Doctor Who and the Silurians
Doctor Who and the Silurians was the second story in season seven of Doctor Who. It introduced several important recurring elements to the program, including Bessie, the Silurians and, behind the scenes, colour videotape recording and color separation overlay. The story is technically “missing” because those videotape masters were wiped. However, it is still viewable today because it was recorded to several different other formats.
Casting was notable for the first appearance of recurring Doctor Who guest actors Paul Darrow and Geoffrey Palmer, as well as noted actor Fulton Mackay’s lone turn on the program. Silurians also had an unusual number of crew cameos, with Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts and, most prominently, Trevor Ray showing up at the Marylebone station scene.
Due to a miscommunication with the graphics department who created the credits sequences, it was the only Doctor Who television story to have “Doctor Who” in the title. As such, it is often referred to simply as The Silurians, its originally intended broadcast title.
Two potholers, Spencer and Davis, make their way down a metal rope ladder into a cave with a remarkable amount of stalactites. Spencer is delighted at the sight of its majesty, but a loud roar spooks both of the men and incites them to find out where it came from. Spencer tries to take the lead, but Davis tells him to wait and remains in front. As Davis continues down a tunnel, another roar bellows from the distance. When rounds a corner, he is met with the hostile face of a reptilian creature. Davis shouts at the top of his lungs for Spencer, but is mauled to death. Spencer dashes over to find Davis’s body. He sees the creatures and runs away screaming.
In a UNIT garage, the Doctor is merrily working to restore a bright yellow vintage car, which he had been given at his request, humming the first lines of Jabberwocky. A license plate emblazoned “WHO 1” lays in front of him as he sits beneath the car’s undercarriage fixing its parts. Liz enters the room and calls for him. The Doctor doesn’t hear her, and continues to tinker away at his vehicle, which he has affectionately nicknamed “Bessie”, telling it to cooperate when it becomes a hassle to repair its chassis. Liz approaches the Doctor directly and gets him to emerge from underneath Bessie. She is skeptical to think he can get it running, but the Doctor is quick to defend his car, stating it has great character and he was very lucky to get it. The Doctor plans to take it for a test drive, though he seems to have left out a metal hoop, which he looks at with confusion. Unable to recognize the part, he tosses it aside. Liz informs the Doctor the Brigadier has an urgent message for the two of them while he’s away investigating scientists. They are to go to Wenley Moor forthwith to attend a meeting. Seeing it as beneath him to comply, the Doctor claims he’s too busy, and goes back to work on Bessie. However, Liz tries to make it sound like less of an order by noting that Wenley Moor is famous for its caves. Eager to give Bessie a trial run, he submits. The Doctor kisses his hand and plants it on Bessie’s radiator. Her engine starts and the car rumbles to life.
The Doctor and Liz ride off in Bessie to Wenley Moor to attend the scientific meeting with the Brigadier. Lawrence, the director, is speaking about the issues regarding their facilities. He resents UNIT’s presence and feels it will interfere with the working of the plant. One of UNIT’s soldiers notifies Lethbridge-Stewart that the Doctor and Liz Shaw have arrived and he leaves to meet them. The Doctor isn’t pleased to be called in for a simple meeting, but follows the Brig and Liz back to the conference room with the hope it was important.
Shortly after the trio enters to the conference room, Lawrence concludes the meeting. Brigadier introduces his colleagues to the director, Quinn his number two, and Major Baker station security officer. The group tells the trio they are at an experimental nuclear power for research center for a cyclotron; a proton accelerator. They are trying a new process to convert nuclear energy directly into electric power, built into a network of caves in Wenley Moor. It is experiencing mysterious power drains and a high incidence of mental breakdowns, absenteeism, and accidents. This has stagnated their research program and Lawrence refuses to let it continue. UNIT have been called in to investigate. Brigadier orders Baker to triple security, puts Liz in charge of the issues with personnel, and the Doctor is given charge of the scientific troubles. The Brigadier establishes the conference room as his working HQ so Lawrence will not complain that UNIT is interfering with the operation of the center. After all but Baker and the Brigadier have left the room, Baker confides to him that he believes there is a saboteur.
