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Doctor Who and the Silurians

Production Code: BBB

First Transmitted

1 - 31/01/1970 17:15

2 - 07/02/1970 17:15

3 - 14/02/1970 17:15

4 - 21/02/1970 17:15

5 - 28/02/1970 17:15

6 - 07/03/1970 17:15

7 - 14/03/1970 17:15


Summoned by the Brigadier to an underground research centre at Wenley Moor, the Doctor and Liz Shaw learn from its director, Dr Lawrence, that work on a new type of nuclear reactor is being hampered by inexplicable power losses and by an unusually high incidence of stress-related illness amongst staff.

Investigating a nearby cave system, the Doctor discovers it is the base of a group of intelligent reptiles, termed Silurians, who went into hibernation millions of years ago but have now been revived by power from the research centre.

The Doctor strives for peace between reptiles and humans and manages to gain the trust of the old Silurian leader, but then a rebellious young Silurian seizes power and releases a deadly virus that threatens to wipe out humanity.

The Doctor finds an antidote, but the Silurians retaliate by taking over the research centre and preparing to destroy the Van Allen Belt, a natural barrier shielding the Earth from solar radiation harmful to humans but beneficial to reptiles. The creatures are tricked into returning to their caves when the Doctor overloads the reactor, threatening to cause a nuclear explosion. The Brigadier, to the Time Lord's disgust, then has the Silurian base blown up.

Episode Endings

The Doctor is exploring the cave system when he hears a roaring noise. He continues, and encounters the terrifying form of a supposedly extinct dinosaur.

Liz is examining the barn where an injured Silurian earlier attacked a farmer, Squire, and terrorised his wife. She turns and screams as the Silurian comes up behind her and knocks her to the ground.

The Doctor visits the cottage of research centre scientist Dr Quinn, whom he correctly suspects has made contact with the Silurians, and finds him dead. In the man's hand he discovers a device that, when activated, emits a bleeping signal. Suddenly the injured Silurian enters the room.

In the Silurians' base, the young Silurian returns to the cage in which the Doctor is being held prisoner. It tells him that it has destroyed the soldiers in the cave system and will now destroy him too. The creature's third eye glows and the Doctor's face contorts in agony.

The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive at the local hospital and find the research centre's security officer, Major Baker, lying dead outside - the first victim of the Silurian virus.

The Doctor is in the laboratory at the research centre, desperately trying to isolate an antidote to the Silurian virus. Suddenly the wall behind him scorches and melts and two Silurians break through. One of the creatures turns its third eye on the Doctor, causing him to collapse.

The Doctor and Liz are leaving Wenley Moor in the Doctor's vintage car, Bessie. The car breaks down, but the Doctor manages to get it started again. Suddenly they see a huge explosion in the distance. The Doctor realises with horror that the Brigadier has had the cave system blown up and thereby destroyed an entire race of intelligent beings. He rejoins Liz in the car and drives away.


Nigel Kneale, particularly the plight of the plague carrier (The Quatermass Experiment), the research establishment setting (Quatermass II) and the humans' terrifying race memory of the reptiles (Quatermass and the Pit).


Daphne du Maurier's 'The Breakthrough'.

The Midwich Cuckoos.

Dr. No.

The Avengers episode 'The White Dwarf'.

Whilst mending Bessie the Doctor sings the first few lines of Lewis Carroll's 'Jaberwocky' (Through the Looking Glass), and there is a reference to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Dialogue Triumphs

Dr. Quinn : The knowledge I shall gain is worth any risk!

Dr. Lawrence : This is the Permanent Under Secretary.

The Doctor : "Yes, well, I've got no time to talk to under secretaries - permanent or otherwise."

Masters : "May I ask who you are?"

The Doctor : "You may ask!"

The Doctor : "I'm beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life - and that covers several thousand years."

Dialogue Disasters

"She was found in the barn, paralysed with fear. She may have seen something."


