Doctor Who - Documentary s07e08 Episode Script

What Lies Beneath

ANNOUNCER: And now on BBC 1, Doctor Who.
NARRATOR: Seen through our 21st-century eyes, the Doctor Who stories of the 1960s and early '70s can seem worlds removed from the lightning-paced storylines, computer-aided special effects and heart-pounding soundtracks of recent times.
-The chamber's going to flood! -Quick! Override the vents! Back then, stories would last for six, or even sometimes 10 or 12 episodes.
(SHOUTING) Computers were sufficiently new and challenging to be the occasional subject of those stories, rather than the tools used to help make them.
Don't listen to this machine! Fight it.
COMPUTER: Too late, Doctor.
And the soundtracks tended to verge on the experimental.
(ECHOED BEEPING) For these reasons, it's difficult to understand the hold the programme had over the imagination of the viewing public back then.
And it's tempting to conclude that audiences were simply less sophisticated and demanding than they are now.
Doctor Who and the Silurians, shown in the spring of 1970, seems to illustrate this point nicely.
I think I can persuade the humans that you are prepared to live with them on this planet in peace.
There is not room for both civilisations.
The story, evolving over a leisurely two-and-a-half hours, seems to belong to an era when the Doctor simply had a lot more time to work things out than did his later, more impatient incarnations.
The creature is made out of living calcium.
What else? What else? Hyphenated sodium.
Yes! That narrows it down to one planet.
Rexicorical Phalipatorious.
That's no good.
Let's try the next one.
As for the special effects, the actors seem at times to be oddly detached from their surroundings.
And the soundtrack, whilst acknowledging the evident danger in which the Doctor finds himself, seems to be suggesting that we appreciate this danger with an appropriate air of detachment and restraint.
(CAMPY MUSIC PLAYING) But if we look at the programme in this superficial way, we underestimate the scale of its ambition.
To understand it, we must rediscover some of the ideas that would have been at the back of the audience's mind in 1970.
And in doing so, we will look at the vital difference between this and this.
Look at the fears the audience had about people like this.
Stand by.
How they felt about these, and the people who wore them.
And the distinctive approach people like this had to problem-solving.
We'll also look at how popular this country was at the time.
And the questionable achievements of this man.
From its very earliest days, science fiction has shown an ability to enthral a large audience by taking elements of their own everyday world and through the appliance of science, presenting to them a terrifying alternative.
In his 1895 novella, The Time Machine, H.
Wells applied the theory of evolution to the Victorian class divide.
He created a chilling vision of the future, where the descendants of the aristocracy were the helpless prey of the working classes.
By the use of up-to-date scientific thinking, Wells demonstrated the power of science fiction to combine entertainment with a serious discussion of the burning issues of the day.
Many successful science-fiction stories of the ensuing decades continued this tradition.
1950s Hollywood classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, warned a USA immersed in the Cold War of the dangers of increasing militarism.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers warned of the dangers of not taking the threat of Communist infiltration seriously.
Meanwhile, over in Great Britain the BBC was demonstrating how science fiction of this kind was capable of bringing an entire nation to a virtual standstill.
It was quite remarkable how the general public latched onto it.
Of course, in those days, there was very little television.
There was BBC and ITV, and that was all.
And, consequently, if there was something of real note on, people would Especially a serial, people would latch onto it, and they'd all rush home.
Oh, God.
LETTS: And something like the Quatermass serials really hit the headlines.
NARRATOR: In 1 958, writer Nigel Kneale used the familiar landscape of late 1950s London to examine racial prejudice and the tendency of human cultures to demonise outsiders.
Partly inspired by the Notting Hill race riots earlier that year, he offered a scientifically plausible view of the possible origins of those tendencies.
They were heavily political and made very, very serious points to the public.
NARRATOR: Some early Doctor Who stories also tackled difficult issues.
''The Daleks, '' our hero's first encounter with his deadliest enemies, presented the aftermath of a nuclear war and issues of racial purity to an audience with uncomfortably recent memories of the Cuban missile crisis and the Nazi genocide, issues that would not have been in the minds of younger viewers.
There was more of a social message.
Not so much political, social, I would say.
Social at that time.
And as a result, it had quite a lot of deep meanings, which probably went over a lot of children's heads, but I think interested the adults.
