DW & The Silurians
The Sea Devils
Warriors of the Deep
|Jan. 5, 1984 -
Jan. 13, 1984
With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson.
Written by Johnny Byrne. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Pennant Roberts. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: In a sequel to Doctor Who and The Silurians and The Sea Devils, the Doctor finds the awakening races ready to begin a war with humanity.
I So Wanted To Like This Story by Carl Malmstrom 11/5/97
Warriors of the Deep is one of those stories that badly wants to have a point but fails miserably. I had wanted to see it badly for some time, having enjoyed Doctor Who and the Silurians so much, and I was sadly disappointed when it finally came out on video. The story turns out to be incredibly stereotypic and banal.
The story had so many problems: where should I start? How about with the Doctor: of all the Davison stories I've seen (15 of 20) this one understands his character the least. The Fifth Doctor was known for being kind, honest, fairly open, and straightforward. In this outing, he's plotting, destructive and slightly underhanded. This performance was more in line with Sylvester McCoy or maybe Tom Baker. Oddly enough, he rang most true with his "You Humans Are Pathetic" speech. The Silurians were also terribly disappointing. They were basically green Cybermen: killers with no conscience who walked around in groups of three saying "Excellent!". Didn't they review the old Pertwee stories to get an idea of what they were like? The Doctor refers to the Silurians and the Sea Devils as old, honorable races, but we see no evidence of that here. I really think the "No Peace In Our Time" idea has been more than beaten to death.
The Myrka, too, was a terrible disappointment. It was so painfully obviously two men in a suit that at times I wanted to turn the episode off. Don't misunderstand me, part of Doctor Who's charm is it's special effects, but I tend to come down a little harder on them during the John Nathan-Turner era because they actually tried to have decent special effects then. I could go on about the undersea base and the human crew, but I'm running out of space.
The only bright side I found to this episode was Turlough's continued struggle against himself to be either cowardly or courageous. It's nice when they don't wrap up ongoing issues right after they've been brought up (i.e. The Black Guardian Trilogy). On the whole, though, this episode is a dismal failure and a pale clone of so many other "We're Stuck On Board a Ship/Sub/Undersea Base/Etc/" stories. Go watch Earthshock instead.
A Review by Leo Vance 16/2/98
This story was the one and only non-Pertwee appearance of the Sea Devils and Silurians. It is also the one and only Silurian/Sea Devil adventure to be universally (almost) battered by fans.
Starting with the villains, the Silurians are good monsters. Icthar is well-motivated, and the creatures are quite moral during this story. Their costumes are well designed (since I haven't yet seen Doctor Who and the Silurians I can't tell whether they are better or worse than the originals) but dissapoint because there is no lip or eye movement. They are also a little slow-moving. The Sea Devils are better than their originals (except in speed), with the blinking eyelids being a vast improvement. Sauvix is well-characterised as a militaristic Sea Devil. Tarpok and Scibus are both good, and the performances are good all round. Only Icthars repeated excellent's are bad. The Myrka is an excellent monster, if less than convincing, but neither was the original Silurian dinosaur.
The humans are reasonable. Vorshak and Bulic are the best, with Nilson and Preston not far away. Less effective is Solow, but the worst by far is the dull and almost-wooden Karina. Maddox is well-acted, and the characters are all written well.
Peter Davison is excellent as usual, well supported by Mark Strickson as Turlough. But Janet Fielding, given an awful script, struggles hard to bring Tegan to life.
The Costume Department does a good job for the Base Guards and the humans, as with Tegans costume. The direction is interesting, with some weird touches (Solows karate attack on the Myrka). Scripting is excellent all round, and the special effects are all good (though the Sea Devils don't aim very well for an Elite unit).
All around, this is a good story, well plotted. The Silurian battlecruser and Base models are the best, and only the lighting in the Base is less than perfect, though the Base interior is still excellent. 7/10
White Does Not Always Go With Everything by Robert Thomas 7/10/00
Let's be honest, we all know that Warriors is a story with a lot of problems. It isn't a bad story, like I said it just has a lot of problems. Even though I like this story a lot it can be used as a template to show the negative aspects of the Davison era.
Bringing back familiar old adversaries does not necessarily result in a bad story. Omega, The Master, The Cybermen and The Black Guardian all featured in some good stories that cemented their reputation in the Davison era. But in my view the Silurians and Sea Devils suffered the most in their Davison era reappearance.
Again let's be honest when we think of the Sea Devils we think of them emerging from the sea in their debut story. The only good thing that they come away with here is their new Samurai image. Also when I think Silurian I think of the trek across the moors and their running around the sets of their debut story too. I don't like their metallic voices here as they could easily have been just a group of robots. The only thing I do like is their reaction to the humans and The Doctor. The problem with them is that they just don't seem to suit a studio bound story especially a claustrophobic one like this. I don't believe in kicking a dog when it is down so I wont take this opportunity to slag off the pantomime horse or the Myrka as it is sometimes known.
The story itself is a little simplistic, the speech about the gas gives away the plot in the first fifteen minutes. The technology and especially Maddox relation to it is very well handled. The political side is nice and with the scheming and double dealing the viewer is left wondering why the monsters were not left out and this aspect part of the main plot.
On the acting front only The Doctor, Turlough Vorshak and Bulic are on form. In the case of Tegan this is because she is ignored and given little to do, which is one reason why I liked this story. The Doctor is approaching his peak as we would see in this season. The last line is as great as we have been told it is. Turlough can't seem to decide if he has any courage or is a coward which in turn makes good viewing as his guilt catches up with him.
The best aspect of the story however is the model work. The ship and the base are amongst Doctor Who's best. This brings me to the main problem I have with this story. Its a niggly little aspect but the interior of an underground base should not be white, even if it is in the future. What it should be is something more industrialist and in line with the sets of Terminus.
I really like this story but it can be summarised with one fact. During this season John Nathan-Turner must have thought, "Let's give the opening story the lowest budget and concentrate on the series finale. Yes, let's give that the top effort and biggest budget!"
There's no justice, is there?
A Review by Stephen Mills 21/6/01
The opener of Season 21 is one that usually attracts a fair amount of criticism, so what is so bad about it?
There are quite a lot of good things about this story and one thing that does stand out well is the writing by Johnny Byrne, the idea of the future Earth, the idea of the two power blocs and the tensions created. However they are completely useless when Pennant Roberts (director), Eric Saward (script editor) and John Nathan Turner (producer) get to them.
There is also some excellent design work from Tony Burrough including the Sentinel Six and the Silurian vessel and the Sea Base which look very realistic and convincing as a sea base. However they really don't help the scripts very well. The original scripts would have had the Sea Base has a very claustrophobic atmosphere but instead we are given light an airy corridors which lose any tension.
Well the acting for a start in places is quite appalling, I think Ingrid Pitt and Janet Fielding are the most guilty for trying to look terrified when they meet the Myrka (we'll move onto that later) and all the other guest characters are very cliched. We have Vorshak, the disorganized leader, like Cutler in The Tenth Planet and Hobson in The Moonbase and Nilson is basically Klieg from The Tomb of the Cybermen without the personality and the rest of the crew are also disjointed just like Vorshak. A word of note though as Peter Davison and Mark Strickson does manage a decent performance in the roles of the Doctor and Turlough.
OK, onto the serious problems, the aliens of sorts. The Silurians are exactly the same as their previous story but the Sea Devils aren't. The whole success of those creatures was their appealability. They were this pathetic race that made us feel sympathetic towards them, however their new look makes them looks like Warriors which doesn't make us feel sympathetic towards them, it makes up turn against them. The Silurian costumes were just about all right but why are there voices changed so badly and why is the third eye, which was a death ray in the previous story now, redundant. Why don't you just not bother with it, if your not going to use it properly? Now the Myrka, a lot has been said about it, but it probably the worst thing ever invented in Doctor Who. Come on, it just prompts bad acting as everyone was trying very hard to be frightened of it but no one pulled it off convincingly. Why not get rid of the Myrka and have this a cliffhanger to part 2: An explosive blasts open the doors and trap Tegan under the collapsed doors. Suddenly the Sea Devils enter and one aims his gun at the stranded Tegan.
There is another thing that this story suffers from really badly and that's a terrible part 3 where we learn nothing and just seems like a pointless run around, it shows up quite badly and protrudes like a sore thumb. The only thing they did useful was get rid of the Myrka, which should have been done by the production team. I'm sorry but Johnny Byrne should have realized that his Part 3 was bad. The story also fails to raise the very good moral issues that The Silurians and The Sea Devils did. We have the Doctor trying to convince us that the Silurians and the Sea Devils are friendly, hospitable races, instead they are seen as angry and hostile races. This is a tremendous shame and shows disrespect for Malcolm Hulke's (the creator of the Silurians and the Sea Devils) original outlines for the creatures.
Some of the direction also does seem slightly bizarre from Pennant Roberts. She, as the director, would be responsible for the design sets the creations and basically the whole story. Simply the execution does not come off and ends up looking reasonably good but without creating any tension. In fact, Dr Solow (played awfully by Ingrid Pitt) kung-fu kick on the Myrka is one of the worst scenes ever in Doctor Who. Surely a good director should have realized that the Myrka was crap and just written out of the scripts.
In conclusion, Warriors of the Deep is very similar to Paradise Towers, in that it had lots of potential but ultimately failed. Although really the only really good thing I can say about this story is average. 6/10.
Plumbing the Depths by Andrew Wixon 15/8/01
Modern palaentologists would have us believe that the mighty dinosaurs are not entirely extinct, but have in fact evolved into present-day birds. Certainly this seems to hold true in the world of Doctor Who, for the chilling and thoughtful Doctor Who and the Silurians and the polished and energetic The Sea Devils, both dinosaur-themed tales in their own way, gave birth to this almighty turkey.
It's too easy to put the boot into WOTD. But let's get started anyway. Attempts have been made to rehabilitate this story on the grounds that it's a reasonable script torpedoed by poor design and over-lit sets. No it isn't. This is a terrible script. The climax is telegraphed (and that's putting it charitably) in the first quarter-hour, the guest characters are all cyphers defined by a single characteristic (Maddocks is nervous, Bulic looks glum, Nilson is a traitor, Solow is a disco-dancing traitor, Vorshak is the commander who keeps threatening to have the Doctor shot) apart from the Silurians who don't appear to have any personalities at all. And the dialogue is terrible, line after tin-eared, clanking line of over-expository rubbish with everyone pointedly calling each other by name. 'You'll get no help from me, Silurian,' growls Vorshak improbably, while Sauvix is landed with probably the worst of the lot - 'Bring forth the cutting device,' he gurgles at one point, sounding like an RSC revival of Changing Rooms.
I've been known to hang around DW-themed bulletin boards and chatrooms and sure enough every few weeks someone will kick off a thread with 'Other than the Daleks and Cybermen, which old enemies should return in a proverbial new series?' To which I tend to reply 'None of them', and this story is exhibit A to support that. I can't imagine anyone was terribly impressed with the way the Silurians/Eocenes/Earth Reptiles/ Psionosauropodamorphae/whatever are handled here. If you're a casual viewer, you're not told what the deal is with the tortoise guys and the bird-things in Samurai costumes until well into episode two, and even then the Doctor's breathless recap doesn't emphasise the main point and irony of their origin. If, on the other hand, you're a fan, you're probably wondering a) who's Icthar meant to be? b) what's all the business with the Silurian Triads? c) has there been a missing third encounter that we haven't seen yet? d) why do the Silurians' pineal eyes work differently now? e) where are the string vests on the Sea Devils, then? f) how come the Sea Devils have only been asleep for 'hundreds of years'? - and many, many more. The Silurian plan to lay waste to the entire planet just doesn't chime with their stated intentions here or in the 70s stories - don't they want it back intact?
