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12 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 801: The Hungry Earth

Dear diary,

Ooh, I love the title of this episode. It’s that great line from Frontios, isn’t it, about the Earth being hungry? I bet anything that somewhere along the line either Steven Moffatt or Chris Chibnall had that in mind when it came to putting this one together. Like Day of the Moon, its one of those titles that really just chimes with me as being perfect. Speaking of which, this is the episode when I first decided that Matt Smith was a perfect casting choice for the Doctor. It wasn’t actually the episode which convinced me, but rather the production of it. I’ve mentioned before that I tried very hard to avoid spoilers for this particular series, but the one bit that I did end up seeing was a short clip (no more than a minute or two) of Matt Smith pacing up and down outside the church used in this episode, obviously trying to learn his lines. It was being shared all over Facebook, and I ended up watching it. Instantly, there’s something just so right about the way he moves. Little movements he makes with his hand, the look he gives when he’s trying to concentrate… oh, all of it. From that moment on, we were in safe hands.

And I love the way that the Doctor is written in this episode. This is perhaps the first time all series that he’s really been presented as being a madman, and that’s largely because he’s been thrown into a situation where his regular companion is taken away from him very early into the narrative, and he’s left to try and prove himself to her boyfriend and a group of strangers who quite rightly think he’s mad. The only thing which does feel like a missed opportunity is making not of just how young he is in this incarnation - it would have been interesting to see that as yet another obstacle that he has to overcome.

As for the episode itself, well this morning I couldn’t have told you a thing about it. Nothing. Nada. I knew it was ‘that Silurian two-parter’ from Series Five, but I couldn't have told you anything of the story. As the episode went on, though, I found more and more of it coming back to me, and I found myself rather liking it, on the whole. Oh, it’s not close to being a stone-cold ‘classic’ (and I’m not sure it has the atmosphere yet that prevailed the original Silurian origin story), but there’s enough in here to enjoy. The introduction of the threat is nicely dealt with, and there really is a feeling of tension as they rush to set everything up in the short amount of time they’ve got (although we’ve got the same problem here - though not on the same scale - as with Victory of the Daleks: we’re told there’s only x number of minutes remaining, 12 in this case, and they get a lot done in that time. I get that making it such a short time frame is what helps to ‘up’ the tension, but I can’t help think that it would have felt a little more believable had they had a half an hour or so…?)

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