The Silurians and Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who And The Silurians

The only serial to feature Dr. Who in the title.

Part of the Sirius Business project is tracking the development and expression of Reptilian/Siriusian beings in popular culture and media.

Truth be told, once a study into this is begun, many connections between “fiction” and “reality” emerge into distinct relief. Just as ancient myths can trace their origins to actual human events, these stories of reptilian beings share some common background in history—whether their authors know it or not.

One can argue that this is a long-term public affairs campaign to prepare humanity for disclosure of exopolitical agreements with the Siriusians. On the other hand, the case could be made that these stories are orchestrated to discredit any discussion of Reptoids as being too influenced by pulp stories. I can’t answer either question, but I can offer enough information to make those questions worth asking.

There is a significant amount of material that illustrates various sorts of reptilian lifeforms. As I was preparing research for this long-term project (as opposed to the comprehensive non-fiction research volume I am also creating), I casually took in an earlier series of Doctor Who.

This seven-episode serial happened during the Third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) regeneration and is the first mention of one of the key alien races in the Doctor Who universe. I am talking about the episodes known as “Doctor Who and the Silurians”.

Sillurian

This is a Silurian watchdog.

“Doctor Who and the Silurians” aired in the early months of 1970 during season seven of Dr. Who. This season is notable among Dr. Who fans because it was entirely Earth-bound for reasons of budget and BBC politics. The BBC saw diminishing value in the property and the show’s budget suffered as a result. The key creatives guiding the series (Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Timothy Combe) were frustrated by the limits this placed on the stories they could create around the Doctor. They anticipated having to write variations on an already tired alien invasion trope for the entirety of the season. They knew they had to do something else to keep the show interesting. I recently spoke with story editor Terrance Dicks about this part of Dr. Who history.“Our predecessors, Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, took the decision to exile the Doctor to Earth and by luck, Barry Letts, the current producer…they thought this was not a good idea and eventually we changed it so the Doctor could roam the universe in his Tardis again. We were stuck with it for the first year or so and when this first decision was made I was talking to Malcolm “Mac” Hulke, who was an old friend of mine and very much my mentor in the business. Mac, who has sort of a quick logical mind, thought for a moment, ‘well in that case you only got two stories. Alien invasion or mad scientist.’ I thought about this and I thought, ‘he’s right.’ Because obviously it’s a story set on Earth, what else would get you Doctor Who? That was a problem. I was determined to find a way around it, as it was, something that wasn’t one or the other. Eventually I came up with the idea of the Silurians. The idea that there’d been a reptile species that had been in charge of the Earth and had go into hibernation because of catastrophe that didn’t happen. Then, when awoken by man’s scientific works they came back to life and thought that it was their planet. They wanted their planet back and believed that we were the alien invaders. Which I thought was a neat way around it, you see, so I spoke to Mac about this and he said ‘Yes, you’ve got something there, I can do something with that’ and he went off and came back with the Silurians. The Silurians came specifically out of that problem.” (Terrance Dicks, phone interview, January 13, 2015)

Now the most interesting part of this series isn’t the fact that the Silurians are presented in the Dr. Who universe. As we will see, there are plenty of Reptoid species in science fiction media, but the Silurians are special. Not only is the name remarkably close to the origin of the real Siriusians, but the method of discovery is nearly identical to the popular mythology of the first modern encounter with Reptilians.

Miner drawing on wall

A miner draws the strange reptilians he found in the caves.

Miner drawing on wall

The crazed miner draws the Silurians. So meta!

In the television program, an underground excavation opens a passageway to a long slumbering group of Silurians. They take shelter in caves to escape what they thought was an impending collision with the moon. They were the original humanoid species on Earth, but the hibernation system malfunctioned and they slept through the entire development of the human race. A nearby nuclear power facility inadvertently causes the hibernation system to function again. They rise from sleep, horrified at the current tenants of their planet.

Silurians

The Silurians consider the future of the planet Earth.

