Doctor Who #316: The Sea Devils Part 3

"No doubt, Doctor, you're wondering why I sent for you?" "Your usual childish desire to gloat, perhaps?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.11 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor is captured by Trenchard and the Master, but Jo escapes to free her companion.

REVIEW: Part 3 starts with a fairly long reprise of Part 2's swordfight, but it's such a good one, I can hardly complain. And what follows is the kind of Doctor Who episode that could be almost entirely lifted out of a story and not leave much of a hole, i.e. "the episode in which the Doctor is captured, and then frees himself", second only to "the episode in which the Doctor escapes captivity only to get re-captured". And yet, like the swordfight, that capture and escape are so charmingly done, I don't want to part with them. The Doctor's patience is wearing thin with Trenchard, but he doesn't let it overwhelm his character, and his discussions with the Master are, as ever, cool and witty. Jo, for her part, shows she has some mettle in the action department, and convincingly (relatively speaking) knocks down a prison guard to make her getaway. How she and the Doctor communicate through sign language is cute and funny - precursor to a similar scene between Ten and Donna - and is part of a well-orchestrated escape. I'm less enthusiastic about the way they trip that guard, but it's still a bit of fun, with the score playing along with the comedy throughout.

The prison setting put me in mind of The Prisoner, which I don't think is an accident. We've got the Doctor held for unfair reasons (even if Trenchard thinks the Master is trying to stop the saboteurs sinking all those vessels, why would he ever have believed his prisoner about any of it? See the truth under Theories). We've got white cars without doors and guards in black. And we've got a beach on which I thought we'd see Rover the hungry weather balloon. Instead, the Master and his minions on one side, a minefield on the other, and a Sea Devil rising from the water on the third. Close enough.

Meanwhile, Captain Hart's naval base is acting as a kind of replacement UNIT, with him as the unbeliever (Brig), with a subaltern who makes all the important realizations (Blythe/Benton), and an action man to go get himself into deeper water (Commander Ridgeway/Captain Yates). The latter provides some submarine action - stock footage, a model and some dynamic camera angling - as the Sea Devils attack. Take note, TV fans, Ridgeway is played by Donald Sumpter, a very recognizable face (without the beard, anyway), most recently as Maester Luwin on Game of Thrones.

THEORIES: Whatever he's told Trenchard, the Master is actually trying to give the Eocenes their planet back. So why does he want to destroy humanity so much? Is it just, as stated, his childish need to hurt the Doctor by taking away his favorite race? Is he jealous that this former friend now chooses (exiled or no) to hang with humans rather than someone like him? Or are his plans more dastardly still, having to do with humanity's link to the Time Lords? If the Master destroys humanity in the present day, he changes history catastrophically (we do seem to get around a lot in the future), which would cause the Time Lords a lot of problems. After all, they must protect the status quo (i.e. History) for a reason, and the Master would certain cause important paradoxes if he ever succeeded (he interacts with future humans in Colony in Space, for example). The specific link to humanity could be incidental (like humans are the ones who keep fighting off Dalek invasions) or much more intimate (do Gallifreyans look like humans because they're descended from them?). We never do find out. It may be that the Master is a nihilistic madman who chose Earth merely because the Doctor's there, driven mad by the sound of drums as was later revealed. What's your take?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The "holding pattern" episode in the 6-parter, but the incidents presented rise above their structural irrelevance.



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