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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Hungry Earth”

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: “Amy’s Choice”)
The first time I watched this, I thought, This has no connection whatsoever to the ongoing crack-in-the-universe, problem-of-Amy Pond story. The second time around, I started seeing all sorts of clues to those matters. The third time around, I became convinced that this episode is the best evidence yet that everything since he landed in Amelia Pond’s backyard — perhaps everything since his regeneration — is all in the Doctor’s head.

The biggest evidence for this, I think, is the sequence that begins when the Doctor says they’ve got 12 minutes before whatever is burrowing up from far beneath the planet’s surface arrives. I don’t see how everything that is supposed to be happening in those 12 minutes can possibly actually happen. They’re down to nine and a half minutes when Rory, Ambrose, and Elliot join up with the Doctor, Nasreen, and Tony. Then they all bust into the church and set up their equipment, which apparently takes only a minute and a half, because when the Doctor sends them all out to gather up every device that can receive or transmit electronic signals, he says they’re down to eight minutes. All of this — “I want the whole area covered with sensors,” the Doctor says —

cannot possibly happen in one minute 20 seconds, but it must, because at 6:40 left, the Doctor tells Elliot, “I need a map of the village marking where the cameras are going.” Now, surely, it would take the kid at least a few minutes just to rustle up the paper and markers (never mind if the positioning of cameras were still going on) but at 3:23 left, Elliot is showing the Doctor his elaborate map.

Which means that they rounded up every electronic device, mounted all of them, and reprogrammed the computers to track those devices, in four and a half minutes?


At the same time, too, Ambrose is gathering weapons, which means she’s not available to be doing other work… except we do see her helping with that!

Compressed, the whole sequence takes seven minutes — which would mean that it takes more than half the time as the events it’s supposed to represent.

That can’t be right.

I also wonder about the Doctor’s interactions with Elliot. At one minute left before, apparently, all hell will break loose, he lets the kid run out to get his headphones. And maybe that’s just the Doctor being his usual selfish (in some ways) self, not paying attention to the needs of other people. But then, too, it takes way too long for Ambrose to realize her son isn’t there with them in the church. It’s almost like he’s an afterthought in the Doctor’s imagination.

This has been nagging at me, too, since Matt Smith’s arrival:

He wears his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist. Now, I know lots of people wear their watches like that, and maybe this is a Matt Smith thing rather than a Doctor thing, or maybe it’s just one more little indication of how he’s changed now that he’s regenerated (the Christopher Eccleston Doctor wore his watch with the face on the outside of his wrist; I can’t recall if the David Tennant Doctor wore a watch).

But I wouldn’t put it past Steven Moffat for this to be a little sign about how things are “reversed” or “inside out” or something…

And there’s also something definitely “different” about Amy. When the Silurians scan her, they get different results than when they scan Elliot and Ambrose. First, Amy:

Only one little indicator thingie over on the right side. And in fact the scanner moves up and down her body like whoever is doing the scanning is expecting a different result. (Presumably they have a baseline from Mo.)



Two indicator thingies for each of them…

Also, we have only the Doctor’s word for it that it’s future Amy and Rory that he sees waving to them from across the field at the beginning of the episode. And he distracts current Amy and Rory really quickly from going and saying hi. Of course, such a conversation could cause all sorts of problems. Or something else could be going on.

The blue grass must mean something more than, as the Doctor said to Nasreen, Don’t drill here:

And Amy’s engagement ring sitting in this little pod on the console has got to be significant:

It’s not sitting off to the side, on a table or something: it’s on the console, where all the timey-whimey stuff begins. Where the psychic pollen got warmed up. Where the magic happens…

Random thoughts on “The Hungry Earth”:

• This episode recalls two classic stories: Peter Davison’s “Frontios” — in which intelligent ground-burrowing grublike aliens sucked human people through the earth for nefarious reasons; and Jon Pertwee’s “Inferno,” in which an experiment to drill deep into the planet results in all sorts of bad stuff happening.

• The Doctor carries around a slingshot?

• Bowties are cool, and sunglasses at night are cool:

(Even if the night is artificially induced by not-alien aliens, and the glasses see in infrared.)

Coolest Doctor ever? Maybe…

• I love watching Nasreen fall under the Doctor’s spell! From applauding his little “You have to be the best of humanity” speech to flirting with him by tweaking his braces:

to her first look inside the TARDIS — “No way! This is fantastic!” — to her delight at his life — “It’s like this is every day to you” / “Not every day. Every other day.” — she is perfect companion fodder. Can we get her onboard the TARDIS permanently?

• The Doctor’s interrogation of the Silurian warrior Alaya is such a wonderful antidote to the torture ethos that runs through pop culture at the moment — even on the best and smartest of shows, like on this week’s episode of Stargate: Universe: these shows lie, they act like torture actually works, they have the good guys as well as the bad guys engaging in it, to great success. Here, though, it’s not just that torture is distasteful and unpleasant and that’s why the Doctor doesn’t resort to it: he knows that torture simply is not effective. So he tells Alaya she’s beautiful, asks her name, has a pleasant conversation. He knows that creating a rapport is how you get the answers you need… And I’m glad that Doctor Who knows that, too.

• On the other hand, humans are violent people. Is Alaya right? Will either Tony or Ambrose or Rory kill her? “I know which one of you will kill me. Do you?” We could come up with “good” reasons for any of them to do so… but will they instead be the brilliant, decent people the Doctor insists they are?

• Oh, man. This is not going to be good:

And this is not going to be good:

And I have to wait a whole week to find out how not good it’s going to be? *argh*

• Great quotes:

“I love a big mining thing.” –the Doctor

“After everything we’ve seen, we just drop back into our old lives, the nurse and the kissogram?” –Rory (yeah, I’m not so sure about that either…)

“Doctor, that’s breaking and entering!” –Amy
“What did I break? Sonicing and entering. Totally different.” –the Doctor

“Oh, pul-leeze! Have you always been this disgusting?” –Amy
“No. That’s recent.” –the Doctor

“The graves round here eat people.” –Elliot

“You’re not making any sense, man.” –Tony
“Excuse me, I’m making perfect sense. You’re just not keeping up.” –the Doctor

“I can’t do the words, I’m dyslexic.” –Elliot
“That’s all right. I can’t make a decent meringue.” –the Doctor

“I want to live in a city one day. Soon as I’m old enough, I’ll be off.” –Elliot
“I was the same where I grew up.” –the Doctor
“Did you get away?” –Elliot
“Yeah.” –the Doctor
“Do you ever miss it?” –Elliot
“So much.” –the Doctor

“Is it monsters coming? Have you met monsters before?” –Elliot
“Yeah.” –the Doctor
“Are you scared of them?” –Elliot
“No, they’re scared of me.” –the Doctor

“Oy, don’t diss the sonic!” –the Doctor

“Defending the planet with Meals on Wheels!” –the Doctor

“Oh, I do hate to monologue.” –the Doctor

“I’m the last of my species.” –Alaya
“No, you’re really not. Because I’m the last of my species, and I know how it sits in a heart. So don’t insult me.” –the Doctor

(next: Episode 9: “Cold Blood”)

MPAA: not rated

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