The lizard men are not named as a species or as individuals (One is a scientist, but the leaders are unnamed, 'Old Silurian' and 'Young Silurian' only featuring in the credits). The Doctor calls them Silurians, after reading some of Dr. Quinn's notes [Quinn is a hopeless palaeontologist, as this would make the creatures between 438 and 410 million years old, contemporaries of the early fish. Quinn's globe, showing the world as it was 200 million years ago, is only a step in the right direction.

Miss Dawson calls them Silurians, too. [Small wonder the Doctor makes an implied criticism of Quinn in The Sea Devils. If the Doctor is right to call them Eocenes in that story then the creatures are between 53 and 43 million years old and contemporaries of the first hoofed animals. However, the first hominids did not appear until around 8 million years ago. Certainly, when the Eocenes ruled the Earth, the apes were primitive creatures.

However, Spencer's race memories stretch back to the time of early Homo Sapiens. The ancestors of the Eocenes must have survived the destruction of the dinosaurs (see Earthshock), which opened up great new evolutionary opportunities for them. Within 10 million years they had a civilisation, slowing down mankind's development in the process.]

Unfortunately for the Eocenes, a new menace arose: their astronomers spotted a small planet approaching, which would miss the Earth but possibly draw off much of its atmosphere. The Eocenes placed their entire race in suspended animation, but the technology proved suspect. The rogue planet became Earth's moon, but reactivation did not take place.

The Doctor is not aware of the Eocenes. He often calls them alien [figuratively]. They are cold blooded, with their technology keeping the underground base the correct temperature, and see in monochrome. With the exception of their 'deep freeze' units, and their high tech 'keys' and dinosaur control, little of their technology is seen. However, they do have a device to destroy the Van Allen belt, and it is implied that they can turn nuclear energy directly into electricity. They developed a deadly bacteria to protect their crops from the apes.

Their 'pet' is named as a Tyrannosaurus Rex only in the novel. [The arrangement of the teeth, the powerful arms (with three claws) and size imply a mutant or perhaps some species of allosaur or megalosaur, but it seems unlikely any would have survived to the Eocenes' time. Did the Eocenes find some dinosaur DNA, and create Eocene Park?]

Wenley Moor is an underground atomic research establishment, based around a cyclotron where protons are bombarded with subatomic articles. The aim is to produce cheap, safe electricity by finding a process to convert nuclear energy directly into electrical current. The energy released inadvertently woke some of the Eocenes in their base in the nearby caves.

Bessie (numberplate WHO 1) is seen for the first time.


Dating the UNIT Stories

UNIT Call-Signs

The Doctor's Age


Wenley Moor Atomic Research Station and surrounding area, [early Summer 1969].


This is the only instance in the series' history of an on-air story title beginning 'Doctor Who and...' (although The Savages, The Highlanders, The Underwater Menace, and The Moonbase were all referred to as Doctor Who and the... in the 'next episode' caption at the end of the preceding story's closing episode, and there would later be a BBC radio serial entitled, at the beginning of each episode, Doctor Who and the Ghosts of N Space).

The Doctor's yellow-liveried vintage car, nicknamed Bessie, makes its first appearance.

There is the first use in the series of Colour Separation Overlay - an effects technique, often known as Chromakey outside the BBC, whereby all areas of a camera image that are in a particular key colour (usually blue or, a little later, yellow) are electronically replaced with the equivalent areas of another camera image, giving a composite of the two. Examples in Doctor Who and the Silurians include the creation of a cave background and the presentation of an image of Major Baker on a screen in the Silurians' base.

Paul Darrow, now better known for his role as Avon in the BBC science-fiction series Blake's 7, appears as UNIT's Captain Hawkins.

Fulton Mackay, now better known for his role as Mr Mackay in the classic BBC sitcom Porridge, plays Dr Quinn.

Well-known comedy actor Geoffrey Palmer appears as Masters.

There are non-speaking cameo appearances by members of the production team, including Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and, most prominently, Trevor Ray (who plays a ticket collector struck down by the Silurian virus), in the location scenes shot at Marylebone Station in London.

Carey Blyton's incidental music is particularly distinctive.


The Silurians have a 'pet' tyrannosaurus rex. (The dinosaur featured in the story is unidentified but appears to be an allosaurus.)


