Sunday, 18 April 2010
Bloodtide written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Gary Russell
What’s it about? The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface. One day they will awaken and reclaim their world… The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumours that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin…
Softer Six: Imagine if we had a sixth Doctor like this on the telly box…he would still be the Doctor now! Colin Baker loved the part so much and this is an interpretation of the sixth Doctor that really appeals to the masses. He has two equally good sides, he is cuddly, mischievous, theatrical and more like your favourite uncle than you care to admit but he is also piercingly intelligent, thoughtful, sarcastic and vicious when he needs to be. It’s an intoxicating mix that works especially well on audio, Baker gaining legions of fans with his voice alone. He steps from the TARDIS quoting some pompous and overblown passage much like The Twin Dilemma but the difference is his companion does not fear him and near hysterical and he laughs at his on arrogance. Sometimes he can be infuriating and he knows it. It is gorgeous that he would take such lengths to allow Evelyn to meet a historical figure she is fascinated by and there are pangs of his next regeneration in how he has set up this meeting before the adventure began. His guise is…Dr Einstein! He loves to get to the heart of a mystery and rushes straight off to the jailhouse. He has a habit of turning up where he is least expected. A good hypnotist. He protects Greta from Lawson’s abuse he quietly mocks the Silurian’s playground statement of ‘We were here first!’ but does try and get them to diplomatically settle their differences with the humans. He is hard on Lawson when the cat is out of the bag but does give him the choice to be free of his masters as long as he can live with the consequences of his actions. When Darwin dismisses the religious view the Doctor refuses to confirm or deny his beliefs. He prompts history ‘when it’s important.’ The Doctor rather brilliantly comments that the human cannot stress that they are civilised when they treat their fellow man as inferior. Tulok wants to feast on the Doctor’s fine fleshy corpse, much to his chargin.
Learned Lecturer: Evelyn manages to be effortlessly cool without even trying by this point in her adventures. By simply getting on with the sixth Doctor we see him in a whole new light and she seems like his ideal equal. Maggie Stables has such a warm voice and she manages to instantly charm practically anybody she meets – it’s a voice like warm chocolate and coffee. Her rapport with the Doctor is like that of an old married couple but a couple who are madly in love. She has always admired and been fascinated by Charles Darwin. The thought of Evelyn on the Beagle is such an irresistible image I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what prompted Jonathan Morris to write the script. She tries to use the ‘prisoner is ill’ escape routine again. I loved her hypnotised performance in episode four – so hammy!
Great Ideas: The concept of the moon imminently crashing into the Earth causing the Silurians to go into hibernation and the human race banished to the Earth surface evolving into what we are today is still a fantastic idea. If Dr Who and the Silurians had not happened and there was a new series episode touting that idea now it would still be a stomping great story. Following that up with Charles Darwin discovering the Silurians during his exploration of the Galapagos Islands is inspired. What a way to discover natural selection! An evolutionary genius comes face to face with an evolutionary shock! The theory of evolution is said to have revolutionised and scandalised Victorian Britain. The Galapagos Islands are penal islands. There is a glorious image of lights under the misty sea, the Myrka’s terrifying eyes staring out. The very idea of bringing back such a reviled Doctor Who monster with such style is glorious and not being able to see him is even more of a bonus as he crashes through the waves and attacks the Beagle. The Silurians implant Greta with a device that attracts the Myrka and she sacrifices herself to save the Doctor. The missing prisoners are revealed in a moment of great horror to be hanging up like carcasses hanging in a butcher’s abattoir – the Silurians larder. The missing link is explained as Tulok gave his creatures resistance to disease and advanced breeding techniques. Tulok condemned his people to destruction by fixing the timing mechanism so only a few Silurians and their pet Myrka would wake up.
Standout Performance: Miles Richardson who very often doesn’t interact with the plot but has his only involving subplot as Darwin realises that there might be a reason for species modification beyond God’s will. Richardson takes on this challenging role and kept me interested in Darwin’s plight throughout.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Release the monstrosities onto the planets surface to join their creator! The vengeance of nature shall sweep them both away!’
‘What is that smell? It smells like a physics undergraduate!’
‘That is in fact a tortoise tortoise and that’s something else I’ve taught us!’
‘A sort of survival of the fittest?’ Darwin: ‘What an odd expression.’
‘There was no Eden! It is a myth!’
‘We are but animals. It is only through our arrogance that we put ourselves above them.’
‘In the skies above us are a million million suns each circles by their own worlds and on those worlds, wherever there is life there is the opportunity for life you will find it. That is the miracle, life endures, it thrives, it defeats every adversity, it creates order out of chaos. Above us is a universe full of wonder.’
‘You should see it as I see it. That’s history. All of human life, just a brief candle in the darkness.’
Audio Landscape: The Silurian voices are brilliantly creepy throughout. Gary Russell is faithful to the past, providing us with authentic recreations of both the Silurians and their pet Myrka. All of the scenes underground have a persistent dripping. The wild, untamed Earth is a horrifying prospect and brought to life with crashing waves and powerful lightning. Galapagos feels like a real location the crew have visited with birds screaming in the air, gentle lapping waves, hissing giant tortoises, moving foliage and a sea breeze. Darwin’s gunshot scatters a flock of birds. When Emilio’s mind is invaded by devils he is assaulted with the sounds of nature, squeaking, screaming, purring creatures. There is a nice crackling fire at dinner and much cutlery and plat scraping. The Doctor and Greta on the Silurian scanner is very atmospheric. The Silurian doors, third eye attack and flippers on stone are all awesome. The creaking decks of the Beagle see the crew sees them take on an attack from an angry Myrka. The Doctor sloshes through water in the Silurian base. Lawson’s horrid watery death under the Silurian plague is unforgettable! I love how the Silurian radar echo gets louder and faster as the Myrka gets nearer.
Musical Cues: Powerfully done and beautifully tipping its hat to the marmite musical score of Doctor Who and the Silurians, Alistair Lock goes to some lengths to make the kazoo music sound positively dramatic and moody! I loved the music at the end of episode one as the Silurian approached the Doctor and Greta, mysterious, foreboding and full of kazoo!
Isn’t that Odd: I found Greta to be a little but shrill in the first episode…I realise she is upset at the treatment of her brother but after that performance I would throw her down with him!
Result: A traditional Doctor Who tale told with some gumption and another stonkingly good story for the sixth Doctor. If I am completely honest I found the first half of the story far more involving than the second half because the first two episodes contained a glut of treats; the atmospheric setting, the re-introduction of one of the most interesting of the Doctor’s foes, Evelyn’s adorable scenes with Darwin, the glorious music…I was completely sucked into the story. Despite the fact that there are some dramatic turns in the last episode there is feeling that the story has run out of steam to the point where the writer rolls out the Silurian plague to keep things ticking over in a four parter! Still here is another glorious chance to see the unstoppable team of the sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe at work, compassionate, fiercely intelligent and full of warmth. Gary Russell deserves plaudits for bringing the story to life with such gusto and there is another great Alistair Lock score that is a tribute to Clarey Blyton’s in the original Silurian story: 8/10
Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/