Doctor Who and the Silurians

"The Silurians" redirects here. For the fictional race themselves, see Silurian (Doctor Who).
052 Doctor Who and the Silurians
Doctor Who serial

A Silurian
Directed by Timothy Combe
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Produced by Barry Letts
Incidental music composer Carey Blyton
Production code BBB
Series Season 7
Length 7 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 31 January 1970
Date ended 14 March 1970
← Preceded by Followed by →
Spearhead from Space The Ambassadors of Death

Doctor Who and the Silurians is the second serial of the seventh season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in seven weekly parts from 31 January to 14 March 1970. The story is the first appearance of the Silurians. The title is sometimes reduced to The Silurians.


An experimental nuclear power research centre built into a network of caves in Wenley Moor is experiencing mysterious power drains and mental breakdowns amongst staff. UNIT is called in to investigate, and the Third Doctor and Liz meet Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at the plant. One of the workers is found dead with giant claw marks on his body, and his companion's mind has been traumatised to the extent that he can only scrawl primitive cave drawings of reptilian creatures on walls. Lawrence, the Director, resents UNIT's presence and feels that it will interfere with the working of the plant, which is trying a new process to generate nuclear electric power. Dr Quinn, the Deputy Director, argues with Miss Dawson, his assistant, when she protests that they should stop "them" from taking the power. Major Baker, the security chief, believes there is a saboteur in the centre, and the Doctor discovers that the logs of the nuclear reactor's operation have been tampered with. When the Doctor makes his way into the caves, he is attacked by a dinosaur-like creature before it is called off by a strange whistling sound.

The Doctor takes samples of the blood from when he fired at the creature and finds similarities to "higher reptiles". In the meantime, the creature goes to the surface and stumbles into a barn to hide. Quinn goes into the caves to a hidden base, where he demands the knowledge he was promised. He is told that he must first help the wounded creature and is given a signal device which emits the sound heard earlier.

The creature is discovered by a farmer and his wife and attacks them. The farmer dies of a heart attack, but the wife survives and identifies her attacker. While investigating the barn, Liz is knocked unconscious by the creature, and it flees. The Brigadier and the Doctor follow the creature's tracks and find they end in tyre marks.

The Doctor goes to Quinn's cottage and notes that it is remarkably hot, like a reptile house. Breaking into Quinn's office, the Doctor finds a globe that depicts the Earth's continents as they were 200 million years ago along with notes about the Silurian era of Earth's history.

When the Doctor goes back to the cottage to reason with Quinn, he finds him dead. The Doctor retrieves the signal device from Quinn's body and is surprised by the wounded Silurian. The Doctor tries to talk to the creature, but it runs away. Looking for answers, Baker enters the caves and is captured and interrogated by the Silurians about the strength of humans. The Doctor and Liz follow his route and open the entrance to the Silurian base with Quinn's signal device, where they find him in a locked cage. They leave to inform UNIT, but not before they see a Silurian being revived from hibernation by a machine, explaining the energy drains that the reactor has been experiencing.

Meanwhile, Masters, the Permanent Under-Secretary in charge of the centre, arrives, and Lawrence complains to him about UNIT's interference. The Doctor tells them about the Silurians in the caves, urging peaceful contact. However, this falls on deaf ears when Miss Dawson reveals that Quinn was killed by the Silurian he held captive. The Doctor goes to warn the Silurians, but they put him in a cage. The older Silurian tells the Doctor how their race retreated underground when they saw the Moon approaching Earth millions of years ago. The hibernation mechanism malfunctioned, and they did not revive until a new power source was discovered. A young Silurian orders Baker infected with a virus before he is released. An older Silurian releases the Doctor, giving him a canister of the virus so he can discover a cure. The younger Silurian kills the older one for this act. The Doctor reaches the centre and warns everyone to stay away from Baker, who collapses with the virus. Masters, however, decides to return to London, unaware that he has been infected. Baker is taken to a local hospital and dies.

The Doctor returns to the centre to work on a cure. Masters, in the meantime, has reached London and eludes the search parties looking for him. The virus spreads, and deaths begin. The Doctor finds a cure, but the Silurians attack the centre and stun him with their third eyes, taking him away. Liz discovers the formula for the cure, and it is soon mass-produced and distributed. The Silurians, however, intend to use a weapon to destroy the Van Allen Belt and make the Earth's environment hostile to humankind, and they want to force the Doctor to use the reactor to provide power to the weapon.

The Doctor overloads the reactor and tells the younger Silurian that the area will be irradiated for at least 25 years. The Silurians re-enter the caves to hibernate until the danger has passed. Since the mechanism is faulty, the younger Silurian will stay awake to operate it and sacrifice his life. The Doctor and Liz, meanwhile, repair the reactor, and go to the underground base, where the younger Silurian realises he has been duped into sending his race back to sleep. He attacks the Doctor in a rage but is shot by the Brigadier.

