Friday, 24 August 2012

62: The Sea Devils - A Little Bit Of History Repeating

Written by: Malcolm Hulke.
Companions: The Doctor, Jo Grant.
Monsters/Aliens: Sea Devils, the Master.
Brief Synopsis: The Doctor and Jo visit a newly imprisoned Master, and learn that ships have been mysteriously disappearing at sea.
Rating: 7/10.

Okay, so it's a straight up sequel to The Silurians, does that mean that I can't love it? I can very vividly remember watching The Sea Devils as it went out on a repeat on UK Gold or some-such glorious channel that played Who during the wilderness years. I truly loved it, and waited on edge each week for the thrilling conclusion to each cliffhanger. Watching it now, without the innocence of youth I see its faults and the fact that it is almost a carbon copy of The Silurians. What I'm trying to say is, it's a hard one for me to review with out some bias, because it's here where nostalgia takes over, but I'll do my best.

The Sea Devils design was based on turtles.
This one came about when the 70's Who production team were discussing what monsters they could bring back for a new story. They decided the Silurians were worth a reprise, but chose to have a kind of underwater version of the creatures; that way they could have lots of exciting location work and possibly get Navy cooperation. The Silurians became Sea Devils, just because "it's a dramatic sounding name," according to script editor Terrance Dicks; although like so many Who monsters this isn't their real name. It's just something one rambling survivor calls them in passing, but in Doctor Who that's all it takes to name a monster for life.

Whilst on the subject of these creature's name let's try and get this straight. The first time we see them they're called Silurians, as they are supposedly a product of that era. The next time we meet them the Doctor disavows this first designation as an inaccurate estimation of the time period from which they would have originated (which is somewhat hilarious when you consider that he was the one to first coin that appellation). The Doctor corrects their name to Eocenes. However this has also been identified as a misnomer and an unlikely time period to have produced such a being. The confusion of the name of these earth reptiles has continued throughout their various appearances, culminating in their latest name Homo Reptillia. As far as I know no one has disapproved of this one yet, but give it time...

The Sonic Screwdriver makes a return, used here to detonate mines. 
From the way everyone's talking about the Silurians in the caves in Derbyshire, the events of The Silurians can't have taken place too long before those in The Sea Devils. So here we are probably less than a year later (if I get my UNIT dating correct) and history is repeating itself. The Sea Devils is penned by the excellent Malcolm Hulke (my favourite Who writer) and I just can't believe that a writer of his calibre would just regurgitate the same story without some meaning or additional point to be made.

The Master aids the Sea Devils.
So what can we make of this? The events are almost identical in both stories, the Doctor investigates an issue; power failures in a research facility or ships going missing at sea. Their cause turns out to be the Silurians/Sea Devils. Both times they have a humanoid helping them, first time it's Dr. Quinn, the next time the Master. Both boast an unsavoury Civil Servant type and those who only want to settle things with war. Both times the Doctor tries to form a peace between the creatures and the human race and fails. The only difference is that the first time it's the Brigadier who puts pay to the creatures by bombing their base and the second time it's the Doctor. So the question is: why repeat this formula so precisely? The only reason for this repetition can be to drive the point home, to show a lack of change or development. To show that although peace may not alway prevail it is always worth attempting and that if we don't learn from our mistakes in the past we will end up repeating them in the future.

The Doctor stopping for a snack during his duel with the Master.
There are some wonderful moments between the Doctor and the Master, including an impressive fencing duel and the tidbit of information that the Doctor and Master used to be very good friends at school together. Both Pertwee and Delgado are really on form and clearly having the best time.

The Master watches the Clangers.
There is some very impressive location work, which gives the whole story a very real feeling, the support from the Royal Navy is excellent, with real navy personelle, ships, big guns, and a diving pod all supplied for free. The navy were so keen to help they even rearranged operations to aid the filming. The iconic moment when the Sea Devils emerge from the sea will never leave me.

So there you have it, history repeating; for the Doctor, for the humans, for the Silurians/Sea Devils/Eocenes/Homo Reptillia/or whatever you want to call them and also for me and all other viewers. It may be a story that has been told before and that will be told again but The Sea Devils will always have a special place in my heart. It may not be as good as The Silurians but it has a classiness and a charisma that makes it mention-worthy all by itself.

Join me next time for a story of particular note, The Mutants.

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