Time travel can be cruel.
The Hungry Earth
In the year 2020, a team led by Dr. Nasreen Chaudhry is engaged in the deepest drilling project in history. This is taking place in Cwmtaff, Wales, and they’re seeking minerals that have appeared recently but haven’t been seen on Earth of over twenty million years.
Mo Northover, the night watchman at the site, heads to work only to be greeted by an earthquake. When his security monitors cut out, he investigates and finds a hole in the floor of the storage area. When it seals up, he reaches through the seal and is dragged inside.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in Cwmtaff shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, they were aiming for Rio de Janeiro. The Doctor is fascinated by the local flora, and Amy spots a version of Amy and Rory from ten years in the future. The Doctor is intrigued by the ground feeling wrong, so he sets out for the nearby mining operation. Rory returns Amy’s ring to the TARDIS and encounters Ambrose and Elliot, Mo Northover’s family. They mistake him for a police officer and ask him to investigate the supposed vandalism of their family plot. One of her deceased relatives has been taken, coffin, body, and all.
The Doctor and Amy arrive at the mining facility where they meet Dr. Chaudhry and Ambrose’s father, Tony Mack. Suddenly, the floor starts to give way and Amy partially falls into one of the holes. The Doctor orders the drilling to stop while he holds on to Amy’s hand. Unfortunately, she slips beneath the surface. The Doctor determines that the earth was bio-programmed to attack when it perceives a threat. He also hears evidence that another drill is at work underground. The minerals and grass were warnings to stay away, and while the team was drilling down, something else was drilling up.
Something is coming now and has erected a forcefield dome over the village.
Rory and Elliot investigate the gravesite. Elliot presumes that the coffin was taken from underneath. They find the Doctor when the dome goes up, and Rory is distraught to learn about Amy’s fate. Ambrose also learns about her husband’s fate as the team move to a nearby church and set up a security network around the village to monitor whatever is coming.
The Doctor also makes inroads with Elliot by trusting the dyslexic boy to make a map of the village.
The attack begins with the dome cutting off all light from the outside world. The electricity is knocked out, disabling the security network. Elliot, who had left to find his headphones, is chased and captured by a reptilian being. The group rushes outside to find him and Ambrose finds his headphones. She is attacked by the being, and when Tony tries to save her, the creature stings him with a venomous tongue. The Doctor sends Ambrose, Tony, and Rory back to the church while he hunts the being with special infrared sunglasses.
He knows who they are.
He and Rory set a trap and capture it, prompting the rest of the intruders to retreat.
Amy awakens in a transparent coffin-like box. She is soon knocked unconscious by gas. Meanwhile, the Doctor talks to his prisoner, identifying her as a Silurian. Her name is Alaya, and he admits that he’s tried to broker peace between humanity and her species numerous times, but has failed mostly due to humanity being uncompromising. Alaya is set on war with humanity, so the Doctor returns to the church to declare his intent to go to the Silurian tribe’s home and negotiate directly with them.
When Tony suggests dissecting Alaya, the Doctor refuses. If they want their loved ones back safely, Alaya must be unharmed. Nasreen asks to go with him, and he refuses at first but finally relents. Her “bigger on the inside” moment in the TARDIS is short-lived, however, when the Silurians drag the ship beneath the surface.
Amy wakes up on a surgical table. Mo is on the table beside hers and warns her that she will be dissected while still alive. Elsewhere, Nasreen and the Doctor find an underground Silurian civilization stretching for miles.
A Silurian tells the story of how he remembers when he met the Doctor 1000 years ago and the losses that the Time Lord suffered because of the failed attempt to negotiate peace.
The Doctor and Nasreen investigate the Silurian city and trip a security alarm. They are greeted by Silurian warriors who knock them unconscious. Luckily, the security alarm stops the physician from dissecting Amy and she’s able to pickpocket a device to set her and Mo free. They find Elliot in some kind of pod with monitors attached. Amy convinces Mo to keep moving, promising that they’ll get him out.
The Doctor and Nasreen are strapped to surgical tables and decontaminated, causing the Doctor to yell in pain. The process is overseen by Commander Restac, a Silurian who is related to the missing Alaya. The Doctor convinces them to stop the decontamination process since it will kill him. He then discusses terms with Restac as he learns that the drill was destroying the oxygen pockets above the city. Restac decides that instead of negotiating, she’ll execute the intruders instead.
Amy and Mo find two warriors in suspended animation. They take their weapons and stumble across an army. In the church above, Ambrose learns about the poison running through Tony’s veins and starts to treat him. She demands an antidote from Alaya and attacks her with a stun gun. Rory tries to prevent Alaya from dying, but he is unsuccessful. Ambrose is remorseful.
