DW & the Silurians
Warriors of the Deep
The Sea Devils
|Dates||Feb. 26, 1972 -
Apr. 1, 1972
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning.
Written by Malcolm Hulke. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Michael Briant. Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo investigate mysteriuos sinkings and discover that the Master has allied himself with the Sea Devils in this sequel to Doctor Who and The Silurians.|
Essential Pertwee by John Riordan 10/9/97
I just bought the video of The Sea Devils the other day, and I find that it holds up astonishingly well. It moves along at a "jolly clip" and is as good a riposte as any to the complaints of padding which seem to always accompany evalutions of 6+ part stories.
The story has an excess of well-drawn and well-acted characters that is remarkable for Doctor Who. I thought that Trenchard and Walker were particularly delightful grotesques, and sturdy, dependable Captain Hart is Lethbridge-Stewart's naval cousin.
As always, Pertwee and Delgado play their usual game of one-upmanship and make it fresh. Though Pertwee gets rather the better end of the deal, especially in the sword duel and the scene where they are both imprisoned by the Sea Devils, in both of which the Doctor is charmingly flippant while the Master becomes flustered.
The action scenes are excellent and have a fairly high-budget look, thanks to the Navy's extraordinary generosity to the production with all manner of equipment, vehicles, ships, etc. The parts involving these various items seem more comfortably adapted to the storyline than is sometimes the case in other stories.
The Sea-Devils themselves are another of Malcolm Hulke's stock triumphs; lethally dangerous, yet also complex and reasonable.
A Review by Leo Vance 11/2/98
Well, in this case, we have an excellent performance from almost every member of the cast, some very good direction, and superb locations and filming aboard the HMS Reclaim. The only mistake is some weird scripting, and a few bad points about the direction.
Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning were a popular team, but I don't know why. Jo is awful in nearly every story, though there are some great comedy moments, and Katy Manning struggles bravely to make Jo look okay. Here she is good enough, and Pertwee is at his scintillating best (not equal to the Bakers, Davison or Hartnell, but still lots of fun to watch. He even gets a swordfight!). Captain Hart and Jane Blythe are both superb, and the naval cast are all good, including the Submarine Crew. Walker is well acted, on a par with Mr. Chinn from The Claws of Axos, but better scripted.
Trenchard is very well acted, and his scripting lets him be more rounded than most Pertwee era guests (or central cast!).
Roger Delgado is brilliant. He turns in a sterling performance on top of an excellent script, and is pure Delgado: corrupting innocents (Trenchard, the Sea Devils), making brilliant plans, and ready to improvise at a moments notice. The Sea Devils are also superb.
The scripts are good generally, but there are some bad bits-- the Doctor giving the Master his sword, the Doctor sinking to kicking people, and the coincidence of the bombs falling just as the Doctor makes peace with the Sea Devils.
All in all, an excellent tale with few bad points. 8/10
That sinking feeling by Tom May Updated 23/5/03, (originally 10.11.98)
The Master: "Do you think I could have another television set, for the bedroom? Colour, of course."The above utterance is a charming and curious plug for colour television, and is symptomatic of a story that doesn't always play by the "Queensbury Rules" of the Third Doctor's era. This is particularly so in the first episode, though things become more prosaically familiar as the story goes on. The scene at the prison where the Master watches The Clangers, is a high point of The Sea Devils, and is an incidental instance of humour in a rather leaden-moodied story. That the brief levity actually works is against the grain for the usually hapless efforts in the Letts years to raise chuckles.
The story's length is perhaps excessive, and really starts to drag after the death of Trenchard; which ends the productive Master-prison plotline. It could easily have been cut to four episodes, but then again, the long length tends to allow further characterisation, for the likes of Hart and Trenchard. It is perhaps unsurprising, considering that the story loses its central intrigue, that Episode One works the best of the six episodes. There is a delightfully thoughtful introspection in the early meeting between the Master and The Doctor; a moving scene beautifully scored by Malcolm Clarke, and made all the more entertaining by the Master's reaction once the Doctor has left. There is in Episode 1, entirely against Season 9's dullard grain, humour and a genuine sense of strangeness and terror; much of the latter can be put down to the experimental incidental score. Malcolm Clarke's pioneering use of the cumbersome Delaware synthesizer creates an eternally evocative score that frankly eclipses the story itself, in the memory. Indeed, the music in its juddering and bizarre precision is by turns eerie, briefly wistful and wonderfully, fittingly shrill. It is an incalculable improvement on the equally bizarre, but far less atmospheric kazoo stylings of Doctor Who and the Silurians; this is truly the one element where this story is streets ahead of its Season 7 predessecor.
The rather unfairly named Sea Devils are effective as a lingering, obscured menace in Episode One, delineated by a frighteningly shrill musical 'theme', that sounds like the bleating of a fire engine, submerged down at the seabed. Yet with their increasingly use, these manipulated monsters are not so impressive; particularly when all too easily massacred late on. They are a mostly mute, slightly bizarre race of creatures, very well-designed visually. Quirks include their occasional making of odd noises and in Episode Six, one of them almost completing a cartwheel when shot. It must be said that the conclusion of the story is very predictable and unsatisfying, with the Sea Devils shown as of little consequence and the Doctor's pacifism isn't taken as far as it could've been; c.f. the sobering conclusion to Doctor Who and the Silurians.
The use of a naval setting is highly effective, and the wealth of location work is an aspect on which this story is superior to the often studio-constrained Doctor Who and the Silurians. The naval setting allows for a much needed contrast to the UNIT backdrop, and this alows for new characters to be introduced. Captain Hart is played with conviction by stalwart Edwin Richfield, certainly a slightly more on-the-ball figure at this stage than the old Brig was. Jane Blythe, played by June Murphy of Fury From The Deep fame, is sadly all too much of the archetypal '70s secretary' figure; all efficiency and eyelashes, yet little else.
The Master is once more essayed by Roger Delgado, who is as magical as always and more than a match for Pertwee's impulsive Doctor. This is surely one of his best performances, along with Terror of the Autons, The Daemons and Frontier in Space; his managing to evoke genuine pathos in the Doctor's early prison visit is magnificent acting. His stooge, the controller of the prison and blustering patriot Trenchard, played by the late Clive Morton, is easily the most compelling new character in the story. Morton makes him likeable, misguided and irritating at the same time; conveying the sense that he is a very competent man, but his weaknesses can be played to easily by the Master. In terms of more minor players, the maintenance workers are reasonable even - Declan Mulholland and some other chap, are able to star in a very compelling sequence to close Episode 1 - although Walker is an absolutely yawn-worthy bureaucrat/politician. Very much the sort of lazy caricature that Dicks and Letts trotted out time and time again as an example to be derided by the Doctor.
Jon Pertwee is merely passable in the lead role, condescending as usual and occasionally curt; although his friendship with Jo is well displayed, as is his grudging respect for The Master. That early prison visit scene I always hark back to really shows the level of genuine affection the Doctor seems to have for his 'arch foe'. Katy Manning's Jo, is as usual gratingly straight-laced and over-eager, although not quite as clueless as is often the case. Jo works well in the first half of the story, but then is faded out of the proceedings and is thus rendered useless. A very nice costume for Manning in this story, on an irrelevant, incidental point.
The Sea Devils contains much that is good, and the good points make it a comfortably above average tale, in context of Season 9. Its script is a mixture of the very good - the Master and his relation to the prison set-up, Trenchard and the Doctor - and the plodding: the Sea Devils not being as well explored as the Silurians were - although the costumes are really better. Things really do lose their way a little in the second half, with the numbskull Walker a symptom. There is not quite the sense of moral ambiguity and genuine threat that exists in Hulke's Season 7 epic: note the contrived way in which the Master's plot overlaps with that of the Sea Devils themselves. Also consider the lack of a scaled, well-conveyed threat, as in the astonishingly directed plague sequences in London, late in Doctor Who and the Silurians, and such moments of tension as Quinn's murder by a stray Silurian. Only the sequence on the rig in Episode 1 is really up to these precedents; and this is never quite matched again for impact. I wouldn't advise you to watch The Sea Devils one sitting, as you'll get slightly bored. Indeed, when I watched it - certainly being already familiar after earlier viewings of the story years ago - the whole thing felt rather more ho-hum-routine than it did on a first viewing. The lazy padding, gradual predictability and a generally, if not entirely weak ending are faults that really undermine the story's general competence. Still, it is profoundly watchable as an example of how ingeniously fitting the otherworldly music of the Radiophonic Workshop could be... Malcolm Clarke's score is a complete one-off and induces an upward trajectory of interest throughout a story that sadly sinks towards routine slumber from midway.
Contemplating Navals by Christopher Fare 18/1/99
After the claustrophobic, enclosed feel of The Curse of Peladon, this story is a lavish adventure with plenty of location filming, the return of Roger Delgado's Master and the introduction of the Silurians' aquatic cousins in a story that is just as good as its predecessor, in its own way.