Quinn shows the Doctor and Liz the heart of the cyclotron. The Doctor is bemused to learn it is still being tested while power failures are happening. If one occurred at a critical time, when the machine was in use, it could incite a massive atomic explosion equal to a nuclear bomb. Quinn replies it is up to the director to shut down the cyclotron, whom the Doctor knows is being too stubborn to halt the research. Suddenly, Liz becomes dizzy and grips her forehead. The Doctor sees Liz in pain and voices concern. She says she is okay, then departs with research Roberts to see Doctor Meredith in the medical wing and examine her reports of personnel.
Quinn assumes his duties at a booth while the Doctor commends the scientists for constructing an underground accelerator. Quinn expresses his like of potholing to the Doctor because the caves intrigue him, but he isn’t so keen on the subject. Recently, one of the workers at the center was killed while exploring the caves with a companion on their day off. They’ve brought in Doctor Meredith from a local hospital to treat the survivor, who is still in sick bay. Quinn feels the status of his condition and what happened to him are being covered up. The Doctor grows suspicious. He asks if the power losses follow a pattern. When Quinn says the scientists think of them as random, the Doctor requests to look at the reports. Quinn hands over the log showing the power losses, then answers a phone call. The Doctor notices the log is incomplete, as though some of the data has been deliberately excised. Quinn summons Miss Dawson and asks who was responsible for maintaining the log. She states it was Spencer, the same man who has been kept in sick bay, leaving no one to update it. Despite this explanation, the Doctor finds it more complicated than the log falling out of date- he’s discovered some pages have been torn out entirely. Quinn and Meredith exchange troubled looks.
In the medical wing, Liz speaks to Doctor Meredith about the recent outbreak of mentally-affected patients, soon joined by the Doctor. He wishes to see Spencer, but Meredith won’t allow it; Spencer is due to be moved to the local hospital and the Doctor has no authority to warrant a visit. The Doctor briskly asserts his power as an associate of UNIT. Meredith concedes, but warns him the visit is at his own risk.
The group enters the sick bay to find Spencer scribbling with a marker on the walls. A member of the medical staff is supervising him, who walks out to allow Doctor Meredith to take over. Spencer has emerged from a coma and has previously tried to throttle Meredith. He’s left Spencer to mark up the room’s walls, since it’s all that keeps him quiet. The Doctor approaches him to see if he can communicate, with Liz warning him to be careful. He tries to speak to Spencer, but the man jumps and panics, immediately wresting his hands around the Doctor’s throat and forcing him down onto a cot. Liz and Meredith rush to subdue him, but the Doctor pries Spencer’s hands loose and quells his violent reaction. Spencer resumes his scribbling while the Doctor nurses his neck. He remarks that a great fear has caused his mind to regress millions of years back. His companion’s mind has been so traumatized that he can only scrawl primitive cave drawings of reptilian creatures on the wall of his ward room.
Off in a corner of the cyclotron testing room, Dr Quinn, the deputy director, argues with Miss Dawson, his assistant, when she protests that they should stop “them” from taking the power. Dawson pleads with Quinn to order the personnel to stop the testing, but he’s already tried and they have refused to listen, and the promise of potential knowledge gain has outweighed the risk.
The Brigadier and Baker discuss UNIT’s security clearance. Baker is disturbed to see central intelligence has no records of the Doctor. Lethbridge-Stewart claims the Doctor as his responsibility. Luckily, the Doctor returns to the conference room and Lethbridge-Stewart excuses Baker, giving him a chance to warn the Doctor he’s trying to run a security check. The two men try to make sense of the cave drawings Spencer has drawn, but are greeted by a power failure as a cyclotron experiment goes awry. The Doctor charges into the cyclotron testing chamber and learns it undergoing a dangerous rise in power. As the operators attempt to stabilize the nuclear reactions, they shut down two sectors. Roberts cannot get the third sector stablized. Suddenly he goes completely still. Dawson tries to get his attention, but he attacks her. The Doctor and Brigadier grab hold of him and rescue Dawson, then the Doctor manages to stabilize sector three.
