"First that unidentified object, then the destruction of the probe, now this. I don't believe in that much coincidence." (And yet...)
IN THIS ONE... It's 2084 and the Silurians are defrosting Sea Devils. Meanwhile, the TARDIS lands on a paranoid, cold war sea base.
REVIEW: We're no longer in the anniversary year, but we might as well be. This story is a real throwback to older eras, at once being a base under siege story made famous by the Troughton era, and featuring not one, but two old foes of Pertwee's. At least the Silurians have gotten a maker-over and look really beautiful. As warrants a race likely frozen stiff prior to this story's events, their performances are rather glacial, not to say robotic. But they look great. Not sure about the Sea Devils yet, they haven't been defrosted. In any case, finally showing the two related Eocene races together is cool, and it makes me wonder what kind of society the Eocene Earth had to accommodate the variety of sentient life-forms seen on Doctor Who. It seems some Silurians scientists used Sea Devils as a warrior caste, but we know from the new series, some Silurians breed their own soldiers. This time we're in their element too, or at least a fair reproduction of it in an aquarium.
The humans are your basic, mostly interchangeable base personnel, mostly British with some international flavor. Only three characters really differentiate themselves at this point. There's Maddox, the rookie thrown into the deep end and a rather extreme mirror of Turlough's cowardice (there's obviously an anti-ginger agenda at work). There's Karina, his friend, though perhaps she's differentiated only by being a girl, Asian and mixed up in Maddox's subplot. And there's Solow, the base doctor involved in some villainous plot to brainwash Maddox and get control of the base's missiles (could there be a more convoluted and impractical missile-launching system by the way?). And here I thought her Eastern European accent was a prescient indication that the enemy power bloc wasn't the Soviet Union. I was a teenager in the 80s and it's true, you couldn't trust anyone with a Slavic accent on TV. Sea Base has pretty poor hiring practices by that standard. Speaking of hiring practices, how miscast IS Ingrid Pitt as Solow? Always a limited actress, she's fine as an exotic beauty (like the Queen of Atlantis back in The Time Monster), but I'm afraid she's not strong enough to play against type. And we can't say the last 12 years have been unkind to her, only one year before this, she played a sexy courtesan in the BBC production of The Comedy of Errors. So her look is just frightful and bizarre, and her acting uncomfortable. Though I suppose she's finally "playing her age", whatever that means.
In the middle of this, a TARDIS will land. It's notable that the episode starts with Turlough suddenly not in such a hurry to go home, which is pretty much what happened to Tegan after The Visitation, with about as much motivation. The Doctor lets a smile creep on his face when Turlough leaves the room though, so he's pleased by the decision no matter how much impatience he puts on. There's where I like Davison most, in these unscripted moments between the lines of dialog. Once the TARDIS lands, it's all very much plot-plot-plot however, including a very obvious bit about reptile-killing chemicals. The sets aren't dank enough for the submarine feel writer Johnny Byrne was apparently aiming at, and there are some very shaky rubber pipes in there, but I'll compliment their sheer height. The reactor room even has a flooded level for a stunt person to fall into (silly Turlough immediately announced the Doctor's drowned, after like, 5 seconds under water, doom-sayer to the end). I've got to say the Doctor's fighting style has gotten more violent, with kicks to the head part of his repertoire now. I don't think he's been that fierce a fighter since he played Steed's role in The Seeds of Doom.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Old-fashioned in a number of ways, it still showcases a fine redesign of the Silurians and some HAVOC-level action.