The chief attribute of The Sea Devils is the action, which is almost non-stop. The business on the sea fort; the swordfight between the Doctor and the Master; the attack on the submarine, and the Doctor going down after it; the storming of the naval base by the Sea Devils -- something is always happening. This prevents the story from dragging, something which blights a lot of six-part stories in general. And indeed, even when explanations are required, there is a panache about them that other stories lack.
The performances are another strong point. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning have eased very comfortably into their parts by this point, and the warm relationship between the Doctor and Jo helps the story enormously -- the highlight being Jo's resourcefulness, which tended to be neglected more as time went on. First she rescues the captive Doctor in the castle, and then proceeds to escape the occupied naval base via the air ducts. This is an improvement on Jo's usual role.
The other cast are good too. Roger Delgado makes an excellent return as the Master -- all sneering contempt and cunning plans. Edwin Richfield is suitably solid as Captain Hart, the Brigadier's fill-in; he is aided by strong performances from his colleagues as well. However, I've never been that enamoured of Clive Morton as Trenchard, nor Martin Boddey's Walker; they perform well enough, but the characters are extremely irritating and, unusually for Malcolm Hulke, not developed very well at all.
The realization of the titular creatures is good, but they have far less "personality" than the Silurians, much to their detriment. Also, the use of naval stock footage becomes both very obvious and very irritating as time goes on. Luckily, there's few CSO shots to ruin the naturalism of the story, which helps enormously.
The Sea Devils stands up very well as an example of a large-scale and lavish Pertwee adventure. The extensive location filming adds a naturalism to the story that would otherwise be missing, and the atonal music score adds a very "modern" feel to the action.
Naval Gazing by Andrew Wixon 12/11/01
'The BBC wishes to thank the Royal Navy for their invaluable assistance in the making of this programme'? I should bloomin' think so too. Mind you, the RN should probably give the BBC a credit for making them look so good in return. Remember all those stories where the army get helplessly pushed back by unstoppable alien nasties? Not so with the Navy! The action sequence in episode six isn't so much a battle as a massacre. Dearie me.
All the Royal Navy stuff is the most immediately arresting thing about The Sea Devils - that and the creatures themselves. They're a superior monster, but as usual look better on film than in the studio. Visually there are a lot of memorable things here, but it's mostly window dressing on a dumbed-down and actioned-up remake of Doctor Who and the Silurians. Take away all the military hardware and the Master and there's not much left to sink your teeth into.
The acute characterisation of the earlier story is a thing of the past and instead we get cartoonish old buffers like Trenchard and Walker, played for comic effect (though the Governor's scenes with Delgado do raise a smile). The Doctor's earlier insistence on co-existence between the races also seems to only get lip service, as well: note the bit in episode six where he says 'I must try and make peace' and then without taking breath proceeds to beat the living daylights out of a couple of Sea Devils.
Not that this is in any way a bad story; as Pertwee action romps go it's amongst the very best. Captain Hart is a refreshing change from the Brigadier, though he's clearly a close relation in terms of his narrative role. Roger Delgado gives one of his best performances, too, and there are fascinating hints that he and the Doctor consider their shared heritage as Time Lords to be more important than their feud when it comes to the crunch.
The Sea Devils is a triumph of novelty value over anything truly original or thoughtful. But like everything else, there's a place for that in Doctor Who.
An strong sequel by Tim Roll-Pickering 3/4/02
About a decade ago The Sea Devils was selected to represent Jon Pertwee's time in the series in a repeat run. As an all action adventure, and being the middle story of his middle season it seems a highly appropriate tale to select. However it is noticeable for being set on contemporary Earth and featuring no direct appearance of UNIT at all. This gives a degree of freshness in the early episodes as the Doctor can not immediately call upon the support of the Navy in the way he would be able to do so with UNIT, whilst Edwin Richfield gives an excellent performance as Captain Hart without having to compete with any UNIT regulars.
There is a huge amount of action in this story, ranging from the Doctor's duel with the Master to the scenes of the naval task force attacking the reptiles' base. The story itself is for the most part a rerun of Doctor Who and the Silurians with the Master thrown in as an additional element but the story never noticeably drags. Michael Bryant's direction is strong and competent and makes good use of a mixture of stock footage, visual effects and equipment loaned by the Royal Navy to give the story a strong and slick feeling. Malcolm Hulke's script is well written and the only character to get sent up is Walker, a wonderful caricature of 'patriots' who merely make the entire situation far worse.
On the acting side, Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Roger Delgado all give their usual strong performances whilst Clive Morton (Colonel Trenchard) and the aforementioned Edwin Richfield both give exceptionally good supporting roles. Clive Morton brings a strong sense of tragedy to Trenchard, a strong patriot who believes he is doing his country a great service but finds out that he has been merely used by the Master as a means to an end and he then dies guarding his prisoner.
There's a limited degree of humour in the story, such as the Master and Trenchard's exchange about the Clangers being an alien life form or the Doctor's initial attempts to transmit a distress signal resulting in his picking up Jo's favourite DJ, but predominantly the story is serious. There's much less of the moralising of its predecessor, with only one of the reptiles (their Chief) being able to speak and he doesn't appear until the fifth episode and instead this story focuses on the action. Consequently the ending is far less tragic than before but instead focuses on the Doctor and Master escaping and continues the trend of the almost sibling rivalry between the two when the latter waves goodbye as he flees in the hovercraft. Whilst not as strong as its predecessor, The Sea Devils nevertheless presents a strong tale that is complemented by good production values. The music is radically different from the norm, being provided by Malcolm Clarke and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, but this experiment works well and uses many distinctive sounds. By breaking out of the standard formula for the Pertwee years, this story benefits from a degree of originality and so fully deserves its existence as more than a mere sequel. 8/10
A Review by Andrew Hunter 16/8/02
Ships sink under mysterious circumstances, two men on a sea base are attacked by something - one is killed and the other is left in a state of shock, mumbling something about "Sea Devils"...
Set as a sequel to Jon Pertwee's second Doctor Who story, Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Sea Devils features aquatic relatives of the Silurians. The Sea Devils are an interesting idea, with a fascinating history behind them - they once ruled the Earth when man was at a primitive stage. Their scientists thought an object would collide with Earth, destroying all life on the surface. For their protection, they put themselves to sleep under water, with timing devices to wake them up. The object did not collide, but became the moon and the Sea Devils remained undisturbed, while the apes turned into man and ran the planet... When one of their colonies is disturbed in The Sea Devils, we can understand their motives clearly, which gives the monsters more depth to them.
While these ideas make the Sea Devils more believable, the costumes let them down. As the actors wore the heads of the Sea Devil costumes on top of their own heads, the Sea Devils walk with their heads slightly out of position. Their faces look as though they are made of rubber, but a lot of hard effort was put into making them. They do look aquatic, which is good enough.
Obviously, aquatic creatures live in the sea. One of the highlights of The Sea Devils is that we actually get to see them coming out of the water. Those scenes are very well done and are legendary moments from Doctor Who.
More great moments are provided when the Sea Devils attack the naval base, giving us plenty of action and excitement. The attacks do not look lame, which may or not be expected from Doctor Who, but look realistic and there is some good stunt work. An example of good stunt work would be when a Sea Devil is shot and falls from the top of a building, doing a flip in midair!
It may seem that the Sea Devils are the only villains in the story, but they are being persuaded by the Doctor's nemesis, the Master. Once again, the late Roger Delgado steps into the role as the Master, giving a very good performance. The Master plans to help the Sea Devils become the rulers of Earth, but is stopped by the Doctor. Jon Pertwee also gives a great performance. More action is provided as he and Delgado engage in a swordfight and chase each other on boats. Edwyn Richfield plays the Doctor's ally, Captain Hart. This is one of the best pieces of guest acting in Doctor Who. He is very realistic as a Captain, with a strong sense of command and experience. There is more brilliant guest acting from Clive Morton, who gives a marvellous performance as Colonel Trenchard.
With good monsters, lots of action and good acting, The Sea Devils certainly looks to be a classic.
Unfortunately, some of the special effects are "questionable". The submarine doesn't look real, especially the interior. Some of the sections of the Sea Devil colony are unrealistic - one section looks like a school stage!
On the other hand, some of the special effects are pretty good. The scenes with the Doctor going down in the diving bell look great.
In short, The Sea Devils is a superb story.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 12/9/03
The Sea Devils is my favourite Pertwee story because it combines all the elements of that particular era into a highly enjoyable adventure. Jon Pertwee is on great form and Katy Manning even gets more to do; even attacking the prison guards at one stage. Roger Delgado makes a welcome return, being both manipulative and charming (his joy at watching The Clangers is a delight) and the guest cast all turn in fine performances. The surrogate UNIT team in the form of the navy makes for a refreshing change, as does the setting itself which greatly adds to the atmosphere of the story. The titular Sea Devils are also equally impressive, although perhaps not as formidable as the Silurians (they rely on hand weapons) and the scenes of them emerging from the sea are memorable indeed.
