Doctor Who


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 32 7, BFPDWCD7CD
Available now

The Doctor and Evelyn land on the Galapagos Islands during the 19th century, coincident with a visit by a young natural philosopher called Charles Darwin. But these islands are also host to prehistoric creatures who could pose a deadly threat to all human life...

I must confess to being a huge fan of the Silurians, fascinating "monsters" who actually have a greater claim to the Earth than we humans do, so it was extremely unlikely that I could have failed to enjoy this particular adventure.

Having said that, I won't settle for any old rubbish just because it has Silurians in it. As a case in point, I have no great love for the 1984 serial Warriors of the Deep, a story that was bogged down by woeful production values and sluggish direction. Further disappointment arose from the fact that the Silurians inexplicably lost the use of their third eye, which had been such a formidable weapon in 1970's Doctor Who and the Silurians but which was reduced to functioning as a Dalek-style voice indicator.

I was therefore most gratified to hear the third eye back in action, sounding just as it did back in 1970. Similarly, the reptiles' voices are a fair approximation of the guttural 1970 types, as opposed to the 1984 "Pinky and Perky" varieties, although a hint of the latter version remains, especially in the tones of the female Silurian, Sh'vak (Helen Goldwyn). The voice modulation has difficulty with some of the "s" sounds, however, leading to the unintentionally funny line: "You shaved my life"!

All in all, the production owes far more to the original Malcolm Hulke Silurians serial, and to Hulke's novelisation of it (witness Bloodtide's prehistoric prologue), than to Warriors of the Deep. The only element inspired by the latter serial is the Myrka creature, which definitely benefits from being heard rather than seen. It's a bit unfortunate that the Silurians repeat their tactic of releasing a plague against humanity, but then it might have seemed strange if they hadn't tried.

But it's not only Silurian stories that have been ransacked by writer Jonathan Morris. For instance, the homing device that is used to control the Myrka is a blatant steal from Terror of the Zygons, while a renegade Silurian called Tulok (Daniel Hogarth) treats us at one point to his version of Davros's "with that knowledge..." line from Genesis of the Daleks. Other familiar-sounding elements echo Castrovalva and even the lizard-like Visitors from the 1980s American series V.

To his credit, Morris has built upon these familiar foundations to deliver a profound revelation about the ancient relationship between the Silurians and our ape ancestors. He also establishes the reptile's era as being far closer to the present day than has been previously suggested, at mere hundreds of thousands of years ago. The historical setting also allows for some elegant dramatic symmetry between the condemnation of Tulok by his fellow Silurians and the sentencing of a human prisoner, and between Tulok's ostracism for allegedly tampering with nature and the furore that Darwin's theory of evolution would cause within Victorian society.

Portraying Darwin is Miles Richardson, who can also be heard playing Braxiatel in Big Finish's latest Bernice Summerfield CD, The Extinction Event. In total contrast to the authoritative Brax, Richardson emphasises the young naturalist's hesitancy about developing his radical theory, a process in which he is all but prompted by Evelyn (Maggie Stables).

This is not the most original work ever to have evolved from Doctor Who's television ancestry, but if you like Silurians then this double CD is the natural selection.

Richard McGinlay