Big Finish Folly, Part 84 – Bloodtide, by Jonathan Morris
The Galapagos Islands: home to some of Earth’s most curious species of wildlife, as well as a more modern penal colony. The Doctor brings Evelyn here to meet a young natural philosopher who is beginning to form some rather unsettling theories about how mankind found its place at the top of the food chain. But something has stirred beneath the inhospitable islands – a colony of Silurians, a race older than humanity itself, has awoken and intends to put the whippersnappers back in their proper place. Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection through modification may only be a small part of the truth. And the survival of the fittest has never been more apt…
It’s a pairing so blindingly obvious that you have to wonder why nobody thought of it before: Darwin vs the Silurians. The hero of natural selection against the Earth’s most ancient inhabitants. Given that the Doctor’s present companion has a PhD, it makes perfect sense to rocket in and visit the crew of the Beagle now, just as Darwin gets his act together. Jonathan Morris lets us in on the joke, with Evelyn as Darwin’s audience and sounding-board, restrained only by the Doctor’s stern imprecations about changing the course of history. He slides effortlessly from natural selection to more straight-forward genetic modification too, presenting humanity as a Silurian-created GM crop allowed to go wild during their absence.
In common with the TV era it harks back to (once again, the historicals that were at the heart of early Who), there’s a lot of detail shoehorned in to the first two episodes and the threat only really crystalises once the Myrka is unleashed upon the Beagle. In the regular historicals of course there’s no extra-terrestrial menace and the conflict is all in the characters of the time. For Bloodtide, the Silurian elements end up competing with Darwin’s agonised theorising, and the conclusion isn’t quite as satisfying as it could be, with the Doctor warning everybody to stay quiet about what they have witnessed. I reckon it would have been more interesting in some respects to have kept Darwin completely separate to the Silurians, running two stories parallel – the Doctor battling the Silurians over their desire to take back their land, while Evelyn witnessed Darwin’s own struggles.
There’s also one or two less than convincing accents happening in the supporting cast: the local colour sound a bit too “comedy Mexican” for my liking, though I’m certain that wasn’t the intent. Those quibbles aside however, it’s nice to see the Silurians make their first – and to date, their only – appearance in the Big Finish canon.