In short, watch it and enjoy.
"It seems to be a rather interesting extraterrestrial life form" by Terrence Keenan 3/10/03
The Sea Devils is a pumped up, action-oriented redo of The Silurians. And although The Sea Devils is more exciting from a certain standpoint, it doesn't have the power of its predecessor in terms of bigger themes.
It's kind of like the difference between Alien and Aliens. James Cameron was smart for not trying to duplicate the horror elements that made Alien fresh and exciting, but instead turned the sequel into a wild action-adventure ride. But I still say Alien is the better film because it got there first.
And The Sea Devils has a predictability to it. The Doctor will try to make the peace, come close to a breakthrough, only to have it screwed up by human action and be forced to end the conflict by tricking the reptile people.
The other misstep is that the Sea Devils seem much weaker than the Silurians. In the last two episodes, a boatload of Sea Devils get whacked, rather easily at that. Only the "Young Silurian" was killed by the humans, and that took several shots and the blowing up of the caves to do that. The Sea Devils come off as less smart as their cave-dwelling cousins. They tend to be drawn into open combat easier (The Silurians play hit and run in the caves) and don't really try to anything drastic against humanity, such as releasing viruses or destroying the Van Allen Belt.
Although integrated into the script well, the Master's inclusion in this tale is pointless. His only role is to give villainy a human face. His only real plot function is to escape at the end.
Now the positives:
By not having UNIT and substituting the Royal Navy base, the story does gain a freshness lacking in the earlier stories. The interaction between the Doctor and Captain Hart is more akin to the Season 7 Doc and Brig relationship (lots of friction on methods).
The script has numerous speaking parts and is well acted by the cast. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning give strong performances. Big Roger Delgado is lots of fun throughout. (My fave scene with Big Rog is the "Clangers" bit in ep 1) The guests all hold their own with Clive Morton's Trenchard the best of the lot. It's an interesting second villain part, well written and performed.
The big action scenes in the last half of the story are well executed and give the story momentum. Every time you turn around, someone is blowing something up, shooting something, or travelling by every form of sea transport except for slave galleys and water skis. Boring, it's not.
The Sea Devils is an inferior, yet strong sequel to The Silurians. It makes some smart moves by adding a few twists from the original story, but it's leaning on its predecessor causes a level of predictability.
The rot sets in... by Joe Ford 7/12/03
Wow this is a really popular story isn't it? I have just scanned all the reviews in the Ratings Guide and they all seem to be favour, some of my favourite comments being... "Lethally dangerous, yet complex and reasonable", "A strong sequel", "A superb story" ...it's gushing praise all the way! And why not? When you have a decent new race of monsters, flashy location work, loads of action and Malcolm Hulke about to dish out moral dilemmas aplenty... why shouldn't anyone not like this.
Because it's crap. Sheer unadulterated crap. There isn't an original idea in The Sea Devils, the plot being transferred wholesale from Dr Who and the Silurians from the introduction of the monsters (tension mounting as they are hidden in the shadows), the appearance of a stupid military power who do nothing but hinder the Doctor, attempts to co-exist with the monsters and finally their destruction, the only, inevitable conclusion. Even the Master has been overused by this stage and cannot offer any excitement. The plot is padded out with ultra long scenes of 'atmosphere' and 'action', naval powers preparing their weapons and swordfights between bitter rivals. This is traditional Doctor Who at its all time worst, a story so lacking in innovation and ideas I was guessing the plot five steps ahead of the characters and had the ending pegged halfway through. On subsequent re-viewings I have to sit through the dredge of escape/capture/escape/capture... Jon Pertwee getting to ride more and more ridiculous machines and the Master indulging in some extremely dull disguises. It's just plod, plod, plod...
People suggest that the story looks great but it doesn't, it looks horrible. There is a whole ton of location work in and around the sea which should look fabulous but for some reason unknown it has a horribly dated grainy look about it, like it was filmed on the most miserable day of the year despite the blazing sunshine. I find it depressing to watch the exterior scenes for too long especially when they are as padded and predictable as the diving bell fifteen minutes. Jesus how obvious is that? And yet we have to sit through five minutes of the Doctor gearing up, going down, losing contact, the bell coming up and Jo exploring inside only to discover... shock! gasp! "The Doctor's gone!" Deary me, I never saw that coming.
But worse than the arduous location shots are the interiors that are decked out in the drabbest colours I have ever seen. Thought outside looked depressing? Then wait until you see the dingiest prison ever built, so claustrophobic and depressing I wouldn't send the world's worst criminal in there! I know it isn't supposed to be a holiday camp but this is the absolute limit of luxury and it is supposed to be the best of its kind. The naval base is better because it is supposed to be cramped and uncomfortable but is still unpleasant on the eye.
I suppose I could be biased. You see when BBC2 repeated this many years ago I had the misfortune to be being babysitted by my Uncle Brian who teased me throughout with his mockery of "the monsters with the eyes that don't move!" Oh how I've suffered every day since then, every time I bring up the show to my family he always chips in with "and don't forget the monsters with the eyes that don't move!" I'm sure you all have similar annoying relatives but this one reference does tend to appeal to my homicidal side.
The Sea Devils are okay, Doctor Who never survived because the monsters were the cutting edge of special effects and these are hardly the worst examples of depths the show could sink to. The voices are quite creepy (if you're twelve years old) and they at least have a glistening organic look about them. Not sure about those net costumes they wear though. What I do object to is Hulke being so lazy he does not imbue them with any characteristics that set them apart from the Silurians except that they live in the sea. They even have identical dialogue and motives, let alone their underground habitats and hibernation backstory. And as much as it pains me to say it, shots of them stumbling from the sea shore like geriatrics that have lost their coach are far from the classic images they are made out to be. And anyway they scream like big girls, how terrifying can they be if they do that?
Another annoying aspect of the story is how nobody is trying anymore. It may as well be Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Roger Delgado having tea in the rehearsal room in episode one instead of the Doctor, Jo and the Master in a prison cell since they are so casual about the whole thing. "Oh and Doctor, pop by for a chat if you're passing?" he has the audacity to say! Grr, this should have been really scary, Hannibal Lecteur like with Jo recoiling from his prison cell as he threatens to kill her. I know he is trying to prove he is a new man as a part of his ploy but this doesn't really come off when he spends the rest of the story being similarly complacent about things. It's almost as if they expect us to know the plot, the Master is evil but the Doctor will defeat him in the end and don't even bother with the pretence anymore. Jon and Katy seem to be having great fun getting into scrapes with the Master, the swordfight, the beach hunt, the diving bell but never once did I feel like either of them was in any danger. No tension, no excitement.
And need I mention Walker? The single most annoying character in Doctor Who ever! (Outside of Chinn, Tegan and Deflores). Who can stand watching this man? The stories one saving grace would have been to have him killed horribly. Instead with have to suffer his stupid decisions, his oafish insults and his sickening cowardess. What a fat, pompous prick... only him and Jar Jar Binks have managed to have my arms outstretched trying to throttle them inside the telly.
Trenchard is similarly awful, the performance is stilted and lacking but the characterisation even worse. In a story all about weak men he is without a doubt the weakest, falling under the Master's thrall with little resistance and then 'patriotically' trying to save the day when the monsters show up. This man you have as your prisoner is a master criminal sent to the highest security prison in the world and you think he is trying to make the world a better place? What a stupid, silly man. His death was one of the few cheer out loud moments. It is totally unbelievable that such a useless git would be in charge of such a prison.
And let me get to my biggest gripe with this story, the one thing that renders it totally unwatchable from any angle whatsoever... yes it's Malcolm Clarke and his incidental music which is so thoroughly despicable I am shocked that he turned up again in the 80s! The point of incidental music is that it is supposed to be incidental, his collection of schreeches, bleeps and melodramatic stings is anything but. Every single scene is punctuated by this tuneless pap, none of it melodic or pleasing on the ear in the slightest. With a creepier score I honestly believe something could have been salvaged from this unlikable six parter but instead it increases the pain tenfold. I always have a headache after watching it and grip my ears several times to block out the deafening squeals that pop up unexpectedly.
Oh dear, not very nice am I? Well, this story isn't very nice to watch so I will stick to my guns. No momentum, no tension, predictable, careless leads and worst of all terrible music combine to create the one story that I really cannot stand from the Pertwee era. There is some competent direction here and there, the odd flash of an inspired performance but on the whole these six episodes are severely lacking.
Sorry to be such a spoilsport after so many positive reviews but I have to disagree with you all.
A Review by Brian May 20/4/04
The Sea Devils would have been a masterpiece with four episodes. Unfortunately it has six.
