THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Sea Devils
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Sea Devils

Author Malcolm Hulke Cover image
Published 1974
ISBN 0 426 10516 8
First Edition Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: Whilst visiting the MASTER, who has been exiled to a luxurious castle prison on a small island, DOCTOR WHO and Jo Grant learn that a number of ships have vanished in the area. Whilst investigating these mysterious disappearances Jo and the Doctor are attacked by a SEA-DEVIL, one of a submarine colony distantly related to the Silurians. Soon they discover that the SEA-DEVILS plan to conquer the earth and enslave humanity, aided and abetted by the MASTER. What can DOCTOR WHO do to stop them?


Reviews

A rushed ending by Tim Roll-Pickering 27/11/03

The television story The Sea Devils is often considered to be a weaker retelling of Doctor Who and the Silurians, losing some of the earlier story's prominent features such as the internal divisions amongst the reptile people in favour of action and encounters between the Doctor and the Master. Unfortunately the novelisation Doctor Who and the Sea-Devils (the term is hyphenated throughout the book) also suffers heavily when compared to Hulke's novelisation of his earlier story, Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters. Whilst some of the problems may stem from the difficulties in translating an all-action adventure to the printed page, there is also the sense that this novelisation has been rushed with the result that in the latter parts at least Hulke has failed to work his usual magic.

As with his previous novelisations, Hulke has taken the opportunity to cut scenes where it adds to the tension (for example we don't find out what has happened to the two maintenance men on the oil rig until after the Doctor and Jo arrive whilst the Master's encounter with the Clangers has been cut), alter material (changing the sea fort into an oil rig - highly topical in 1974 when the book was printed - and the hovercraft into a helicopter) and provide charecter insights that can transform even on-screen extras into real people. We learn more about the crew of the ship that is sunk at the start of the story, making their loss seem very real, whilst the attitudes of Robbins towards the Master's incarceration give us a sense of how the general public feel justice should have been served and Captain Hart's attitude to interference by UNIT personnel is made all too clear. The character who benefits the most from these expositions is George Trenchard, who is brought to life in some wonderful passages which explain his reasons for helping a major criminal far more than the televised version ever does. There is an especially poignant moment when Trenchard dies with the safety catch still in place on his revolver but later when his body is found the Doctor discreetly flicks it off and thus allows Tenchard to be remembered as having died a hero.

Unfortunately there is one group of charecters who are sorely neglected and they are the Sea-Devils. Unlike in his previous novelisation Hulke does little to bring the reptiles to life. Throughout the book he refers to them using the title inaccurately given to them by humans. Furthermore he declines to give any of them names or individual personalities. The only distinction made at all comes with the Chief Sea-Devil, who is shown as willing to briefly consider the Doctor's hopes for peace but who is quickly swayed by the Master. Later the Chief Sea-Devil is shot dead at the Naval base but nothing is made of the succession and whether it in any way influences the Sea-Devils' final attitude to the Master.

The general feeling that one comes away with from this novelisation is that Hulke started out writing a book that had the potential to be as good as Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters or Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon, but was forced to finish it at an extremely fast rate and the result is a sense of his usual magic fading in the latter parts. This book is still a good read, but does not come close to his earlier two masterpieces. 6/10