Reverse The Polarity: The Hungry Earth, Cold Blood & Vincent and The Doctor Review

Posted by: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
06/14/2010 - 5:58pm | Updated: 3 years 33 weeks Ago
REVERSE THE POLARITY WITH DARREN BLACKBURN “The Hungry Earth," "Cold Blood” by Chris Cribnall “Vincent and The Doctor” by Richard Curtis.   Major Spoilers Ahead!   DOCTOR WHO As I'm a little late sending in this Polarity report -- work and all those kinda distractions -- I thought I'd wait and review three episodes to make up. Aren't I generous? So with Amy and Rory’s relationship on target, thanks to the Doctor's diversion into dreamland and Venice, Amy's still hankering to have some fun so next stop – Rio! Unfortunately the Tardis decides otherwise. Instead of the Sugar Loaf Mountain and scantily-clad beauties on Coco Cabana beach, it’s raining. South Wales. The village of Cwmtaff in the year 2020. Emerging from the time machine, the Doctor feels something is amiss, the ground feels wrong. Blue grass grows around grave markers in an abandoned church graveyard and two familiar figures are waving from the hillside. It seems Amy and Rory's future happiness is well and truly guaranteed. However, before you can say Blinovitch Limitation Effect, something else attracts the attention of the Time Lord: a big mining thing! This big mining thing in question is the Discovery Drilling Project and today is a momentous day for Professor Choudhry (Merra Syal) and her team have just set a new record for drilling 21 kilometres into the Earth’s crust. But before the champagne can be uncorked one of the team disappears down a mysterious vapour-filled hole in the ground! And that’s only the beginning because while the Doctor and Amy walk down the valley taking in the fresh air, Rory gets mistaken as a plain clothes policeman (sic) by local resident Ambroise and her son and finds out that some of the graves have been giving up their dead! And then things really go to ground when it seems the Discovery Project has disturbed something deep down below and they’re coming up for a long overdue visit. Chris Chibnall got a tough challenge here. How do you bring back an iconic 1970’s monster from the halcyon days of Jon Pertwee and update them for today’s audience? Well, let’s bear in mind the recent Dalek revamp was atrocious. Terry Nation must be still turning in his grave. Here, the monsters reintroduced are the Silurians (or Eocenes) or as creator Malcolm Hulke preferred them to be called, Homo Reptilia. Unlike the majority of Who monsters hailing from strange alien worlds, Homo Reptilia come from right here. They are Earth's original top race, technologically advanced. They were eco-forming our world living in harmony with nature while we were still swinging in the treetops. That was until a rogue satellite appeared which would cause massive environmental disaster leading to a potential extinction event. Fearing the end, the Silurians went into hibernation deep below, hoping they would survive. Well, they did; the satellite went into orbit around Earth and became our Moon. Hurrah, except the Silurians’ alarm clocks didn’t go off and they stayed dreaming about how naff the recent Tim Burton “Alice in Wonderland” film is. And while they did that, evolution carried on and the Earth gained a new top race -- us! The main concept of this two-parter echoes very much the original ‘70’s debut story, “The Silurians.” Here again, another “tribe” wakes up, factions decide that we “apes” don’t deserve to have our wicked way and want to reclaim the surface, while others want to go for peaceful co-existence. While on the other side of the argument, humanity doesn’t really like the idea of having to share our world with six-foot tall scaled reptiles who love wearing fishing nets. And the Doctor? Well he’s caught in the middle, hoping a peaceful solution can be found. Nobody dies today! This is very much a traditional Who tale; in fact Chibnall uses a lot of classic Who references -- setting a story in a mining village harks to “The Green Death,” the one with the big maggots, and yes! In Wales too. Another saving for the budget this year. It has another classic siege scenario as the Doctor and Cwmtaff’s inhabitants use the abandoned Church as a Sanctuary when the Silurians break to the surface. Earlier in part one, Amy isn’t so lucky; she gets eaten by the hungry earth and ends up becoming the viewer’s eyes in the Silurian city, one of the best CGI rendered effects this year. As for the new look Silurians, well, I miss the third “heat ray” eye they used to have but the new ones have a distinctive reptilian charm. Bill, I think you’ll love them as they have definite traits to your Veradinae! The make-up prosthetics are excellent and the casting of the actors brings them to life, especially actress Neve Campbell who plays twins! It’s touch and go through the story. Will peace prevail? Well, yes, it does, but not without cost! I won’t spoil here, but the last 10 minutes of “Cold Blood” will hit you with a sledgehammer as the ongoing “Crack in Time” arc comes back with a vengeance and there’s a significant development or two that starts the path leading to the opening of the Pandorica! All the cast are excellent as usual, although for once Matt Smith’s performance in the vital negotiations scenes were below par, saved by Karen Gillan. Merra Syal is good as Professor Choudhry who isn’t fazed by the Tardis’ inner dimensions and kudos to Chibnall for having a slight approach to dealing with the issue of Dyslexia. However the star for this is Arthur Davrill who plays amps up Rory’s character a thousand fold. Although good, this two-parter is more inconsistent than Moffat’s earlier tale. Inconsistencies such as can you really conduct a groundbreaking drilling operation with one bloke reading The Gruffalo? Where did all the surveillance tech and weapons come from in a deserted village that‘s obviously a victim of an ongoing global recession? Chibnall has a flagrant disregard for credibility at times, heightened by the idea of the Sonic Screwdriver as a weapon and often ill-conceived get-out clause. I’d hoped after the original got zapped in “Eleventh Hour” that the new one would be used sparingly. But alas this is one aspect of Moffat’s new reign that hasn’t let up. The sooner it gets swallowed by that crack, the better. Moving on. Another actor that deserves an award is Tony Curran who plays the most realistic visualization of one of history’s most famous artists: Vincent Van Gogh.  Following “Cold Blood,” :Vincent and The Doctor” by Richard Curtis (yes, he who wrote Blackadder, Vicar of Dibly, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, the list goes on) shows how versatile Doctor Who’s format as a drama show can be.