NARRATOR: By the time of Jon Pertwee's first season, this willingness to take on serious issues meant that the viewing tastes of a sizeable adult audience had to be considered.
By the time we were doing it, it was definitely a grown-up programme as well as a children's programme.
And it was felt, obviously before my time, because you can see it in 'The Silurians', but certainly in my time when I was working with Terrence Dicks, that the story should be about something which was of interest, of deep interest to the adults.
Barry Letts took over as producer of Doctor Who in November, 1969, inheriting not only 'The Silurians' but also his predecessor's plans for the series.
The previous producers, Peter Bryant and Derek Sherwin, had quite deliberately thought of the Quatermass serials as being sort of precursors of Doctor Who.
The new version with the Doctor on Earth.
One of the ideas was to replace it with, you know, basically a Quatermass serial with Nigel Kneale involved.
Or that's my recollection of it.
And although that never happened, it obviously had a hangover, you know.
If you're doing a science-fiction serial set on Earth, you're going to echo Quatermass whether you like it or not.
It was a sort of cross between Quatermass and James Bond, as far as I can see.
NARRATOR: In planning their stories, Doctor Who's production team were consciously considering this delicate balancing act of making the audience think whilst at the same time entertaining them.
Whenever we were commissioning the story, Barry and I would look for it to be about something.
To have some kind of theme and basis and guts to it, as well as, you know, the adventure and the romp and the chase-about with the Doctor.
What I hated, and Terrence, too, was the sort of story which was just a bang, bang adventure, you know, with the people who were the goodies winning because they were the toughest and got the biggest fists, sort of thing.
The good story will be about some reasonably serious issue.
It will happen almost inevitably.
NARRATOR: One of the first writers to be considered for that season was Terrence Dicks' old friend and collaborator, Malcolm Hulke.
Mac was a very old friend of mine and was, in fact, my mentor in the business.
Mac was the consummate professional writer.
He earned his living by writing, and he made sure he earned a good living by writing.
I was then an advertising copywriter and desperate to get out of it, as everybody who works in advertising is, though very few actually do.
And I got to know Mac, and we got to be friends.
And he said to me one day when we were having a chat and a drink, he said, ''I'm a bit stuck.
'' He said, ''I've been asked to write an Avengers, and I just haven't got any ideas.
'' He said, ''Have you got any ideas?'' And I said, ''Mac, have I got ideas!'' And we actually co-wrote three Avengers together.
Now that was at a time when I had no experience in the business.
I had no credit, and Mac just treated it as a 50-50 share.
He said, ''No, we'll do it together, we'll split the money.
'' And, you know, that was really incredibly generous.
NARRATOR: Malcolm Hulke's previous form on Doctor Who included co-writing the Patrick Troughton adventure, 'The Faceless Ones', and a collaboration with Terrence Dicks on Troughton's epic swansong, 'The War Games'.
As well as being a safe pair of hands as a writer, he was also a man with strong views about the world.
He was an amusing man, but a man of deep conviction.
He had been a communist.
I don't know whether he was still a communist.
But he had very left-wing views, and old-fashioned left-wing views.
Mac started out in Unity Theatre which was, you know, a kind of left-wing theatre group at the end of the war, I think, with people who had come out of the services.
And he was always radical, you know, in principle, though you wouldn't particularly have noticed it.
Also, you see, by the time I came to know him, he owned a house and he'd become a capitalist, and he'd probably drifted slightly to the right, as, you know, many a radical does when he gets older, you know.
One of the things he did as a professional writer was to go to East Germany when it wasn't fashionable to go to East Germany, it was rather difficult to go to East Germany, and write scripts for them there, for the broadcasters in East Germany.
NARRATOR: To what extent, then, does 'The Silurians' lie within the politically committed sci-fi tradition of H.
Wells and Nigel Kneale? As we've seen, plausible science lies at the heart of this tradition.
So, how important was scientific plausibility in Doctor Who? Eureka! It's action-adventure with a scientific flavour.
And my feeling is that the science must be plausible.
NARRATOR: Although this plausibility was seen as important, it wasn't always achieved.
I think Asimov or somebody says, at a certain level, alien science is indistinguishable from magic.
And we were very often slightly in the magic area, you know.
