22/5/10 “The Hungry Earth”
Amy: “Have you always been this disgusting?”
The Doctor: “No, it’s a recent thing.”
A two-parter with potential, but we’ll see how it goes. I feel glad that I saw “The Silurians” first as I have something with which to compare it (though obviously it’s not necessary). The setting is Cwmtaff, South Wales 2020, and no matter where it was actually filmed (possibly the Wye Valley; possibly near Merthyr Tydfil), a wave of homesickness for Swansea washes over me. Anyway, Jamie was the first to note that, with scientists rejoicing over “drill depth achieved!”, it’s “Inferno” all over again. “Onwards and downwards,” declares the happy and excited Tony Mack, who will always be Mr Allen from Master and Commander to me; his colleague Dr Nasreen Chaundry is similarly pleased. They declare a good weekend to all and go home, as Tony’s son-in-law Mo arrives for the night shift (having left behind wife Ambrose—what the hell kind of name is that?—and son Elliot, who prefers to listen to books on headphones—how 2020). Unfortunately, poor Mo gets sucked into the ground at the drill site, which Jamie immediately declares to be much more effective than Colin Baker being dragged into the ground by hands in Trial of a Time Lord.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, believing themselves to be going to Rio for Carnavale (a reference to Loups-Garoux, I wonder?), instead are persuaded to stay in Cwmtaff because the Doctor thinks “the ground feels strange.” As he runs off to investigate, Rory chides Amy for wearing her engagement ring—“Amy, you could lose it.” As he goes to return the ring to the TARDIS, he tells them he will “catch them up.” Instead, he gets nabbed by Ambrose, who assumes he’s CID and asks him to investigate disappearing graves (I seem to recall a similar case happened in the West Indies many years ago). The Doctor is also interested in the graves because there are patches of “blue grass.” “The ground’s attacking us,” he says, with suitable menace. “Stay away from the earth, Amy.”
He and Amy eventually come to the drill site where Nasreen and Tony give way; the investigation is stopped by more holes appearing and Amy getting sucked underground. This could be presented as an extremely hair-raising scare (I can imagine children could be affected to the point they don’t want to go out into the garden!) but the moment is over pretty quickly. “Tell Rory . . .” Amy says before she disappears—the focus becomes on getting the vanished people back alive. Elliot quotes Sherlock Holmes to Rory; the Doctor shoots a slingshot into a dome (rather like the one in The Simpsons Movie!)—that seems quite appropriate somehow. The Doctor chides Nasreen and Tony for assuming that the appearance of the blue grass is a big “X marks the spot.” “Trace minerals not seen in this country for 21 million years.”
The Doctor, Rory, Nasreen, Tony, Ambrose, and Elliot have to hole up in the church, as the sole inhabitants of Cwmtaff over the weekend (convenient but possible), as it goes dark. “I want the whole area covered with sensors,” declares the Doctor. “No weapons—it’s not the way I do things,” he tells Ambrose, but somehow I feel she’s going to be like Miss Dawson from “The Silurians” and have a vested interest in killing all the non-humans. Elliot tells the Doctor he wants to move to a big city. “Did you get away?” he asks the Doctor. “Yes.” “Do you ever miss it?” “So much.”
The lights go, the power fails; left defenseless against something coming up out of the ground, Tony grabs Nasreen and kisses her. “Tony!” “Like you didn’t know.” In the confusion, Elliot is left outside (dumb). “He’s out there on his own!” I think if I was Elliot, the anticipatory fear would have killed me long before anything else got me. Elliot does get taken, but the Doctor and Rory manage to take a hostage of their own. The Doctor is gleeful and stands in for a fanboy: “I know who they are.” In a rather Signs¬-like atmosphere, the Doctor goes to interrogate the hostage, a “remnant of a bygone era on Earth.” The Doctor, like fandom in general, can’t seem to decide on what to call his hostage—Silurian, Eocene, or Homo Reptilian—so he asks for her name, which is Alaya. “I do hate a monologue,” says the Doctor, as his warrior Homo Reptilian refuses to cooperate. The drilling disturbed the “Tribe,” now the Tribe are going to wipe out “the apes.” (This scene would have been really interesting if the Ninth Doctor were to take the Eleventh’s place.) “There’s a peace to be brokered here,” insists the Doctor. Alaya is willing to die for her people; “what will you sacrifice for yours?”
The Doctor, with some of the frustration of the Third Doctor, tries to keep tensions appeased. “They’re not aliens . . . They’re only as evil as you are.” One feels sure this doesn’t exactly wash with the others, even though the Doctor tells them, “you have to be the best of humanity.” Rory is, of course, receptive but concerned about Amy; Nasreen is possibly a bit like Dr. Flowers from The Monsters Inside.
Amy, somewhere below the surface, is trapped in a claustrophobic space and is reenacting humanity’s worst nightmare of premature burial, before she’s gassed, anyway. I really like Nasreen. I was just reading an essay about how an older female companion for the Doctor (older meaning older than Donna) has been long overdue, though we’ve had some contenders in the past (Todd from “Kinda,” Amelia Rumford from “The Stones of Blood,” Miss Hampden in “The Awakening,” not to mention Dr Evelyn Smythe). Nasreen is so excited by the Doctor’s knowledge and alien-ness, she even wants to go below the surface in the TARDIS with him to get the hostages back—true companion material (I hope that doesn’t mean she’s going to die). “This is . . . fantastic!” she says of the TARDIS interior. The TARDIS gets pulled through a vent shaft (?), and for me it’s like traveling in the Evelator in the New Mexico Natural History Museum down through the Earth and 65 million years back in time . . . “Why aren’t we burning alive?” Nasreen asks when they reach their destination. The Doctor is unsure, but they are rather cowed by the fact Alaya’s Tribe is actually a huge civilization. Not much of a cliffhanger, but there we go.