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10 June 2010 @ 08:51 pm
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood  
I actually thought The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood was surprisingly good, but it must be said I was working from fairly low expectations. Those expectations were that I've considered Chibnall's work on Torchwood to be, broadly speaking, a bit dumb and that The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood seemed to be generally coded as one of NuWho's "Big Dumb Two Parters" (i.e. an early to mid-season two parter, featuring a (preferably classic series) monster with a focus on adrenaline and effects over anything more substantial). On that basis I think this two parter stood up pretty well, both in comparison to Chibnall's other work and in comparison to other NuWho big dumb two parters. It does fall apart if you start to poke it with a stick, but I felt no real compulsion to do so while I watching and was content simply to be entertained.

For the classic Who fan this story was clearly riffing on the seven episode long Pertwee story, The Silurians, in which the Doctor's attempts to broker a peace between the humans and silurians is thwarted by the warmongers within both races. It was written by Malcolm Hulke, arguably one of the most gifted writers to work on Doctor Who, whose stories are typified by a reluctance to use out-and-out villains and monsters and, often, by a strong anti-military antipathy. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood more or less retells this story but supplies a more upbeat ending and avoids Hulke's use of racial memory induced madness (which, it must be said, I have always been a little dubious about, irrespective of its dramatic effectiveness). Much like my thoughts on Victory of the Daleks' reworking of Power of the Daleks I see no real harm in reusing the framework of a tale from forty years ago, especially when its generally regarded as one of the classic stories of the series. I certainly think the story benefitted from giving its monsters a sympathetic point of view, even if its inherited knee-jerk response to militarism and violence was less successful.

I could pick a lot of holes in this story but the biggest and most central problem, and one that typifies many of the others, is that Alaya's death makes no difference. The central core moment of the two parter should have been Ambrose's murder of Alaya and Restac's discovery of the fact and, indeed, the acting and direction seem based on this premise but, in fact, no one does anything they wouldn't have done anyway as a result. Restac has already committed to a military solution and Eldane's commitment to peaceful co-existence is unaffected by the reveal. Although, in what I suspect is a failure in the editing suite, it actually came as a surprise to me to discover that Eldane had opted to run with the Doctor's faction rather than remain behind with Restac.

Leaving aside plot illogic, lil_shepherd has pointed out that this is a story which portrays women as, essentially, illogical and violent while men are the voices of authority and reconciliation. Restac, Alaya and Ambrose typify this approach and are contrasted with the Doctor, Rory, Eldane and Tony. Even Nasreen is shown rejecting Eldane's suggestions for co-existence, apparently out of hand, until persuaded otherwise by Amy. In some ways, I wish this was a deliberate theme. Although objectionable, an exploration of that old cliche about women protecting their young/families would at least have been interesting and clearly distinct from the 1970s version of this tale. Sadly I expect this is, in fact, merely a rather unfortunate consequence of a desire to provide "strong" female characters, a superficial grasp of what that means, and the inherited antipathy towards the military mind-set. Of all these characters Ambrose comes off worst. I find it hard to imagine a mother, desperately clutching at straws to save her family, would so easily end up killing the one bargaining chip she had for securing an exchange of hostages, especially once she's been told, multiple times, that this bargaining chip is the only hope her family have. Would it have been so hard to motivate her actions a little better? For instance by giving her reason to believe that her husband and son were already dead?

However, a positive side-effect of the deliberate hawk/dove split of the characters was a much more satisfying portrayal of Rory. In place of the comedy ineptness of Amy's Choice we got a story that show-cased the strong aspects of his character without making him into some super-intelligent action man. It even hinted at ways his background as a nurse could have been usefully used. I was sorrier to see him go at the end of Cold Blood than I would have been if his death had taken place at the end Amy's Choice.

Despite the lack of logic, I found myself pretty entertained by The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood as it unfolded. The pacing kept everything trundling along, and the divisions within the humans and silurians kept everything interesting. I had a lot more time for this, while watching, than I did for much of Torchwood. It would be tempting to suggest that where the story is working it is because of the long shadow of Malcolm Hulke but I'm not sure the answer is as simple as that. I wonder if Chibnall is actually more at home producing tales for a `family' audience than for an `adult' one. One of the most widespread criticisms of Torchwood has been that its interpretation of adult storytelling was, broadly speaking, adolescent. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood seemed a lot more comfortable with itself than Chibnall's other work and while there was still a fair amount of dumb on display, it was much less obvious than in Torchwood and didn't, in my opinion, detract nearly so much from the basic entertainment value of the two episodes. Moreover this marks an ambitious (if arguably unsuccessful) attempt at a type of story-telling missing from much of NuWho in which there are no out-and-out villains and the drama unfolds because of a multitude of individuals following their own agendas and beliefs about the correct course of action. That this should be happening in a "Big Dumb Two-parter", I find all the more impressive.


