Saturday 15 December 2012

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils

Devils In The Deep Blue Sea

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils
UK Airdate: 26 February to 1 April 1972
BBC Region 2

When I was three years old I watched this serial on my mum and dad’s old black and white television set with them. We all loved it. The iconic monsters that were The Sea Devils, rising up from the surface of the sea in their string vests and waving about their strange weapons was bound to create a certain sense of fear and left a memorable impression on me... and it didn’t help that my dad kept doing impressions of them at the time. I remember being disappointed by them when they returned, with their marine cousins The Silurians (see review here), in the era of The Fifth Doctor (and I’ll know sometime soon whether I still feel the same about that) but this original serial was a big hit with me and it’s taken too long, almost 41 years in fact, for me to catch up with it again.

I’m really pleased to say that this Pertwee era story is even more entertaining than I remembered it although, to be fair, I barely remembered any of it past the obvious iconic monsters and a scene I’ll describe in a little while. It’s well written, Pertwee is in complete control of his character, Katy Manning’s Jo Grant is absolutely adorable (and adorably written) here, complete with her trademark white suits which never get dirty even when she’s been crawling through a ventilation shaft, and Roger Delgado’s triumphant performance as The Master is up to his high standard.

The only thing that surprised me was that UNIT and The Brigadier were not in this story. UNIT is mentioned enough but outside of The Doctor and Jo, their presence is never felt on screen.

The other thing that surprised me was a sequence that I’d forgotten but which made a great impression on me as a kid, when The Doctor and Jo are trying to find their way through a minefield with The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, and then use said familiar implement to blow up a load of mines to frighten off a Sea Devil. I remember incorporating this scene into games I used to play in the garden as a kid... but I’d completely forgotten both the scene and my childhood games of it until I saw it again. Little tear brought to the eye their for sure!

There’s also some amazing stuff in the storyline, like The Doctor and Jo being stranded in a fort on an island with only a sick, surviving crew member and a Sea Devil for company. That’s a really good sequence where you wonder just how our two heroes are going to get themselves out of harm’s way.

And there’s another great sequence where Delgado and Pertwee have a sword fight at the end of an episode which is so good, the entire fight is repeated at the start of the next one. And when I say good, I mean corny and riddled with typical, Hollywood swashbuckler incidents and choreography which is bound to bring a smile to the face on anyone who realises that the two actors in question must have been having a really good time shooting this.

There are some other nice action sequences along the way in subsequent episodes and there’s also a heck of a lot of location work than you might expect from a Doctor Who story arc, especially in comparison to the show today. I have to say that this one knocks a lot of the latest season’s stories for six when it comes to sheer, all ‘round entertainment value. I was really pleased that the one memory I had of this show was not marked by disappointment on the re-watch... this one was a real treat for me and I whizzed through all six episodes in two sittings. Great stuff.

Oh, and the unusual synthesiser music by Malcolm Clarke is absolutely suited to Doctor Who and probably made a big impression on me as a child too. I wish they’d have let this composer loose on some of the other stories in the series because it’s quite forward thinking for it’s time. At the very least, I wish the BBC would have a think about releasing the score properly on CD, as a four or five minute suite really isn’t good enough for this music.

A short review, then, but a very positive one. If you’re a fan of the Pertwee era of the show then this one is definitely one of the best ones to watch, I reckon. Sun, sand and sea monsters are just what The Doctor ordered, it turns out.

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