The Doctor returns to Liz to check the medical patients’ records. There has been a startling outbreak of neuroses in the cyclotron room, where she previously felt ill. The Doctor thinks it doesn’t have anything to do with the cyclotron itself, but the caves. That room is deepest and closest to the cave systems, and he did not suffer illness like the others, leading him to believe the sickness affects only humans. The two look at the reports of Davis’s death. The dead worker’s wounds look like giant claw marks.
Now changed into suitable clothes for exploration, the Doctor makes his way into the caves, where he hears a loud roar and goes to investigate. He finds a cave hammer and a rope abandoned from the last expedition. He hears the roar again, only closer, and draws nearer to the sound until he is in the same place as the original attack. He almost leaves, but hears the roar directly behind him. He turns to see a dinosaur, and it instantly attacks him.
The dinosaur is called off by a strange whistling, and the Doctor returns. The Brigadier decides to explore the caves with armed men. Baker fires at a humanoid figure he spots in the caves. He is attacked by the dinosaur-like creature, but it is again called off by the same sound. The Doctor returns to the center with Baker, taking samples of the blood that was shed when Baker fired at the humanoid.
Examining the blood, the Doctor finds similarities to the “higher reptiles”. In the meantime, the humanoid has reached the surface and stumbles into a barn to hide. Quinn goes into the caves to a hidden base, where he demands the knowledge he was promised. He is told that he must first see to the wounded humanoid and is given a signal device which emits the sound heard earlier.
The humanoid is discovered by a farmer and his wife, and attacks them. The farmer dies of a heart attack, but the wife survives and—while admitted for shock at the local hospital—identifies her attacker to the Doctor. Liz, investigating the barn, turns to see a reptilian biped. She turns around and screams, but the creature knocks her unconscious.
The unseen humanoid flees. When Liz awakes, she tells the Doctor and the Brigadier, and the latter orders a manhunt across the moor, just as Quinn arrives at the barn. Making an excuse, he leaves and summons the humanoid with his device. The Brigadier and the Doctor discover the humanoid’s tracks, which end in tire marks.
The Doctor goes to Quinn’s cottage, and notes that it is remarkably hot, like a reptile house. Quinn replies that the thermostat is broken. Quinn does not react well to the hints the Doctor is dropping or to his veiled attempts to get him to co-operate, and asks the Doctor to leave. Breaking into Quinn’s office, the Doctor finds a globe that depicts the Earth’s continents as they were millions of years ago, which the Doctor identifies as during the Silurian epoch.
Back at the cottage, Miss Dawson tries to persuade Quinn to tell the Doctor everything, but Quinn is adamant that he will keep the wounded Silurian captive until he is given the advanced scientific knowledge he wants. Later, when the Doctor goes to the cottage to once again try to reason with Quinn, he finds the scientist slumped in his chair with his eyes half open. He checks for a heartbeat, but the man is dead. The Doctor closes Quinn’s eyes with his hand and spies a peculiar object tightly gripped in his fist. He gingerly loosens Quinn’s fingers around it and retrieves the object, the signal device. His curiosity piqued, he turns on the device, making it emit the whistling noise he heard before- without realizing the creature he’s been looking for is inside the house. It responds to the signal and emerges into the doorway. The Doctor turns around; his eyes go wild with shock as he watches a reptilian humanoid walking toward him.
The Doctor attempts communication, only for the Silurian to run away. Baker, still convinced that the answer lies in the caves, overpowers the UNIT man guarding the sickbay and enters them by himself. He is soon captured by the Silurians and interrogated as to the capabilities of the humans. The Doctor and Liz explore the caves following Baker’s route and open the entrance to the Silurian base with Quinn’s signal device, where they find Baker in a locked cage. He tells them that they must warn the surface.