That's the main problem with this otherwise impressive adventure. The word "padding", so often associated with Jon Pertwee stories, certainly applies here. There are only two episodes with any sort of conciseness. The first has a nice expository, non-dragging feel and, surprisingly, a middle episode (four) manages to combine suspense, action and plot development effectively. Episode two spends too much time on the sea-fort, with the Doctor fiddling with a radio in order to contact the mainland, unaware that air-sea rescue is already on its way (while the audience is aware). Then there's Trenchard's attempt to stall Captain Hart with his golf tournament nonsense (I know he's buying time for the Master, but do the viewers have to suffer too?) Then there's that awfully long and overdone swordfight. Episode three slugs along as well - not helped by the fact it recaps the duel in its entirety. Then there's capture, escape and running around being chased by guards. Add to this the sub-plot of the submarine, which just becomes a chance to facilitate more padding later. The episode is saved by a cracking ending however, and then, as I mentioned, the fourth instalment has some terrific moments - the escape across the minefield and the Sea Devils' storming of the castle are both particularly memorable.
Part five also lengthily recaps the previous cliffhanger and, apart from the excellent exchanges between the Doctor and the Chief Sea Devil, it's another long escape sequence, this time for our hero and the submarine crew. Episode six, ironically, parallels the final episode of this story's prequel, Doctor Who and the Silurians, in a number of ways: the creatures take over the humans' base, the Doctor cleverly fiddles with some wires to cause sabotage, and the monsters' base is blown up (although this last one differs very poignantly, because this time the Doctor does it, rather than the Brigadier). Add another Pertwee chase (on motorboats this time), a dull shoot-em-up battle between Sea Devils and UNIT-substitute sailors, and a rather daft few minutes when the Doctor switches on a device that disorientates the creatures. They fall about covering their ears, while the Master, who is present, stands round and lets it all happen, only ordering the Doctor to turn it off nearly two minutes later!!! All the important characters have escaped by then!!!!
But The Sea Devils is still a worthy story, deserving of commendation. That probably makes it best to get the bad stuff out in the open first, eh? Malcolm Hulke delivers another first-rate script; it is similar to Silurians, but an adventure in its own right. The most obvious difference the presence of the Master, and it works quite well. His plan is not as convoluted as some of his others, he seems to be on good terms with the Sea Devils (until the Doctor arrives - they lock up both Time Lords at the end - would they have done this anyway?) The Master's pot-stirring interference is malicious, whereas the conflicts between humans and reptiles in Silurians were far more "us and them" related, fuelled by rampant xenophobia on both sides. They didn't have the deliberate intervention by a third party. Also, the Doctor is faced with having to destroy the reptiles. Note when the Doctor tells the Chief Sea Devil "I'm sorry" when he knows he has no other alternative. It's almost tragic, delivered with appropriate gravitas by Jon Pertwee.
The rest of the acting is very impressive. There are many speaking roles in this story and, save for the odd overexcited guard or cliched boatman, they're all rather good. Of note is Donald Sumpter as Cmdr Ridgeway - he's just so cool, calm and collected! An excellent chap to be stuck on a submarine - or any ship - with! Blythe is ever so sexy in that uniform (oh, and well acted, incidentally, but priorities, priorities...) Captain Hart is nothing more than a Brigadier substitute, but Edwin Richfield plays him well. But why are there so many close-ups of him giving a quizzical look as he's being told the bleeding obvious? Walker is too caricatured to be believable, but he's decently acted. But it's Clive Morton as Trenchard that is the most interesting performance and character. He comes across as a doddering, boring, lecherous old man, and a narrow-minded patriot. But it's not until part four that we realise just how much he stands by his convictions - the moment he realises he has been fooled by the Master is a quiet one, effective in its subtlety. He dies defending his beliefs in a touching scene - throughout the story he's never come across as likable, but his last few moments gauge sympathy - and pity - for the old man. The choices of shots here are also inspired - we never see his death; we see him firing at the Sea Devils, and then cut to the reptiles entering the Master's room, with an almost casual tilt down to his dead body, which lies in the background. It's extremely well done.
That's because the direction, editing and other elements of the production are all of a high standard. The location photography is sumptuous; the camerawork excellent - special note must go to the boat-to-boat shots in episodes four and six. It certainly has a big budget feel. Malcolm Clarke's synthesised score has always been largely contentious. I love it at the beginning - the opening scene and then when the Doctor and Jo are travelling to the island. However it gets a bit annoying when it pops up everywhere - for instance the Doctor playing blindfolded office golf, the swordfight (it's very annoying here!) and Jo's running about the grounds of the castle.
The Sea Devils' design is basic, but pretty good for the day and budget. The close-ups used to freak me out - I thought those bulbous eyes were quite scary. It's a wonderful Who moment when the Doctor first encounters one and it chases him - it can actually run! I was amazed!!! As mentioned before, the scene in episode four when they rise from the sea en masse is another memorable moment. And, given that most of the cast are in uniform, it's only Jo's trouser suit that screams out fashion victim. Although the moustaches of those castle guards are massive and reminded me of the Thompson Twins.
If it were shorter and less drawn out, The Sea Devils would have been superb. Nevertheless it's still pretty good. 7.5/10
The Definitive Jon Pertwee story? by Thomas Cookson 9/5/06
The Sea Devils is a story which has gone on to be perhaps the most memorable story of Jon Pertwee's tenure in the role of Doctor Who. The sequence in which half a dozen Sea Devils emerge upright from the waters of the beach and advance towards the land has gone on to become one of Doctor Who's most iconic moments, alongside the Daleks crossing Westminister Bridge, the Cybermen sleepily emerging from their honeycombed tombs, the Auton mannequins coming to life and bursting out of shop windows, the giant maggots crawling in the Welsh countryside, the Yeti stalking the London Underground, the Doctor holding two wires together as he contemplates a retroactive a retroactive abortion of the very first Dalek embryos, or the child in a gas mask looking for his 'mummy'.
In many ways this can be considered the definitive Jon Pertwee story. The Third Doctor's lovely relationship with his scientific assistant Jo is nicely displayed. The Doctor is still exiled to present-day Earth and has to deal with contemporary society's bureaucracy and conservativism. He is again helping the military, though in this case, the Brigadier and the familiar soldiers of UNIT are nowhere to be seen as instead the Doctor works with the local navy against this new underwater menace of the Sea Devils. The Doctor has to lock horns with his familiar arch enemy, the Master again, and as usual the Doctor has to try and mediate for peace between the human military and the Sea Devils; since the Sea Devils were once the rulers of Earth before going into a million-year-long hibernation, the Doctor is sympathetic to their stance that they have more right to inhabit the Earth than mankind does.
Before I go any further let me clarify something: this is really a fan-only story. As a sequel to both Doctor Who and the Silurians, and The Daemons, this is a story that I suspect a lot of non-fans would find either uninteresting or at least very difficult indeed to follow. The story pretty much centres around what has been an ongoing feud between the Doctor and The Master, renegade Time Lords from the planet Galllfrey, stranded on Earth and both devoted to opposite goals: the Doctor protecting Earth from alien invaders, and the power-hungry Master helping the invaders try and take over. Now the Master is in prison for life, but escape is seemingly already in hand.
I would say that anyone looking for the simplified version of this story would be better looking at the story Doctor Who and the Silurians. However when Silurians was repeated terrestrially in 2000, it proved to be a disastrous ratings failure; the modern audience wasn't interested in persevering with such a long and dated story. A shame really because it was in many ways the essence of what Doctor Who is about. It's also a shame that the BBC have now completely given up on repeats of old episodes, even in the wake of the new popularity of the revived show. That's why it has fallen on me as a reviewer to recommend old stories that people might take interest in and be rewarded by, and now I feel the time has come to point out an example of a story for non-fans to actually avoid.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't like this story. I find it to be garish, messy, cluttered, excessive, unnecessarily violent and unpleasant, with ugly direction and a pacing and padding that drags heavily.
The Sea Devils was the second of three stories that focused on the conflict between mankind and the Earth's previous indigenous ruling lifeforms, the reptilian Silurians and their aquatic cousins, the Sea Devils. The first had been Doctor Who and the Silurians, then this story had followed it on and finally in 1984 Warriors of the Deep in nostalgic fashion revisited the Silurians and Sea Devils over a decade on and two Doctors later. Ultimately I think this stands as proof that some stories should be left alone without making any sequels out of them.
Doctor Who and The Silurians was one of Doctor Who's most defining stories in establishing the show's morality. On that note, there is something of a popular fan view that actually Doctor Who is at its best when morality doesn't come into the picture at all, that in many of Doctor Who's top ten stories, like Pyramids of Mars, The Robots of Death and The Caves of Androzani, the villains are irredeemable, everyone else is pretty shady and the Doctor learns quickly that there is no place for compassion there.
