Doctor Who #319: The Sea Devils Part 6

"Soon you will surge from the seas in your millions and exterminate him."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.1 1972.

IN THIS ONE... The big battle between the Navy and the Sea Devils, with hydrofoils and jet skis, oh my!

REVIEW: I swear, my memory of this story had UNIT showing partway through. You can see why I'd make that mistake too, with Captain Hart taking the role of the unflappable officer firing artillery rounds into (not-so) alien beasties as soldiers and Sea Devils alike fire their guns, flip and fall all over the location. It's quite a fun battle on the beach, with my favorite bit the death of a Sea Devil a few seconds before his flash gun goes off. Bless. The extra-action spectacular also indulges in the era's love affair with vehicles, and features a hydrofoil escape (or two), a jet ski chase, and even a scene where Pertwee and Delgado float in the ocean in special submariner suits. (Delgado was famously afraid of the water, so he's a real trooper, though it's why you never see his face when the Master rides a jet ski.) As to why those vehicles are left unsecured on the beach, well, if the Navy didn't object to it...

All this very cool stuff tends to make us forget how derivative of other Pertwee stories. The Master is once again betrayed by his monstrous allies (should he still be surprised by this point?), and manages what is essentially the same escape as in Terror of the Autons. He once again asks the Doctor for his help after trying to get him killed (as in The Mind of Evil). As with earlier in this very story, Jo engineers the Doctor's escape by communicating with him through a window, the girl only allowed to shine when she's been captured (that's one fancy roof she comes out of, was it shot on a ship?). Walker, the bureaucrat with the creepy bloodshot eyes, orders more sandwiches, and lacks the verve of his previous appearance as he cowers in a cupboard when the Sea Devils attack. And as we've seen, the set-up is pretty much the same as the Silurian story's. Aside from the setting and the particulars, it's not an entirely original Pertwee story.

I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention some of the episode's more historically significant details. Significant in Doctor Who history, that is. It's the only time in the 70s the Doctor uses the exact catch phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow". And where The Silurians ended with the Brigadier bombing the monsters against the Doctor's wishes, here it's the Doctor that does it. Fans of the new series will recognize the Tenth Doctor's attitude in the Third's when he gives the Sea Devils one last chance to give up on the plans for war, and his "I'm sorry" when he has to destroy them. It's an important shift in the program. When the First Doctor destroyed an enemy, it was for survival. When the Second did it, it always seemed a bit accidental, not to say incidental. And the Third has alternated between peacemaker and thoughtless killer. But here, we have the Doctor actually admitting that he knows he's committing a grave act of violence, admitting he's failed his own set of values, and that things must be done, and he'll be the one to bear the burden. By the time of the new series, this will have become an ever-present concern.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization, Doctor Who and the Sea-Devils (sic), discusses the media coverage of the Master's trial (the Doctor pleads for a punishment other than execution, and they wonder if they can keep an immortal incarcerated for life), and the Master escapes at the end with a helicopter instead of a hydrofoil.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Yeah, it's not entirely original, but the action bits are fun and exciting, and the Doctor does seem to shift gears.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - If you want to sample a Pertwee story, this is usually the one I recommend, even though I do wish UNIT was in it. It's still a fine collection of the era's greatest hits even without the Brig et al., and features cool locations, action and monsters. When watched in order, a lot of its beats will seem entirely too familiar, but as a stand-alone, it's good fun.


Mitchell Craig said...

Thanks for bringing up Delgado's nervousness around water, which makes him floating around in the rescue suit all the more awesome. Holding down the instinct to scream at the top of his lungs, no doubt.

Observation: It would be interesting to find out if the Master has invested in ACME Company stock, given how his plans keep going ass-over-teakettle on him.

Siskoid said...

Wile E. Coyote and the Master definitely share a DNA strand.

David Smith said...

Hey! The jet ski was design and built by my father. It was was called the Brealey Smith Bucaneer. In fact my dad was the stunt driver for Delgado too. :-)

Siskoid said...

Wow, I feel like I just had a brush with greatness! But just a brush ;-).

All kidding aside, that's really neat!


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