'Doctor Who' - 'The Hungry Earth' & 'Cold Blood': Rory and the reptiles

A two-parter rewrites history and the season.

<p>The Silurian tries to bait Rory on &quot;Doctor Who.&quot;</p>

The Silurian tries to bait Rory on "Doctor Who."

Credit: BBC

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I decided to wait for the end of the latest "Doctor Who" two-parter before reviewing it as a whole. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I'm authorized to negotiate on behalf of humanity...

We're at a point in this particular season where I'm becoming more and more reluctant to do these reviews. It's not because the season hasn't been good - I've greatly enjoyed most of it - but that it's been more overtly arc'ed than most of the Russell T. Davies seasons (which laid little Easter eggs about the season-ending story throughout but largely did standalone episodes), and that therefore the gap between the UK and BitTorrent crowds and those who wait to watch on BBC America feels wider than ever, even though it's only a few weeks' difference.

In particular, while I'm only up to "Cold Blood," many of you have already seen how the show has (or hasn't) dealt with Rory being erased from history and Amy's memory. Even if you follow the spoiler policy and don't give specifics about what happens in the next few episodes, your comments about this episode and his death are going to be informed by what happened later. And I'd rather not have any idea of how things go next, but short of asking those of you who are ahead to leave (which I wouldn't do, and not just because you're probably the majority of online "Doctor Who" fandom), I worry there's not much to be done. So I may put these reviews on pause until we get to the end of the season and just do a long take on things then.

Right now, though, we're attempting to talk about "The Hungry Earth" and "Cold Blood," and I didn't really love them, either as parts ("Hungry Earth" in particular was all set-up) or a whole.

I came to the series with Davies and Eccleston, so the Silurians have no nostalgia value for me. My real problem, though, came with the story's human characters. Regardless of the showrunner or individual episode writer, one of the strengths of the modern series has been its ability to turn these one-shot characters into people we care about within a very short period of time. (Doing this means we feel bad when most of them end up being killed by that week's monster.) There's usually some kind of specific detail that functions as effective shorthand (that River Song's team in "Silence in the Library," for instance, had both "Proper" Dave and "Other" Dave), and while a bit of that was tried here by making the son dyslexic, nobody ever quite came to life. So the tension over who would live and die, and who might defy The Doctor and kill the Silurian, never quite worked.

So that left the final bit with the crack in the universe and Rory's death and subsequent erasure from existence to provide the emotional resonance I found lacking in the rest of the two hours. And while Karen Gillan and Matt Smith played the hell out of that sequence, it was hamstrung by the fact that the show had already "killed" Rory only two episodes earlier. Sure, the previous death was revealed as a dream practically from the moment it happened, but Rory's sacrifice still prompted an "Oh, this again?" reaction from me, which I doubt was intended.

Again, I will ask you to please try to focus discussion entirely on this episode and your reaction to it when you first watched it, irrespective of anything you've seen since. Depending on how this goes, and what I think of next week's Richard Curtis-scripted outing, I may have a review of "Vincent and The Doctor," or I may sit things out for the next few weeks until the finale.

What did everybody else think?

Alan-sepinwall-sm
Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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