Review: Doctor Who – 5×9 – Cold Blood

Not bad, but not as good as it should have been

Cold Blood

In the UK: Saturday 29th May, 7pm, BBC1
In the US: Saturday 12th June, 9/8c, BBC America

Well, blimey. You could knock me down with a feather. A Chris Chibnall story that’s a very close approximation to good. Will wonders never cease?

Spoilers and general tomfoolery after the jump.

The Doctor battles to prevent an all out war between the Silurians and the humans. But as a potential apocalypse looms, the Doctor discovers an even more horrifying danger waits for him…

Was it any good?
Compared to The Hungry Earth, it was certainly a marked improvement. The pacing was better, there was very little “Chibnall character crunching” (the tendency of characters written by Chris Chibnall to do bizarre, out-of-character things purely because the plot demands they do them). There were some clever touches – the flashback from the future at the beginning, actually making sure the Doctor had a plan, the not necessarily happy endings for a bunch of character. There was even a tragic moment or two.

And yet… And yet it all felt a bit limp.

Poor old comedy relief Rory. Deaded. Never even having been born (how does that work exactly? Does his mum suddenly remember giving birth to nothing but air or something?). He had an heroic death, which was nice.

But did I care? Not really. Karen Gillan tried her best. Matt Smith tried his best. I wanted to care. It should have been sad.

But it wasn’t. Maybe it was because Rory’s penultimate act in his life was to be comic relief and get insulted by Amy – indeed, they made up most of his previous acts, too – that I wasn’t especially moved. Maybe if he’d been anything except “the bloke who hangs around with Amy and the Doctor”, it would have meant something more. Maybe if he hadn’t died in Amy’s Choice as well. Maybe if he hadn’t been zapped by a bad special effect then felt up by some glowing space tendrils. Maybe if Amy hadn’t been instantly made to forget his death and had been given time to grief, instead of just leaving the Doctor to remember – and suddenly giving him more pressing things to be worried about.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Whatever the reason, Rory’s death/departure from the show was inevitable, through a combination of series format, pre-show publicity, choice of actor, lack of character development, function within stories and more. You could see it coming – it was just a question of when and how (which isn’t to say it won’t all be reversed in the series finale). So I was prepared for the worst and the worst happened.

Then there was the plot. Good plot. Serviceable plot, with nuance and subtlety, albeit with a slightly weak ending and over-reliance on the sonic screwdriver.

It was, of course, the plot to Doctor Who and the Silurians, with great big chunks of ideas (not even the best ones) borrowed from its predecessor. The characterisations of the Silurians, the intricacies of their society, their attitudes to humans, plans to resettle in uninhabited regions of the world: all from the original.

That would be why it was good then. Chibnall-proof that.

Outside of that core plot, there were the usual huhs. I’m still not entirely sure why, when last week the Silurian scientist was clearly evil and performing dissections on humans, suddenly he was all fluffy and everyone loved him this time round. I’m not sure why Silurian venom (that’s a new one) can mutate human beings. But hey, that’s all Chris – we’d have to ask him.

Breathing space
Now, everyone used to complain a lot about Rusty and his over-emotional stuff. Me? Never. Never ever never ever never. You must be imagining that.

But I have to say, this two-parter while interesting intellectually, lacked emotions. To a certain extent, that was a combination of characters and acting. I really didn’t care about the dumb family, for example, because they were sketchily drawn at best.

But Amy’s spikiness is starting to make her feel more like The Companion than a real character. She wanders into situations, acts in unlikely ways, pays the price and nothing seems to happen. You’d think she’d be a little more circumspect by now.

The focus on action and plot, while in essence a good thing, means we no longer have those great Tenth Doctor moments, where they actually sat down and talked about emotions and relationships and how everything felt. This feels more like an adventure series, but I’m not sure I actually like that.

Series arc
The cracks are back. Not sure, again, why the Doctor can stick his hand in the cracks now, when he couldn’t back in The Time of Angels (you’ll have to ask Chris), but it looks like an exploding TARDIS might be responsible for all the bad things happening.

We’ve had a lot of moments like this, this series, with the Doctor getting a terrible revelation about the series arc. But, hey, next episode, it’s all forgotten about as we go for another exciting adventure with that wanderer in time and space known as the Doctor.

If you’re going to have a series arc that’s going to pop up in every episode, that arc basically implying the universe is in trouble, the Doctor’s going to die, and the TARDIS is going to explode, wouldn’t the Doctor be doing a tad more to investigate? Shouldn’t each episode’s plot be a little more linked to the arc, rather than featuring the occasional guest appearance?

While it moved along at a reasonable pace and had some good moments, The Hungry Earth never quite hit excellent – but thankfully, it never hit “complete rubbish” either. Nice to see the Silurians back, but even though this was “the one in which Rory died”, it was actually quite forgettable.

Rating: 7/10


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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