The actual set designs aren't that bad, but, yes, they are over-lit. The human costumes aren't quite so good and putting the male cast in eyeshadow was a questionable decision. But they're still better than the new Sea Devil outfits, especially as most of the extras' helmets wobble alarmingly.
And then there's the Myrka.
It's not quite all bad. The regulars do their best with ropy material, particularly Davison. The only visiting actor to emerge relatively unscathed is Ian McCulloch (but then again as a fan of Terry Nation's Survivors, in which he was regularly the best thing, I'm probably biased). There's a surprisingly violent and well-choreographed fight at the climax of the first episode, doubly so seeing as the rest of the action sequences are so unremittingly awful.
I suspect I've made my opinion of this story clear. It's a check-list of all that went wrong with DW in the mid-80s - Gratuitous returning foe? Check! Celebrity guest star? Check! Rubbish superfluous monster? Check! Inpenetrable and humourless script? Check! We should send a copy of this one to any prospective future producer of the show as an example of what to avoid. Then again, if we had any sense we should just disown it entirely.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 9/12/01
Season 21 was Peter Davison's last as the Doctor and was also his favourite. The season as a whole had more drive than the last one, additionally the writers were tailoring their scripts to the 5th Doctor. This story started the season and would prove to be Byrne's last script as he was unhappy with the rewrites Eric Saward made. It features those Pertwee era monsters - the Sea Devils and the Silurians together - besieging an underwater base. The script is a tension filled one and has Davison particularly well served, his upright Doctor leading the story assuredly. The rest of the cast are an assorted bunch, from Tom Adams Vorshak who makes an authorative commander, to Ingrid Pitt and Ian McCullochs's one dimensional villainy. Alas it's the flat direction that lets Byrne's script down badly. Pennant Roberts shoots the programme in rudimentary fashion, apparently there were behind-the-scenes problems resulting in a hectic effort to get it finished! The last line is delivered lamentably by the Doctor, "There should have been another way." Perhaps he was talking to Pennant.
Yes, Minister by Steve Scott 19/3/02
I suffered one of the biggest disappointments of my life thanks to this serial.
I was a good fanboy back in 1995 when BBC Video unleashed this dodgy Davison. I had inwardly digested all one needed to know about the story without watching the actual story itself. So, imagine my utter delight when I read down the cast list and saw that none other than Nigel Humphries played Bulic. Humphries of course was the man who gave life to that most acerbic of characters, Sir Humphrey Appleby, in Yes Minister. He was also one of my favourite actors because he'd been absolutely marvellous in The Madness of King George. You can understand then that I couldn't give a damn that Warriors was a badly designed mess with a cast as wooden as a Canadian logging camp. I couldn't give a damn for Nigel was in it.
Wrong Nigel. Hawthorne, not Humphries, played Sir Humphrey.
Trouble is, I can't watch this serial now without reliving that crushing blow. The many faults of the production: the horribly bland Silurians (Cybermen in lizard skin: "Excellent,Scibus!" I don't think so), some truly painful acting, the floodlit seabase etc, are all amplified and made worse by my mistake. I don't even account for the fact that the chronically rushed feel of the serial is Thatcher's fault, as most of the allocated production staff were swiped to cover the 1983 General Election.
It's a shame, because in my disappointment I fail to notice that Johnny Byrne's original script has quality. At the very least Byrne deserves a gold medal for avoiding the Cold War cliche of naming which power bloc is which (so no West-good-East-bad nonsense). Peter Davison's exceptional performance also passes me by, as does the splendid fight in the reactor pool (even if it is swiped from Dr. No).
There it is folks, my reason for disliking Warriors. Mind you,
if you didn't make the Hawthorne-Humphries mistake like me, you could
always blame Thatcher. Everybody else does.
Readers with long memories and warped frontal lobes may or may not have been entertained (probably the latter) by my somewhat flippant thrashing of this perennially dodgy Davison. The Davison era of the show is arguably the most consistent; let down only by two genuinely reputed clunkers - Warriors and Time-Shite. So what's your preference?? Plasticine prehistory or fumbled fanwank?
Now there's a choice many of us would rather not make. But I recently revisited the Warriors review page in the Guide and reminded myself of Mike Morris's incisive defence of a serial many choose to dismiss (and in Andy Wixon's case, hilariously). Mike's piece is impassioned and highlights some valid objections to endless fan trashing, but ultimately I'm still not sold on Warriors. I'll do my best to explain why.
First up, at the heart of this production lies a truly cracking premise. The tragedy of a once noble race of reptiles that, after all, only want their home back. A healthy smattering of Cold War politics without explicitly stating which side is which. And a Doctor caught in the middle, desperately trying to avoid a bloodbath by not resorting to the most obvious solutions.
And therein lies the truly frustrating calamity that surrounds Warriors. This is by far the greatest example in Who history of a splendid core idea shipwrecked (marine metaphors abound, I'm afraid) by its realisation. And what a truly terrible realisation it is.
Here we have an example of a writer practically disowning a project because the realisation is so far away from his original idea that it could almost be classified as a different story. Byrne's objections are now legion; I also feel that he sums up the general dissatisfaction with the story well. He clearly hated the notion of a "drop-kicking Rhine maiden", objected to the twin deaths of Vorshak and Ichtar and was less than pleased with Sea Base sets so bright the cast probably had to apply factor 8 to avoid sunburn. And I haven't even mentioned the Myrka.
But there's also a much greater force working against the production's favour. And that's the production itself. There's an awful amount of dialogue that doesn't sound like Byrne at all (who, after all, was responsible for the wonderfully poetic Keeper of Traken but then the guy's a poet anyway). Macho drivel like "You'll get no help from me, Silurian" and "Excellent!!" (repeat ad nauseum) are clearly the bastard offspring of Eric Saward's poison quill; compare this with the repeated use of "Excellent!" in Earthschlock and the horribly stilted dialogue of Resurrection of the Daleks and you'll see what I mean.
There's also the questionable logic about bringing back both the Silurians and Sea Devils. I take Mike's point about "the hand of friendship" being offered in unseen adventures, but (if The Television Companion is to be believed) the production team were making reference to the Pertwee era encounters. Thus if the rationale was to continue the story of the Silurians and Sea Devils from when we last met them, you really ought to get that story correct.
Warriors also highlights what's quite ugly about the fandom junta that can be so unforgiving and in many cases downright rude about what production teams in the 80s were trying to achieve. By producing a sequel to a couple of early 70s stories, you're really setting yourself up for a fall. Fans at the time held the Pertwee years to be Who perfection personified (an assertion based on Target novelisations and a healthy dose of rose tinted spectacles). Those fans who pretended to be Sea Devils in the bath - a handy shower attachment acting as a Sea Devil gun - were turned off this serial perhaps even before it had actually been transmitted. Who now simply could not match the Who they remembered from their childhood (see the superb From A to Z for a far more succinct overview of this aspect if fandom). So the return of any monster from the golden age of 70s Who was bound to be met with unbridled scorn.
In principle, the return of these two races is brilliant. But there's so little that's brilliant that survives to appear on the screen. Ichtar's endlessly declaiming "Excellent" reduces the Silurians to Cybermen in lizard skin. There are also a number of uncomfortable parallels with Earthschlock (which strengthens my suspicion that it was Saward, not Byrne, who muddled the script). Swap the Myrka for the androids in the caves, and the Silurians themselves with the Cybes and no one really would take much notice. The only vaguely brilliant aspect that actually makes it to the screen is the gorgeous Samurai armour that the Sea Devils wear.
And therein lies another point about 80s Who in general. If we leave aside Byrne's central notion for a parsec or two, Warriors is a typically 80s story inasmuch as it both lives and ultimately dies by its style. The genuinely praiseworthy aspects of the serial: good model work, a truly breathtaking central performance from Peter Davison, some well-staged fights and the aforementioned Sea Devil costumes are wholly stylistic. By the same measure, in other stylistic aspects Warriors fails dismally - the Myrka, set design, BBC Micro graphics, genuinely painful acting from the majority of the guests, Silurian third eye cock-up, repeat to fade...
I must also take issue with a couple of Mike's assertions. "The Sixth Doctor would have had the Hexachromite out in a shot" - would he? If this were the case the story would have been over in one episode (something which I suspect wouldn't have been a bad thing). No, if Colin were at the helm I speculate that the only difference would have been a haughtier attitude with the Sea Base crew. And given the general limpness that abounds among them, quite right too! Secondly, the bit about Shakespeare's bad handwriting raises an important point about Doc Six: would the majority of fans be so vehemently against Seasons 22 and 23 if Colin had been clad in a considerably less clashing costume? Gareth Roberts admits as much in DWM's The Complete Sixth Doctor ("and just think how our perceptions of Colin's Doctor change without seeing that bloody patchwork quilt!!").
As The Sisters of Mercy once sang, "hey now, hey now now, sing this corrosion to me" - an apposite epithet to ascribe to Warriors. For the saltwater dross that surrounds the Sea Base truly corrodes away what's genuinely praiseworthy about serial 6L. And as Byrne himself once declaimed, "I certainly couldn't have written worse". He's unfortunately right, Mike. There is another way.
But it ain't this one.
The Good, the Bad and the Wobbly by Mike Morris 6/4/02
Okay, I don't get this. I demand an explanation. What on earth has Warriors of the Deep done to deserve so many people having a go? I like this story. Yes, it has faults, a lot of them, but they're mostly superficial and some are - I think - rather misunderstood. Something has snapped, and excuse me while I go off on a rant.
Lay off Warriors of the Deep!!!! What's wrong with it anyway? This is a story with a marvellous script that puts the Doctor through the mill and back again the other way, that gives him some great lines, that kicks off the underlying theme of the season marvellously... what's the problem?
The problem, I hear you maliciously yell, is the Myrka / Ingrid Pitt / the design / the direction / the costumes / the Silurians / the Sea Devils / the hexachromite... oh, all right. I accept the difficulties. And yet I think many of these problems are overstated or, in fact, not problems at all, just misunderstandings of the premise behind one of the bravest stories during Doctor Who's televised run.
In any case, the plot is so solid and the scripts so sharp that writing the thing off as your mum's sweaty pants is unforgivable. It is, in many ways, the perfect story for the Fifth Doctor's character... two species believe they own the earth. Both these species are a noble, fascinating people - and yet they have come to believe that genocide is the only way. Caught in the middle is the Doctor, trying desperately to avoid any bloodshed and forced to take actions he despises.
The plot is slow - but, in the best Mac Hulke tradition, the time is spent building up suspense and creating a convincing environment. In spite of the limitations, in spite of missile command on a BBC Micro and bendy polystyrene doors, Sea Base Four works. The environment of the world in 2084 is so hostile that the viewer can believe that, yup, what goes on down here could cause apocalypse. The initial scene, in which the TARDIS almost gets destroyed for simply being in the wrong place, is unnecessary plotwise - and yet hugely important in establishing the world as it is. Not for some time had Doctor Who been quite so ambitious, dating its stories in the near future, boiling down the essence of the Cold War to a couple of white stock sets and an offhand comment by the Doctor. "Little has changed since your time," he tells Tegan, with a weariness that tells us all we need to know. In many ways this is the trick that Doctor Who has always pulled off, a wonderful trick that always bewitches me... squeezing an entire world into a tiny room in TV centre, with only a couple of sub-Thunderbirds models and a dollop of self-belief to back itself up. That's not cheap, that's heroic. And what makes me like Warriors of the Deep so much is that this world is ours, really; that, in spite of the big hair, the ridiculous make-up and the shockingly dated costumes, we're in present day earth and we know it.
