Here are a few thoughts about The Hungry Earth:
Ooh look, some things I enjoyed!
- Hello Wales! I know they're in Wales every week, even when they claim they're not, but removing the pretence gives me the comforting sense that I could almost be watching Torchwood. It also helps that Tony the grandad was Screams-For-Twenty-Hours-A-Day Guy in Adrift.
- A relatively well-developed supporting cast, for once! Nasreen clearly has a craving for fully-fledged companion status and I think she'd be pretty good: she's got a sense of adventure, she's certainly open to the concept of a crisis-induced snog and she fearlessly twangs the Doctor's braces with no worries about nipple-chafing at all. Sadly I now fear that she'll die heroically in the second half (her goodbye to Tony sounded like tempting fate to me), but maybe I'll be wrong.
- Silurians! And by happy coincidence, it's a branch of the species that looks a lot less silly than earlier versions. They now resemble the Jem'Hadar, but Deep Space Nine makes me happy so no complaints there. The facemasks struck me as a bit silly, but I guess they're a time- and budget-saving measure for crowd scenes (cf. Sontaran helmets). Shame about Alaya's odd accent: I couldn't make up my mind if it was meant to be a reptilian excess of spittiness or Neve McIntosh's natural Scottishness poking through.
- Not a lot of Amy. Well, a lot of leg, but not a lot of her presence generally. I'm afraid I didn't really miss her. It did, however, amuse me when she threatened to kick a Silurian's backside. Do Silurians have much in the way of bumcheeks, I wonder?
- Bloke-who-fell-down-hole was relatively hot and the Silurians thoughtfully unbuttoned his shirt so we could get a better look. Hooray. Less fortunately, they also made a big slit down the middle of him, but hey, at least it was a relatively neat scar and I have to take my visual pleasures where I can in these tough times.
Less keen on these bits, though:
- The very start, which was a mix of Casualty-style "bad thing about to happen to innocent bit-part actor!" foreshadowing combined with a not-very-subtle plug for dyslexia awareness. Hey kids, books are great, but don't forget that listening to them is just as educational as reading them. Does this count under the Beeb's public service remit?
- Future!Rory and Future!Amy turning up to wave at themselves. Is this going to be significant, or is it just a two-minute bit of script-filler?
- Rory is still... there. Honestly, I barely notice him most of the time. He's only there to ask obvious questions and tend to minor injuries.
- Ambrose (little Elliot's mum) being one of those "well-meaning but obtuse" antigonistic characters that is usually there only to cause deferred plot conflict, and the Doctor stumbling right into her firing line by stupidly forgetting about the small boy. Fortunately, the boy seems brighter than both of them so he'll probably have dismantled the whole Silurian civilization by diplomatic means by the time his mum gets around to wielding Chekhov's cricket bat in anger.
- At the start of this episode, the BBC announcer chirpily declared "The Doctor's going down!" and I immediately sniggered and imagined the Daily Mail getting all hot and bothered about it. Then when the TARDIS landed, I realized that he really was planning on going down - to Rio.
- "Why can I still hear drilling?" - Cue the sound of several thousand Eddie Izzard fans yelling "Cats!"
- That Silurian lady should watch out, what with the Doctor telling her she's beautiful and all that. Don't believe him, love! He's only after your prehensile tongue.
- Coincidentally, I was inspired to do a lot of singing this week. Firstly, when the Doctor did his own tribute to the Cramps' Sunglasses After Dark. Then later, when the surgically masked Silurian shambled towards Amy with his dastardly implement, I burst into a chorus of Be A Dentist. I suppose a filk version would have to be called "Be A Reptile": "Come, be a reptile / We have a talent for turning folk green! / Yes, be a reptile / First we will lick you, then take out your spleen... "
Overall: my expectations were pretty darn low, but this was a competent and fairly entertaining episode. And considering that it's a two-parter, there's been relatively little in the way of filler so far, which is good. Still, there's plenty of time for everything to go wrong in part two, but if we all keep our fingers crossed and look on the bright side, maybe the plot won't fall down the same big dark hole that everything else has tumbled into...