This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/7936.html.
 
 
 
lukadreaminglukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
It does fall apart if you start to poke it with a stick, but I felt no really compulsion to do so while I watching and was content simply to be entertained.

What have you done with the real Louise? *g*

I gave up after about half an hour of the The Hungry Earth and haven't been back since . . .
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
Honestly, except for the absence of James Murray, the Hungry Earth/Cold Blood could beat It's Alive and, I expect, Phoenix Blue, into touch blind-fold and with both hands tied behind it's back.

Obviously I realise the absence of James Murray and, in particular shirtless and/or wet James Murray, is a major drawback.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
A *major* drawback! I don't want to see the new doctor either shirtless or wet, thank you *g*.

And I really do think you must wash out your mouth with soap and water, madam *vbg*.

I can't tell you why the new series hasn't gelled for me. It almost feels like Matt Smith is 'playing' at being the Doctor. I think he will grow into it, but it's not grabbing me at the moment.

I liked the idea of the WW2 Daleks ep, but thought there was too much tell and nowhere near enough show. I've never rated Chibnall anyway. And I must be one of the few people in the universe who was left cold by the weeping angels!
louisedennislouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I've liked what this series is doing but mostly on a fairly cerebral level. I can't honestly say, I'm passionate about it.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I'm rather disappointed that it has stopped being a must-watch for me. I wanted to watch every ep that Christopher Eccleston did, and only missed one David Tennant ep. Now it's kind of a shrug . . .
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
Also, obviously, being better than It's Alive, isn't a high bar to clear.
lukadreaminglukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
It's Alive was better than Avalanche! Slightly *g*.
louisedennis: paddinglouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
I'm avoiding obtaining anything that might be described as "horrified fascination" about Avalanche.

Alice excepted, have any of the Primeval actors ever been in anything that could actually be described as good?

Come to think of it, that answers itself, can we restrict ourselves to Ben Miller's oeuvre next time we meet up?
lukadreaminglukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
Heh! Some of JM's stuff is OK. Cutting It was quite fun. And Mark Wakeling was in The Wind That Shakes the Barley, although that's hardly a bundle of laughs.
louisedennis: primevallouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
I'm fairly sure the only Mark Wakeling stuff I've seen is that angel thing (which is, admitedly, extremely funny) and that dodgy gay porn film which you've never even let me see enough of to start worrying about the plot...
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mysteriousaliwz on June 10th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mysteriousaliwz on June 10th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
reggietate: john_tolinreggietate on June 10th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
Alice excepted, have any of the Primeval actors ever been in anything that could actually be described as good?

Psychos, in the 1990s, and Collision last year - Dougie. And several of his early films aren't bad, despite the long hair :-)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mysteriousaliwz on June 10th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mysteriousaliwz on June 10th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 10th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - louisedennis on June 10th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fredbassett on June 10th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lukadreaming on June 10th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reggietate on June 11th, 2010 04:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
reggietate: river-doctorreggietate on June 10th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
I was pleased to see the Silurians back, even if they were a different ethnic type, but I wish they'd done something different with them. I quite enjoyed it overall. The underground city was impressive, too. And the two-parters do at least give the opportunity of a bit more depth to the story.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
In principle I don't have a problem with them retreading old ground with them like this. Especially if they decide to use it as a springboard to do something more interesting with them in future rather than less interesting ("Hi there! Sea Devils").
inamac: Dalekinamac on June 10th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
I see no real harm in reusing the framework of a tale from forty years ago, especially when its generally regarded as one of the classic stories of the series

On the whole I'd prefer to see someone take one of the real clunkers of the old stories (Horns of Nimon, anyone?) and turn that into something worth watching. But this season is very much an Old Who homage, so I have hopes.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 10th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
Thinking about it, none of Who's "mythology retread" stories were served particularly well first time around (Nimon, Underworld, Time Warrior) and its a very rich vein that you'd have thought modern writers could have a lot of fun with.