NARRATOR: So would the scientific ideas in 'The Silurians' for the basis of a university lecture or a Harry Potter story? Let's look first at the central idea of an intelligent species of dinosaur awakened from hibernation.
These were plausible creatures.
They weren't implausible.
They could have possibly been there before us all.
CAROLINE JOHN: It was possible that there was a species on Earth who were more advanced technically, than we have even got today.
They put themselves to sleep.
They woke up.
And the little furry animals, us, had suddenly grown, and they wanted to get rid of them.
It's possible.
NARRATOR: The name ''Silurians'' was chosen for artistic rather than geological reasons.
The Silurian era of pre-history coming millions of years before the evolution of the dinosaurs.
The idea was plausible, however.
And Hulke cleverly explained the reason for the third, or parietal, eye, found in some latter-day lizards.
I wouldn't trust them at all, just because the leader, who was a short, elderly Silurian said, ''We want harmony between human beings.
'' What happened to him? He gets dropped dead by a red beam.
I am the leader.
I have decided.
Not any more.
(BEEPING) I mean, if we could all get dropped dead by a red beam, it would be very dangerous, this planet.
If I took a disliking to you suddenly, and out came me red beam I mean, really.
NARRATOR: Besides this plausible central idea of intelligent reptiles, Hulke included a couple of real scientific concepts that would have been recognised by a 1970 audience.
One of these is plate tectonics, the theory that the Earth's crust comprises large plates that move over geological time to change the shape and position of the Earth's landmasses.
It's a globe.
It might seem strange to us now, but it wasn't until a Royal Society symposium in 1964 that the idea gained wide acceptance in the scientific community.
As late as the 1980s, it was still being disputed by a surprisingly large number of geologists.
For a 1970 audience, it was cutting-edge science.
This is the world as it was before the great continental drift.
The proton accelerator used at Wenley Moor research centre is also rooted in real science.
Particle acceleration is the science of smashing subatomic particles into unsuspecting atoms at high velocity to break them apart.
It bombards atoms with subatomic particles.
Why? Cyclotrons, or atom smashers, had been used in this way to research the fundamental nature of matter for some decades.
Though fictional, the idea of using the process to generate energy has the all-important ring of plausibility to it.
Hulke's use of real, contemporary scientific concepts rooted 'The Silurians' in a world his audience would recognise as their own, or one they were shortly to enter.
It is when we look at the interplay between the characters that we see that the story is also rooted in the audience's concerns, fears and preconceptions about that world.
The first of these concerns relates to the people who operate the proton accelerator, the scientists.
The view of scientists.
It was ambivalent.
The atom bomb was still there, in the sky, lurking over our heads all the time.
I always hoped that scientists are trying to find something out and what they're trying to find out is far more important than whether they're going to be known for it or not.
Seriously wrong, Carrie.
Seriously wrong.
They're just like everybody else.
They want their five minutes on television.
Or a little band or a knighthood or whatever.
NARRATOR: This contemporary concern that scientists were pursuing a dangerous agenda for selfish reasons is played out in the story in the character of Dr Quinn.
Quinn is destroyed by his attempt to use Silurian science to bolster his professional reputation.
This quest for knowledge, leading to death, symbolically warns the audience of the dangers of scientific hubris.
(HEAVY BREATHING) As well as being a scientist, Quinn is also a public servant pursuing his own agenda first and the public's second.
This is characteristic of the public servants in the story, notably base director Dr Lawrence.
MILES: I prefer to think of Dr Lawrence as maybe an overpaid civil servant with too much power.
I don't know what's wrong with too much power if it's an atomic research centre for good purposes, for goodness' sake.
What I love is the character of Dr Lawrence being a wonderful bighead.
Unless you can impress him more than you impress me, you may well find yourself transferred to some simpler duties MILES: And definitely pompous.
more within your scope.
JOHN: Dr Lawrence is just barmy.
I mean, he'd got a power complex, hadn't he? And really wanted everything.
He wanted to be known.
But if this research centre is abandoned, all of that money will be wasted.
And it would mean the end of your career, Charles.
That's why I'm doing my best for you.
There are also people who have this unpleasant characteristic in real life like Dr Lawrence, who are unpleasant, as a way of life, when they're at their job.
They don't need to be.
You know, they're in the minority, but they exist.
