Doctor Who and the Eocenes

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Screen capture of the TV title sequence.  However, not a single Silurian, living or dead, appears in the novelization of this story.

Title: Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters
Televised as: Doctor Who and the Silurians
Written by: Malcolm Hulke
Teleplay by: Malcolm Hulke
Published in: January 1974
Chapters: Thirteen through Nineteen

Interesting fact: The continuity announcer at the end of Episode 7 of Doctor Who and the Silurians (on the DVD version, at the end of the included trailer for the next story, The Ambassadors of Death), states that the next program is “The Debbie Reynolds Show”. I watched this just a few hours after the announcement of Debbie Reynolds’ death. As if watching Episode 7 of The Silurians wasn’t depressing enough on its own…

I’ve now spent two posts talking about the first half of Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters. One hallmark of a Malcolm Hulke novelization is that he spends a lot of time on set-up, and very little time on resolution. That’s certainly true here.  Hulke places the TV Episodes 4 and 6 cliffhangers literally in mid-sentence –which is either very lazy or very clever writing. Episode 5 ends in mid-chapter. Episodes 6 and 7 take up just a dozen pages each in a 158-page book– a far cry from the lavish page-count spent on the earlier episodes of the story. And all of this material, Episodes 4 through 7, is radically different in the book compared to TV.

One significant change is the way Dr. Quinn leaves the story – on TV, found dead by the Doctor, who then tries to initiate peace talks with the Silurian that killed him. Also on TV, the Doctor tries to conceal the news of Quinn’s death, knowing that the humans will overreact, and not wanting that news to permanently pre-empt mankind reaching an agreement with the Silurians. In the book, though, the Doctor learns of Quinn’s death only when the rest of us do, later on, before he’s ever met a single Silurian.

Two humans enter the story after Quinn leaves it: Travis, another base technician, and Masters – no, not a thinly-veiled pseudonym for a goatee’d space-villain, but in this instance a sympathetic but doomed bureaucrat as played by Geoffrey Palmer on TV. In the book, though, Masters is a stuffy MP, and far less sympathetic. And Travis, a smirking male on TV, in the book is “Miss Travis”, whose sole purpose (at first) is to fetch coffee for the visiting Masters.

Beginning with the Episode 5 material, Hulke shifts the narrative away from the humans, and begins to tell the story from the Silurians side. Although he doesn’t call them Silurians. On TV, he called them Silurians in this story, and Eocenes in The Sea-Devils two years later. Neither term is right, if the Silurians are 65 million years old. So in the book, they’re just called cave-monsters, and the three main monsters are given individual names: Okdel (“Old Silurian” on TV), Morka (“Young Siilurian”), and K’To (“Silurian Scientist”).

On TV, the portrayal of the Silurians hasn’t aged well – they were all men in baggy rubber outfits and all voiced by the same actor, Peter Halliday. The New Series has given us a much different spin on what Silurians look and sound like. But in the book, liberated from rubber masks and ring modulators, Hulke gets right to the dramatic essence, and focuses on the philosophical rift between Silurians young and old, Morka and Okdel:

“We have cities,” said Okdel, “great domed cities in valleys waiting for us to return.”

“No,” said the Doctor. “This must be hard for you to understand, but there is no trace of your civilization on this planet. The Earth’s crust is always moving. You are fortunate that this shelter has not been crushed to pulp by some internal movement of the crust.”

Okdel seemed deeply affected to learn that his civilization had completely vanished. “Nothing of us has been found?”

“No,” said the Doctor. “Only some fairly small versions of your animals – the lizard, the crocodile, and the snake.”

Okdel swayed slightly from one side to another, and from the depth of his throat there came a gentle whining sound. The Doctor thought this must be the reptile man’s way of showing grief. Then a single drop of liquid slid from one of Okdel’s eyes. The old reptile man was crying.

“I am very sorry,” said the Doctor. “It must be sad to realize that you are so completely forgotten.”

