Returning monsters seem to be a bit of a theme in this series of Doctor Who, with the Daleks and Weeping Angels having already made appearances, and the Cybermen having been trailed for the series finale. However for this two-parter it was the return of a villain not seen since the 80s, in the form of the Silurians.
The Silurians have long been one of my favourite groups of Doctor Who monsters, and their return had been rumoured for a while. The concept of a monster that’s not actually an “alien”, that previously was the dominant life form on Earth and wants it back is a strong one. And with the advent of the Sea Devils, the idea of different types of Silurian was introduced, making them easy to be re-invented for the modern series.
This two-parter was interesting in how much it felt like a love letter to the Pertwee era. The drilling project evoked memories of Inferno, and nicely used that same idea as a way to explain this group of Silurians waking up. Part 1 also felt a lot like build up, with the Doctor’s net of cameras providing a great “A-Team moment”, but ultimately proved to be so much padding when it was immediately rendered useless. A bit more successful in that regard was part 2, which provided the payoff for much of the setup, but then this is a common thing in 2-parters (most recently, The End of Time is a great example of a part 1 that was probably lacking when taken on its own, but part 2 brings everything together).
For the Silurians themselves, I found them incredibly well realised. While I was initially disappointed that they looked more human than previous incarnations, their characterisation was spot on, and the lack of a full-head mask (as previous Silurians and Sea Devils had) certainly allowed the actors to shine more. Indeed some of the emotion of the second part would’ve probably been lost if the actors’ faces had been buried under a tonne of latex. The idea of the battle mask though I thought was a nice compromise in this regard.
A staple of the Silurian stories, the morality, was also present. Be it the Doctor’s rage at the Brigadier blowing up the Silurian base, or Davison’s “There should’ve been another way”, the Silurians and humans meeting never ends well, and the same is true here, as the desperate mother is goaded into killing Alaya on the surface, while Alaya’s sister Restac is desperate to wipe out humanity even before she finds out about her sister’s death. Neither side is in the right here, with the Doctor stuck in the middle, and that’s something that rung very true for a Silurian story. Unlike previous stories though, this tries to end on a more hopeful note, with the Silurians due to reawaken in 1000 years to try again with the hope that both sides will be more ready to live together.
Outside of the main Silurian plot though, we find the main arc of the series moving on as well. The crack’s sudden appearance initially felt quite forced (although it does seem consistent that the crack only turns up after the Doctor and Amy have been in a certain place for a period of time – save the initial crack in Eleventh Hour) but it became vital to what happened next, as Rory was killed by Restac and then absorbed by the crack, wiping him from history. It all felt incredibly quick and brutal, as the characters were also running from the gas, and the follow up scene with the Doctor forcing Amy to remember him was powerfully acted by both of them.
That said, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Rory. The idea that time can be rewritten is integral to the crack, so I suspect he’ll be seen again at the end of the series. That the Doctor’s pulled what appears to be a piece of the TARDIS from the crack could point to things being changed. Does that mean the TARDIS got destroyed? I can’t see that happening in the finale. So either that gets changed, or the piece of the TARDIS is a red herring (or the outer shell is damaged but is restored). My money would be on the cause of the crack (TARDIS destruction) being changed though, which could have interesting side effects on the rest of this series (its been suggested before that we’ll revisit key points in the series in the finale causing us to see events in a new light). Time changing is a big part of what’s going on here and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.