People familiar with the Reptoid lore will note that this sounds very familiar. While there was no nuclear power at the time, G. Warren Shufelts’ discovery of the caves under Los Angeles follows a very similar course of events. After discovering the unusual contents of the Reptoid lair, he learns that local Native Americans have a story about lizard people who live in the area. The Native Americans communicated with the Reptoids in the past and learned they moved underground to avoid a climatic catastrophe in the distant past. Unfortunately, G. Warren Shufelt was more interested in the possibility of a massive gold treasure (this was 1934) than anthropology. (I should point out that my own research has revealed there is much more to this story than the urban legend. That’s in the non-fiction book.)

This struck me as quite a coincidence. Were the Dr. Who creatives incorporating this urban legend into their story? Or was it an example of some Jungian collective unconscious at work? Talking to one of the creatives who were actually there seemed like the best way to answer this. Unfortunately, writer Malcolm Hulke died in 1979 and producer Barry Letts died in 2004. So, I again consulted with story editor, Terrance Dicks, about the origin of the Silurians.

“I came up with the basic concept of the pre-human race that took over the Earth, I’m not quite sure why we made them reptilian except we wanted them to be alien and sinister. And very distinctly non-human. They refer to mankind as apes. The looked down on the apes when they ruled the planet. The fact that they were reptilian was um almost coincidental. We weren’t particulairly thinking about reptiles. When you say reptilian, it sounds alien and scary, doesn’t it? Which was the kind of effect we were after, you know.” (Terrance Dicks, phone interview, January 13, 2015)

Silurian

Silurian in close-up. Note the third eye.

The circumstances around the discovery of the Reptoids isn’t the only unusual aspect of the Hulke/Dicks story. If you look at the imagery of the Silurians you will see that they have two humanoid eyes and a third eye in the high center. This third eye doubles as a sort of infrared sight and energy weapon. What is most striking about this design is that many reptiles have a “Parietal Eye” that sits in the center of their head. This is more or less developed in different species, but some theorize that early dinosaurs actually had a full-sized third eye in that same area. I doubt dinosaurs had energy weapons, but this is a significant coincidence. I asked Mr. Dicks about this as well.

“That was something that Mac came up with when he was writing the script and it was an interesting concept. No, he wouldn’t have done that (research). They were simply an alien species and I suppose we just said reptilian, but I don’t think there was a degree of scientific interest that you might be looking for.” (Terrance Dicks, phone interview, January 13, 2015)

I am not here to explain how it is that a staff of working BBC writers essentially replicated key points of the Reptoid story. There are plenty of forking paths in the pursuit of any number of theories about this. It’s tempting to think there are a group of reptilians out there sending mental suggestions to creators such as Hulke and Dicks. This could function as propaganda, as a warning, or an act of vanity. It’s possible that they want us to think they might be here, but not know they are still under the Earth they once called home. I suppose it is equally likely that someone in the know could somehow be feeding this information to raise awareness of the reptilians, for good or bad. Maybe someone bent Dicks’ or Hulke’s ear at the pub during lunch to tell them about the Reptoids that lived under the Earth.

Regardless of the reason, the Silurians have become an integral part of the Dr. Who universe. They are one of the most recognizable races, after Daleks and Cybermen. The arc of their species in the storyline isn’t that different from what we know of the schism between the terran Reptoids and the galactic Siriusians. Some want to reclaim the Earth, some want to help humanity follow their path to the stars and some would prefer to leave the planet entirely.

Silurian

A militant Silurian.

model of prehistoric earth

The Silurian Earth.

As Mr. Dicks explained, the writers chose a reptilian species because that would be most alien to human beings. I think we are intrigued and frightened by them in equal measure. They are so different physically, but quite similar in history and origin. Both call Earth their home world, yet one of them have a history that dwarfs the total evolution of humanity. Is it so unusual that these reptilian beings should be so common in our stories?

Photo of chimp

Those damn dirty apes.

They’ve been here next to us the whole time, but we will only consider this in the safe space of “fantasy” and “science fiction.” This is something like a truth that can only be told as a joke. Those poorly fitting latex suits look ridiculous but they point to the possibility of something that is not to be laughed at. In the end we may find the evolutionary joke is on us.

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