The Silurians, a classic Doctor Who “monster” have returned to our screens in Chris Chibnall’s new story The Hungry Earth. Sadly, the story has not done anything, so far, to correct an unfortunately horrid series of errors placing them in geologic time. In fact, by adding one more piece, he’s compounded the error yet again.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to call them “Silurians” but as you’ll see, as things stand now, we’re no closer to giving them a correct name as we were when they first appeared 40 years ago.
Consider: These reptilian creatures were first dubbed “Silurians” in the original series story, “Doctor Who and the Silurians.” This is clearly a misnomer. The Silurian Period spanned from 430 million years ago (mya) to 408 mya. By the end of the Silurian period, land-dwelling reptiles didn’t exist yet. A gross misnomer.
It was also pointed out that the so-called Silurians went into hibernation when a small planetoid threatened the Earth. The planetoid instead went into orbit and became the moon. Although not known that the time of the writing of that story, the moon is the result of collision with the primordial Earth, over 4 billions years ago. One this is for sure, the moon has orbited Earth for as long as life has been present.
Later, the Silurians cousins turned up in the story, The Sea Devils. The Doctor helpfully pointed out that the Silurians should have been called The Eocenes.
Problem: The Eocene Epoch spans from 57.8 mya to 35.6 mya. That’s over 7 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. We know that the Silurians co-habitated the earth with dinosaurs which must put them into the late Triassic, the Jurrasic or the Cretaceous periods roughly 220 mya to 65 mya. Most likely they must have come from the end of that time as they have a pet Tyrannosaur, which only dates back about 68 mya.
Next problem: Even the original Silurians recognized apes, which didn’t evolve until just after the Eocene, in the Oligocene.
You’d think it couldn’t be any worse and then Hungry Earth comes along and not only does the Doctor call them Silurians and Eocenes, but he also refers to them as Homo Reptilia, and then suggest they’re from 300 mya – which is in the Carboniferious Period!
While the Carboniferous did have amphibians, the major reptilian lines didn’t really get going until the next period, the Permian.
Finally, I don’t know where he pulled the name Homo Reptilia from, but in biological classifications, you don’t just slap “homo” in front of a name if the creature is vaguely anthropomorphic. For it to be Homo Reptilia, these creatures would have to be our very close, mammalian relatives.
One could almost think Chibnall threw this stuff in just to push my buttons. Maybe he’ll fix it all better next week.
One thing in the original story’s favor. Although it was clearly intended and stated to have been the moon, time has given us an out. When the first Silurian story came out, nobody knew about the asteroid that struck the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous, now widely thought to have been the final straw in the extinction of the dinosaurs. It would be easy to retrofit the original explanation and say that it was that asteroid instead of the moon that the Silurians hid from.
But that just adds more fuel to the argument that the Silurians really should be called The Cretaceans.
Follow-up June 2, 2010:
There was no magical explanation in the final episode, Cold Blood and they even re-enforced the wandering moon problem, too. I guess I really was giving them too much credit.