It's a world of power blocs. Just as it has been throughout the last century, and still is today, from the depressing political situations all over the world to one schoolyard gang versus another... Warriors of the Deep is clever in that it doesn't explicitly say "Russia" and "America". The politics of the power blocs transcend current affairs, they're patterns that repeat throughout history. The people on either side are to all intents and purposes identical - just as the Silurians are really identical to the humans, just another power bloc looking to own the earth, just another race with grievances, personalities, and a distorted sense of what has to be done. For race, read person - this is a story about aggression and mistrust, not about the politics of 2084.
That is why the use of the Silurians and Sea Devils in this story is brilliant.
You heard me. Brilliant.
There's a sort of consensus that the Silurians and Sea Devils are crap in this story, that they're nowhere as well-done as in their Pertwee tales - visually and script-wise. Er, what? Forgive me for pointing out the emperor's lack of woolly vest, but in their original adventure the Silurians were men in green rubber suits who waggled their heads and had silly voices. The Sea Devils wore string vests and had unconvincing masks. While one might argue that they were impressively realised for their time, they were really a bit rubbish, and the revamped versions are far better. The only downside is the electronic voices of the Silurians, but even this can be seen as intriguing - have the Silurians been cybernetically enhanced, perhaps to cope with the colder climate? Icthar's repeated "excellent" refrain is a bit irritating, too, although it makes more sense for a Silurian to say it than a Cyberman. Anyway, the Silurians look better overall and the Sea Devils are remarkable. Their eyes even blink! They couldn't do that during the Pertwee era!
The scripting of these creatures also gives them far more depth than before. We had previously seen nothing of their society or technology (despite mysterious beliefs held by some people to the contrary). They'd never even been given names before and we certainly didn't know what made them tick. In Doctor Who and the Silurians we met a sum total of three of them, and the way that one Silurian can kill the leader and automatically assume leadership is hardly credible. In The Sea Devils we find out nothing about that race either, in fact they're little more than a dangerous presence with the (usual) power to wipe out mankind. The Doctor's insistence that these are civilised lifeforms disguises the fact that, in both stories, we see little evidence of this - and that on both occasions they attempt genocide. Don't get me wrong, I think The Silurians and The Sea Devils are fine stories, but the lack of thought given to the two races is a weakness in both of them.
This is why the criticism of the continuity "errors" in both tales is rather missing the point. This isn't error, it's reinvention. The Doctor's statement that "all they ever wanted to do was live in peace" is rubbish, as is Icthar's reference to twice extending the hand of friendship - in fact, in both Pertwee outings they had been intent on committing genocide. This is immaterial. Hardly anyone watching in 1983 would have seen either previous story, much less remember it - and the new history makes their stance all the more tragic, reinforcing the air of pessimism that marbles the script so effectively. Both The Silurians and The Sea Devils were about a race who believed they own the earth, who saw man as a hairy ape with ideas above his station - although they were civilised, they were undoubtedly hostile. Warriors of the Deep, meanwhile, shows us the fall of a once noble race. It's intriguing, just as the references to Triads is intriguing, as is the way the Sea Devils are servile soldiers for the Silurians to command. For the non-fan, this hints at real depth to these creatures. For a fan, well, just imagine a Missing Adventure or two and what's the problem? The recasting of their history and characteristics means that the point is made more clearly - that these are people just like us, really, and that they're noble and intelligent and, ultimately, wrong.
The characterisation of the Doctor is fascinating, and (unusually for Who at this point) is actually where all the energy of the story comes from. In order to avoid bloodshed he's at times duplicitous, and at other times simply wonderful - such as when he hands over his gun to the crew. I love the "Tegan, make a wish" scene too, just one of a number of nice scenes between him and his companions. Tegan's horror when she thinks he's dead is great, mirrored by the Doctor's endless concern for her - they really feel like friends in this story.
One story element is a key part of the Doctor's characterisation, and it's almost totally misunderstood. Writing hexachromite off as the worst plot convenience ever misses the whole point. Of course the Doctor knows that he can wipe out the Silurians just like that, that stored forgotten in an unused section of the base is the one substance that can destroy these creatures. "There should have been another way," he says at the end (one of my favourite lines ever), and the entire basis of the story is that the Doctor spends the whole story looking for another way. The hexachromite is what gives the story its edge, that tragic, ironic, pressing fact that the Doctor can finish this at any time... but he's desperately trying not to do the unthinkable.
He fails, of course. In a sense this story is a criticism of the Doctor. Had he used the hexachromite at the start of the story, he would in fact have saved a lot of lives. Turlough's statement that "they're all dead, you know," is an accusation... and the last line is perhaps an admission of guilt. "There should have been another way"; in fact there was, but the Doctor was unwilling to grasp that nettle. Maybe this was noble, or maybe cowardly. The Sixth Doctor would have had the hexachromite out in a shot and the utter carnage would have been avoided. No, the Doctor's penitence doesn't excuse him, and it's not supposed to. Rather, this is the first instalment of a question that would run throughout the season, that of the Doctor's methods and their effectiveness in a nasty universe... and this is the first Doctor Who story that ever had the courage to really question its hero.
The sets have come in for heavy criticism, but I rather like them. They're very detailed and very marine, pipes all over the place, and the wide corridors and bright spaces are actually less of a clich?than the claustrophobic dark sets we might expect. The costumes are ludicrous, of course, and the make-up is a bizarre throwback to 1950's ideas of the future. The direction is the real problem. It's competent but uninspired, not really using the openness of the sets as it should. Pennant Roberts has a long history with Who, but is really more suited to fast-paced fun stories with demanding technical details - The Pirate Planet being a fine example of this. The slow build up and tension required here, however, is lacking. It's not as bad as is suggested, and given the budget and constraints some shots (the bodies strewn about at the end, the Sea Devils oozing green blood) are excellent. Still, one wonders what Douglas Camfield or Michael Briant would have made of this. They surely wouldn't have let the karate kick happen.
Then, of course, there's the Myrka. The Myrka is incredibly bad, sure, although in truth not much worse than any other large creature in Doctor Who (the Krynoid is equally ludicrous, for one). The problem is that most of Part Three revolves around it. Usually, if a monster didn't come up to scratch it was written out (as would happen with the Magma beast), and the blame has to be shared between the creature's designers for doing their job so badly, the director for not getting a few rewrites done, and the scriptwriter for relying on a good job being done with the type of creature that Doctor Who has never had the budget to achieve. I generally think that Doctor Who is exempt from criticism for its visuals, but for the Myrka I'll make an exception because it's so heavily featured.
It's a fault. But it's a superficial fault that I'm prepared to forgive. As are most of the oft-cited problems with the story. Who shouldn't be faulted for bad modelwork, or bad make-up, or dodgy hairdos, simply because it has rarely done these things well. The actual reason that Warriors of the Deep doesn't hit the heights it does is that the production feels disjointed, and various elements don't work with each other. The script seems to demand a claustrophobic set but gets an open one. The sets demand wide-angled camera shots, but instead gets the usual mid-range stuff. The Myrka should be cut around, to hide just how ludicrous it looks, but instead has its incompetence gloriously framed against a white background. The parts fail to mesh, and with a more singular vision this could have been a great story.
It's still a damn good one. It's a great, great script, with a lot of depth and a very serious intent. To dismiss it as dull, or derivative, or cheap, is such a dull, derivative and cheap viewpoint. Doctor Who has a history of making a universe out of cardboard boxes, empires out of chipboard, it makes worlds from nothing but three basic sets and a desire to tell stories. Warriors of the Deep is one of those stories, with no time, bad costumes, a bunch of mediocre actors and yet it reaches for the stars and in its own way it succeeds. No budget but a lot of heart.
Yes, areas of this production are substandard, but all the important things are right. Warriors of the Deep shows us a world where people destroy without thinking, where no-one looks beyond the surface, where people refuse to look past the surface and see the good in things - and that's not a nice world to live in. This is, beneath the polystyrene and plastic, a simple tragedy about a good man who finds himself forced to do terrible things. Criticising it because the Silurians shouldn't have voices like that is like saying Hamlet's rubbish because Shakespeare had poor handwriting.
There's another way.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 18/9/02
Warriors of the Deep is a throwback story on several levels, mixed with an 80's DW sensibility. The throwback elements are the inclusion of two old enemies, Silurians and Sea Devils, and the "base under siege" story that had been made famous by Troughton's fifth season. The 80's sensibility comes from the presence of Tegan and Turlough who play against what would have been the screamer and muscle roles they would have been assigned if this serial had been made in the 60's.
Several plot strands are threaded over the 4 episodes, including a saboteur angle, the impending invasion, the politics of the time and a "frocks vs guns" debate. Each are developed well enough to their logical conclusion, a nice touch in an era better known for an emphasis on set pieces rather than solid stories, with the best developed being the last one mentioned. Everything leads up to the Doctor's fateful last line. "There should have been another way" is a motto for the series and very much in line with what Davison's Doctor was really about.
This would be a good place to address the hexachromite gas "contrivance". Yes, it does seem like it's giving away the game early. However, IMHO, it adds a level of suspense in the last episode. We know what the gas does to marine life, but we also hope that the Doctor can come through and find another way to resolve the situation. I think it would have been more contrived if the hexachromite gas had been mentioned in the start of the last episode -- Gee, there's that miracle solution we've desperately needed all along. Taking it a step further, it could have been one of the Sea Base crew who decided to use it against the Silurians & Sea Devils, with the Doctor forced to agree to the plan only because any options had run out. A situation like that would have upped the ante on the moral dilemma and the suspense factor.
I find it easy to shut up my inner Anorak when it comes to matters like the use of the Silurian's third eye in Warriors of the Deep. Contradiction of previous stories was a trademark of DW until Ian Levine became the unofficial fan advisor. So, now the 3rd eye is an indicator light as to who is talking. BFD. The Sea Devil's Samurai look is a nice touch as well. And then there's the Myrka, which I liked, by the way (then again, I liked the Kroll critter design, so make up your own mind).
Acting in this story is variable. Peter Davison is his usual dependable self. He play the whole story straight and with a weariness which is sympathetic. Janet Fielding gives one of better performances as Tegan. Mark Strickson is great as the reluctantly active Turlough. It's the guest stars who are a bit uneven. Ingrid Pitt is blah, and her karate kick at the Myrka is lame. Tom Adam's Vorshak is a stereotype played seriously, but without any spark. The rest neither stand out, nor embarrass themselves.
Warriors of the Deep is a story which plays much better than its reputation among fandom states. I can understand why many don't like this story, but if you watch it with an open mind, methinks you'd enjoy it.
Definitely Warriors on the Cheap but what about the script? by Tim Roll-Pickering 28/4/03
This story is often called Warriors on the Cheap by harsher critics and the conventional wisdom has it that this is a story that was written with some very strong ideas and premises but which was completely let down by poor direction, having less time than most Doctor Who stories to be completed, weak visual effects, poor design work that was not what the writer had envisaged at all and some terrible lighting that makes the story's weaknesses all the more glaringly obvious. But conventional wisdom can often be wrong and here it is difficult to see much of merit in the script for the story either.
For the series 1984 begins appropriately with an extremely pessimistic vision of the future in which the-then present day divisions of the world are chillingly mirrored and expanded upon. Warriors of the Deep never actually uses terms like 'the Americans' and 'the Soviets' or 'West Block' and 'East Block' (that was only in the novelisation) and so it has been argued that this is a new division of the world but it is clear that writer Johnny Byrne was thinking of the Cold War lasting for another century even if he avoids clarifying which side the Seabase is on. Unfortunately by the time the story's tenth anniversary appeared the world political situation had drastically changed and so although 2084 is a very long way away at the time of writing, it is hard to envisage this story as anything like what that time will be.
