The first of the September 2017 brace of Doctor Who main range releases is Matthew J Elliott’s The Silurian Candidate. The title deliberately echoes The Manchurian Candidate so foretelling some of the plot. It’s a decent tale, and perhaps even more so for the range given to Mel and Ace.
Let’s dive in…
The Silurian Candidate story
The blurb from the produce page gives the following angle on the story:
The year is 2085, and planet Earth remains on the edge of a nuclear precipice. At any moment, either of two vast rival power blocs, to the West and the East, might unleash a torrent of missiles, bringing about the terrible certainty of Mutual Assured Destruction.
But there is another way – or so Professor Ruth Drexler believes. Hence her secret mission deep in Eastern bloc territory, to uncover a hidden city, never before glimpsed by human eyes: the Parliament of the Silurians, the lizard people who ruled the Earth before humankind.
There, she’ll encounter a time-travelling Doctor, who knows the Silurians well. A Doctor on a secret mission of his own.
It’s a tale of two halves. The first is led by Professor Drexler’s (Fiona Sheehan) mission, and also introduces the idea of Karlas (I won’t spoil) played by Caitlin Thorburn. The plotting is good here: Drexler’s mission once revealed is original and pleasing, while Karlas work really well through the story. From the TARDIS pov, it’s a tense beginning as the Doctor is up to something and Ace is trying to second guess him and educate Mel into the darker side of the Doctor’s personality. Meanwhile all involved penetrate the underground Silurian capital city to find the usual mix of strange technology and genetically engineered dinosaurs.
In the second half the pedigree of the story becomes plain, it’s a follow up to the Fifth Doctor story Warriors of the Deep. There are new characters and a massively over-the-top (in some obvious ways) Australian leader in the form of Chairman Falco (Nicholas Asbury). The dialogue is suitably larger than life but underneath there are some really significant moments for the companions, in particular Mel. Ace also gets her moment in the front line when she has the opportunity to change history. One of the subtext’s of this story is the use of weapons by companions and it provides plenty of food for thought.
The Silurian Candidate storytelling
The two discs vary a lot of the elements, including setting and characters. This increases contrast but does make an already rather single-minded Professor Drexler become almost incidental to the story. The Parliament of the Silurians have a good mix of times when they interact with each other and times when they interact with the TARDIS crew. This drives the plot well.
My one observation (not criticism) is the feel of this might have suited earlier in the new run of Ace + Mel stories. In tone it feels quite different to the other adventures, not worse or better but different. There’s lots to enjoy (and I haven’t commented on Nick Brigg’s accent at all;-)
We’ve had three very different tales in this trilogy (includes High Price of Parking and Blood Furnace), each proving how well Mel and Ace could have worked had they been allowed to travel together. Long may it continue!