Now this is why it is such a thorny set of stories to me, because it began to set in stone the very qualities that made the Doctor's character become dogmatic and lose his moral courage. The Doctor's pacifist principles were gradually set in stone starting with this story and The Sea Devils, and other stories like The Time Monster and Genesis of the Daleks where he has a chance to destroy his evil sworn enemy but his conscience won't allow it (but at this point it was still nestling nicely as characterisation rather than dogma), and as a result by the time of Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor soon became immovably inactive and useless in the face of evil because he was himself incapable of violence. In Warriors of the Deep, instead of taking action to save innocent people, he is wasting his time pleading ridiculously for compassion and mercy towards murderous monsters who quite clearly deserve no compassion, particularly while they are on the rampage, and for me that meant that Doctor Who was no longer a show about the hero saving the day, but about a weak, naive and sensitive soul idly waiting for his sworn enemies - namely the Master and Davros - to die of old age whilst they kill as many innocents and destroy as many planets as they like in the meantime - and this is sadly something that continued into the books and audios and is starting to feature in the New Series as well.
As an aside, there is a Big Finish audio story called Blood Tide that revives the Silurians but I have not yet checked it out. I have also read the New Adventure novel Blood Heat that brings back the Silurians - a very good book in many ways, but again the fact sits uneasily with me that the Doctor sides with the Silurians over the 'violent humans', even though the Silurians are now rulers of Earth and are hunting down and killing the surviving humans.
The thing about Doctor Who and the Silurians was that it was intelligent enough to make the Doctor's stance of peace make sense, and much like Genesis of the Daleks, it was a story that was appropriately based around the themes of moral courage and the clash of ideologies. In many ways The Sea Devils is likewise intelligent enough to give good reason for the Doctor's dedication to peace; in fact, throughout the story the Doctor shows that he is prepared to use violence as a last resort, and ultimately he is forced to do something terrible and commit a grand atrocity that leads to many innocent deaths for the sake of the greater good. So the Doctor's inactiveness is not the problem here.
I said in my review on The War Games that the common criticism among fandom of longer stories often being considered 'padded' is one that gets bandied about very effortlessly. Stories that often suffer that label, such as The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The War Games or Genesis of the Daleks, to me are much misunderstood on that front because I actually believe that every scene in those stories has a purpose. But The Sea Devils is unfortunately one story which does deserve the label of padded. In fact, it is not so much padded, as cluttered in a quite-frankly intoxicating, excessive, muddled, mind-numbing and headache-inducing way.
For a start I think the story spends too much time focusing on the Master's prison story and his repeated escape attempts. The Master has a friendship with the prison governor Trenchard, a firm patriot who is duped into the Master's lies and manipulations, and supplies arms and hi-tech resources to the Master, believing that he and the Master are onto a plot by Communist spies and will be able to save Queen and Country together. This in itself is highly implausible, but on top of that the Master repeatedly assaults guards violently in order to escape or gain immediate access to weapons (which pose only superficial use for emphasising cliffhangers) which he shouldn't need to since Trenchard already gives him a free pass in and out of jail. Therefore the scenes of prison break just seem didactic, unnecessary and needlessly brutal. Things get ridiculous when the Doctor and Jo get themselves locked up by Trenchard too, only to escape by the end of the episode and then end up on a Navy ship the next episode, the prison dilemma completely forgotten, and shown up to be needless and rather violent as well (I'd lay similar criticism at the unacceptable degree of physical violence shown by the heroes in Terminator 2 during a similar prison break sequence, but at least that had a part to play plotwise).
The directing and visual flair is a major problem with this episode, I find. I think Pertwee's first two seasons, Season 7 and 8, had been brilliantly and lovingly directed in many ways, but season 9 seems to me to be a major step backwards. The season opener, Day of the Daleks was the first appearance of the Daleks in five years and audience anticipation must have been high to see them in action again and find out what the little metal scallies were up to this time, but the directing made them look so bland and dull throughout (otherwise I think it's a rather good story).
Similarly The Sea Devils is quite atrocious to look at. The film quality is so grainy, it's practically dirty and the aforementioned prison sequences are so garish and an eyesore and the excessive amount of the episode that is devoted to them is quite simply depressing: a shame really, because the setting of the prison in a castle should have helped the atmosphere of the story enormously. In The Silurians, the rural setting and nicely neo-classical patterned designs of the Silurian base succeed in conveying the weary age of the world, and that made the pathos of that story, of an ancient civilisation's failure to comprehend the changed state of the world they knew (Doctor Who stories always work best with this neo-classical element). Somehow that effect isn't achieved here because instead of being evoking, the interior and exterior scenes around the castle are ultimately just flat and drab and we, like the Doctor and Jo spend a great deal of time being impatient to get away from there. On the above note about the Silurians episode, the Sea Devil base really lacks any kind of expressive design and likewise does nothing for suggestions of the Sea Devil's culture.
My final, and probably most damning criticism, is about the story's violent content. It seems a strange criticism to make given the fact that the majority of Doctor Who stories are pretty violent. The Pertwee years were a quite violent era of the show and stories before this one like Spearhead from Space, The Silurians, Inferno and Terror of the Autons shot up the bar of violent content quite high after the rather tame years of the 60's, and lay the way for the 'gothic horror' era of the Tom Baker years and the 'video nasty' period of the mid-80's.
In many ways the show is synonymous with high body counts and brutal, cavalier monsters. Stories like The Mind Robber and City of Death remain to me shining examples of how ingenious Doctor Who can be in crafting gripping, intelligent stories with little or no violence on display (they're also both very accessible stories). But then I do like violence in Doctor Who if it is handled well, in stories like Spearhead from Space and Genesis of the Daleks where the violence is sharp and shocking and the directing gives it tasteful full blood and immediacy. Here, however, the violence is ugly and prolonged and lingered on, when it should be explosive and stealthy. The camera seems to stay with a Sea Devil full frame while it slowly absorbs every single bullet for six seconds length. Tanks fire shells at six Sea Devils on the horizon and we're still watching them die one by one. A Sea Devil is shot from a tall navy building and the camera follows its fall, and then for some tasteless reason decides to show the fallen Sea Devil writhing sickeningly in its fall.
It's just unpleasant for me to watch, and it's not really suspenseful because it's simply all a case of raining hammers. This happens all the time where the story can't let one action set-piece stand alone. Someone finds an inspired way to incapacitate the Sea Devils, and it starts to build up and someone else marches in with guns blazing and finishes the Sea Devil off. The Master has free reign to leave the prison whenever he likes but he still beats his surveying guards unconscious. The Doctor and Jo are chased by the same guards, and then a Sea Devil comes along and starts shooting everyone, then the Doctor scares the Sea Devil off only a few minutes after that cliffhanger. The violence is just too darn loud, from its electric shocks to its melodramatic screams. Bases are attacked by Sea Devils and we don't need to see most of the slaughter because we end up seeing the outcome, but the directing smothers us with the violence anyway.
Fundamentally this is what is wrong with the episode because whilst it is trying to convey the Doctor's message of peace and understanding between the humans and Sea Devils, and the script credits at least one of the Sea Devil leaders for being wise enough to be willing to make peace (incidentally the only Sea Devil with a speaking part), and yet the action scenes treat the Sea Devils as disposable cannon fodder for elaborate shooting sequences. Basically to me it is a story that is trying to ape both of the styles of Season 7 and Season 8, in taking the consciousness of The Silurians and blending it with the comic strip cavalier violent action of Terror of the Autons. To me the blend does not work and suggests serious problems to come in the 80's where Doctor Who's action yarns would be at odds with pretentious content that was wildly out of step. The episode is one moment a debate on war and peace that is highly cramped and not given much room to breathe, and then becomes an action film by numbers (except that it's a bad action film by numbers).
All of this ties up again to the point that The Silurians is a far better story. I might be giving people the false impression that I saw The Silurians first and hated The Sea Devils because I could already point to a hundred reasons why The Silurians did it better, but the truth is that I saw The Sea Devils first, and after the excitement of my first time viewing, repeated viewings left me cold, and it was only when I watched The Silurians a few years after, that I realised what was missing from The Sea Devils.
Doctor Who and the Silurians is far more tenderly directed and shows up how needlessly harsh the look of The Sea Devils is. The Silurians is done far more as an emotional story which plays heavily on expressing the perspectives of all involved. The visuals on that front are therefore concerned highly with facial expressions, with strong performances, and adds to the mix certain point of view shots from the Silurian creatures to emphasise its theme of how everything is a matter of perspective, and gave the aforementioned cultural touch to its design of the Silurian base. Similarly it directed the violence with the aims of illiciting a strong response of fear or poignancy. It nurtured its moments well without spoiling them with too many treats and made us care about the violence that we see: in The Sea Devils it is so sporadically uncertain, are we meant to pity the Sea Devils in their dying moments or relish the action of the violent carnage? The script was also far better in The Silurians, mainly because it actually characterised the Silurians as a diverse society in various ways and made them into far more than a homogenous mass. There were peace makers and tyrants within the ranks.
