Doctor Who #613: Warriors of the Deep Part 2

"Brave heart, Tegan." "Brave heart? That thing's going to kill us."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.6 1984.

IN THIS ONE... The Silurians and Sea Devils attack and breach the sea base.

REVIEW: We get a lot of this on New Who, I'll admit, but it's rarely this unconvincingly done. I'm talking about the Doctor's magical fount of knowledge. Somehow he can recognize a Silurian battle cruiser and Myrka despite having never seen them before. An unseen adventure, you might say. Except the dialog doesn't support one. When he talks about having met them before, it's all about that one time in Doctor Who and the Silurians in Season 7. He doesn't eve get his facts straight about that story, insisting they only wanted peace, when a faction was clearly ready to commit genocide to get it. Obviously, he's read up on them since (or you can take The Scales of Injustice into account, a novel written with the sole purpose of filling this plot hole, right down to the Doctor seeing a picture of a Myrka at the end), but it feels like bad continuity and robs the program of any sense of discovery it might otherwise have. Why does the Doctor have to do all that exposition? Can't he just find out from the Silurians themselves when he meets them in Part 3? Because there's no knowledge he has here that makes a jot of difference, and knowing all the answers (like how to cripple the Myrka in later episodes) in advance is cheating.

It's not just the script that's cheap, however. The most incredible thing about that Myrka attack is how anyone ever allowed it to be transmitted. The beast itself makes the plastic dinosaur in the original Silurian story look good, basically a big panto horse lizard creature, but it wouldn't be that bad if it didn't have to bust open a metal door obviously made of soft foam. And then the foam falls on Tegan's legs, she's unharmed but trapped, and the Doctor lifts the thing up with some effort and frees her. All the while, there's absolutely no effort to change the doors for something solid. It's soft and bouncy and wiggly and preposterous. By comparison, the humans' tiny pistols (I've seen more impressive glue guns) are almost acceptable. And it started out so well too, with the Doctor in an actual water tank, then coming out of a real hatch. The Sea Devils are like terracotta warriors waiting to be awakened, trading their fishnet tunics for samurai-inspired fashions. Of course, the torpor in the monsters' scenes doesn't do any of them any favors, but they sure are pretty to look at.

Slow pace in the reptilian scenes, but a breakneck one in the human-centric stuff, with real moments of tension (waiting for the Myrka, for example). The uptick of energy there helps balance the episode. We don't learn a whole lot more on the Maddox subplot, though the villains are going ahead with their plan despite this Silurian trouble (sure to make things worse), and make Maddox kill his only friend, Karina (was that necessary?). The rest of the crew is a little too quick to trust the Doctor and his friends after various acts of sabotage, a sure sign of an ill-considered if fast-moving script. The Doctor does invoke mutual trust and his earnestness sell it. He should know however that between the cold war above and the cold warriors below, mutual trust isn't exactly this story's theme. Oh, and when the Doctor steals a suit with a bubble helmet, it leads to a repeated joke about what the man had been eating, which may just be a pre-Slitheen fart joke. Yay.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - It moves pretty well, but you know what? The script is lazy and a continuity nightmare, and the effects are just... absurd. (Fans of camp can add a rating increment.)


CiB said...

One issue Doctor Who effects always had was that the BBC didn't give Doctor Who any more studio time than any other half hour episodial programme- but that time also had to do more special effects than would be need for (say) Eastenders. This mean that Doctor Who never had enough studio time to do a lot of things well.

When this story was being filmed, Margaret Thatcher (The UKs Prime Minister) announced a snap general election, which meant the BBC needed to clear a lot of studio time. This meant that the crew were told while filming that they had much less time than they thought. And the time they thought had wasn't enough, as it was never enough. Actors in the Myrka complained about it's smell, as in earlier filmed scenes they were wearing the costume before the paint had dried (and if you look very closely, occasionally it's paint marks sets...). The writer hated the Myrka's "panto horse" look. It's for these reasons the story is referred to by some as "Warriors on the Cheap".

I agree that the script is pretty awful, but this one is let down by how rushed the filming was as well.

Siskoid said...

Byrne was also disappointed in the brightly-lit look as he had imagined a claustrophobic submarine (like in The Abyss).

Mitchell Craig said...

Ah, the another reality, a featured player in The Muppet Zombie Movie.


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