Doctor Who #318: The Sea Devils Part 5

"Murder? War always is, my dear. Where on Earth's that girl with my toast?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.25 1972.

IN THIS ONE... There's a new pencil pusher in town and he's gonna bomb the Sea Devils just as the Doctor's about to broker a peace with them!

REVIEW: Somehow, the production still has a petty and infuriating bureaucrat up its sleeve - they're the bread and butter of the UNIT era - and Walker is basically played for laughs. He walks onto the Naval base and starts ordering food like he's at some posh hotel, treating Blythe - the most competent though undervalued member of this faux UNIT gang - like a waitress, and cavalier to a fault, telling everyone he's going to jolly good fix things. And here I thought Trenchard was clueless. He's a fun, if by now stock, character, and he pushed the previously reticent Captain Hart over to the Doctor's side. Especially once there's talk of going nuclear. The British government might be smart to stop sending these under-under-secretaries on these assignments with "full authority".

Or am I exercising a double-standard? You see, while I condemn Walker speaking for the British people (and indeed, the people of Earth, since the Sea Devils would wage war on the world), I support the Doctor doing the same to arrange a peace by which the Eocenes and humanity would share the planet. But of course, we've been down this road before, and minutes after he's touched hands with the Sea Devil leader, Royal Navy footage of depth charges disastrously changes the political landscape and makes the Master - manipulating the Sea Devils with an offer of fixing their refrigerators - very much correct when he says they can't trust humans (and by extension, the Doctor). Maybe this is why UNIT hasn't been called in yet. If the Brigadier were to come back and blow up the Sea Devils like he did the Silurians, it would be too much of a repeat of that story, and damage the more genial relationship that's developed between him and the Doctor since Season 7.

The Sea Devils are variably effective, I must say, sometimes too cute, and others coldly dangerous (that iconic final shot, for example). The real test, perhaps, is when they finally speak, and if it IS a test, many viewers won't give them a pass. The warbling voice works well enough, but the performer's head is obviously in the next, and the Sea Devil's is a primitive muppet with very limited mouth movement. I love these creatures enough for other reasons to find it acceptable, but if I'm being objective... At least their lair, while it features an awful lot of square tiles, has a little more cultural texture than the Silurian's, with what looks like artwork on the walls. Their shuttlepod, in which they brought the Doctor from the diving bell (don't ask how exactly, I really don't know), is a truly alien thing. Also well done is the submarine model action, which is worthy of Irwin Allen, surely. The crew is a cool, collected lot, playing cards while under guard by a lizard, and bravely acting at just the right moment. They're as nonplussed as Walker, but in their case, it's a function of bravery, not of arrogance.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - There's nothing terribly original about Part 5, especially when you look at the rest of the UNIT era, but the clichés are still entertainingly played. Still, please give Jo something to do next time.


Mitchell Craig said...

I'm currently watching Doctor Who: The Complete First Series and I just got to thinking that Walker isn't too far removed from the Slitheen (just not so gassy).

Siskoid said...

Had the Slitheen been around, this hungry pencil pusher would have ended up their victim I'm sure.


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