as a future version of himself? Though I guess, in a series that constantly plays around with timelines, anything is possible…

     

  6. Jeffrey Scott

    Sorry I’ve been away for so long. Been trying to get back into the swing of things for a while now and I think I’m finally catching up.

    Love the fact an older enemy has once again been brought out and dusted off. Love the new look. Really like the story-line here, despite having been done before.

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