Later, the Doctor tells Liz that he proposes to revive the Silurians and try to reach a peaceful compromise between them and humanity. However, the Brigadier has other orders, and the Silurian base is blown up. The Doctor is horrified at this act of genocide, but Liz suggests that the Brigadier was acting on orders of his superiors.


This story marks the first appearance of the Doctor's yellow vintage car, Bessie.[1] The Doctor remarks in this episode, "You know, I'm beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life — and that covers several thousand years." This comment adds to the many conflicting ages for the Doctor provided in the television series over the years.

The term "Silurian" is never actually used by the creatures themselves; only by humans and the Doctor. Its use resulted in many letters from scientists and geologists who argued that it was impossible for a reptilian lifeform to have existed in the Silurian period. The Doctor places the Silurian "200 million years ago", around 200 million years too recent. In the later The Sea Devils, the Doctor admits that the name "Silurian" is inaccurate and states they should more properly be called "Eocenes", again an unlikely candidate for the creatures' own era. Both names are mentioned in "The Hungry Earth", along with the more generalised "Homo reptilia". The Virgin New Adventures, beginning with Love and War refer to the creatures as Earth Reptiles for the most part. Ben Aaronovitch's The Also People calls them Indigenous Terrans.

The Sea Devils, the aquatic cousins of the Silurians, would appear in The Sea Devils (1972). The Sea Devils and the Silurians return in Warriors of the Deep (1984). In Warriors of the Deep both they and the Sea Devils use "Silurian" to refer to themselves.

The Virgin New Adventures novel Blood Heat features an alternate universe where the Doctor died in captivity during the events of this serial and Earth was subsequently conquered by the Silurians. The Virgin Missing Adventures novel The Scales of Injustice is both a sequel to this story as well as a prequel to the events of Warriors of the Deep. Other novels in both series, such as The Also People and Happy Endings, reveal that at some point the Silurians will be revived and successfully integrated with human society. The Silurians also appear in the Big Finish Productions audio play Bloodtide, which explains why they did not wake up from hibernation and what role they played in human evolution. They also appear in UNIT: The Coup (given away free with Doctor Who Magazine #351) and attempt to create a peace with mankind, with the aid of General Lethbridge-Stewart.


After the previous story, producers Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant (who was originally to have the producer's credit on this story) were transferred to the television series Paul Temple, and the BBC intended for Barry Letts to become producer. However, Letts was committed to another production, and could not be released until after the location work on Silurians was completed. Script editor Terrance Dicks and his assistant Trevor Ray shared the production responsibilities for the location work.

The incidental music for the serial was composed by Carey Blyton, who would also contribute music for Death to the Daleks (1974) and Revenge of the Cybermen (1975).

This story is the first to be recorded using colour studio cameras. The previous serial, Spearhead from Space, was the first in colour, but was shot entirely on location (i.e., outside the electronic TV studio), and on film (as opposed to videotape, the standard method for recording Doctor Who). Due to the move to colour, the production team made use of a technique known as Colour Separation Overlay (CSO, or Chroma key), which allowed images to be superimposed over each other using colour separation.[2] This was used extensively in the series for many years, beginning with this serial.

Location filming took place at Marylebone station in London on 12 November 1969, but after the prints were damaged, the scenes were reshot on 24 November after the rest of the serial had been finished. Other location work was undertaken in Surrey, with the heathland scenes filmed at Hankley Common.[3]

Alternative titles

This was the only time the name "Doctor Who" was used in the title of a serial on-screen (although Episode 5 of The Chase was titled "The Death of Doctor Who" on-screen and at the end of The Gunfighters, the caption read "Next Week Doctor Who and the Savages"). Although it was common in production paperwork to prefix "Doctor Who and..." to the story title at the time, the prefix was usually dropped when the director ordered the titles from the captioning department for transmission. However, this was not done for this particular story.[4]

The reasons this happened are not entirely clear. Director Timothy Combe states that he was presented with a story called Doctor Who and the Silurians and that it was always intended that the serial go out with that name. However, as Doctor Who historian Andrew Pixley points out, this was Combe's first serial as a full director and there was effectively no producer at this time, as noted above. In addition, the rehearsal scripts for the serial simply have The Silurians as the title. Pixley theorises that Combe was unaware of the standard production practice and gave the order to the captioning department for the "proper" title, as he believed it to be at the time.

Whichever the case, production paperwork from this point on stopped the practice of adding the prefix, perhaps as a measure to prevent the "mistake" from happening again.[5]

Cast notes

Actor Paul Darrow would return to the series playing Tekker in Timelash, and he also appeared in the audio play The Next Life.

Geoffrey Palmer who played Masters also appears in The Mutants and in "Voyage of the Damned".

Peter Miles later played Professor Whitaker in Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks. He also played Tragan in the radio drama The Paradise of Death and Gantman in the audio play Whispers of Terror.

Norman Jones had previously appeared as Khrisong in The Abominable Snowmen and would later play Hieronymous in The Masque of Mandragora.

