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Doctor Who: The Sea Devils

“He used to be a friend of mine once, a very good friend. In fact, you might almost say we were at school together.”

Growing up, watching Doctor Who was a lot like dating River Song; everything was in the wrong order. Since the BBC only ever showed repeats sporadically, and my parents couldn't afford a Sky package, I was reliant on whatever cheap VHS I could find in car boot sales for my Who fix.

One week Tom Baker would be battling Zygons, the next Colin Baker would be gunning down Cybermen like he's in the last act of Commando. Because of this rather erratic viewing experience, 'The Sea Devils' was very first story I saw with the Master. Well, technically, 'Caves of Androzani' was the first time I saw the Master, but that was only a cameo so it really doesn't count. No, it's 'The Sea Devils' because 'The Sea Devils' is very first story I saw with Roger Delgado as the Master.

I love Delgado's Master. I know I've said that many times before, and that you're all probably sick of hearing it by now, but this is my review so I'm going to say it again. He's brilliant, and this is one of his best stories. Don't let the title fool you, this is the Master's show. Whether he’s crossing swords with the Doctor or appreciating the deep meaning of The Clangers, Delgado completely owns this one. The Silurians' aquatic cousins might have their name above the door, but they are reduced to being the supporting act while the Master continues his epic game of one-upmanship with Worzel.

Take the Master out of the equation and 'The Sea Devils' is really nothing more than a lazy retread of Malcolm Hulke’s previous tale of prehistoric life intent on retaking the Earth from those damn dirty apes. Granted, it's a rather fun lazy rehash, with fewer moral quandaries and more jet ski chases, but a lazy rehash nonetheless.

Notes and Quotes

--Initially the Royal Navy personnel make for an acceptable UNIT substitute, but by about Episode Three you really wish the Brigadier and his men would show up to sort things out.

--I know this might sound controversial to some, but I've always thought that the Sea Devils looked rubbish.

--Surprisingly for a Malcolm Hulke story, the military types come off quite favorably. This might have something to do with the co-operation the Royal Navy showed the production, as well as Letts and Worzel both being ex-sailors.

--Like all Letts/Dicks era tales there’s the token interfering, thick headed Civil Servant thrown in to royally bugger things up. They really had an axe to grind with the Civil Service back then.

--According to the director, after this story aired he got a visit from Naval Intelligence asking where the production crew got the design for the submarine from. He told them to try Woolworths.

--Malcolm Clark’s musical score is atrocious. Makes you really appreciate Murray Gold.

The Master: (watching The Clangers) “I've discovered a rather interesting form of alien life.”

Captain Hart: “If you are from UNIT, then where are your credentials?”
The Doctor: “I never carry the things. Lot of bureaucratic nonsense.”
--The days before psychic paper, eh.

The Doctor: "If Horatio Nelson had been in charge of this operation, I hardly think that he would have waited for official instructions."
Captain Hart: "Yes... a pretty impulsive fellow. If one can believe the history books."
The Doctor: "History books? Captain Hart, Horatio Nelson was a personal friend of mine."

The Doctor: “Why begin a long and bloody war where thousands will be killed on both sides?”
Chief Sea Devil: “We shall destroy man and reclaim the planet.”
The Doctor: “Is there nothing I can say to make you reconsider?”
Chief Sea Devil: “Nothing.”
The Doctor: “I'm sorry.”
--He's so sorry. So very sorry. You just won't believe how unbelievably sorry he really is.

The Doctor: “I simply reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.”
The Master: “You did what?!”
--Only time the Third Doctor said his 'catchphrase' during his tenure.

The Master: “No doubt, Doctor, you're wondering why I sent for you.”
The Doctor: “Your usual childish desire to gloat, perhaps?”

Three out of four submarines bought from Woolworths.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. Ah yes, the old "I bought it at Woolworths" ploy. The anecdote reminds me of the plot of Graham Greene's Our Man In Havana, where protagonist Wormold sketches vacuum cleaner parts and passes them off as secret military installations. It makes me wonder whether one day someone will invent a Time Machine based on the internal workings of a Tefal, four slice, toaster. Lest we forget, the DNA double helix was a rip-off of the Curly Wurly.

  2. "It makes me wonder whether one day someone will invent a Time Machine based on the internal workings of a Tefal, four slice, toaster."

    Simpsons did it.

  3. They did? Well, if anyone can, Matt Groening can. Wait... it was specifically a Tefal four slicer?

  4. Paul (and Mark): Don't know if it is Tefal, but definitely a two-slicer. Maybe that's why Homer was having so much trouble.

  5. Thanks, Mark. A four slicer's essential for time travel. Everyone know that. Apart from Homer. D'oh!

  6. Anyone else notice Captain John Hart shares a name with a certain James Marsters character on Torchwood?

  7. Fully agreed on how important the Master is to this one. It is basically a rehash of Silurians without the depth, very much as you point out here, but it is fun.

    That sword fight was great fun too, and another one where Jo does very well. I wish she was always like here and Curse of Peladon, I grew up with the classics once they were here in the states, but never really dug the female companions being so screamy, partly why Sarah Jane and Leela are among my favorites. Jo can be a ditz and and a clutz, and lovable all the same, but when she's more resourceful like this, she's just more fun and a better character.


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