The cyclotron stuff is passable, although marks are deducted for fusing the control of the neutron flow. Liz, on a possible antidote: 'Have you considered the addition of A37 in the presence of Z19?'


In the first episode Liz's skirt snags on her belt.

We briefly see a 'Silurian' zip in episode seven.

In addition to dire palaeontology (see Continuity), the protective properties of the ozone layer are wrongly attributed to the Van Allen belt.

Fashion Victim

Liz in an outrageous mini.

In episode seven, the Doctor sports a white T-shirt.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Liz Shaw - Caroline John

Captain Hawkins - Paul Darrow

Corporal Nutting - Alan Mason

Davis - Bill Matthews

Doris Squire - Nancie Jackson

Dr. Lawrence - Peter Miles

Dr. Meredith - Ian Cunningham

Dr. Quinn - Fulton Mackay

Hospital Doctor - Brendan Barry

Major Baker - Norman Jones

Masters - Geoffrey Palmer

Miss Dawson - Thomasine Heiner

Old Silurian - Dave Carter

Private Robins - Harry Swift

Private Wright - David Pollitt

Roberts - Roy Branigan

Sergeant Hart - Richard Steele

Silurian - Pat Gorman

Silurian - Paul Barton

Silurian - Simon Cain

Silurian - John Churchill

Silurian - Dave Carter

Silurian Scientist - Pat Gorman

Silurian Voices - Peter Halliday

Spencer - John Newman

Squire - Gordon Richardson

Travis - Ian Talbot

Young Silurian - Nigel Johns


Director - Timothy Combe

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Hedden

Costumes - Christine Rawlins

Designer - Barry Newbery

Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton

Film Editor - Bill Huthbert

Incidental Music - Carey Blyton

Make-Up - Marion Richards

Make-Up - Teresa Wright

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - Ralph Walton

Studio Sound - John Staple

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Jim Ward

Writer - Malcolm Hulke

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'The Brigadier won't listen to reason. Maybe the Silurians will.' This is an engaging story, making good use of its extra episodes and resources (including scenes of people succumbing to the bacteria around Waterloo station) The music, however, sounds like a computerised kazoo.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'Spearhead from Space provided a more than adequate foundation for this new era [of] Doctor Who,' observed Chris Dunk in Oracle Volume 2 Number 9, dated June 1979, 'but Doctor Who and the Silurians was just as important in its own way. The new format had to be built upon, enlarged and firmly established. Time also had to be allowed for the Doctor to [cement] his forced alliance with UNIT and to modify his character to suit his new existence. For the first time in many, many moons he [finds] himself to be not quite the top dog...'

There was, in short, a great deal riding on the success of Doctor Who and the Silurians. Fortunately all concerned rose to the occasion and came up with a great story that fully exploits the considerable potential of the 'Earth exile' format. 'The plot was not one I would associate with either of the... two [previous] Doctors, somehow,' continued Dunk. '...The basic premise was a good one... and one long overdue for examination in Doctor Who.'

The story keeps the viewer glued to the screen throughout, giving the lie to the oft-made assertion that any longer than four episodes are bound to sag. It is expertly structured and highly intelligent too, raising some real moral issues, and writer Malcolm Hulke has rightly been almost universally praised for his scripts, including by Gordon Roxburgh in Matrix Issue 6, dated May 1980:

'"In science-fiction there are only two stories. They come to us, or we go to them." [So] said the late Malcolm Hulke. However, for the Silurians story [he] wrote what must be one of the most novel ideas ever in the [series]. A "they come to us" story with a difference... they've always been here!.'

'Tim Combe was an excellent choice [of] director,' wrote Michael Kenwood in Skaro Volume Three Number One dated October/November 1982. 'He [cast] and brought out the best in several excellent actors while still remaining adept technically, this [being] obvious from several superb pieces of photography. Among my favourite [parts] were the shots of the sun after the wounded Silurian emerged from the darkness of the caves, and the horrific scenes of Londoners dying off in their droves...'