With the Sea Devils we only get the one speaking leader. It also seemed that the stakes were higher in The Silurians and the drama more immediate because it implemented actual doomsday devices from The Silurians, such as the plague and the sun filter disperser, and because the action pulled open a large scope of British society afflicted by plague. In The Sea Devils, the scope is ultimately contained to the coast with no suggestion at all of a threat to other cities. We see lives at stake, but these are lives that are rashly squandered too quickly for us to feel a sense of loss or jeopardy; if these people are dying in such quick succession, where is the hope, and ergo where is the point in saving the day?
On the villains front here, the Master is generally superfluous to the action; he is simply here to escape his imprisonment so he can return to being the recurring menace again. This was his sixth story and he was already starting to wear a bit thin as a villain. He did work best in the Pertwee era as a comic-strip villain of the type who wouldn't be out of place in a James Bond film; though he was yet to have his finest hour in the Tom Baker story The Deadly Assassin, and after which he had the odd good story but was generally simply a character who stubbornly refused to go away.
In this story I feel the Master is just not supported by the visual dynamic. The garishness of the story dwarfs his suave mannerisms, the colourless directing does nothing for his flat moments of duelling action between himself and the Doctor, whether sword-fighting or speedboat chasing. Since the writer Malcolm Hulke tends not to deal with 'evil' characters, preferring to write characters who have their own sense of justice and rightness in what they do, the Master is simply there to play the part of a manipulative instigator, but one who gives a voice to the story's cynicism about there being 'no peace in our time' (for once, hypnosis is not his most effective tool). Whilst the Master has always been a cad of the highest order, this is a story which lets it be known that some of his lies are true, as he tries to coax the Sea Devils into believing that mankind is too aggressive to be trusted, an unexpected bombing raid on the base by the navy actually proves him to be right.
The Sea Devils actually do gain my sympathies as one of the tragic villains of Doctor Who. Although the plausibility of the monsters is sorely hurt by the leader's mouth movements being out of synch with his voice, in his few scenes he does convey a sense of whispery wisdom and a sense of sincere indignation about man's actions. By comparison Doctor Who and the Silurians challenged me to have a tough sympathy for the Silurians for whilst the Silurians were clearly not a homogenous mass of evil monsters, but a society with its own corners of wisdom, compassion, understanding and tolerance, they were still as a whole a belligerent culture led by some really nasty pieces of work, and ultimately I was actually on the side of the Brigadier when he blew up the lot of them.
Warriors of the Deep, on the other hand, is a story that I wish had never been made, because it reduces the Sea Devils to being merely contemptuous murderers that are just as pitiless as Daleks, and the story made me actually hate the Doctor for doing nothing to stop them whilst they slaughter people. Having said all that, I still fundamentally feel that part of the reason that I find myself having such sympathy for the Sea Devils is out of pitying them for the callous way that the story and directing treats them. It's rather like the scenes of domestic violence in the 1986 Life and Loves of a She Devil miniseries: they are harrowing and evoke my sympathy, but the presentation feels somehow sadistic.
There are some great moments in the story, mind you. Episode one is in many ways a hard one to knock. The Sea Devil's attack on the ship is done very well with the kind of restraint, stealth and suggestive editing that was missing from the rest of the story, and it stands as a strong moment of horror before nicely dissolving into the ocean horizon by daylight where the Doctor and Jo are being ferried to the island where the Navy base is, and also where the Master is imprisoned. The Doctor's visiting meeting with the Master has a nice mixture of concern for an old friend and a more cynical standoffishness in which the Doctor is clearly thinking of the Master's caddish promises of being rehabilitated - 'you can wipe off that grin, I know where you've been.'
Similarly his meeting with the Navy and his deductions on the battle scars on the wreckage of one of the sunken ships give a nice suggestion of the Doctor's intelligence. The conversations between the Doctor and Trenchard have a nice genuine rapport, a nice stab at authentic conversational dialogue where they talk about the days of the British Empire, and the eating habits of the Master, as does the conversations over a game of poker and beer between the two men manning an oil rig, which gets subsequently attacked by Sea Devils. It's the kind of thing that gives Malcolm Hulke's stories an edge in reality, despite the heavy old-school science fiction overtones and preachy moments, rather like the conversation between the two flight officers on the cargo spaceship discussing career prospects of the 26th century in Frontier in Space.
Episode two has a nice follow-up, and the moment where the Doctor uses his Venusian karate to tackle the wrench-wielding oil rig men, but then the Doctor realises the man attacked him out of a wild panic and tries his best to help the man. This is a nice emphasis of the Doctor's ability to deal with violent situations with diplomacy and understanding. However from then on, the story turns into a tedious chase of the Master with a pointless cliffhanger and, contrary to popular opinion, I don't see Trenchard's rigid hostility to the Doctor or his blind faith in the Master to be at all plausible. Things start looking up again midway into episode four, when the Sea Devils hijack one of the Navy's submarines, and when the Doctor shows his greatest leap of faith by going down to the Sea Devil base to try and negotiate an end to hostilities. Even so the diving bell sequence itself is rather tedious.
Episode five is mostly a winner of an episode, and it's where most of the really good stuff lies. Where the Doctor and Sea Devils finally dialogue and let us know that the Doctor's faith in making peace was justified, and the little moments that show how the Doctor is earning his trust through his wholehearted honesty. Then when the Navy suddenly begin bombing the base, making the Doctor betrayed and his promises of peace appear as lies to the furious Sea Devils. That is one very dramatic moment that few other TV shows have been able to match up to. It's grand and shocking and very thought-provoking; it's even somewhat prophetic of events to come in the Falklands War, and unfortunately within that moment lies the problem that the story can only go one way after that.
The Master does get to apply his wits in helping the Sea Devils survive the bombing. The sequence where the submarine crew escape is one that nicely seemed to predate "The Spy Who Loved Me", right down to the tense moment where the submarine crew have to fire missiles at point blank range to escape from a cramped and unstable cavern, but risk causing an avalanche that will surely finish them off if they do. Somehow that sequence works well, despite the fact that like all the action scenes of the story it has the volume turned too far up. It is also the episode that introduces us to the detestable M.P. Walker, who is very much a right-wing nutjob. At first his cartoonish fat-cat callousness is entertaining; in fact it's riballing of Parliamentary figures is done with a certain delightful cheek, rather like Spitting Image before its time, as Jo protests his orders to bomb the Sea Devil base while the Doctor is still a prisoner there. Walker dismisses the Doctor as a lost cause, and when Jo accuses him of murder we get a nice closeup of his mouth being gluttonously stuffed with food, his voice not breaking its emotionless composure "'Murder?' War always is my dear! Now where's that secretary got to with my toast?"
In many ways there is nothing that original about the concept of The Sea Devils, even back in the early 70's. In fact, you'll probably find that a great number of the science-fiction monster films of the 40's and 50's did actually present its terrifying monster as being a misunderstood and tragic figure that was percieved as a threat because of its monstrous appearance and its inability to communicate, and actually only became aggressive under provocation. In fact, those films were often played as criticisms of the violence of mankind and the military and their ways of destroying what they don't understand. The classic example of course being "King Kong", and most of the monster films followed similar tragic plotlines which fulfilled those familiar expectations. "War of the Worlds" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" are examples of films that played on those expectations and surprised the audience with either a happy ending or with aliens that really were violent and evil.
But the quality of dialogue in this story makes its themes resounding and able to apply to actual human and political situations. Malcolm Hulke had a way of grafting some lasting words of wisdom into what appears to be largely dogmatic and preachy dialogue, and that makes it a very important Doctor Who episode. Whether it is the Doctor reluctantly giving the full and honest account to the Sea Devils of what really happened with the Silurians and admitting the unfavourable part he played in events which saw the Silurians wiped out. Or where he disillusions any hopes that the Sea Devils will have an easy war, given the ease with which they have sunk many British ships "And more ships are on their way to destroy you. You may win a few victories at first, but in the end you are sure to lose." Then later in his confrontation with Walker he nicely goes from condemnation "You have not destroyed them, you have just made them angry! Very, very angry!" to flattery and ego boosting to try and win him over to his peace objectives "Think about it: 'Walker the Peace-maker' they'd call you!"
However by Episode Six this has all fallen down as the outdoor action is at its most violent, ugly and repulsive. Walker by now has already become tiresome and irritating and an overblown, one-trick joke who has ordered tea and toast with his war so many times that you just feel hammered with the point. Furthermore, by the end of the episode, the Doctor suddenly seems to have lost interested and is too easily giving up on the possibility of negotiating for peace in a manner that simply only reflects on how they only have one episode left and have to rush the conclusion. This is a terrible shame indeed.
