I fondly recall watching this classic Doctor Who storyline as a teenager in the 1980's and being utterly blown away by its moral complexity. Decades have passed, I'm older and a fair bit more jaded, and it still blows me away! The somewhat unusually titled "Doctor Who and the Silurians" is perhaps one of the most intelligent stories penned for what is typically a very well-written series, and this in a manner cleverly conducive to the tale's good old thrills & chills and general entertainment value. If anything demonstrates that a show can be sophisticated and fun at the same time, this does in style.
Part of what makes this one so great is that it takes one of the most tired clichés of sci-fi and turns it on its head. Reptilian invaders? Well, sort of, except for the fact they were here first. The eponymous Silurians evolved on Earth millions of years ago and developed a highly advanced civilization before an impending catastrophe drove them to seek shelter underground, waiting in suspended animation for the disaster to blow over. The inevitable malfunction keeps them slumbering much longer, until an experimental nuclear power plant built into the caves of England's countryside circa 1970 jolts some of them awake and they start preparing to take their planet back regardless of the johnny-come-lately hominids that seem to have taken their place. The premise alone is incredibly imaginative and astutely draws upon some of the latest geological theories of the day while providing the crux of the story's mature complexity: there are no absolute good guys or bad guys here, only conflicting interests who through mutual fear, suspicion, misunderstanding, and xenophobia both end up tragically resorting to violence rather than the compromise and coexistence the Doctor tries and fails to broker between them.
Speaking of the Doctor, it's hard to believe that this is only Jon Pertwee's second story in the role. He's already quintessentially the third Doctor: dapper, dashing, and dynamic, delightfully sarcastic with petty authority, an eccentric individualist incongruously stuck with a hierarchical military organization. The camaraderie and conflict between him and the Brigadier is well depicted, and the clash between one's martial pragmatism and the other's principled idealism (both understandable under the circumstances) propels the plotline forwards and gives the conclusion its forlorn sting. The Doctor's assistant, Liz Shaw, is more than just a pretty face here, but one can see her scientific expertise already slipping inexorably to the back burner despite the production staff's best intentions. Last but not least, a great variety of supporting characters with memorable personality quirks and motivations all add essential twists and turns to the story's tragic progress, and a strikingly bizarre soundtrack (sounding like a schizophrenic mix of Stravinsky and Javanese Gamelan music) gives it an unforgettably appropriate eerie ambiance.
In short, "Doctor Who and the Silurians" is every bit as excellent as I remember, and it looks even better. The version I saw in the '80's was patched together from color and black & white episodes, while for this DVD all seven episodes have been painstakingly restored--in full color as originally intended and as sharp an image as possible under the chancy circumstances of its survival. Of course, the Silurians appeared a bit more convincing in monochrome as I recall, so the gain in authenticity and quality is ironically somewhat of a mixed blessing. But to expect a BBC production in 1970 to display the whiz-bang special effects of today would be unrealistic folly in the first place. Instead I would suggest losing yourself in this adventure's consummate science fiction storytelling at its best, then your imagination will do the rest.
P.S. As fate would have it, this was not the last time the Doctor would try to referee between two sets of Earthlings, reptile and mammal, and "Doctor Who and The Silurians" can be purchased together with those later two adventures conveniently in one set: Doctor Who - Beneath The Surface (Doctor Who And The Silurians / The Sea Devils / Warriors Of The Deep).