Presented as a limited edition boxset Monsters on Earth is a collection of three linked stories; Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep.
The first of these introduces us to the reptilian race ‘the Silurians’, an ancient species who inhabited the earth thousands of years before humans evolved. Awoken by the workings of an energy research facility the Silurians decide to assert their claim over the planet even if it means the destruction of man.
In the second story we meet the Sea Devils, the aquatic ‘cousins’ of the Silurians and also features The Master. Both of these star Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. The final story in the set is 1984’s Warriors of the Deep starring Peter Davison and featuring return appearances by both races.
Presenting the stories as a set is a fabulous idea which allows the listener to follow the Doctor’s entire dealings with the two species. Although not conceived as a trilogy there is a natural fit between the tales with both later stories referring back to the first, although in the case of ‘Warriors’ not all the references seem that accurate!
Each story features the original television soundtrack and is narrated by the actress who portrays the companion in it; Caroline John for Doctor Who and the Silurians, Katy Manning for The Sea Devils and Janet Fielding for Warriors of the Deep.
Both the earlier stories are from the pen of Malcolm Hulke. Doctor Who and the Silurians is a genuine psychological horror which uses not only the threat of man’s extermination by plague but also the concept of race memory to create a story with real spinechilling effect.
This is an intelligent story which highlights the complexity the series is capable of. The Silurians aren’t another race of alien invaders who simply require defeating, they’re the traditional inhabitants of the planet who have awoken to find it inhabited by the descendants of primitive apes.
From their perspective it’s as if we awoke one morning to find someone else had moved into our home, redecorated the place and denied we’d ever lived there. The audience is constantly reminded of this fact ensuring the moral ambiguities are constantly foremost in our minds.
35 years before Harriet Jones dismayed a Christmas Day audience by destroying the Sycorax ship Hulke ensures the story ends on a note which avoids undermining the complexity of his plot.
The Sea Devils in another exercise in writing a ‘shades of grey’ story. Although the story revisits ideas from the first serial they are presented in a sufficiently new way, alongside new concepts, for them not to feel like a simple retread.
When the audience is introduced to the Master he’s a prisoner under the care of Colonel Trenchard. I’m unlikely to be giving much away by saying the plot requires the Master to escape in order that he can team up with the the Sea Devils.
By the point in the series the Master’s powers of hynposis were well know to the audience. Instead of opting for the obvious and lazy use of this power to effect his escape Hulke plays with both the Character and the audience’s expectations – lookout for the scene where the Master attempts to hypnotise a guard.
Eschewing the obvious Hulke instead explores the dangers of an overpowering sense of duty and devotion to ‘Queen and Country’. Those same qualities would allow Yvonne in Doomsday to heroically fight against the cyber-conditioning, here they’re shown to be a weakness which allow the Master to exploit Trenchard’s perfectly good intentions.
In doing so Hulke explores the concept of a ‘dark path’ long before George Lucas and Star Wars would introduce the concept into pop culture.
The story also allows the Doctor a rare second chance. Having failed to negotiate a peace between the humans and Silurians in the first story he seizes on the opportunity to do so this time however the untimely appearance of Parliamentary Private Secretary Walker undermines the Doctor’s efforts.
Walker is another man whose sense of duty clouds his judgement. Left to his own devices Walker launches an all out attack on the Sea Devils. When confronted by the powerful personality of the Doctor his arrogance and ego are turned in on him in a bid to gain time to again try and make peace between the two species.
Of the three stories in the set Warriors of the Deep is perhaps the one which benefits most from an audio only presentation. Over lit sets, far less convincing costumes than the earlier adventures and of course the dreadfully realised Myrka all combined to create a rather uninspiring TV adventure.
Stripped of the bad visuals Johnny Byrne’s script is finally revealed to be…not that bad. Using the (then) very topical idea of two power blocs fighting for domination Byrne seeks to create an opportunity for the reptiles to turn mankind’s own weapons against him.
Unfortunately the story rarely allows the reptiles to show any of the nobility which is much in evidence in Doctor Who and the Silurians and instead relies on the Doctor imparting this idea though some quite wordy dialogue. Although not a bad story it’s sadly not as good as the others in the set.
Accompanying each story is an interview with the narrator carried out by disc Producer Mark Ayres and each contributer seems to have genuine affection for their time with the series.
As well as discussing their own involvement with the show there’s time for a few kind words for the new series with Fielding in particular favourably comparing Billie Piper’s character of Rose and the inclusion of her family with the characterisations of past companions.
Spanning seven discs and more than seven and a half hours the set is presented in an illustrated metal box the base of which features a striking illustration from Chris Achilleos which was first used to illustrate the novelisation of Doctor Who and the Silurians.
Although the RRP of