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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).