This story also sees the revival of the Silurians and the Sea Devils, both last seen in the respective Jon Pertwee stories named after them. Whilst those stories were 14 and 12 years old when Warriors of the Deep was first transmitted, the impact and long lasting effect of Malcolm Hulke's novelisation of the first story should not be ignored and so the revival gap diminishes somewhat. To the non-dedicated fan it doesn't matter if the monsters have appeared before or not - there have been other times when the Doctor has known about new races and characters - but for those who are familiar with the creatures it soon becomes clear that Warriors of the Deep is a big letdown. The costumes are very different, the Silurians' voices are electronic and their third eye has now become a flashing bulb indicating which one is speaking rather than a focusing point for their mental energies and worse still the very premise of the creatures has changed drastically. The earlier stories had clearly established that the reptiles sought merely to reawaken and establish their civilisation once more, with divisions between those who wanted to try for peaceful coexistence with the humans and those who wished to wipe them out completely, but now they are shown as ruthless and making no concessions whatsoever to a chance of any form of negotiated peace. The Doctor and Icthar have met before but it is hard to tell if this is an unseen adventure or a reference to Doctor Who and the Silurians.
The convenient plot device of the Sea Base being stocked with hexachromite indicates a laziness on the script's part, whilst the body count for the story is immense. It is hard to think of a previous story where out of such a large cast and extras virtually every speaking character (bar one) and many extras are wiped out completely. The script is a hideous mish-mash that completely fails to work as much more than a glorified action piece and the Doctor's final line 'There should have been another way' completely fails to convince from the way the story has progressed.
The cast are a mixture of clich? such as Tom Adams' solid Vorshak and utterly bizarre characters such as Ingrid Pitt's Solow who encounters the Myrka and reacts by trying to engage it in martial arts rather than fleeing while she can. The characterisation is generally poor, with the Doctor establishing his credentials all too easily through the crew's discovery of the TARDIS and the whole story limps along. It is hard to feel any sympathy for the deaths of any characters.
The production of this story routinely takes a knocking but it must be said in its defence that the model work of the Seabase and the Silurians' vessel is extremely good. Unfortunately that is just about where it ends. The interior of the Seabase completely fails to come across as an underwater military outpost, whilst the lighting is ridiculously high. There are far too many "secure" doors that look like rubber when they collapse, whilst the Sea Devil costumes completely fail to generate any sense of terror. Much has already been written about the Myrka but this has merely served to distract attention from the other weak elements of the story. All in all Warriors of the Deep is a story that sinks even lower than the Seabase. 1/10
A Review by Brian May 18/11/03
John Nathan-Turner, Eric Saward and Ian Levine have copped a lot of flak for the continuity obsession that overtook Doctor Who in the early to mid 1980s. Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with bringing back old monsters and enemies. It's been done ever since The Dalek Invasion of Earth, so I'm not going to criticise the decision to bring back two foes from the Jon Pertwee years - the Silurians and the Sea Devils - for Season 21. Continuity obsession and bringing back old foes do not necessarily have to go hand in hand - but unfortunately that's exactly what happened in Warriors of the Deep, and that's what I intend to criticise - HOW they were brought back.
"Twice before we offered the hand of friendship," Icthar says. This is presumably meant to refer to the Silurians' and the Sea Devils' eponymous stories from the third Doctor's era. Well, no, that didn't happen actually. In these stories they planned to reclaim their planet - the Old Silurian and the chief Sea Devil both considered the prospect of living in peace with the human race, but they seemed to be the only ones, and only after talking with the Doctor - the two reptile races never openly offered to co-exist with humankind, which is the gist of the quote above. The "twice before" is nothing other than a reference to the two Pertwee stories - more showing off - and is quite inaccurate.
The same happens when the Doctor claims to recognise Icthar. From scrutinising the dialogue, I can only assume he is meant to be the Old Silurian from the Pertwee adventure - he was the only one who considered sharing with humanity, as I mentioned above. But he was killed by the anti-cohabitation Young Silurian! Or is the Old Silurian meant to have somehow survived? (I disagree with the suggestion that a lot of this took place in an untelevised adventure. There's too much navel gazing in the programme at this point for it to refer to anything but the televised history.)
Nevertheless continuity obsessions such as this can be forgiven (or temporarily forgotten) if the accompanying adventure is enjoyable or well made. Unfortunately, Warriors of the Deep fails on both accounts. Forget their history, just look at the Silurians themselves. They are now nothing more than reptile villains - their mechanical voices; the way their third eye merely flashes when they speak (Dalek style) whereas before it had many uses. When Icthar says "Excellent!" it sounds no different to David Banks in his various incarnations as the Cyber Leader. Fortunately the Sea Devils fare a little better - they are given a bit of dignity, their voices don't sound too different from their original appearance and the Samurai style costumes are quite striking. However, why do their reptilian cousins call them "Sea Devils", when it's just a human colloquialism - and quite a derogatory one at that? (Perhaps they adopted it as a term of pride? Proud to have instilled fear in the humans?)
What also made these creatures interesting in their respective encounters with Jon Pertwee's Doctor were the excellent scripts by Malcolm Hulke. While, as I have argued above, the Silurians and the Sea Devils did not go out of their way to befriend the humans, they are presented sympathetically, not as alien invaders but as races with their own noble culture (the Silurians in particular). Hulke was able to show the legitimate points of view of both human and reptile in his two stories. Arguments were presented in shades of grey, with the Doctor as intermediary. However, Johnny Byrne's script fails in its attempts to do the same thing. Despite all the Doctor's anger and taking the moral high ground, there is no real ethical dilemma in this story. The Silurians and the Sea Devils have become nothing more than aggressive invaders, no different to the Daleks or the Cybermen. All the Doctor's tirades against humans are not really that convincing - the "humans-deserve-to-destroy-themselves" argument has been done many times before in Doctor Who. The Silurians and the Sea Devils don't make humanity any worse, especially when they themselves have just become another bunch of invading thugs.
Warriors of the Deep fails in just about every other department. The exterior design of the sea-base is an exception, being excellent, but the interior, while solid, is let down by the lighting, which is totally inappropriate. Funnily enough, the Myrka, always a cause for derision, is no different from many other Doctor Who monsters: if it is kept in tight close-ups, it's not really that bad. Its scenes at the end of episode two make for quite a gripping cliff-hanger; it's unfortunate that in part three we see full, wide shots of the monster in all its pantomime horse glory. And as for that scene when Solow karate kicks it - what was she thinking? What was the director thinking? What was ANYBODY thinking? That moment has to go down as one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the programme's history! As for that eye make-up! Is that standard for the crew of a base on the brink of war?
The rest of the story is not very inspiring. This certainly applies to the acting. Among the non-regulars, only Tony Adams as Vorshak and Nigel Humphreys as Bulic impress. Ian McCulloch is passable, but overacts on too many occasions. (And I was disappointed, expecting to see the Echo and the Bunnymen singer!) The rest are dreadful - special mention to Tara Ward (Preston), Nitza Saul (Karina) and Ingrid Pitt (Solow). Solow's conspiratorial discussions with Nilson make for some embarrassing moments - not the dialogue, necessarily, but the delivery - they may as well be saying "We're the baddies!" to the audience. On the regular front, only Peter Davison inspires. As I have mentioned before, the scenes with the Doctor's moral tirades are unconvincing in relation to the script, nevertheless Davison does act them with conviction. Turlough fares badly, but that's because the writer doesn't know what do with him (as would be the case in Resurrection of the Daleks, a few stories later.) The cliffhanger to part one is another unmemorable moment - the Doctor's been in the water for only five seconds and Turlough claims that he's drowned!
So many fans have commented on the irony of the final line - "There should have been another way!" I couldn't end this review without reiterating this. Everything could have been different - even the script. Malcolm Hulke is probably turning in his grave. 2/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 18/5/04
As a season opener it's debatable whether Warriors Of The Deep really works. The biggest problem being the production values; the Sea Base is too brightly lit, the costumes of the personnel do look like they`re from the eighties (not helped by eyeshadow on several of the actors), thus dating them badly and the least said about the Myrka the better really. The Silurians look better however, though their voices are wrong as is the use of their third eye. Similarly the Sea Devils look better with armour, although this simply slows them down, making them less of a threat.
By their nature any story featuring the Silurians and Sea Devils should ideally feature a moral dilemma for The Doctor; this only leads to poor characterisation however; there is not one dissenting voice amongst either race; it makes for a somewhat too straightforward tale, and does both the Sea Devils and Silurians an injustice.
The guest cast are variable too, Ingrid Pitt being the worst offender, complete with her pointless karate against the Myrka. The regulars are also badly used Tegan and Turlough run around and end up captured, whilst the Doctor races against time for a peaceful solution; that is the biggest flaw of the story - we`ve seen it all before.
A Review by Keith Bennett 18/6/04
I've long held the view that no Doctor Who story is a complete waste. This is largely due to bias on my part, as just watching the Doctor (any Doctor) and his companions in action offers at least a bit of joy to me, no matter what they're actually doing.
However, having just seen Warriors Of The Deep for the first time in a while, I have to say that this story is an exception.
It is terrible.
The Myrka's got its share of just critism, so I won't add to it, although I'm rather surprised hardly anyone's commented on the foam door that falls on Tegan. Come on, it's horribly obvious.
Ingrid Pitt is terrible, and I don't just mean her Karate Kid death. She looks ridiculous, she talks ridiculously... *shudders*
Mark Strickson also overdoes things dreadfully, from his insistence that if the Doctor had wanted to destroy the base's reactor, "it would be lying in pieces at your FEET!!", to "if I thought there was a way to rescue them, I'd be the first to go (whatever you reckon, Turlough), but THERE ISN'T!!"
This leads me to some of the dialogue, which just makes me cringe. I can't bear that old "Save yourself!" line whenever it appears, and I am totally fed up with Earthlings being viewed as "pathetic" and suchlike, compared with supposedly "noble" races like the Silurians and the Sea Devils. Every time these creatures have appeared, they've wanted to destroy humanity! And WE'RE pathetic??
I confess to not being a big fan of either of these reptile races when they first appeared, so that doesn't help my attitude now. I'm rather indifferent about them in this story, but I will say that I quite like the Sea Devils' costumes.
Oddly enough, I didn't find myself cringing quite as much in the final episode, compared with the first three. That could be partly to do with the fact that there's no Myrka, foam door or Ingrid Pitt... I don't know. But at the end of it, we have that "great" final line - "there should have been another way."
Yep. There should have been. Fight back at those egocentric reptiles straight away, rather than trying to do all you can to reason with them.
Hmm... And I'm supposed to be a pacifist.
This is terrible television. It is embarrassing, it is irritating. The most cheap stories from Doctor Who's early years (like The Chase) brings more delights than this piece of garbage.
Dear me... I've broken my rule. This is one Doctor Who story that has nowhere near enough merits to warant its existence.
Plumbing the Depths by Daniel Saunders 21/9/06
There seems to be growing view in fandom that Warriors of the Deep is somewhat unfairly maligned. This view holds that behind the, admittedly poor, realization lies an intelligent script, which never gets the praise it deserves. Surely, runs the argument, fans who can embrace Talons despite the rat and Caves despite the magma monster can embrace this story despite the Myrka?