And Hulke, the old socialist, also doesn’t miss the chance to engage in some misty-eyed discussion of a Star Trek-ian present:

“If your plan is acceptable to the other species,” said Okdel, “it would be understood that we are the superior race?”

“I am sure that the humans could learn to treat you with great respect,” said the Doctor. “But these days people don’t talk about superior and inferior races. Everyone is equal.”

Imagine.

Morka is a vicious character on TV, unleashing a plague meant to wipe out the human race, likened in the novelization specifically to the Black Death. Hulke starts off by identifying with him in the book – unlike on TV, here Morka is the Silurian wounded by Barker who then wanders about Wenley Moor. But Hulke also makes Morka an even more vengeful Silurian after his wounding in the book, unleashing the T-Rex on the Brigadier’s trapped soldiers, and also influencing a human soldier, Private Robins, to leap to his death into a bottomless pit. There was a Private Robins in Episode 5 on TV who briefly fell under the Silurian’s spell, but he didn’t die at Morka’s telepathic hands.

(Of course, there’s also a funny bit of business about the Brigadier trying to salvage telephone cable from a rockfall in the caves, to spare “an investigation into the waste of public money”… mankind may not have reached equality yet, but Hulke is still right about the peculiar priorities of bureaucracy.)

Okdel’s murder by Morka and K’To is also given an added beat of pathos here, as it ends Chapter 15 (in a way that most of the TV episode’s cliffhangers didn’t get to end chapters):

Okdel saw the two third eyes before him turn to a brilliant red. The pain raced through his old limbs. For a moment he remembered himself as a tiny reptile baby, breaking out from its egg. Then his mind went blank and he was dead.

Once the infected Major Barker is released by the Silurians and returns to the Wenley Moor research center, Hulke increases the tension beyond what we saw on TV, by having all of the humans (except Liz) stubbornly refuse to believe the Doctor about the now-released plague; Hulke also makes it much more obvious that Masters is ill, a point which the characters on TV (including the Doctor) were too thick to grasp when Masters escaped to infect the outside world…

Although the Brigadier doesn’t come out of the story looking fabulous – Hulke portrays him as a narrow-minded soldier, missing the warmth and inquisitiveness that characterized him in the novelization of Spearhead From Space released the same month – Hulke also does include one moment of charm for the Brig:

Finally, he knew, you could always settle an argument by appealing to the Doctor’s vanity. It was a little human-like quality that the Doctor had, and was one of the reasons why the Brigadier liked him.

One human character who fares better in print than on TV – and only one – is the center’s Director, Dr. Lawrence. On TV, he’s played with obstinate pinheadedness by Peter Miles; however he’s absent for much of the book, and meets a different end. On TV, he was the one character who refuses to accept that the plague is real, declines his antibiotic injections, and dies horribly in Episode 6, but Hulke omits him from that plot thread (instead stating that the character comes to believe in the Doctor), and gives him a heroic death standing up to the Silurians when they finally invade the research center in Episode 7.

While most of the characters who die on TV also die in the book (even if in slightly different ways), one unlikely survivor is Captain Hawkins, who dies onscreen in Episode 7 in roughly the same way that Lawrence did in the book. Except, although Hawkins survive sthe book, he’s also demoted to Sergeant (as he was initially scripted to be by Hulke before production began). The onscreen Sergeant (Hart) features only in Episodes 4 and 6 and also died on TV, and has no corresponding character in the book.

silurians-3

Morka, or the Young Silurian, tries to prevent the Doctor from developing an antidote to the Silurian plague.

Speaking of character deaths, one of the plague victims on TV is a Marylebone station ticket taker, played by production team member Trevor Ray, who ghost-wrote Episode 1 of  The Ambassadors of Death. Ray saddled Hulke with the unflattering nickname Hack Mulke, as is recounted in the DVD text commentary. Perhaps Ray resented his death scene in this story, or perhaps he resented Hulke finishing off the rewrites for Ambassadors in his stead. Terrance Dicks, an old friend of Hulke, also briefly cameos on screen in Episode 6, but doesn’t die.

