"The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface. One day they will awaken and reclaim their world...
"The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear.
"In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumours that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin..."
"Bloodtide", by novice writer Jonathan Morris, is one of those stories that features the return of a classic "Who" monster - this time, the reptilian Silurians. And as usual, the dastardly Silurians are seeking to rid the planet Earth of its infestation of "ape creatures". However, by setting the serial on the exotic Galapagos Islands and rewinding the clock to the 19th Century, Morris undercuts the "Silurians" / "Sea Devils" / "Warriors of the Deep" cliché and makes the story more than different enough to be interesting.
The performances in Bloodtide are generally excellent, but as is often the case, the Doctor is separated from his companion for much of the story (a shame, as the Doctor and Evelyn always have a good repartie), and instead the Doctor acquires a companion substitute in the form of terrified Baquerizo Moreno native Greta. However, herein lies the major weakness of the first two episodes: actress Jane Goddard gives her one-shot character the most shrill, overblown one-shot performance imaginable. As I was listening to the first two episodes on the bus with the volume turned up high, I honestly felt that my eardrums were about to burst. Thankfully, Greta gets polished off at an early stage of episode three (although not in the manner you might expect), leaving us free to enjoy the rest of the story and the machinations of the Silurians. Her short-lived brother Emilio, meanwhile, manages better even if he does tend to slip back into actor Jez Fielder's regional British accent at the critical moment!
The B-story is Charles Darwin and the voyage of discovery that leads to the formation of his theory of evolution. Aided by Evelyn, he mulls over the implications of the Silurians and the subtle variations in more familiar species from island to island in a pretty convincing way. However, his final affirmation of his theories is badly handled, and leaves the story open to criticism by some listeners who might find the content offensive. Thankfully the most openly atheistic scene was cut prior to the recording of the story.
Bloodtide is a good Silurian story with a unique setting. It's not without its weaknesses - the grating Greta for instance, and the fact that it sometimes reads a bit like a science lesson - but at least the majority of listeners should at least be grown up enough to take with the atheist content either at face value or with a pinch of salt, whichever is their choice. Oh, and the cover art is excellent!