I first encountered Warriors via the novelisation. I thought that it was considered a good story, perhaps because at that time I liked returning monster stories or perhaps because a friend of mine told me so and I tended to believe everything he said. Whatever the reason, I was deeply disappointed. Naturally, design was not an issue in prose and I don't think I noticed the continuity errors. I simply found it boring and predictable. I can't remember whether I knew how the story ended (those were the days before I had access to the internet, but I did occasionally find copies of the works of Peter Haining and Jean-Marc L'Officier in libraries), but it is obvious that there can't be a happy ending. Unlike the first two Silurian/Sea Devil stories, the Doctor does not get a chance to negotiate until almost the end of the story. He says the reptiles only want to live in peace, but we see no indication of that. In fact, moments after he makes this assertion, he says they are intent on destroying humanity! While the audience might agree with him when he says that "There should have been another way" it is hard, based on what we see here, to believe that there could have been one. This leads to a lack of moral depth. Doctor Who and the Silurians has a similarly obvious outcome, but uses this to its own advantage, becoming a grand tragedy, where a few misunderstandings between essentially good people (mammal and reptile) lead to a massacre when peace was possible. Here, peace never seems possible and the characters are not flawed, but simply evil, so it lacks suspense, but never succeeds as an allegory about real conflicts.
Poor characterization is the second problem with the script. Not only are the characters' motivations for choosing war over peace only vaguely sketched in and told rather than shown ("twice we extended the hand of friendship"), but no one seems like a real person. The big revelations about the traitors are underwritten and underplayed in a truly bizarre way, with no one appearing particularly shocked or even curious about their motives. In fact, Terrance Dicks fleshed the characters out more in the novelisation, providing background for Solow and Maddox, giving both of them some much-needed motivation, as well as hinting at a friendship/romance between Maddox and Karina that makes the scene when he is forced to murder her more powerful than it was on screen.
Although it never seems to be mentioned, I think that "base under siege" stories like this need to have realistic characters to succeed. If people we recognise are picked off one by one by the monsters or turn out to be traitors, we can connect with the story on an emotional level ("I liked him, but he's been killed!") or on a psychological one ("what kind of pressure would it take to make someone betray everyone they care about?"). If that happens, we can concentrate on the story and ignore any flaws. Here, no one seems real and no one seems to do anything for any reason than plot expediency. We focus on the continuity errors and budgetary shortcomings because that's all we can focus on.
The poor design work on this story is the stuff of legend. I had seen photos, but I wasn't prepared for just how ludicrous the Myrka seems waddling about; even the Doctor says "Oh dear!" The samurai-style Sea Devil costumes, which I thought looked rather impressive in stills, fail to work on screen, looking too flimsy, as well as having heads that tend to fall to the side, making them look amusingly as if they are day-dreaming. Someone in the design department seems to have thought the Silurians were cyborgs, as they now have robotic voices, a third eye which flashes when they talk (instead of doing useful telekinetic things) and what appear to be some kind of hi-tech wrist implants. This could be interesting as a deliberate piece of iconoclasm, but as no one explores or even mentions it; it looks like a continuity error, and a strange, pointless and ugly one at that. The costumes for the Sea Base crew also look ugly and cheap. Even minor points are done badly, with the make-up on the actors making them look battered and bruised long before any fighting starts.
Despite this, all might not be lost if the director could put the whole thing together with enough verve and style to paper over the cracks. Unfortunately, Pennant Roberts doesn't. I will surprise no one by saying that the lighting is far too bright, making the design flaws all the more obvious. However, as debate still rages about whose fault the lighting and the Myrka were, I will concentrate on the things that clearly were due to Roberts. The story features some appallingly choreographed extras. Those playing the Sea Devils amble slowly around the set, looking less like elite warriors and more like a collection of gormless drunks. The actors playing the Silurians are not much better. The mouths, like those of the original Silurian costumes do not open and close, but while the original actors did at least move to try and give the characters some body language, here they stand motionless. Were it not for the silly flashing third eye, it would be impossible to know which one was talking.
Most important, however, are the action scenes. Warriors of the Deep is essentially an action story. Unfortunately, it features some of the most boring and confusing battle scenes ever, which are almost a textbook example of what not to do. The editing is slow, the cameras don't focus on the action, guns don't seem to fire and hardly anyone falls down dead in shot. All that seems to happen is one bunch of actors runs away slowly, while another group slowly paces towards them, with the occasional special-effect light imposed apparently at random. Whenever things are in danger of getting exciting, the Myrka arrives to wobble around and look silly.
Surprisingly, the story is not a complete disaster. The set design I found to be mostly acceptable, with the multi-level main control and nuclear reactor sets being particularly good. The final episode was an improvement on the previous three, perhaps because most of the really bad actors were no longer around, while there were fewer outright action sequences, so the tension came more from the plot. The Doctor finally got to confront his moral dilemma too, even if by this stage the answer was not very hard. The idea of a missile launch system with a human component was a fascinating one and it is a shame that we did not get to see more of it.
However, the moral of this story remains: on a Doctor Who budget, there's no point relying on action and effects. If you haven't got a good script, you're sunk.
Deep as a Puddle by Andrew Feryok 5/3/07
Doctor: "There should have been another way." - Warriors of the Deep, Part 4That line pretty much sums up this story. On the one hand, it's one of my all time favorite lines for the Fifth Doctor. It's dramatic, highly reflective on the events of the story, it's reflective on the character of the Doctor and the direction John Nathan-Turner wanted to take this incarnation, and it becomes one of the Doctor's all-time best lines. On the other hand, it is ironically one of the funniest lines ever uttered by the Doctor, particularly if you are already privy to the popular opinion of this story and the production chaos that went into making it! There should have been another way, indeed. This story had all the ingredients to be a spectacular and memorable Fifth Doctor adventure. In the end it is spectacular and memorable, but for the very opposite reason.
There have been many criticisms laid against this story: the sets are too brightly lit, the Myrka is the poster child for the worst monster in all of Doctor Who, and the acting is woodier than Yellowstone Park. If you were reading these reviews and had never seen the story, you would think this was a really bad Doctor Who story. In fact, it's a hundred times worse than that to actually sit down and watch it! I too had read many reviews of this story, but had not seen the story for quite some time. Then just a few days ago I finally summed up the courage to stick my VHS tape in the player one more time and see if my memories, and the collective memories of fans had been tainted by a colorful memory. Well, fortunately I'm still here, but my self esteem is still cowering in the corner somewhere.
It would be easy to start with the Myrka, so I'm going to hold off on him for a bit and talk about what "really" annoyed me about this story: the Fifth Doctor. More specifically, its the Fifth Doctor's moral stance in this story. 99.999995% of the time, the Doctor has always come down on the side of us good old "stupid apes". The Doctor has even said on several occasions that he thinks human beings are his favorite race. And yet, the Fifth Doctor, almost from the moment he steps from the TARDIS is not only anti-human, but seems unusually pro-Silurian. Now, you don't have to be Einstein to see that from the very start, the Silurians and Sea Devils really are the agressors in this story. Okay, the sea base isn't exactly a pantheon of model human beings, and they are engaged in a self-destructing nuclear war with each other (human beings, not with the Silurians), but that's still no excuse for the Silurians to seek out a base, attack it, invade it, and then set out a plan to completely wipe out the human race in a mass genocide. If this were the Daleks on a space station, or the Cybermen on a moonbase, the Doctor would not hestitate to stop them in their genocidal plan. But because this is the "Silurians" who he seems to believe are noble, he gets all teary eyed and gun happy trying to stop the human beings from hurting the "defenseless" and "noble" Silurians. Even when the Doctor meets the Silurian commander and sees that the Silurians have no intention of stopping thier genocidal plan and are prepared even to kill him, he still insists that they are nice guys. Really, they are. Just give them a chance. Even his companions are flabbergasted that the Doctor could continue to support the Silurians when they are responsible for most of the killing that is going on.
Okay, now that I've got that off my chest, it's time to address the acting, which is pretty darn bad. And not in the 'ha ha this is really cheesy' kind of bad. Only three real cast members put any kind of emotion or conviction behind thier lines: the base commander, the guy who gets hypnotized by the spies, and the Doctor himself. Notice I couldn't even be bothered to look up thier real names. Everyone else just seems to be going through the motions, overacting, or looking pretty embarrassed to be in this serial. The acting in this episode actually reminded me of the b-movie "Teenagers from Outer Space." The base commander especially reminds me of the guy who utters the "torture" line. The overacting of the two spies is particularly embarassing and you can tell that they are playing this purely with the kiddies in mind. Overall, this has to be some of the most embarassing acting I have ever seen in a Doctor Who episode.
And now onto the Myrka. Actually, why should I even waste any more precious electronic characters and memory space describing it? Suffice to say, it's yet another of those charming men in rubber suits, only this time it's four men in a giant two-storey suit! Everything about this creature is silly and it wouldn't have actually been all that bad if it wasn't for the fact that the acting was really bad and did nothing to help support it. And the less said about one character's attempt to karate kick the Myrka the better. That moment alone gets my vote as the number one "what the heck were they thinking" moment of Doctor Who.
So, after all this, was there anything at all worth salvaging from this story? Well, the set design, despite being brightly lit, is very well done, although it could just as easily have been a space station. The reactor room in particular which serves as the cliffhanger for Part 1 is extremely well designed and is actually suspended above a large tank of water! The design of the Silurian spaceship is rather neat, and I absolutely love the moment when the Silurians first open the tomb containing the Sea Devil army and you see the Sea Devils lined up like haunting statues in the dimly-lit, fog-enshrouded chamber. I don't exactly agree with their decision to give the Silurians blinking lights on thier heads for their voices like the Daleks, but otherwise the design of the Silurians and Sea Devils is very well done, particularly the Samurai warrior look for the Sea Devils. The model work is very well done and highly imaginative. And, finally, they do a great, but quiet, horror moment when the spies use mind control on one of the officers and then have him kill the girl he loves.
Overall, this is a particularly embarassing episode for Peter Davison and Doctor Who. This is not to say in any way that Peter Davison or his years as the Doctor were horrible. In fact, several of his stories (and no they do not include The Caves of Androzani) are amongst my favorites, but this is pretty darn bad. In fact, after having heard Peter Davison's DVD commentaries for his other stories, I would be very interested to hear his and other cast members' comments regarding this story. It would probably end up being two hours of them screaming in horror. If there is one thing you can walk away from this story with it is don't even think about using Taekwando on a Myrka. It's not smart survival skills. 1/10
"Toxic workplace" by Thomas Cookson Updated 30/12/21
As I said when reviewing The Invisible Enemy, revisiting this in 2005 was an almighty culture shock. We'd just experienced a revival season that had art-house-cinema aspirations. Character storytelling tailored to a more humanist, emotionalist age, whilst subtly proscribing more radically transformative socialist remedies for our modern anxieties. Rewatching this was rediscovering a time when it was cynically taken for granted that Doctor Who needn't be anything so enlightening. Where this heartless, nasty, grotty fanfiction was treated like 'this'll do'.
Worse, RTD's revival now meant this story's defective hero wasn't a gratefully forgotten has-been anymore, but a current, vital role model again. Perhaps RTD and Big Finish managed to set our expectations for a Doctor truer to his purported 'sanctity of life' ideals. I was rediscovering The Seeds of Death and The Invasion of Time and finding the character rarely truly lived by them. Warriors of the Deep saw this aspect seemingly finally being taken seriously by unprecedented true believers, giving us our 'idealized' Doctor.
Well, except if you dig a little deeper, it's clear this Doctor really only cares about the sanctity of Silurian life. Eventually, he even considers the Sea Devils expendable. He rejects the one obvious option that'd save maximum lives, perfectly happy to let all the humans die in the name of the sanctity of life.