The Doctor and Liz leave undiscovered, but not before they see a Silurian being revived from hibernation by a machine, explaining the energy drains that the reactor has been experiencing. Meanwhile, Masters, the Permanent Under-Secretary in charge of the center, arrives for a personal inspection, and Lawrence complains to him about UNIT’s interference. The Doctor decides to tell them all about the Silurians in the caves, urging a peaceful contact instead of the Brigadier’s proposed armed expedition. However, this falls on deaf ears when Miss Dawson reveals that Quinn was killed by the Silurian he held captive.
The Doctor goes to warn and reason with the Silurians, but they put him in a cage as well. An older Silurian seems to be willing to listen to the Doctor, but a younger one wants to destroy the humans and retake the planet. The UNIT troops soon find themselves trapped, with stone walls inexplicably appearing to block off their passage. The younger Silurian attacks the Doctor psychically with a glowing third eye.
The older Silurian sees what is going on and stops the younger Silurian. He tells the Doctor how their race retreated underground when they saw the Moon approaching Earth millions of years before. The hibernation mechanism malfunctioned, and they did not revive until a new power source—the nuclear reactor—was discovered.
The Doctor manages to persuade the older Silurian to release the Brigadier and his men, but the younger Silurian orders Baker infected with a bacteria before he is released. When the older Silurian discovers this, he releases the Doctor, giving him a canister of the bacteria culture so he can discover a cure. The younger Silurian kills the older one for this act.
At the center, the Doctor warns everyone to stay away from Baker, who collapses with the infection. Masters, however, decides to return to London, unaware that he has also been infected. Baker is taken to a local hospital without the Doctor’s knowledge and dies there. “The first one”, the Doctor grimly notes.
The Brigadier holds Baker’s doctor and nurse at gunpoint to prevent them from leaving and spreading the disease while the Doctor returns to the center to work on the cure. The Brigadier and Liz try to warn London, while all of the center’s staff are inoculated with a stopgap vaccine.
All, that is, except for Lawrence, who refuses. Masters, in the meantime, has reached London and eludes the search parties desperately looking for him. The illness begins to spread and the deaths begin, the infection even reaching France. Lawrence eventually dies from the bacteria, complaining in his last moments that the affair has ruined his career.
The young Silurian decides the Doctor must be killed before he finds a cure. The Doctor has indeed found one, and as he writes down the formula, the Silurians attack the center and stun him with their third eyes and take him away.
Liz, however, discovers the formula and it is soon being mass produced and distributed. The Silurians have a back-up plan, however. They intend to use a weapon to destroy the Van Allen Belt and make the Earth’s environment hostile to humankind, and will force the Doctor to connect the reactor to provide power to the weapon.
UNIT troops are lured into the caves and commence a battle with the Silurians while the younger Silurian takes the Doctor to the reactor control room along with Liz and the Brigadier. The Doctor, however, overloads the reactor and tells the younger Silurian that the area will be irradiated for at least 25 years. The Silurians disengage from the battle with UNIT and reenter the caves to hibernate until the danger has passed. Since the mechanism is faulty, the younger Silurian will stay awake to operate it and sacrifice his life. The Doctor and Liz, meanwhile, repair the reactor, and go to the underground base, where the younger Silurian realizes he has been duped into sending his race back to sleep. He attacks the Doctor in a rage, but is killed by the Brigadier.
Later, on Wenley Moor, the Doctor tells Liz that he proposes to revive the Silurians one by one and try to reach a peaceful compromise between them and humanity. However, the Brigadier has other orders, and the Silurian base is blown up. The Doctor is horrified at this act of genocide, but Liz tells him that the Silurians would never have agreed to come to terms. The Doctor, still disgusted, drives away.