Dunk, although being in the minority in feeling that the story failed to hold up over its full seven episode length, also thought that it contained many highly effective sequences: 'The very first scene has to be classified as brilliant, with the sudden and brutal death of the pot-holer in the caves... [and] the spreading of the virus first through England then all across Europe was also extremely worrying and entertaining while it lasted.'

The representation of the effects of the virus is much aided by some excellent and disturbing make-up by Teresa Wright, particularly in the case of Dr. Lawrence. A scene in which Lawrence, very well portrayed by Peter Miles, lunges across his desk to attack the Brigadier is particularly shocking, and unusually violent even for this period in the series' history. Just as the final battle between UNIT and the Autons in Spearhead from Space paralleled that between UNIT and the Cybermen in The Invasion (even down to being shot in a similar way at the same location), so the scenes of people dying of the plague in Doctor Who and the Silurians recall those of people succumbing to the Cybermen's hypnotic signal in that sixth season serial, so serving to confirm its status as a template for the early part of the third Doctor's era. If anything, however, the effect is even more dramatic this time around.

The Silurians themselves, although perhaps not amongst the top flight of the series' monster races, are nevertheless competently realised and memorable. 'While simply men in rubber suits,' said Kenwood, 'and with slightly loose masks at that, they looked very effective in the darkness of the caves... The voices, however, were not the best that have been heard in the [series]...' Ken Tod, however, writing in TSV 25, dated October 1991, puts the case for the defence: 'The actors playing the Silurians do a very good job and the voices by Peter Halliday are excellent.'

Jon Pertwee has clearly settled into his role as the Doctor by this point, and gives an assured performance. The BBC's Audience Research Report on the story's closing episode recorded that amongst contemporary viewers the actor 'was again warmly praised, several adding that they preferred his playing of Doctor Who to that of his predecessors: "Not bumbling like the others, much more modern and sensible", one of them wrote.'

Caroline John as Liz Shaw meanwhile proves to be a very good foil, far removed from the naïve young companions of the past. The Brigadier and UNIT are also at their peak here; and it is on the morality of their actions in destroying the Silurian base that attention is focused as the story builds to its excellent climax. 'There was a sense of urgency in the last few episodes,' noted Roxburgh. 'Eventually the Silurians had to be tricked into returning to their underground shelter but the Doctor alone, as we would expect, still thought that man and Silurian could live in peace. We could feel the sadness he felt as the caves were blown up, the anger boiling inside him at losing the chance to find out.'

The overall impression given by the BBC's Audience Research Report is of a rather mixed response. Over two-fifths of the sample of viewers responded 'warmly', and considered that 'a well contrived "surprise" ending had made "a fitting climax to a thrilling serial"'. Some of those who reacted 'less whole-heartedly', however, thought it 'a rushed and "rather tame and routine" finish to an otherwise "exciting and at times frightening tale"'. One commented that the Silurians 'gave in too easily', while others complained that the episode was 'slow and lacking in action'. As usual, a small minority clearly found little to enjoy in Doctor Who, holding it to be 'far-fetched rubbish'.

The fact that the series had undergone a change of format now seemed to be registering, but opinions on this development were again divided. 'I preferred this serial to many of the earlier ones,' noted one viewer, 'because one is more interested in a possible threat to this world one lives in, than some unknown planet as so often featured in Doctor Who.' Others, however, 'did not think the present story as effective as previous series, some obviously regarding an Earthbound Doctor Who as less exciting than the space traveller. They also said that the story had seemed slow in places and overlong, several judging it "ridiculous" and the "monsters" far too unrealistic or, alternatively, it had become "too adult now". Although some said that they did not regard Doctor Who as entertainment for adults, more commented that it made suitable viewing for all age groups.'

'This has got to be one of the best Pertwee stories,' judged Stephen Haywood in Capitol Spires Issue 2, dated July 1993. 'It has everything... strong, diverse characters all acting in believable and consistent ways; a threat to mankind which, without the Doctor, probably could not be diverted; and, of course, the Silurians, a truly inspired creation on the part of Malcolm Hulke.'

< Spearhead from SpaceThird DoctorThe Ambassadors of Death >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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