NARRATOR: This view of public servants as essentially self-serving is one that is now deeply engrained in the British national consciousness, thanks in large part to a seminal piece of satire of the 1980s.
I think after Yes Minister, civil servants became a bit of a laugh.
And before then they were terribly serious and a closed book.
That's quite all right, Humphrey.
Quite all right.
-Thank you, Minister.
-After all, we all make mistakes.
Yes, Minister.
NARRATOR: In 1970, this cynical portrayal of public servants might have struck the programme's audience as at once fresh and true.
To understand this, we need to examine how that audience felt about a quintessentially British aspect of public life in the 20th century.
The Establishment.
By 1970, it had been having an increasingly rough ride at the hands of the media and society, generally, for over a decade.
REPORTER: Christine Keeler continued to be the most photographed woman in Britain, although occasionally rivalled by another headline figure, Mandy Rice-Davies.
From 1945 to 1970, you had a generation which had grown up from the time of the Attlee changes in the education system, so you had a much more educated generation.
A much more educated population, altogether.
Not just because of what was going on in the education world, but because of what they saw on television.
Things were presented The whole world was presented to them.
And so everybody knew far more and couldn't have the wool pulled over their eyes quite to the extent they have.
The Establishment, in general, took a very nasty knock in the 1970s.
They weren't respected in the way they had been, say, 15 years earlier, because during the '60s two things happened.
The first was satire.
Television had become popular, and most homes had it.
Most homes were obsessed by it in those early days.
And what they saw night after night, but particularly on Saturdays, was the satire of young men and women who didn't think they owed a living to anybody and were prepared to cock a snook at everybody.
That Was The Week That Was, all those programmes.
Suddenly we were laughing at people we wouldn't have dared to laugh at in the '50s.
That Was The Week That Was and the whole satirical movement, it was the first time that people had been exposed to politicians really being mocked.
The only people who had done it up to that point had been the political cartoonists.
And that Yes, that was interesting, but it didn't have much impact.
But to see people actually, as they say nowadays, sending up the politicians made the politicians less remote.
They weren't the people in charge so much any more.
I do remember of course, we'd had the Profumo, Macmillan, you know, Christine Keeler saga.
So politicians were starting to be questioned.
And politicians and their decisions, which would go through the civil servants, yes, then that would come into the equation, I felt.
Before Profumo, the Establishment behaved in a way which was occasionally reprehensible.
But the newspapers never dared touch it or wouldn't choose to touch it.
After Profumo, they thought it was their right, perhaps their duty, to point out that the Establishment sinned like other sections of society.
So 1970, end of deference, hard time for the Establishment, and a jolly good thing, too.
I was delighted by it.
NARRATOR: The Doctor became exiled to dear old Blighty just in time for the programme to ride the crest of the anti-Establishment wave.
To some extent, this explains the fraught relationship between the Doctor and the man who's under the impression he's his boss.
It's typical of the military mind, isn't it? Present them with a new problem, and they start shooting at it.
I think it was a very important part, and it came out in 'The Silurians' and subsequently with my association with Jon.
Come on, Dr Watson.
It was very good for the Brigadier to be a foil.
He's always been a good foil for whoever the Doctor was.
I think the clashes between the Doctor and the Brigadier were inevitable, really.
You didn't even sort of have to work them out, you know? I mean, they would just happen because the Doctor has always been an iconoclast, an outsider and a rebel, and the Brigadier is the Establishment.
You know, he's the voice of the Establishment.
NARRATOR: Contempt for the military mentality features prominently in the counter-culture of the late 1960s.
It was a time when we hadn't been at war for a very long time.
Indeed, my predecessor at Ministry of Defence, Gerry Reynolds, said one of the reasons we couldn't recruit is that we weren't fighting anywhere.
So the military were rather more in the background than they are today.
NARRATOR: Memories of the National Service, the ongoing Vietnam War and a plethora of films satirizing senior military officers all helped illustrate any irony in the phrase ''military intelligence''.
No, perfectly normal.
It seems clear that Hulke drew on this contemporary perception in his version of the Brigadier.
I see.
Thank you very much.
I guess the perception of the military was some figure called Colonel Blimp, or in this case, Brigadier Blimp.
A man with a red face, a big moustache and no very original ideas.
NARRATOR: As well as using the Brigadier as a symbol of authority against which the Doctor rails, Hulke introduces a dramatic conflict.