At this time, I was reabsorbing as much Doctor Who as I could. But reabsorbing this, I regretted my every desperate attempt to rationalize it. This was so inimical to the adventurous, life-saving fun the show had been. Kim Newman's guidebook dismissed 80's Who as an inconvenient write-off between Tom Baker's prime and Eccleston's. Making it frustratingly tempting to wish the revival simply picked up where Season 17 left off.
Warriors of the Deep never helped define who the Doctor was, but it did much to confuse the issue - unsalvageably, I fear. In 2005, with limited second-hand videos for reference, myself still comprehending who the Doctor is, I only needed rewatch The War Games to know the old Doctor had genuine decisive fortitude. Unlike this spineless appeaser. A fortitude presumably abandoned to explain why he now kept tolerating the Master. Or because Ian Levine demanded so many script changes, rendering the Doctor an indecisive, impotent mess.
The bitter pill was somehow knowing only Doctor Who could produce something this irredeemable. Making such an embarrassingly moribund case for its own worthiness. This was, after all meant to be an authentic continuation of Pertwee era tropes and morals. At least we're supposed to think so. Barry Letts would've never commissioned this fanfiction.
Upon becoming producer, JNT sought various fan allies. Employing fan advisor Ian Levine, and planning stories to excite convention crowds and DWM. Johnny Byrne was reportedly a Pertwee fan with dim memories of the Silurians. Reportedly, when given the old episodes to revise, they were badly degraded and incoherent. He transcribed from them some nonsense idea the reptiles were originally pacifists who extended 'the hand of friendship' to humankind (not a biological weapon). Basically, projecting his politics onto them. They're retconned as uniquely innocent, uniquely wronged by mankind without provocation.
Ian Levine demanded Eric Saward correct Byrne's thirty-something continuity errors. Each rewrite making things worse. Between them, these petty, ideological-minded creatives produced a confused, bipolar mess, with the continuity laid so thick that even the writers clearly struggled to comprehend it properly, nevermind casual viewers.
Terrance Dicks used to tailor each story to be potentially someone's first. Now an encyclopaedic fan knowledge was required to comprehend new stories that weren't even that good. Here, even viewers who'd started watching in 1973 suddenly weren't fan enough. Perhaps some fans deferred to its superior air that if you didn't get it, you had a lot to learn.
The Silurians' grievances are treated so ridiculously sanctimoniously, it's suddenly as if the Doctor never continued working with UNIT and saving humanity dozens of times since. Nothing about Ictar's actions should win Davison's sympathies so totally. But Warriors turns the Doctor into an obsessive, sycophantic fanboy. Undoing all his masterful character growth under Holmes. Unfortunately, fans tend to approve its uncompromising sycophancy to Malcolm Hulke. As Cordelia once said of sycophants, "They're so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say."
The Armageddon Factor's war horrors ensured the Doctor's every action made instinctive sense. Without needing us reaching back for past guilts or trite fannish truisms to explain any irrationalities.
Johnny Byrne comes across as a placid hippy-type. This misanthropic story seems an ugly glimpse of what happens when such a passive man finds licence to unleash their frustrations through their art. In interviews, he honestly tried explaining how the Silurians sending the Myrka to do the killing for them shows their greater morality.
When Vorshak pre-emptively shoots their battle cruiser, by chance he's absolutely right about Silurian hostile intentions. But the scene acts like his action condemns mankind. As if, despite centuries' commitment to genocidal intentions against humanity, the Silurians might've been amenable to changing their minds otherwise. It's a frustrating watch because it's tailor-made for the most myopic fans imaginable.
In Byrne's original, Preston and Vorshak ultimately survived. But the Doctor would've still, by negligence, allowed everyone else to die by not using the gas sooner. The Doctor's first mistake was honest enough: thinking that bringing his diplomacy to the airlock was better than bringing Hexacromite, only to be confounded by the Myrka. It makes little sense why he's using the cumbersome UV dish on the Myrka rather than Hexacromite.
Frankly, once Davison permanently blinds Nilsen to save Tegan, the idea that other ruthless means to save the base personnel remain off-limits becomes ridiculous. Likewise, that Davison's in any position now to condemn humanity's violent resorts. One almost hopes absent-mindedness is his only reason for ignoring the gas. When he reaches the chemical store, sadly all doubt's removed. He confirms it's an option he'd deliberately forbidden even mentioning whilst the massacre continued.
The Doctor's chief characteristic is supposedly intelligence and compassion. So if destroying the enemy is the sole intelligent option to save maximum lives, I'd expect him to do it. Sure, chemical warfare isn't the Doctor's style. But he'd usually abstain in the context of having a better idea. Here he doesn't, but renounces it on the grounds he doesn't feel right doing it, yet he feels righter letting humans be ethnically cleansed.
The Doctor threatening the Hexacromite as a deterrent, to force a cease-fire, wouldn't be at all unimaginable. But this is a very unimaginative story. Uninterested in showing the Doctor try, only showing him fail. Despite my arguments, most fans maintain the Doctor's morally flawless here, and it just makes sense Preston gladly takes a bullet for him. Or that guilt 'explains' the Doctor's criminal negligence. Or wrongheaded characters failing catastrophically don't mean the story's badly written.
Maybe we're to take part 4's cliffhanger resolution where Davison manages to persuade the Sea Devils to not shoot him after all, as vindicating his position. Somehow proving the humans wouldn't be in mortal danger if they'd just talk to their genocidal enemies. It's bad writing somehow justifying warped moralizings.
Paul Cornell typically framed Davison's mawkish denouement as treasurable progress after Pertwee's cosy, boys' own shoot-em-ups. Indeed, after Iraq (and a resurgence of Western liberal masochism), some fans returned to that moment, seeking neglected potency in it. So desperate to claim an anti-war point here, they ignore the Doctor spends the story brownnosing the worst warmongers of all. I'm still convinced fans only defend this story because they've never thought it through.
Pertwee condemned the Brigadier's actions for indiscriminately killing sleeping Silurian innocents oblivious to the conflict. He never condemned him shooting their genocidal young leader. Here the Hexacromite's the most perfectly discriminate weapon imaginable. It'll only kill the aggressors (who remain free to withdraw). It never worked as a moral dilemma, but the story hopes that, by fannish, mawkish sound and fury, it can become one. I don't know whether Byrne's original script treated it as such. But certainly its Doctor came to his senses enough to at least save Preston and Vorshak.
Byrne's original script ended with Davison's goodbye to them, urging they find 'another way' concerning their conflicts. Saward instead had Davison demanding to the bitter end they find a 'better way' whilst they're dropping like flies. Ensuring they die taking a bullet for the Doctor's incompetence and idiocy.
I'm often told Preston never took a bullet for him in the chemical store. That her only intention was stopping the Sea Devil turning off the gas. Regardless, she did a brave thing. If she hadn't, that footsoldier would've executed Ictar's orders to kill Davison.
Unsatisfied with one dead human saving him from Ictar's bloodlust, the Doctor insists on having Ictar revived with oxygen so he can shoot Vorshak in the back next. Seemingly believing that, despite Ictar's repeated threats to kill him, after slaughtering his troops and near killing him, he'll somehow change his mind and become reasonable. The saving grace of Byrne's version would've been that at least the Doctor wasn't quite this stupid.
It's an unforgiving ending, which Pertwee fans are used to. But in typical awful fanfiction fashion, the humans are punished just for being related by species to the characters of Pertwee's stories. The Doctor's words triumph because the plot contrives to kill off everyone sane enough to disagree with him.
There are always questions viewers aren't meant to consider for the show's concept and suspension of disbelief to work. Warriors ultimately tests that unquestioning fan loyalty to fanaticism or destruction. This story has the Doctor ask the question why he bothers saving humanity. Insinuating that he spent every post-1970 story contemplating letting that week's invaders kill us. What triggers him to this rant is being asked to do something. Just a human advocating the kind of defensive action most companions would've. Fans downplay it as him just losing his temper. In a story where he's protecting genocidal Silurian militias and somehow loses his temper with their intended victims.
Adrian Sherlock argued that Davison's rant was more misdirected frustration at the absence of another way. This suggests the Doctor's become a paranoid crank, seeing innocent, survival-seeking humans as part of some cosmic conspiracy to sabotage his delusions of peace with genocidal Silurians. Preston rightly fears being ethnically cleansed on the spot, and Davison furiously tells her she has no right even considering defending herself. The message being that anyone who has war forced onto them can only do the moral thing by just letting the enemy kill them. It's the show's ethos mutated into a creepy, misanthropic suicide cult.
There have been cop-out attempts to reinterpret Warriors as deliberate post-modern critiquing of the Doctor's blinkered, mistaken judgment. But the story clearly wasn't aimed at viewers that intelligent. If true, it begs why we should care about any story's themes if the Doctor's meant to be this stupidly wrongheaded? Or believe such a defective hero could've survived a week in this universe, nevermind 900 years?
Like JNT's worst (Dragonfire's cliffhanger), it seemed to tap into very real, unhealthy impulses for inexplicably masochistic, self-harming behaviour. I feel I've spent too long being Warriors' determined, front-of-brain counterweight. If it's no longer a show that encourages healthy-mindedness, what's the point?
Really, this feels the result of a tyrannical, toxic workplace where nothing's considered good enough. Producing the most confused, furiously unforgiving, sanctimonious television imaginable. No one can do right for being wrong. Not the humans, not the Doctor.
So how do we even have a show anymore?
A Review by Finn Clark 12/9/09
I don't want to write 5,000 words of profanity, yet that's the only I way I could express my feelings on this. Pennant Roberts is the only director JNT ever employed who'd worked on the programme in a previous era. If television were a war, you'd shoot them as enemy agents. I mean... Pennant? How could a man who'd witnessed what he did to, say, The Pirate Planet have chosen him for the opening story of Season 21? Then, afterwards, despite suffering through the completed story and the internal BBC investigation into why it had turned out that way, JNT must have decided it was one of those things and so given him Timelash the following year. I think the results speak for themselves.
In fairness, there were production issues so bad that they considered pulling the plug on it. Margaret Thatcher had called a snap election, throwing the BBC into confusion as they suddenly had to go on an election footing. That's still no consolation for the audience. Nevertheless, I'm not here to kick the living daylights out of this thing. There are parts I'd praise. I like four of the actors. The set design is excellent, with the split levels and some flats I'm sure I saw again in Resurrection of the Daleks. Of course, they painted it white and floodlit the hell out of it, but it still looks good. I particularly appreciate the dirty water in the reactor room, since they could so easily have given us another swimming pool. The eye make-up is daft, but that's the future for you.
I even like the monster designs. The Silurians and Sea Devils are less striking than they were in the Pertwee era, but they're still fine apart from one flaw each. With the Silurians, that's their voices. They're verbose and yet have been electronically treated, so the actors deliver their lines so carefully that it hardly seems like speech. Their scenes in episode one are particularly bad in this respect. It's boring dialogue in a bunch of pointless scenes anyway, but as far as the audience is concerned it's coming from rubber-suited aliens making noises at each other. Sometimes they also say, "Excellent!" It's the bloody Cyberleader!
With the Sea Devils, it's their movement. I like their whispery voices, but less so their wobbly heads and the Shuffle of Death.
Believe it or not, I even like the Myrka. I'm not being ironic here, but instead I genuinely think it looks quite good. Green paint coming off it must be slime or something. Let me put this in perspective. There are plenty of Doctor Who monsters guaranteed to make an audience wet themselves laughing, especially in the Graham Williams era. I've had the room wiping away tears thanks to Androids of Tara and The Invisible Enemy, so I had high hopes of Warriors of the Deep. My mistake. Not a chuckle. Ingrid Pitt drew a few comments for disco dancing before her suicide by Myrka, but the surprising truth is that these monster designs are okay. Like the Zarbi and the Magma Beast, we're talking about a monster that looks unfortunate in full body shots but simply needs to be filmed intelligently.