In lieu of the long sequences of Londoners falling victim to the Silurian plague (including Ray) that comprised much of the running time of Episode 6 on TV, Hulke replaced that for the book with two short scenes portraying the death of Masters. One scene takes place on a train, which is put into a siding when the Brigadier orders the train halted, but Masters uses his influence to bully his way out. In the second scene, Masters hires a local cabbie, named Jock Tangye, to drive him the 90 minutes to London. Jock, who’s only in the book, is a delightful pastoral cabbie, who expresses real frustration about London traffic; after Masters dies in his back seat and Jock desperately tries to flag down the many disinterested passing motorists, Hulke even puts in an observation about how Londoners just don’t like talking to other people.

Jock of course was later awarded his own long-running spinoff, a beloved TV series about a pastoral cabbie who has to ply his trade in the big bad city, and who reluctantly partners up with a known ex-con with a heart of gold… oh wait, no, Jock catches the plague from Masters and also dies. No spinoff. Too bad.

It’s notable when watching Episode 7 that, after the Doctor has been kidnapped by the Silurians, Liz is able to correctly identify the Doctor’s plague antidote formula, out of a choice of several crumpled up bits of paper. In the book, though Liz is still not a scientist, and manages to identify the correct formula only by accident. The one illustration of Liz in the book doesn’t even resemble Caroline John.  If you want to read a more well-rounded portrayal of Liz, you’ll have to stick to Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion.

On TV, Pertwee resolves the story’s climax midway through Episode 7 by bluff: he forces the Silurians to retreat back into their caves by overloading the Wenley Moor reactor, and then single-handedly reverses the damage. But in the book, the Doctor doesn’t know how to reverse the damage, and Hulke gives him a boost from… Miss Travis, the coffee-serving technician from the Lawrence/Masters conference. Miss Travis activates the failsafe to avert a meltdown, and then retires from science to go work in a bank. This gives Miss Travis lots of agency (sort of), but doesn’t solve the problems inherent in reducing Liz Shaw to a mere cipher.

The action continues after this bluff on TV; Pertwee returns to the base and tries to reason with the Young Silurian, but is attacked for his troubles, and is rescued only by the Brigadier, who pumps the Young Silurian with a hail of bullets. It follows that the Brigadier blows up the caves, but under orders from the Ministry of Science, and without Liz’s prior knowledge. The book ends much more abruptly, with only one short chapter (The Lie) following the reactor business. The Doctor drives off in a huff after the Brigadier blows up the caves, with Liz attempting to support the Brigadier’s decision; on TV, the Doctor laments the loss of life, but in the book he laments the loss of scientific knowledge.

Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters is a remarkable book, but a quite different experience than the TV episodes. It stands as one of the better-written, and better-remembered, novelizations. However, it’s a very downbeat and cynical book, and, after spending seven days with it, I certainly found myself longing for a light-hearted change of pace.

Next Time: Guess I’m not getting one – the very next book is a Malcolm Hulke political saga of outer space colonists oppressed by an enormous mining corporation. Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon will not exactly be a laugh-a-minute experience either.

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About drwhonovels

An incredibly languid sojourn through the "Doctor Who" canon, with illustrations from the Topps 1979 baseball card set.
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8 Responses to Doctor Who and the Eocenes

  1. Cameron Dixon says:

    I have two theories on how the Silurians got that name:

    (a) Their civilisation is much more ancient than we thought, over 420 million years old rather than a mere 65 million, which is why Quinn would have made several names for himself using their knowledge to completely rewrite our understanding of the development of life on Earth.

    (b) They’re originally from southeast Wales.

  2. drwhonovels says:

    (C) They’re a distant cousin of the Usurians. They’re both green, they both use comedy voices (Peter Halliday, Henry Woolf), only the first 2-3 letters of their name are different, and “The Sun Makers” is clearly a Malcolm Hulke script with 45 minutes of multi-vehicle chase scenes deleted.

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