Unfortunately the scenes which ultimately sum up the story for me are where Trenchard interrupts the Doctor and Captain Hart's decisive plan of action against the escaped Master and the Sea Devils and gasbags for ten minutes about some golfing game, which for me sums up the irrelevance, lack of focus and ultimate pedantic dullness of the story. Then of course there is the scene where the Doctor sets off a signalling device at high pitch which effectively assaults the sensors of the Sea Devils and makes them have something of a nervous fit - and that for me sums up the loud abrasiveness and unpleasant heavy handedness of the story. An important Doctor Who story perhaps, and one I feel has had deserved praise in many ways and certainly a story that deserved to be made, but despite all this, I find it too much of a major difficult chore to watch it (moreso than any other TV show or film, except possibly Scarface which I see as having similar flaws) to be able to really like it or recommend it. The bottom line is that the great moments of it don't flow and the story is building up clutter and blockage which prevents the story from being appreciative as a whole.
Fans will certainly love it and will happily buy the DVD version which looks set to hit next year, but I've got to say I'm not a fan.
Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 26/4/07
Season Nine isn't very good. Let's be honest with ourselves. Well I'm going to be anyway. It starts off very well with Day of the Daleks, drops noticeably with The Curse of Peladon, picks up again considerably with The Sea Devils and then flatlines with the shitstorm duet of The Mutants and The Time Monster. The Sea Devils is a bit like an aquatic version of The Silurians. More watered down. Whether you interpret that literally or metaphorically really rather depends on how much you like this story I suppose. True, it doesn't have the moral depth of The Silurians, but it makes up for this with greater scope and spectacle. If you want something of a back story to these two television episodes then I suggest reading The Scales of Injustice by Gary Russell.
Thank God the navy was so generous. It all looks wonderfully expensive. It probably wasn't, but who cares? We hit the ground running with this story. I mean, isn't that a great opening to episode one? Trouble at sea as the captain informs the Naval Base that they are abandoning ship. This sets things up very nicely and the story doesn't really disappoint.
I don't think I've seen a single review of this story that hasn't mentioned the music in some way or another and I'm not about to buck the trend. It comes from the same musique concrete stable as The Mutants. Well with The Mutants it was more a case of musique bollocks but there you go. Yes, it's very unusual even for Doctor Who, but I feel that it actually works this time. Instead of just being painful and intrusive a la The Mutants, it creates a certain atmosphere, a mood that just seems to sit very well with this story. You'd be hard pressed to actually hum any of it though. You'll have to wait for Paddy Kingsland for that. Or City of Death at the very least. The music for Doctor Who was always unusual and unique and it doesn't get more unusul than The Sea Devils.
For me, the only real let down of the new series is the music. It has absolutely nothing distinctive, original or innovative about it and the only episodes which have stood out for me musically are The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. Murray Gold should go and have a listen to some of the episode scores by Dudley Simpson or Tristram Carey, he might learn a thing or two.
The Sea Devils themselves are a very nice creation. They look good and they're actually capable of running which is unusual for a Doctor Who monster. These are definitely not creatures of the shamble-and-lumber variety. Ignore any clever remarks about string vests, they do suit the Sea Devils very well. Just think how bland they'd look if they were naked. Their voices are quite nice as well, even if their faces aren't particularly animated, a problem they still won't have solved by the time of Warriors of the Deep. You have to pity the poor sods inside the costumes though, constantly having to submerge themselves.
Another strong aspect of this story is the characters. The main characters are all fleshed out very well and even the secondary characters are perfectly believable. Captain Hart is exactly what you what expect a Naval captain to be like: intelligent, tough and resourceful. His function is obviously to stand in for the Brigadier but in terms of character he's a very different kettle of fish. Not quite as genial and very sceptical but still very likeable. And is it just me or does he seem to be constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Perhaps it's the Doctor's presence on the scene.
Colonel Trenchard is a semi-villain. He's not evil as such, simply misguided. And by God there are many, many misguided characters in Doctor Who. He's basically a pompous oaf but I find that I feel sorry for him. He's deceived by the Master and helps him in his scheme because he believes he's doing his duty to queen and country. And as with so many of the Master's helpers, misguided or otherwise, he is eventually discarded and killed.
The pompous oaf duties are taken up in the later part of the story by Walker, Parliamentary Private Secretary. Yes, you've guessed it. He's this week's Insufferable Git from the Ministry. The Pertwee era was loaded with them and I've decided to begin cataloguing them in my reviews. He's an extremely ignorant man who is prepared to launch an all-out war that they cannot possibly win because he believes it's his duty to queen and country. He's the archetypal fat-cat civil servant and he deserves to have his head cut off. Kudos to Martin Boddey for bringing him to life so effectively.
The Master is back on top form. It's very disconcerting to see him in white leisure wear and dressing gown, exercising. It's like seeing a majestic animal caged up and he even manages to elicit a small degree of sympathy. Even the Doctor feels sorry for him. The hinted-at camaraderie and subtle chemistry between the two of them is very touching and the line about them being "at school together" speaks volumes about their past. In his next scene however, we see him all but ordering Trenchard about and we're left in no doubt as to who's really in charge here. Oh and that scene with the Clangers is priceless.
Jon Pertwee is magnificent, as ever although the Doctor's attitude towards Jo is now getting ridiculous. It's like some kind of biblical ordeal. The Patronising of Jo Grant. To be fair to her she's quite good in this and it's nice to see her escapology routine again. It's what she was trained for after all, although quite where and when she acquired the ability to pilot a hovercraft is something of a mystery. Some explanation would have been nice. I mean, it's not as if it's an everyday thing is it? "What shall I do today? I know! I'll learn to pilot a hovercraft." And why not? As Arnold Brown would say. There is of course that famous scene where she and the Doctor have to climb onto the fort but we all know about that one so I won't elaborate further.
Pertwee later works his charm on the Sea Devil leader in a similar fashion to the Guardian of the Doomsday Machine in Colony in Space. He's already decided on wiping out humanity and reclaiming Earth for themselves but a few words from the Doctor and he's putty in his hands. Either the Third Doctor is extremely persuasive or there are a lot of feeble minded alien leaders out there. Unfortunately the Doctor's efforts to make peace come to nothing. Again. And the Sea Devils are blown up by the Navy. This must have been a very good advertisement for the power of the British Navy at the time. Whether or not it's the right kind of advertisement is another matter entirely.
The swordfight between the Doctor and the Master in episode two is very nicely done and Jon Pertwee really looks like a professional fencer. Though having all those swords hanging right outside the room/cell of an extremely dangerous criminal is hardly a wise move. Episode three has one of the most memorable cliffhangers of the entire Pertwee era. I first saw this story when I was about six years old and that Sea Devil emerging onto the beach really freaked me out. I thinks it's the cold, dead, fishy eyes. The submarine crew are all competently portrayed. And, oh look, it's Emmet from Keeping Up Appearances. He's obviously less scared of the Sea Devils than he is of Hyacinth Bucket, although quite what the deal with that friendly Sea Devil is, I don't know.
Throughout the UNIT era there were some wonderfully surreal orders to lay on things. "Lay on a jeep" was a favourite of the Brigadier's. My personal favourite is in The Mind of Evil when he asks Corporal Bell to "lay on some coffee". Here, the Doctor asks Captain Hart if he can "lay on a diving vessel?"
I would quite like to know where the Master gets his rubber masks from. He seems to rather conveniently have one lying about his person at the end of episode six. As with Jo's hovercraft skills, no explanation is forthcoming. Then there are the doorless, roofless Citroen 2CV's used by Trenchard's staff. Very bizarre. One has to wonder just how much of a say Jon Pertwee had in this. We all know that he liked his vehicles and sure enough we get motorboats. I suppose it all adds to the aquatic nature of the story but it does make you think. Make sure you pay attention to the scene in the Sea Devil cell in episode six. The Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow for the first time and saves the day. Hooray for meaningless technobabble.
This is a story best watched on a summer's evening. Preferably a Sunday. It all adds to the charm. Trust me.
Pure Pertwee Classic by Nathan Mullins 12/1/10
The third Doctor's era was a good one, with stories depicting the horror of man-made disasters causing the planet to breed maggots the size of giant marrows (The Green Death), and molten rock consume the earth (Inferno). By the time of The Sea Devils, episodes such as The Daemons had aired, leaving the viewing public wanting more and more. That episode still holds a familiar taste in my mouth, a wonderful taste might I add. But even after The Sea Devils, we had another few episodes we were yet to encounter that, when we did, we enjoyed thoroughly.
