When David Tennant announced he was leaving Doctor Who at the end of 2009, the fandom was worried about who would replace him as the Doctor. Matt Smith, who was relatively unknown at the time, was announced as the Doctor a full year before the Tenth Doctor regenerated into the Eleventh. There were only 4 specials during 2009 instead of a full series, giving the new production team, lead by Steven Moffat, time to develop Series 5. It also allowed Tennant time to appear as Hamlet in a Royal Shakespeare Company production.
Series 5 premiered in April of 2010. It was the first time in the show’s history there was such a clean break: new showrunner, new Doctor, and new companion. Up until “The Eleventh Hour” there was always at least a companion who had traveled with the Doctor. River Song and the Weeping Angels returned for a two parter, and the Daleks were featured in one episode. But the highlight was the return of the Silurians who hadn’t been seen since 1984’s Warriors of the Deep, over 25 years before.
The Silurians had only appeared in a Third Doctor Story “Doctor Who and the Silurians” and the Fifth Doctor’s Warriors. Like most Classic Who aliens, they changed between their two appearances. In the new series, they changed again to a more humanoid appearance.
The Doctor, Amy, and her boyfriend, Rory Williams, arrive in a small Welsh village in 2020 where a drilling operation has dug deeper than anyone before. The drilling team unknowingly disturbed a group of Silurians who were hibernating over 20 kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth. They mistake the drill for an attack and venture to the surface, ready to reclaim the Earth as their own. Three Silurians appear and capture Amy as well as two of the villagers. The Doctor, Rory, and the remaining villagers manage to trap one of the Silurians. With each side taking hostages, it’s up to the Doctor to prevent a war.
At first the Doctor tries to talk to the Silurian captive, but she is hostile. So he decides to travel down to where the Silurians are to talk to them. Before he leaves, he implores to Rory and the villagers that the captive is not to be harmed. It’s the only bargaining chip they have to get Amy and the others back. Unfortunately tempers flare and one of the villagers zaps her with a taser, killing her. Despite the setback, the Doctor manages to keep the peace, inviting Amy and the leader of the drilling team to negotiate with the leaders of the Silurians. They agree that now would not be the best time for the Silurians to return to the surface and it would be better if they were to go back into hibernation.
I think if I had more Classic Who knowledge when I first watched Doctor Who, I would have appreciated this episode more at the time. Looking back I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as the Angel two parter or “Vincent and the Doctor” right after. There’s not a lot to the plot, except for the ending that ties into the Series 5 arc of the Crack. But now that I’ve seen more of the show, I can appreciate the effort. I definitely like the updated Silurian costume. I think the new makeup allows for more acting than the masks in the old versions. Neve McIntosh, who played the Silurian warrior twin sisters, has returned on multiple occasions to play Madame Vastra.