Review: Doctor Who – 5×8 – The Hungry Earth

Chris Chibnall turns in something that's "not awful"

The Hungry Earth

In the UK: Saturday 22nd May, 6.15pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday 5th June, 9/8c, BBC America

Sorry to anyone who was desperate for a full review of Amy’s Choice (Why? Who are you?) last week, but I just ran out of time. All the same, I did do a mini-review of it on Friday in case you missed it.

But let’s move on to this week’s episode. With a song.

Who’s the writer who
puts terror in your heart?
He rips off everything
and he makes it three times worse.

Who’s the writer who can’t plot?
He made Torchwood what it was

Oh screw it. I can’t be bothered doing any more. The chorus just goes Chris Chibnall, Chris Chibnall, Chris Chibnall, anyway.

Chris Chibnall is responsible for far and away some of the worst episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood: Cyberwoman, 42, Adrift. You can usually pretty much guarantee as soon as you see our Chibber’s name in the writing credits that the following story will go down as smoothly as milk with a sell-by date of March 1998.

Yet it seems that while he still can’t produce a classic, with Steven Moffat overseeing things, he can at least produce something with a few good moments and that doesn’t suck anywhere near as badly as Victory of the Daleks. Of course, if you were expecting him to turn in something original, you really do believe in Stevie miracles, don’t you?

The Doctor, Amy and Rory have landed in the near future in a small Welsh village. It’s beautiful, but danger is just beneath the surface… the Silurians are back!

Was it any good?
Let’s start with the characters. Yes, the characters
There were, it has to be said, a good number of character moments in this. I’m actually starting to like Rory. He’s still a bit of a numpty but he’s slowly putting behind childish things and growing a pair, even if all he can ever do when bad things happen (pokes in the eye, insults, girlfriend being stolen, fiancé dying) is to glower a bit. Doormat.

His scenes with Amy actually made them seem like a couple as well. The interrogation of the Silurian by the Doctor was actually well written. And thanks to a combination of Matt Smith’s acting and Chibber’s writing, the Doctor came out well from about 80% of scenes. Amy, on the other hand, was confined mainly to getting captured and screaming after the first few minutes, so it looks like the return to the bad old days of old Who has been confirmed for the poor old assistants.

Now, the plotting was a little slack. Given how every single bit of publicity has said “the Silurians are back – here are the photos”, to leave them until the end and present them as a surprise was a bit daft to say the least. We had the odd “nine minutes to wire up the village with webcams” plan that never actually got used. The story just sort of progressed, really, with nothing really to excite beyond people getting sucked down holes.

But, generally, it was okay. It looks like one of those two-parters where the first part is all set up and you get the pay off in the second part. We’ll have to look at the second part to see if the story was, overall, any good.

But as with any Chris Chibnall script, a fair amount of it was bollocks, derivative or derivative bollocks.

On the logic front, we have a drill going down 21km that appears to be run by three people who aren’t in the prime of life, right next door to a village that feels like it escaped from the Welsh version of Brigadoon.


We have a terrible crisis with monsters about to attack. A kid decides to run off by himself in the dark to get his precious headphones, which are so precious he left them behind somewhere.


The Doctor doesn’t try to stop him.


Amy wears a micro-mini with tights because she thinks they’re going to be going to Rio.


The Silurians are going to attack but don’t have any weapons.


No, no, no. This is all very silly. It makes no sense. But Chris Chibnall is best known for character actions that seemingly come from nowhere, that seem massively out of character, and which are purely there to advance plot in a particular, necessary direction, so all this was pretty much a given from the outset.

As for derivative, it’s easy to point out this is basically Doctor Who and the Silurians crossed with Frontios with The Green Death, with – since this is Chris Chibnall – the compulsory movie reference of the week: Predator. But since DWatS was 40 years ago now and also featured the Silurians, it’s entirely forgivable for him to ‘homage’ that.

It just would have been better if he could have added to it and brought something new to the whole experience beyond ‘bio-programmed’ soil, which is nonsensical, and a public service film about dyslexia. Just something. Anything really.

Better than expected
Nevertheless, compared to the clusterf*ck that I was expecting, this wasn’t half bad. The Silurians were decently made up, if a little Star Trek: Voyager; there was nuance to them (okay, that’s mandatory if you’re homaging DWatS, but I still appreciate it being there); Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were great, even if Amy is now so off the wall, you wonder if she’s going to turn a bit Betty Blue at some point; there were some tense moments in the dark and with the eponymous ‘hungry earth’.

Murray Gold, though. Oh, Murray. What are we going to do with you? You were doing so well earlier this season, and now you’re back to your bad old ways.

Rating: 5.5/10