However, The Sea Devils for me is an absolute classic. From the moment the title sequence rolls on to the television screen, the excitement that this draws from the audience, let alone what the episode itself might do is just what Doctor Who is there for. Thrilling the general public and entertaining us all. When the episode begins, we're then thrown in the deep end, and for those of us who never caught the last episode, the Doctor and Jo are now on a rowing boat visiting the Doctor's arch enemy, the Master. The first questions I began to ask myself were: why is the Doctor visiting one of his old foes? You simply wouldn't catch him visiting the Daleks in an old castle prison. But no, it's obvious that what I've learnt from Doctor Who is that both the Doctor and the Master were old friends, once upon a time on Gallifrey. Even attending the Time Lord academy, when they were merely children. But both went their separate ways and we all know what happened from there. Plots to take over and to destroy. The Doctor defending populations and saving civilizations from this evil entity he's known for years.
Though, harking back to reviewing this marvelous tale... The Sea Devils is very much an invasion tale, but delves into matters about how man inhabited a planet that had already been colonised and how the Doctor hopes to bring peace to both parties, human beings and Sea Devils. The plot is simple. The Sea Devils have been sinking ships, causing havoc amongst the Navy base sitting on an island like waddling ducks, not knowing what's going on, until a man known only as the Doctor meets a Captain Hart and begin to form a truce, meeting an agreement to form a peace between the creatures beneath the Sea.
At first, it seems the Sea Devils intend to destroy - "We have other colonies hidden round the world. We shall be the victors in the war against mankind!" - rather than meet to the demands of the Master who they meet soon after they come into contact with the Doctor. The Doctor here is on a mission to declare peace between both parties, speaking for the human race when he come into contact with the head of the creatures but what with the Master wanting to wipe out both parties, the Sea Devils refuse to listen to either the Doctor or the Master. When an all-out attack is sprung on the Navy base, an all-out attack on the Sea Devils' underwater base, the Doctor has no choice but to destroy the creatures base forever. Much to his regret.
This tale brings so many brilliant and highly enjoyable little sequences that get you entirely gripped from beginning to end.
The Master being in this tale is one of the main purposes for the creatures sinking the navy ships and attacking a standalone fortress under naval construction. The Master here seems to have turned another leaf, making himself out to be over the schemes and ideas of conquest, doing his exercises in his prison cell and catching up on his reading, as well nicking some naval equipment. Whilst he is locked away, the man looking after him in jail is Colonel Trenchard, who at first seems a very gruff man, responsible and who can talk for England, as well as blab some unnecessary jargon when he's ordered to. The Doctor and Jo are one hell of a team, who get on exceedingly well together, at the worst of times. My mum has said on countless occasions that Jo always seems to look good in whatever it is she's wearing, and that out of all the companions, she was the most stylish. On meeting the Master, both the Doctor and Jo have a mutual understanding when they speak with him on the change he has undergone.
There are also some of the best action sequences. For example, when the Sea Devils attack the base and shots ring out, a canon blasts out at some of the Sea Devils as they are eager to attack. There are also some of the best cliffhangers. For example, the end of episode 1 builds up the tension as to what it could be that's panting for breath as it's approaching the Doctor and Jo; later, the Doctor's pulled up after going down to the Sea bed to explore, but when the cabin he's gone down in comes back up, the Doctor's gone! The Sea Devils themselves are a fantastic design and are truthfully scary, especially in the sea fortress and when the Doctor and Jo are carefully pursued by one, in a minefield of all places. But in all honesty, this episode ranks alongside The Silurians and Spearhead from Space in introducing another race of creatures who aren't all they seem. Jon Pertwee here is his usual self, the action-packed superhero we all came to acknowledge. Katy Manning likewise is amazing and the Sea Devils wouldn't be the same without her. She is awesome!
In a season that to be honest isn't very good, this episode is a complete highlight and one episode of Doctor Who worth watching. It doesn't disappoint.
A Haiku by Finn Clark Updated 3/5/20
Stupider, but more
Exciting than the first one.
It looks better too.
The Incredible Hulke by Jason A. Miller 16/5/21
Everyone knows that sequels are worse than the originals. Malcolm Hulke knows it. On the surface, here's almost a paint-by-numbers ethos to The Sea Devils. Instead of slowly drawing out the monster's first appearance, we just get one plonked down near the Episode One cliffhanger (but the actual cliffhanger menace is revealed to be... Declan Mulholland, who's far less scary). The title monsters don't really become a plot force until Episode Five, and the debate over sharing Earth with homo sapiens versus wiping out the apes has all been done before, and better, in Doctor Who and the Silurians.
But Hulke recognizes this, so he does something clever -- he makes this episode about everything except the Sea Devils. This is especially apparent in the novelization, where the final two episodes' worth of material is relegated to the last 20 pages of the book. But on TV, Hulke fills the six episodes with so much bonus material that you don't really even have time to notice the lack of Sea Devils. He's already told this story in The Silurians and doesn't want to tell it again, so instead he writes a character study using his naval background, and the story works best when the Sea Devil plot is ignored.
Roger Delgado helps. This is his first appearance since Season Eight, and he's a prisoner at seeming loose ends in the beginning. This gives the narrative a little more room to breathe, as Episode One is more about him than about the mystery of the sinking ships. Col. Trenchard makes an interesting foil (Clive Morton is wonderful), and the bit where the Master watches Clangers and whistles along to the alien sound effects, is one of many wonderful character-based moments in the Pertwee era that were cheerfully recycled into the New Series.
The Doctor/Master/Derek Ware swordfight at the Episode Two cliffhanger is easily a highlight of the Pertwee years, with the Doctor pausing to eat the Master's lunch another great touch that was surely unscripted, worked out by the two actors in rehearsal. This is a confident use of the main cast, and the character bits excel around the margins. I mean, you can watch Doctor Who for the plots and morality and social commentary, but the bit where Trenchard struggles to sink a golf shot in his office in Episode Two -- which Pertwee later does blindfolded -- is exactly the sort of true character-based comedy that's going to give us Episode Two of City of Death in eight more seasons. A good thing.
All credit goes to Barry Letts and Michael Briant too, the former for getting the cooperation of the Royal Navy, and Briant for turning in a gorgeous-looking, film-heavy production, so realistic that you can smell the fresh salt air as characters bob back and forth over the waves. I remember, as a younger fan, being bored by the last eight or nine minutes of Episode Four -- all that film location on the ships and the diving bell -- but, as I grow older and (ostensibly) more mature, I finally find this interesting now. Happy to say that The Sea Devils is a story that matures with the viewer, rather than betrays the viewer in old age. As for the acting, this is the middle story of Jon and Katy's three-season run together, and their scripted byplay and non-verbal chemistry is particularly good on the abandoned-sea-fort sequences. They're so good together that there doesn't even need to be a plot in order to enjoy them act (and Episode Two proves that).
And who says Jo is useless? She singlehandedly overpowers three Royal Prison guards in Episode Three. And without any nitro-nine, either. She and the Doctor miming escape instructions through the castle window is almost certainly an influence on Russell T Davies in Partners in Crime, just as much as Clangers was an influence on the John Simm Master watching Teletubbies. And Clive Morton gives a naturalistic, sympathetic portrayal as Col. Trenchard. In the novelization, Hulke heaps bathos upon his final chapter (wickedly titled "Visits for Governor Trenchard"), but Morton on TV gets to be forceful in dealing with the Minister's secretary and actually gets to shoot at Sea Devils, rather than stupidly forgetting to turn the safety-catch off (although, to be fair, that robs the TV serial of the brilliant moment in the book when the Doctor does it for him posthumously). From the Graham Williams era onwards, over-the-top scenery-chewing bad guys would be the order of the day, but the Letts-era atmosphere and the longer serial lengths allow time for a performance like Morton's.
Finally, Hulke has to stop stalling, so the Sea Devils take center stage in Episodes Five and Six. But, hedging his bets, we also get another in a long line of cartoon-villain civil servants, here the gluttonous and cowardly Walker, whose broad comedy is well acted, but just not as winning as the by-now late-lamented Trenchard. In the book, the Master gets the Chief Sea-Devil to kill some of his own people in order to convince the humans that their bombing attack was successful, but this doesn't happen on TV, which makes the episodes a little blander and short on texture compared to the book.
Episode Six is an anti-climax, with a lot of rushing back and forth, and little poetry in the dialogue. The Doctor does offer the Chief Sea Devil one last chance to not destroy humanity, and tells him "I'm sorry" when the biped turtle refuses -- that's "I'm sorry" as a warning, as a weapon, something we'd see again in the David Tennant era (how much of Russell T Davies' time on the show was an homage to The Sea Devils, come to think of it?). But the book ends with the Master congratulating the Doctor on committing mass murder in order to win, and once again the TV serial feels short and cheap without that line.
This is a wonderful story, on the whole, with excellent character beats, fine direction, a shining example of why Barry Letts was Classic Doctor Who's most successful producer. It's a slight shame that everything wonderful about Sea Devils the TV episodes has virtually nothing to do with the title monsters, plot resolution, or climax, but I suspect that Malcolm Hulke planned it that way...