This is one of those audacious stories that Doctor Who pulls off from time to time. What I mean by that is that every so often we get a big, world-spanning revelation in Doctor Who. For instance, in City of Death we discover that the detonation of the Jagaroth spaceship lead to the start of life on Earth. We also learn in Earthshock, that the exploding star ship was what wiped out the dinosaurs. (I’m guessing Adric’s DNA also had something to do with bipedal life on Earth but there we go into the realm of conjecture and, frankly, depression!) So when Tulok (Daniel Hogarth) announces that we were not the product of evolution but that he created human life, this is a big deal. And it goes with a story that’s full of “big deals” as Darwin (Miles Richardson) starts to figure out the theory of evolution.
The best way to make a hard story palatable is to add a sense of humor, but you’ve got to keep the story moving and the tension rising. This story only has a hint of humor, but that’s all you need. Like a sprinkling of salt, you don’t want to overdo it! Let’s talk tension: adding the Myrka to the story conjured images of that abomination that gets judo-chopped in Warriors of the Deep, but the fact that this is audio and the Myrka is fully grown does give the imagination a chance to envision a far more frightening monster. (Think: Godzilla!) That was a surprisingly nice touch. But the real big moment is when Tulok walks into the room with Darwin and company and announces he created us: “I am your God!” This brings about a tense episode ending and we get to watch Darwin lose faith in religion, to the point where, at the end of the story, he is asked to speak about what he believes in and denounces God in favor of evolution. Hey, it’s a story, it’s a good one, and it’s fiction; I take no offense. But I can imagine this one might have ruffled a few feathers. (…had we evolved from birds! Oh, yeah! I went there!) To counter some of these heavy moments, I loved listening to Evelyn prompt Darwin with terms that she only knows because of him, only for him to shoot her down. (A personal favorite was when she prompts for “survival of the fittest” only for him to dismiss her with how “common sense” that idea is!)
If there were issues I took with this story, the biggest is the Doctor himself. Colin has become a fantastic Doctor on audio and listening to him is a treat, but when the material calls for certain things, I wish Baker would decline. He’s very condescending to Evelyn at the beginning of this story. The most irksome example was when they were walking and Evelyn points something out, to which he says “I was wondering when you were going to notice that”. I thought; that’s a great line to use if someone notices something before me, but I want to pretend I’m so clever that I had already noticed it. Oh, wait, that’s what the Doctor just did! I also wish Sh’vak (Helen Goldwyn) survived but I’m a sucker for the good “monster”. There’s always a good Silurian isn’t there? (There’s also always that weak-willed human who teams up with the bad guys too and we get this here with Governor Lawson, played despicably by Julian Harries.) You know, Doctor Who doesn’t give us many aliens traveling with the Doctor and supposedly, that’s got something to do with the cost of having an actor in costume all the time, or some such excuse, but in audio, we don’t have that limitation. Sh’vak could have been an awesome traveling companion! Tell you what, though: I didn’t know until part 3 or 4 that Sh’vak was female. Once I realized, I had to wonder how I had missed it, but those synthesized voices had me fooled.
Then there’s future continuity. Yeah, I get it: this came out way before there was any thought that Doctor Who would be back on our screens, but once we knew it was coming back, and more specifically once the Silurian race was announced, I wish the writers would have gone back to these stories for inspiration. Most notably, we discover that, out of revenge, Tulok sabotaged his own race’s survival. He was the jerk who caused all the Silurians to oversleep! (A very rotten move, I can tell you!) This is a big piece of useful information for the Doctor to share when he encounters the Homo Reptilia from Cold Blood. The only write off I can give it is that, over the intervening 500 odd years, he forgot about it. I forget what houses I looked at 7 years ago; my wife often asks “remember when we looked at that house” to which I think, “gee, that would have been a big decision and I have no memory of it!”. I imagine 500 years, might cause one to forget a bit more. Even a Time Lord.
Overall this is a strong story and even historical continuity is maintained when the Doctor asks Charles and Captain Fitzroy (George Telfer) not to mention what happened and to keep his involvement a secret. Barring a few minor quibbles, I highly recommend this one. And it has some of our favorite returning baddies. I give this two thumbs up… but I had to evolve those thumbs from my ape ancestors. (Oh yeah! I went there again!) ML