The Doctor tells Nasreen about the history of the Silurians. Restac is surprised, but furious after she learns how humans have killed her kind in the past. When they reach the courtroom, Amy and Mo arrive but are soon disarmed. Restac dismisses Malohkeh and prepares to execute the prisoners. She contacts the humans above to negotiate for Alaya. When she’s unsuccessful, she threatens to execute Amy, but is stopped by Eldane.
Eldane is the Silurian leader, awakened by Malohkeh to stop Restac’s brash actions. The prisoners are freed and the Doctor negotiates a peace, asking the humans above to come down with Alaya. While the Doctor negotiates this temporal tipping point and appoints Nasreen and Amy as ambassadors, Ambrose encourages Tony to reactivate the drill on a timer in case things go wrong.
Mo is reunited with Elliot and the Doctor learns that Malohkeh has been researching humans for a long time. The Doctor apologizes to Elliot, and as they return to the negotiating table, Malohkeh investigates the opening of the cryo-storage facilities. Restac has been awakening the warriors. When Malohkeh discovers this, Restac kills him.
The humans arrive and share their bad news. The Doctor tries to patch things but Ambrose is defiant. At that moment, Restac arrives and finds out what happened. Ambrose reveals that the drill is set and Restac orders her troops to open fire. The humans run with Eldane and end up cornered in a laboratory. The venom in Tony’s blood is reprogramming his DNA, the Doctor and Nasreen develop a plan to destroy the drill, and Eldane decides to use a toxic fumigation to stop Restac’s coup.
The Doctor asks Eldane to set his hibernation chambers to awaken everyone in 1000 years, and then asks the humans to spread the word as religion or rumor. Tony decides to stay behind when he learns the Silurians can cure his wound. Nasreen also opts to remain with Tony, thanking the Doctor for helping her fulfill her dream of seeing the Earth. They will awaken with the Silurians in 1000 years. Everyone else runs for the TARDIS.
When they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory spot another crack in time. The Doctor reaches into the crack and pulls back a piece of shrapnel from the temporal explosion. Restac crawls onto the scene and takes aim on the Doctor, but Rory jumps in front of the blast and dies.
Amy is frantic but the Doctor has no choice but to leave. The crack absorbs Rory and as the Doctor starts the TARDIS into motion, he pleads with Amy to remember Rory before he’s erased from time. She tries, but the TARDIS is jostled as it lands and her concentration is broken. Everyone on the TARDIS rushes outside just in time to see the drill destroyed.
The Doctor tells Ambrose to make up for her actions by raising Elliot to be the best of humanity. The Doctor and Amy return to the TARDIS, and Amy waves at future Amy across the way. She thought she spotted someone else but cannot be sure. As Amy enters the TARDIS, the Doctor takes a look at the shrapnel he pulled from the crack.
It’s a piece of the TARDIS.
This story took the whole ride, from humor and lightheartedness as the Doctor screws up yet another beach trip, to the excitement of revisiting a classic enemy, to the absolute tragedy of killing a companion.
Not just killing a companion, but erasing them from all existence. It was brutal and Amy’s reaction was gut-wrenching. Rory joins Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, Kamelion, K-9, Astrid Peth, Adelaide Brooke, and River Song in an elite and morbid club. Of course, we had to know it was coming as soon as the Doctor emphasizes that the negotiations were a temporal tipping point instead of a fixed point. It also gives a bit of hope that Rory will return somehow.
(Yes, I know he will.)
The return of the Silurians was a welcome touch, especially since we haven’t seen them since 1984, as was the direct nod to the Doctor’s previous attempts to negotiate peace between them and humans. With Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Sea Devils, and Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor has tried (and failed) to broker peace.
The costuming was superb, echoing back to the armor and net-like garb of previous Silurian appearances. Even more impressive was actress Neve McIntosh and her double-duty performance as both Alaya and Restac. Both characters were unique in appearance and (most importantly) personality. She was magnificent.
The Matt Smith era also continues its tradition of recycling plot points and calling back to franchise touchpoints: the earth was also hungry in Frontios; mining and drilling were critical in both Inferno and The Green Death; the Master used an energy barrier to cutoff a village in The Dæmons; Rory unknowingly duplicated Jenny’s sacrifice in The Doctor’s Daughter; the gravity bubble returned from Victory of the Daleks; the Silurians used the heat ray weapons from Warriors of the Deep; and the Fifth Doctor also called celery an “excellent restorative” in The Caves of Androzani.
The message of this story is also important. We should all aspire to be the best humanity has to offer.
Also, spread the word. As of last year, the Silurians will return in the next millennium.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.