Really, it's about, will the Doctor's point of view the peacemaker's point of view, win out? And, of course, in the end it doesn't.
It's the Brigadier's point of view, who's also very much in conflict with the Doctor, and who represents a whole pragmatic militarism.
To give Hulke credit, he's nevertheless not represented in simple, brutal terms.
The Brigadier was always represented as a sympathetic character, but, who, in the end, blows them up.
To be fair to the Brigadier, he did give the military solution, but he was in charge of security, he was an army man.
Therefore, he was doing what he thought was right.
The Brigadier was about a man who wouldn't ask anything for his men to do anything he wouldn't do himself.
He did not like losing his men.
Once again, in 'The Silurians', his men were being killed.
And a good officer looks after his men.
NARRATOR: Through the skilful characterization, Hulke explores the military justification for the Brigadier's actions.
I want that Silurian base sealed permanently.
Nevertheless, he leaves his audience in no doubt as to whose approach is right.
As we've heard, the decision to locate Jon Pertwee's Doctor in something very like the world of 1970 was a conscious attempt to evoke positive associations with Quatermass.
To Hulke, this was a potential problem.
Malcolm Hulke always said that under the new Earthbound format of Doctor Who, there were only two stories.
There was mad scientist, and there was alien invasion.
I was desperate to get around this and prove him wrong about it, you see.
And I wracked my brains, and then eventually came up with this story idea which I gave You know, which Mac and I discussed and Mac worked into his story.
Which is that the aliens had been there all along.
And as far as they were concerned, we were the invaders and it was their planet.
But you must see this is a highly developed and over-crowded planet which now belongs to man.
This is our planet.
We were here before man.
We ruled this world millions of years ago.
This tale of two competing civilisations, each staking a claim to the Earth, would have had a far greater resonance with an audience in 1970 than it does with us now.
At the time, any sort of a political conflict between two separate ideologies is going to be seen in terms of the Cold War.
NARRATOR: Back then, the Cold War between the two competing civilisations of the democratic West and the communist Soviet Union was very much in the present.
Hulke's political background and radicalism make his apparent treatment of this theme in 'The Silurians' illuminating, especially when we consider the particular phase the Cold War was going through at that time.
We were just beginning to hope that the Soviet Union would want to come to some sort of compromise with the West.
It hadn't happened, but the hope was that there would arise in the Soviet Union a feeling, more amongst the people than the leaders, initially, that continuing the Cold War was a mad way to spend their resources.
NARRATOR: The geopolitical landscape of the late 1960s and early '70s had seen various factors contribute to a cooling of tensions between the East and West.
These factors saw the Cold War move out of its early dangerous phase of direct confrontation to the phase known as ''détente''.
Détente is essentially a compromise between two conflicting powers.
It's the decision that conflict is going to destroy them both, by nuclear war or more slowly by economic ravaging, and they've got more to gain by working together than working apart.
And, therefore, they negotiate a peace.
Perhaps an uneasy peace, perhaps a suspicious peace.
But at least they want to live together rather than to die together.
NARRATOR: The notion that the Soviet system could be dealt with in a rational, cooperative way is now hard to comprehend.
The rhetoric of the Margaret Thatcher- Ronald Reagan double act firmly lodged it in the public mind as the ''evil empire''.
And apparently agreeing with them, the Soviet Union pressed the button marked ''self-destruct''in 1989.
This puts further distance between us and the prevailing view of 1970.
It's tempting, with hindsight, to see the approach embodied by détente as at best naive and at worst evidence of Communist sympathizing.
As we've seen, the Brigadier represents the view that the Silurians are enemies to be destroyed.
The opposing view, that the humans and the Silurians should negotiate and try to live in harmony, is represented in a very significant way.
We shall revive our civilisation and reclaim the Earth for ourselves.
No, you mustn't.
Otherwise, there'll be the most terrible war.
But if you trust me, I think I can persuade the humans that you are prepared to live with them on this planet in peace.
The moral authority in the story lies absolutely with the Doctor.
We're encouraged to see whether or not people are right by how far they are from him.
I think it was very important that the Doctor should embody a certain set of values.
Morality, if you like.
The Doctor is a hero.
He's always on the side of right and justice and good.
He's never mean.
You know, he can be sharp, but he's never mean or petty or cruel.