Which brings us to Pennant Roberts.
Quite simply the most concentrated evil ever to befall Doctor Who, there are two problems with his stories. Firstly, their acting will rot your eyeballs, while secondly his direction looks as if it involved nailing the camera to the wall and then going down the pub. Here, he perpetrates the worst action scenes in a televisual medium. Go on, tell me I'm exaggerating. No one who gave a shit could have created this. Sea Devils and humans line up to fire at each other at point-blank range without hitting each other, the attackers shuffling forwards like a chain gang because otherwise they'd bump into the defenders. Soldiers step forward and wait for the Myrka to kill them. No one can shoot down a single reptile and there's not even any technobabble to cover this in dialogue. Unbelievable. Naturally, all this takes place on the brightest, whitest sets in eighties Who, shot and edited with all the care and imagination of an incontinent leprous howler monkey having its head cut off.
Admittedly, there were production difficulties, but not a flicker of thought has gone into solving them. Anything would have been better than this. Anything. If the combatants must stand face-to-face, for instance, give them swords or blunt instruments instead of guns. That might even have gone well with the Sea Devils' samurai costumes, not to mention being unusual in Who and easy to justify. Inflammable liquid could have accidentally flooded the corridors when the base was attacked, or maybe the Silurians had an energy beam suppression field. Note for comparison purposes that the story does have some non-risible action, some of which even has Sea Devils in it. It's the scene in episode three where Turlough and Bulic get captured.
Then there's the acting.
Peter Davison is a marvel, but I'd expected that. At the end of episode one, he even makes for a surprisingly good action-hero. Janet Fielding on the other hand is poor, adding nothing to the story and having no chemistry with either of her co-stars. She's not even noticeable. At least the likes of Elizabeth Sladen or Wendy Padbury had charisma.
However, the big surprise is Mark Strickson, who's a huge asset to the story. I liked the way in which in his first scene he's being shifty for no reason at all. Whether ordering around sea base personnel at gunpoint or trying to persuade everyone to abandon their friends, there's a suppressed manic energy about him that's great to watch. The boy's mad! He's reading off the hymn sheet that would soon give us Frontios. I can see what Davison meant when he claimed that interesting companions didn't work, but Turlough's wonderful. They could have had far more fun with him than they did, but even so I love Strickson's mania and the character's slippery self-centred pessimism.
Then there's the guest cast, who - needless to say - are shocking. Nigel Humphreys is good as Bulic and Nitza Saul is absolutely gorgeous as Karina. In 1979, she'd posed for Playboy magazine. However, apart from them, no one is even watchable, the general tone being "I'm too macho to do any acting." Check out Ian McCulloch's frown shortly after Turlough's made him open the bulkhead near the start of episode three. "I'm not so sure it closed. Hmm, the situation's bad and we're all going to die gurgling in our own blood, but I'm a hard man, me." Tom Adams as Vorshak reminds me of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair in Babylon 5, having the same kind of wooden charm. He comes more alive once the monsters show up, though.
Meanwhile, Ingrid Pitt is not only terrible but looks like her mother. It's only eleven years since The Time Monster! Had she been working down a mine or something?
The result of all this non-acting is to reduce the characters to plot functions. Maddox should have been our identification figure in a nightmarish world of military paranoia and mutually assured destruction. Would you want to be given the button? Martin Neil gives us none of that, instead being a whiny loser. Nilson and Solow are somehow tedious despite their betrayal, brain-wiping, murder and sabotage. Their scenes are consistently more boring than anyone else's, despite the fact that this is Warriors of the Deep. Think about that for a minute. The regular military are the most interesting demographic among the incidental characters, despite being cardboard even by macho Saward-era standards.
Okay. That's enough of that. Moving on to matters beyond Pennant Roberts, the script is better than I used to think. Underneath all the production disasters, it's plodding but okay. As with Arc of Infinity, I like the ending. However, there's also a bizarre level of low-level idiocy:
Oh, and here's a thought. The Troughton 21st century stories gave its characters recognisable names. Hobson, Brent, Bennett, Kelly, Flannigan, Sir James Gregson, etc. However this story's names are mostly two meaningless syllables. Vorshak, Bulic, Maddox, Scibus, Solow, Tarpok, Cervix (sorry, Sauvix)... who are the reptiles and who are the humans? I'd be surprised if anyone in the production had been thinking deeply about this, but personally I like to see this as an indication that the power bloc in charge of Sea Base 4 might perhaps have called British and American people the enemy. Note that the traitor is called Nilson.
Unfortunately, all this has dated badly, since the Cold War was still a terrifying part of people's lives in 1984. Now it's a historical curiosity. This detracts from the big Mutually Assured Destruction threat in episode four, which to unsympathetic eyes today looks like a lot of fuss about a screen with some 1980s BBC graphics.
Buried under the rubbish is a story I could like. Unfortunately, it's been sunk without trace by the acting, the tin-eared dialogue and the truly catastrophic production. Incidentally this story has one of Doctor Who's few genuinely wobbling walls, and I don't mean the appalling rubber bulkhead that gets crushed by the Myrka. However, the thing I can't forgive is Pennant Roberts. The other stuff is comprehensibly bad. In contrast, I look at the soldier beating on the bulkhead early in part two and can't get my head around that being permitted in a professional production. I wouldn't even call it tapping. I'd chalk it down to the production nightmare if that kind of thing weren't characteristic of all his Doctor Who stories. I like to think I can go pretty low, but Pennant Roberts I actually find offensive.
There Should Have Been Another Way by Hugh Sturgess 21/11/09
I have an old friend of mine who likes Warriors of the Deep, and drags it out every time he wants an example of why listening to consensus opinion is never a wise thing (he doesn't accept man-made global warming, instead believing that volcanoes have been spewing out carbon dioxide non-stop for the past 150 years). And Mike Morris quite likes this story too, because it's got a good script. It's a story that intends to sum up Doctor Who's anti-violence message, show that war is hell and there should always be "another way".
Sadly, despite the greatest charity I can drum up, I have to conclude that consensus opinion is right on this occasion. Warriors of the Deep is really, really bad; indeed, the bathos of execution and thought is so enormous that I actually wonder how so many departments could let their game slip so thoroughly. There's a good, powerful story lurking in here somewhere, but it's drowned by incompetence at every level. Which is a damn shame, since I so desperately want to like this story.
It would be easy to rip into this story for its visual and aural flaws. Far too many people have consistently attacked the Myrka on the grounds of it looking ridiculous; that's true, but it's no worse than a lot else in this story. I'll just pick one example. What about the Sea Devil that needs several attempts to hit a blind man stumbling slowly around a corridor, firing at random? Or the programme's limpest battle scenes, where man and reptile fire from about five feet and fail to hit each other? Or the shot that has the noises of battle, but no one firing on screen?
It's not just incompetent, it's impressively incompetent. Sure, the Myrka's crap, but what would have been a giant-rat-style farrago in another story is here simply no more crap or ridiculous than any other element. In terms of execution, there is basically no element that isn't mishandled, poorly executed or badly done. Which are three terms that all mean the same thing, but you get the point. The acting is as bad as it gets; Vorshak would have been poor in another story, but here he's almost charismatic. The design is dull, flat and ugly, and while the power-cut as scripted would have been a cliche, at least it would have hidden those hideous grills that so often crop up in 80s stories. And would have hidden the Myrka, too. (That's the last crack about that poor, maligned creature, I promise.) The Sea Devils and Silurians are well-designed, actually looking more effective in this story than in their previous appearances (particularly the Silurians' faces, and I have a soft-spot for the coal-black Sea Devils with their completely black eyes), but then they go and ruin them by giving the Silurians flashing red eyes on their heads for that classic B-movie "I-am-a-robot" look. I can accept the mechanical voices (arguably they are translators for the benefit of the humans and/or the Sea Devils), but the flashing red eye gets me. The Sea Devils, for all their impressive appearance and reputation, are the most maladroit warriors seen on the programme, and the inability of the actors inside to remove the permanent crimp in their necks is just one example of the incompetence that so pervades this story that it borders on contempt for the audience. (The shot of a Sea Devil, in the background, its head almost parallel to its shoulders, still haunts me.) The music alters between absent in moments of high drama, and loud and obnoxious in otherwise unremarkable scenes (thus giving the blind viewer the impression that strange and terrifying things are happening throughout).
And as for the direction... Pennant Roberts has never been the programme's most dynamic director, but he's always had a good grasp for how a script should move, and I've always appreciated the way he makes a single male character female without changing any lines (in this case, Preston). But then again, what more could he have done here? The designer refused to turn down the lights, and John Nathan-Turner wouldn't let him cut out the Myrka; the result looks an awful lot like damage-control. But, then again, that didn't mean he had to hire some of the very worst actors in the show's history.
So, it's incompetent, but it's not funny incompetent in a way that a Zarbi running into the camera is. The only bit that made me laugh was Solow's bizarre death scene, a scene that makes me laugh just thinking about it. Despite acting against the mood of the story, it really is spectacularly entertaining, when the rest of the serial is just contemptible. Presumably this is what the Doctor meant when he spoke of bringing "a ray of sunshine into the Myrka's dark life". Looking beyond such minor concerns as acting, design and direction, what's surprising is how much this story has got going for it. It is, on paper, something like the definitive story of both the fifth Doctor's era and of the pacifist strand in the show's history. That's why it works having the two reptile species here. It wants to be a grand tragedy, with a colossal body-count, stray killings and ultimately a downbeat Doctor surrounded by the bodies of those he tried to save. As Mike Morris notes in his review, both the humans and the reptiles believe they own the Earth; there's such an obvious story in here, one that would easily match or outmatch the often predictable and convenient Malcolm Hulke stories (which made a moral point out of having the humans blow up the reptiles and thus avoid anything really difficult). This story has both sides wipe each other out because of their hatred.
But, disregarding all the things on the screen that get in the way of the script, I have to concede that the plot isn't very good. If it was executed well, it would have been better than (say) Resurrection of the Daleks (which it superficially resembles) but those who say that it could have the reputation The Caves of Androzani has now are deluding themselves. The script is OK, but not good and definitely not great.
The main problem is that the moral dilemma at the heart of the story doesn't exist. Thomas Cookson thinks the Doctor is weak in this story, but that's both wrong and unfair. But what he is is a hypocrite. When the humans fire energy tracers at the Silurian battleship (I get the feeling these are just warning shots), the Doctor gets really angry, and when Preston suggests using the hexachromite on the invaders, he wonders why he likes these "primitive" humans so much. But he never gets angry or even visibly frustrated at the Silurians. Even when Icthar invokes a legal technicality to start World War III, or when he quotes the Nazis when he calls for a "final solution", the Doctor never says that Icthar is (say) betraying all the peacemakers of his race, or making a mockery of their ancient civil law, and doesn't even stand up to him in a meaningful way. It looks odd, to see the Doctor chatting sympathetically with Icthar and treating the humans with contempt. That could have been a unique selling point, with the Doctor recognising better chances of appealing to the Silurians' better sides than humanity's, or siding with the Silurians because they have the moral high ground, but in execution it's the opposite effect.