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
"Episode 1" 31 January 1970 (1970-01-31) 24:15 8.8 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 2" 7 February 1970 (1970-02-07) 23:08 7.3 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 3" 14 February 1970 (1970-02-14) 23:16 7.5 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 4" 21 February 1970 (1970-02-21) 25:00 8.2 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 5" 28 February 1970 (1970-02-28) 23:58 7.5 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 6" 7 March 1970 (1970-03-07) 24:15 7.2 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 7" 14 March 1970 (1970-03-14) 22:55 7.5 PAL colour restoration

The restored episodes were repeated on BBC2 on Tuesday evenings from 7 December 1999 to 25 January 2000, with a two-week gap between episodes three and four. Episode six was shifted to Thursday 20 January.[8]

Mark Braxton of Radio Times wrote that the story had "quality in spades", especially in the location filming, and that the story was "gritty" and "provocative" with "fine character actors". He praised the design and the voice-acting of the Silurians, but felt their rubber costume on-screen made them come across as "silly". Braxton was also disappointed with other production "shortcomings", such as the "cheap-looking" cave set, the dinosaur, and "Carey Blyton's electro-bagpiped Silurian theme".[9] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn wrote that it "keeps a snappy pace throughout thanks to Malcolm Hulke's well-plotted script". He noted that both the monsters and the humans were more complex than previously seen on Doctor Who. Like Braxton, he also felt the serial was "badly served by the Silurian costumes, which are terrible even by the standards of low-budget, 1970s TV".[10] DVD Talk's John Sinnott noting that some parts were "a bit slow" due to the length, but it was a "mature" story where Pertwee defined his Doctor. However, Sinnot felt that John was still trying to find her character's place, and did not have much chemistry with Pertwee.[11] Den of Geek gave a positive review of the serial, writing that "the production is only marred by its excessive number of episodes compared to the story it had to tell ... and an often-appalling 'medieval' score by experimentalist Carey Blyton".[12] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed Episode Six's cliffhanger as one of the best in all of Doctor Who.[13] Anders listed the serial as a good example of the early Pertwee years, calling it "pretty fantastic" with enemies who "aren't just one-dimensional baddies" and the length "somewhat justified by a harrowing subplot where a plague starts killing people all across London".[14]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters
Author Malcolm Hulke
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
17 January 1974
ISBN 0-426-10292-4

A novelisation of this serial, written by Malcolm Hulke, was published by Target Books in January 1974 under the title Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters. In this adaptation, the Silurians were given names like Morka, Okdel and K'to. The novelisation gives extensive background to the reptile culture, including a prologue featuring their hibernation beginning. Large parts of the novelisation are told from the reptiles' point of view and there is an extensive back-story given to several characters including Quinn and Major Baker (called Barker in the novelisation). The novelisation avoids referring to the reptiles as Silurians (the word turns up as a UNIT password) but identifies the dinosaur in the caves as a tyrannosaurus rex. The novelisation was also translated into Dutch, Finnish, Japanese and Portuguese. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by actress Caroline John was released on CD in September 2007 by BBC Audiobooks.

Home media

The original 625-line PAL videotapes of the serial were wiped by the BBC for reuse, although they retained 16 mm b/w film recordings. In 1993, the colour signal from a 525-line NTSC version of all seven episodes (except for part of the beginning of episode four) was used, along with colourisation techniques, to colourise the film prints for the VHS release, which was in July that year. In October 2006, the story's original soundtrack was released on CD as part of the 'Monsters on Earth' tin set, again alongside The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep, with linking narration from Caroline John.[15] The CD was then individually re-issued in January 2008.

On 14 January 2008, a fresh restoration of the story was released on DVD as part of the boxed set called "Beneath the Surface", also including The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep (the black-and-white prints and off-air colour recordings were combined, with the colour prints distorted to reduce fringing and both prints processed with VidFIRE to restore video sections to 50 unique fields per second, rather than 25 frames per second, with no motion information between the two fields corresponding to each frame). The story was then released on DVD again in 2013, included in a set paired with The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood (a two-part Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith story from 2010), in 'The Monster Collection' series, specifically The Silurians entry.


  1. "The Silurians". BBC. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  3. "Now and Then" BBC DVD documentary, 2008
  5. Andrew Pixley (2006-06-30). "Re: The Doctor Who Serial Titles Debate". Outpost Gallifrey (registration required). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  6. Siegel, Michael H. "Doctor Who and the Silurians". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  7. Sullivan, Shannon (2008-05-21). "The Silurians". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  9. Braxton, Mark (21 September 2009). "Doctor Who and the Silurians". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  10. Bahn, Christopher (18 December 2011). "Doctor Who And The Silurians". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  11. Sinnot, John (27 June 2008). "Doctor Who — Beneath the Surface". DVD Talk. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  12. "Doctor Who: Beneath the Surface Review". Den of Geek. 7 January 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  13. Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  14. Jane Anders, Charlie (30 August 2012). "Old-School Doctor Who Episodes That Everyone Should Watch". io9. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  15. "Monsters on Earth @ The TARDIS Library (Doctor Who books, DVDs, videos & audios)". Retrieved 2013-10-09.
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