And those characteristics always run through.
And I know he's always on the side of the oppressed, and against evil, in whatever kind of way he finds it.
NARRATOR: As the Doctor is always morally in the right, does this mean that the central theme of 'The Silurians' is an argument for détente with the Soviet Union? If so, is the politically committed Malcolm Hulke using science fiction in much the same way as H.
Wells and Nigel Kneale, to make an overt political point? It's always difficult to know, when there is a strong theme in a story, a script, whether it's political or otherwise, as to whether it's conscious or just derives from the writer's particular way of looking at things.
Doctor Who always tended to deal with fairly serious matters.
Very often, not in a kind of didactic pre-planned way.
But, you know, what I've always said is that what a writer thinks and feels and what his opinions are, and the general climate of the time of all the people making the programme, they're going sort of, somehow, to creep into the show by osmosis.
And in 'The Silurians' there was undoubtedly a parallel with what was going on in the world at the time with the Soviet Union and the West.
And it's quite likely that Mac would have realised that he was doing that.
Now, whether he did it in the first place on purpose or whether it just came out of the story as he was writing it, we can't ask Mac because he's dead.
NARRATOR: The BBC is routinely accused by right-wing commentators of having an innate left-wing bias.
If we assume, for the moment, that Malcolm Hulke was being intentionally political in 'The Silurians', does this lay the production team open to a justifiable accusation of being a symptom of that bias? I remember it, right about the time 'The Silurians' was made, seeing two articles in the same week, one in The Daily Express and one in Time Out.
The Daily Express said that the BBC was a left-wing hotbed of communists and so on.
Time Out said that it was a right-wing tool of the Establishment, you see.
And I remember thinking then, ''Well, they must be getting it about right.
'' Take it from me, the government of the day always believes the BBC is on the other side.
And I can think of examples.
When we were trying to come to grips with problems with the unions, trying to reduce inflation, trying to stabilise the pound - when you listen to radio or television news bulletins say, ''God Almighty, whose side are they on, anyway? ''Are they not on our side, the government? ''Are they not on Britain's side?'' Now, this is the natural reaction of governments in power.
LETTS: The BBC, rather than being a single unit, was rather like the feudal system.
It was a sort of motley collection of independent kingdoms who owed their authority to a senior figure who was the managing director of television.
Each one was independent in political terms, as well.
I could be left-wing, I could be right-wing, I could be left of centre, whatever I wanted to do.
And in fact, when we did 'The Green Death', which was overtly political, I thought, I expected to be hauled over the coals.
Not at all.
Nobody ever mentioned the fact that it was so political.
NARRATOR: The themes of the story would have reminded the audience of another serious issue of the time.
In 1968, British society had been coming to terms with the highly dubious achievements of a certain Conservative politician.
Race relations were at their lowest ever.
This was the worst time.
It was the worst time very largely because Enoch Powell, a respectable gent in a homburg hat and striped trousers and black jacket, who looked like a gentleman, had articulated the feelings of the gutter.
It was a time when parliament was very uncertain, too.
And members of parliament like me were very agitated about how to deal with it.
The sensible thing to do, which some of us did, was stand out against it.
But it was the worst possible moment in race relations in this country.
How dare I stir up trouble and inflame CORNELL: Here we have a huge fleet of immigrants that are going to arrive.
It's a story about immigration, purely and simply.
It's not even a metaphor, it's just true.
But also it's a story And this is incredibly clever on Malcolm Hulke's part.
It's so clever it feels simple.
It's a story about colonialism.
It's a story about what happens to the indigenous people, the aborigines, when the people with the higher technology arrive.
Now, we're dealing with the Silurians, who are the indigenous people.
It was their planet, and we've arrived and taken it over.
So we get to see that point of view.
But at the same time, they're about to do it to us.
And the way that the story makes this explicit is that link between cave art, which looks almost like aborigine rock paintings.
I'm not sure how much of this is consciously going through Malcolm Hulke's head, but it's a tremendous piece of metaphor-making.
NARRATOR: 'The Silurians' resonates with many background themes from 1970.
Malcolm Hulke set out, not merely to entertain, but to suggest a moral perspective.
He created a worthy successor to the tradition in science fiction pioneered by H.
Wells, to produce politically committed drama that appeals to both the emotions and the mind.