In both Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Sea Devils, there is at least one individual on the reptile side that believes peace is possible. In the former, a young hothead kills the old Silurian with peaceful intentions, and peace still feels possible at the end; in the latter, humanity decides to bomb the Sea Devils' base, proving the Doctor wrong about man's peaceful ways, and the Sea Devils were revived by the Master, with predictable results. Here, however, neither Icthar nor Sauvix ever contemplate anything other than genocide. Even before they've got on board, the Doctor announces casually that the Silurians see humanity as "an evolutionary error they obviously mean to correct". How is that different from the Daleks' conviction that all life not their own is an abomination that should be exterminated? How can the Doctor constantly berate the primitive humans for not listening, when they seem far more "in the right" than their reptilian opponents. After all, they are attacked out of the blue (you'll pardon the pun), not offered terms for surrender and, I imagine, would be open to negotiations under the right circumstances.
So the Doctor's constant pleas for the humans to be peaceful don't hold much water. While they were undoubtedly hostile in their previous appearances, here they open their gambit by saying that they "have long since abandoned the path of peace". In The Sea Devils, you hate humanity when the pompous small-minded bastard Walker orders the Navy to depth-charge the Sea Devil base; here, humanity is constantly reactive, on the defensive and never has a chance to negotiate or make peace.
Again, this could have been the point. Both sides who believe they own the Earth, both races that can be noble, intelligent and compassionate, but here decide that genocide is the only option. There could have been a pathos in Icthar's admission that his people have decided that there can be only one solution to the human question. I want to believe Mike Morris when he says that the story is tragic, that it shows the fall of a once-noble race. But they just seem like any other faceless aggressor of the 80s. Is there any difference between this and Earthshock? I don't think there are many.
I agree with Mike that hexachromite is a constant, lurking presence in the Doctor's mind, the obvious, easy solution that he is striving from Episode Two to avoid. But it doesn't give the story "its edge, that tragic, ironic, pressing fact that the Doctor can finish this at any time". It could have, but it doesn't, because it looks as though the Doctor isn't standing up to aggression and treating the genocidal fanatics as though they have a moral superiority over the humans. It just looks like the story has to end, in a traditional alien-bloodbath, just with the Doctor adding a final, superior-sounding lament to make us feel guilty.
There's a universe out there where Warriors of the Deep wasn't just free of the production incompetence that beset in this world, but also where the script lived up to its promise. Where the climax from the out-of-hand death of Preston to the final line of the story had all the punch and tragedy of The Caves of Androzani. Where the massive body count actually had some impact. Where both sides were genocidal, fanatical and equally likeable or unlikeable. Where more than just the final line of the story worked.
But that final line, that final moment, is definitely the finest moment of the story. Surrounded by the bodies of humans, Silurians and Sea Devils, all together and indistinguishable in death, having saved the Earth but at a terrible cost to Silurian society (the last of the Triad, etc.) and with hundreds of other such bases poised to unleash nuclear armageddon of their own accord, the fifth Doctor has never come into his own so much. A man so much better than the universe he's trying to save, saying only that "there should have been another way". Nothing sums up the series' message that violence always rebounds on itself than this simple line.
Viewed alone, in isolation from the incompetence of all that surrounds it, it's passionate, tragic and deeply moving. But watched in context, it just looks like a postmodern comment at the execution of the story itself: "There should have been another way."
Re-opening the debate... by Will Berridge 3/3/13
I think I'm going to have to fly in the face of public opinion on this one. Ok, so Warriors of the Deep is no classic, but it's not 'exclusively culpable for Paul Merton putting DW in Room 101' bad either. I'll go all post-modern, and analyse my own quite irrational reasons for believing this:
I don't really mind the bright-white design. At least you can see what's going on... which admittedly is where the problems with pantomime-horse monsters, foam doors and so on come in, but hey, it makes a change.
Yes, it perhaps it seems hypocritical of the Doctor to defend the Silurians when they are trying to commit genocide, but can't you look at it in the context of Jon Pertwee's encounters with the Silurians/Sea Devils? After all, he still hasn't resolved the guilt he feels about the Brigadier destroying the Silurian base in Series 7. This displaced guilt leads to his attempts to defend them in Warriors of the Deep. Isn't it more interesting to witness these flaws in his behaviour than have the Doctor act as some kind of moral paragon all the time? Besides, he does abandon his argument about the Silurians being a 'noble species' when Tegan observes 'that doesn't change what they're about to do'. We see a highly conflicted version of the Doctor, torn between his love of humanity and perception of himself as a kind of intergalactic conflict resolution expert. Moreover, as many other reviewers have pointed out, there's also quite an interesting exploration of Turlough's own conflict with his inner coward. So at least the regular characters aren't monodimensional!
Besides, when I first saw it as a twelve year old, I thought it was fast-paced and quite exciting. It was originally designed for twelve year olds! The last episode is actually quite dramatic, and the Silurians start to go beyond squeaking 'excellent!' and get some great lines such 'and these human beings will die as they have lived: in a sea of their own blood!!' It's devastatingly post-colonial, in a way. An older civilization, that has been brutally treated by the leaders of the contemporary empires, comes back to bring down Western modernity by exploiting its major flaws: a tendency towards borderline apocalyptic ideological conflict and the fetishization of highly destructive weapons technology. It's certainly indicative of the self-questioning of the post-Opponheimer world.
Admittedly, some of the flaws can't be ignored: most of the human characters are so monodimensional they could each individually be the 'bloke standing in a red shirt waiting to be bumped off' from a Shatner-era Star Trek, the direction's not great, and there's a 'our weapons are useless' line about a monster so ineffectual only a weakly executed karate chop could make it look deadly. And what is a 'Materialization flip-flop'??? Peter Davison is as he is throughout the 5th Doctor's era: witty and characterful when he has good material to act out, stuck on autopilot when he doesn't. Still, I'll give it 6/10.
Compost Heap in the Abyss by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 21/6/13
I have decided to spend my Sunday afternoon rubbishing Warriors of the Deep. Why? Because it deserves it quite frankly. It's a travesty, an insult to the memory of The Silurians and The Sea Devils, a boring Cold War pastiche that should never have been made and THE worst story of the Davison era by a country mile. And then some. Fan opinion holds Time-Flight and, inexplicably, Terminus to be the worst Davison stories. They're worse than Warriors of the Deep are they? Well no, they aren't in fact. They're practically classics by comparison. Even the borderline carcinogenic dullness of Arc of Infinity doesn't try my patience as much as this one does. This is the nadir, the abyssal plain, which is actually pretty appropriate when you think about it...
So what precisely is wrong with it? Well, since you ask, everything. I cannot think of one single aspect of Warriors of the Deep which is worth keeping. As a piece of visual design it is bright, tasteless where it isn't downright embarrassing and, in some quarters, extremely ill-advised. Take the costumes, for example. Hideous plastic jumpsuits in a garish range of colour combinations which do nothing to flatter the actors who had the misfortune of having to wear them. The Doctor spends the majority of the story wearing a guard's uniform which makes one realise just how much we associate clothing with the Doctor. By removing him from his costume and in putting him in something decidedly rank-and-file, he is almost robbed of part of his personality. The sets aren't bad, but, as is constantly the problem with Doctor Who in the Eighties, it's far too brightly lit. At times it looks more like a hospital than a military base. The interiors of the Silurian ship and Sea Devil cave have a much darker, greener hue to them which works pretty well. I should point out however that a Cyber gun is still a Cyber gun whatever you do with it...
This brings me to the Eocenes themselves... The new Silurian design is very effective in some regards, notably the head. The masks look elegant and suitably reptilian. The body shell isn't quite as good, it makes them all look a bit tubby compared to how slim they seemed to be in The Silurians. In fact, in their earlier appearance they were a good deal more animated than they are here. The wobbly heads have generated some contention over the years, but they seemed so much more like living creatures than they do in Warriors of the Deep. Wobbly heads are just a way of indicating which Silurian is speaking. The production team get around that this time by having their third eye light up synchronously with their speech. I have to say, I think this is stupid. Their occularly focused psionic abilities were a fascinating part of their design in The Silurians and are completely absent this time around. The voice acting is terrible, sounding as if the artists are merely reading from the script. This, combined with their lumbering gait, destroys much of their menace. In The Silurians they were a race of creatures, they had personalities, conflicts of interest, they moved and spoke as if they were living beings. Here they are just Monster of the Week and not a very interesting one at that.
But of the three different types of creature seen in Warriors of the Deep, the Sea Devils are the worst. The Myrka has the infamous reputation, but I personally find the Sea Devils far more offensive. As with their Silurian counterparts, they are far more terribly realised here than in their previous appearance. In The Sea Devils, they possessed the same elegance and sense of being alive that the Silurians did in Season Seven. They could move quickly, they were much more elegant, the string vests were a nicely quirky touch and those scenes of them rising up out of the water are among the most iconic in in the programme's history. In Warriors of the Deep they are lumbering ciphers with terribly lop-sided heads, virtually immobile masks and silly Samurai-style costumes. Yes the Myrka is embarassing, but at the end of the day it's just silly. It's an attempt to do something that failed spectacularly. So what? But in reducing the Sea Devils to complete non-entities, the production team have ignored their potential and sullied their memory. The Myrka is easily the most infamous aspect of the story, but I'm not going to bang on about that, we've all heard it before...
So is Warriors of the Deep a failed story with lots of potential? I'm not really sure, but probably not. Yes it has many things which are in dire need of improving, but that isn't necessarily failed potential. Some of the shots of Sea Base Four are quite good, especially that one with the fish, and the music has snippets of potential here and there, mostly in the first episode. However, the fact still remains that Jonathan Gibbs made much better contributions to the series and a few successful model shots are scant reward for having to endure the rest of it. And that's precisely what Warriors of the Deep is, an endurance test.
Oh look, hexachromite halfway through Episode One. What's that, it's lethal to all reptile life? Bit bloody convenient eh...?
Now Sea Base Four is explicitly stated to be a military base, which means that these are all effectively soldiers. So does anyone have any ideas why they are wearing eyeliner? No, me neither. I mean if you're going to attempt to portray a credible military unit, having all the men wear eyeliner is simply pissing on your own chips. It all looks pretty camp, actually. That might work well for The Happiness Patrol or The Greatest Show in the Galaxy but it isn't going to do any favours for a story like Warriors of the Deep.
The acting in this one has always struck me as a little on the ropey side. Nilson is obviously a villain right from the word go, he seems to be broadcasting menace on all frequencies. It's made apparent fairly early on that he is an enemy agent, but I don't see why it was necessary to make him quite so evil. He says that he is only doing his duty just like the Sea Base Four personal are, but if that's the case then turning him into an explicitly 'bad guy' renders the character somewhat two dimensional. Surely it makes more sense from a character-building perspective to paint him with shades of grey rather than all black? Tom Adams is by far the safest member of the guest cast, but even he seems to be having trouble with some of the material. The only other individual who stands out is Ingrid Pitt although I think a large part of that is down to her karate kicking the Myrka, an act which has to be seen to be believed. It may very well be the most (in)famous scene in the story. Speaking of karate, the fights and battles all seem very stagey and unconvincing. The squabble in Episode Three after the Sea Devils break in through the airlock is a perfect example of this. It has no sense of drive or momentum and as a scene it simply doesn't work for me, a fact which is exacerbated by the almost inanimate Sea Devils.
As in Horror of Fang Rock, most of the guest characters end up dead. It isn't the best story for the Fifth Doctor in that regard. If you aren't a fan of the Fifth Doctor and your reasons for this revolve around him being ineffectual, then Warriors of the Deep will justify that impression in spades. "There should've been another way" is a pathetic copout in my opinion. I don't think it's a fine line; in fact, I find it maudlin and oversentimental and it simply seems to be a rather pathetic justification for everyone ending up dead. I do like the Fifth Doctor but he's pretty useless here.
We have The Silurians and The Sea Devils. We don't need Warriors of the Deep. Enough said.