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Fine display of craftsmanship

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Dr Who and the Silurians, Dr Who, BBC-1, January 31

WHEN one is engaged in attempting to separate the sheep of pretentiousness from the goats of honest endeavour, a wonderful feeling of contentment descends when one comes across a production that does exactly what it sets out to do — thrill, amuse and entertain. Not art, but a fine display of craftsmanship.

First, the teaser opening set in a cave below ground. How deliciously spine-chilling to watch two unknown men making their way through the darkness while off-stage snarls anticipate their confrontation by a Thing with enormous fangs. What the Thing's entire shape was like was cunningly withheld until the cliffhanger conclusion of the episode; but we had seen enough to put us one up on Dr Who and the rest and to confirm our belief that the human race was shortly to be threatened by something exceedingly nasty and tangible.

A brief touch of light relief by way of contrast, with Dr Who tinkering with his veteran car while prophetically singing, " Twas brillig and the slithy toves ..." (though I didn't catch the allusion at the time, it was a nice touch). Then we were into a tautly handled establishing scene which introduced many of the principal characters and explained with impressive technicological expertise the reason why the Doctor and his assistant were being called in to investigate mysterious happenings at an Atomic Research Station.

This could have been a bore. It wasn't. Personality clashes were hinted at in tightly written dialogue leavened with humour arising out of Dr Who's penchant for pricking the bubble of official pomposity with the direct question that served the double purpose of clarifying detail for the lay viewer.

With an elaborate multiple set, adequately dressed with extras busying themselves with highly complicated machinery to provide a background of convincing activity, Dr Who and the Silurians promises to put many a million-dollar filmed fantasy to shame.

It was not an enviable task for Jon Pertwee to take over the title role. Alrcady he has created a brand new Superbrain with all the eccentric charm of his predecessors but with a humour and forcefulness all his own. The decision to turn the series into lightweight entertainment for adults instead of children has freed Caroline John from the need to act the well-meaning but irresponsible teenager and she makes Liz Shaw a worthy as well as an attractive assistant to the Doctor. Nicholas Courtney suggests hidden depths to the otherwise routine military figure of Brigadier Stewart by investing his dialogue with the sardonic humour of a man of action manifestly unawed by the wrangling boffins.

These three actors have already had one series in which to develop their roles. Of the newcomers, Peter Miles (Dr Lawrence), Norman Jones (Major Baker), Thomasine Heiner (Miss Dawson) and Fulton Mackay (Dr Quinn) demonstrated that they have given their full attention to the job of creating well-rounded characters whose varied personalities will add to the interest of observing their reactions to the alarming adventures in store for them.

Don't miss next week's thrilling instalment. And you know what? I bet that now Dr Who is being written especially for adults the kids will be flocking back in their thousands. A joke that will no doubt be savoured to the full by writer Malcolm Hulke, director Timothy Combe, Script editor Terence Dicks, and producer Barry Letts.

Caption: Jon Pertwee, the new Dr Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Bilbow, Marjorie (1970-02-05). Fine display of craftsmanship. The Stage and Television Today p. 13.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Bilbow, Marjorie. "Fine display of craftsmanship." The Stage and Television Today [add city] 1970-02-05, 13. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Bilbow, Marjorie. "Fine display of craftsmanship." The Stage and Television Today, edition, sec., 1970-02-05
  • Turabian: Bilbow, Marjorie. "Fine display of craftsmanship." The Stage and Television Today, 1970-02-05, section, 13 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Fine display of craftsmanship | url= | work=The Stage and Television Today | pages=13 | date=1970-02-05 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=19 May 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Fine display of craftsmanship | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=19 May 2024}}</ref>