4 out of 5
Directed by: Michael E. Briant
While subject to the same issues as almost every early 6-part DW serial – some bloat; some pointless runarounds; “shock” moments that are repeated multiply – the Sea Devils is still very much a high point, both for Pertwee and the show thus far, featuring very strong character work, a good sense of world-building / lore-expansion, and a fun use of on-location shooting and costuming. Plus a boat chase!
Spoilers below, though anytime The Master appears, it’s guaranteed he’s up to no good.
The Doc and Jo (Katy Manning) are off to visit the incarcerated Master (Roger Delgado), and become interested in a recent spate of ship disappearances around a local research facility / naval base. Piecing together some odd behaviors witnessed from The Master and his jailor (Clive Morton, playing befuddled leadership perfectly) and the discovery of an evolved, underwater off-shoot of the Silurians, The Doctor and his companion insert themselves into another take-over-the-world plot from The Master, complicated by rising aggressions between the naval base and the Silurians.
The Sea Devils has its share of hitches: Malcolm Clarke’s contributed electronic score is interesting, and does add an alien quirk to some scenes, but man can it also be quite painful and ill-placed, sustaining odd notes at odd points. And, as mentioned, we kind of hit the same beats a few times, using the same gag of a marching rove of Silurians twice over, definitely lessening the impact the second time around.
However, The Master’s plot – while overly-complicated as always – feels opportunistic this time, not just random, and writer Malcolm Hulke allowed Jo full agency, not just following Doc’s dictates. She’s required in this episode, and legitimately helpful and proactive. There’s a bit of commentary sneaked in there regarding this – besides an overall theme of the incompetence of leadership, quite hilariously effected – with one of the female officers on the naval base rather rolling her eyes when the old guard shows up and essentially assumes her to be a secretary. Elsewhere, the science blabber has slight note of authenticity to it, and the way The Doctor tries to barter for peace with the Silurians is also more intelligently delivered than some of the prattle we’ve previously heard along these lines. Pertwee’s back-and-forths with Delgado are also a lot of fun, both actors playing off of one another extremely well.
And the Silurians look great. I mean, they’re clumsy, and cheap, but I kind of love that about them – they’re just a race of average joes, really, and so they stumble and walk funny, and trip coming out of the water. It’s definitely silly, but also adds to the rather more grounded (er, relatively) nature of this serial, taking advantage of some choice stock footage and pretty above-par models to make this thing look way better than usual.
Was that actually Pertwee in that little speedboat thing?