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Doctor Who - The Sea Devils

episode 62

UK 1972
produced by
Barry Letts for BBC
directed by Michael E. Briant
starring Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Clive Morton, Edwin Richfield, Martin Boddey, June Murphy, Declan Mulholland, Donald Sumpter
written by Malcolm Hulke, script editor: Terrance Dicks, music by Malcolm Clark

tv-series
Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee), Doctor Who (classic series), The Master, The Master (Roger Delgado), Sea Devils

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) pay a visit to the prison island where the Doctor's long-time enemy (and one-time friend) the Master (Roger Delgado) is held - and this time he seems to be locked away securely enough to spend a long time behind bars ... but actually, the Master has long taken over the place, having convinced the prison gouvernor Trenchard (Clive Morton), a pompous official looking for fame, that he is actually here to fight enemy agents. Of course, the Master has a whole other agenda, to bring back the Sea Devils, an intelligent reptilian race closely related to the Silurians, from their million year long hibernation and help them reconquer the earth that was once theirs ... only just because he hates the earth, the Doctor's favourite planet, and humankind, just so much.

Rather by chance, Doctor Who learns about the disappearance of a few ships in the region and starts to investigate, soon finding out about the Sea Devils, but at that time it may already be too late since the Sea Devils have taken over a submarine and the Master has seen to it that the Doctor is arrested (but he is soon freed by his loyal companion Jo). Eventually though the Sea Devils rise from the sea, and Trenchard, our pompous official has to learn just how wrong he was - and die by the hands of those he helped to bring back.

The Doctor however teams up with Captain Hart (Edwin Richfield) from the neighbouring Naval base and goes down to the ocean floor in a diving bell to negotiate a peace with the Sea Devils ... but by that time, another pompous official, permanent private secretary Walker (Martin Boddey) has taken over command of the whole situation, and he decides to wage war against the Sea Devils, annihilating all chances for peace, endangering the life of the Doctor and only making the Sea Devils angry.

Ultimately, the Doctor's life is spared only thanks to the Master, who needs the Doctor in order to perfect the apparatus to awaken all the Sea Devils from hibernation - but the Doctor, who has been trying to negotiate a peace until the last, has build a failsafe into the apparatus that kills all the Sea Devils instead of waking them up, and ultimately has to erradicate the very race he tried to make peace with. Only he and the MAster manage to escape the ordeal, and the Master manages to escape the law as well ...

 

On the surface, The Sea Devils might not seem to be much more than a rehash of Doctor Who and the Silurians - but actually it's one of the best, and most grown-up (remember, back then Doctor Who was still generally a children's program), episodes of the series, an episode that combines Cold War mentalities, hard-hitting science fiction of the alien invasion variety, and a bit of political satire to a homogenous and quite suspenseful whole, and that poses many valid questions along the way, like when is it justified to commit genocide in order to preserve peace. And despite the Royal Navy having helped out with many aspects of the episode, it is still entirely pacifist in tone, even if this pacifism is challenged inthe end. The only downside to the whole show are the entirely unconvincing and unfrightening Sea Devil-costumes, but they are more than outbalanced by Jon Pertwee, and Roger Delgado as old enemies giving what has to rank among their best performances, and Clive Morton and Martin Boddey shining as pompous officials, plus a moment where Roger Delgado as the Master mistakes a puppet show for children for a documentary about an alien race is genuinely funny (thanks mostly to Delgado himself).

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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