Nasreen Chaudhry (Meera Syall) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC

The Doctor intends to take Amy and Rory to Rio, but instead arrives in 2020 Wales and quickly discovers that something is coming out of the ground…

An odd piece this. Without the baggage of no fewer than two Doctor who stories from 1970 it might have had a chance to be something rather good, but in this context it falls flat on its face.

First off, we have a future Amy and Rory waving from the distance – well, at least that’s who the Doctor says they are – which means that until we see the duo actaully perform this action we know they are going to be safe. Hasn’t that rather removed the tension? Seems not, as when only a few minutes later Amy is sucked under the ground the Doctor has forgotten all about their appearance.

The Doctor (Matt Smith), Nasreen Chaudhry (Meera Syall), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Tony Mack (Robert Pugh) © BBC

Then we have the project to drill into the Earth’s crust. In 1970’s Inferno some research had obviously been done. We were told, for instance, that at the depths penetrated the drillhead had to be constantly cooled and that if it stopped the whole mechanism would seize up. The drilling complex was also huge, requiring 24-hour teams of people to keep the whole project going. This time, a small group of people in Wales have managed almost the same thing, with a pretty standard drill, that stops and starts when they feel like it, and everyone goes home for the weekend. I know technology has progressed since 1970, but really…

The tension build-up to ‘something coming’ is standard tv drama fayre, so they got that right. But what happens at the great moment of penetration to the surface? A bit of shaking. Then one – yes, just one – shadowy figure darts around the ludicrously bright “dark” churchyard before being captured.

Silurian Alaya (Neve McIntosh) © BBC

This figure turns out to be a Silurian, or another variation. Gone is the creature’s third eye, which featured in two Doctor Who stories, and gone is the alien-sounding voice. Now, the creature is really just a human in make-up; excellent make-up it has to be said. So why the change? Well, Doctor Who Smug, sorry, Doctor Who Confidential, tells us that in order for modern audiences to empathise with the Silurains they have to be human-like. The irony is that the whole point of the original 1970 story was that even if a creature doesn’t look like us it can still be intelligent and has rights. So the production team thinks modern audiences are more xenophobic than those of 1970!!! Amazing…

It’s also a shame that “Confidential” starts off by telling us that “an old enemy of the Doctor returns”. Except that the Silurians were not his enemy! If anything, the Doctor was more on their side than the humans. Oops…!

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and The Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC

The highlight of the episode is shared between Matt Smith’s delightful Doctor and the character of Nasreen Chaudhry, who outshines Amy as a possible companion within seconds of entering the TARDIS. I believe in Nasreen, unlike Amy, who tries to be frightened but is never really convincing.

Episode 2 has yet to reveal what is really going on, but the trailer gives hints. It already seems that the Silurians actually live underground, while originally they were really surface dwellers and only in hibernation underground, but we shall see. It all looks a bit silly, but we live in hope…

[Rating: 3]

Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online