Malcolm Hulke’s ‘The Sea Devils’ capitalised on the success of his season 7 story, ‘The Silurians’. It also capitalised on the location chosen with a castle, a fort, a navy base and several navy vessels a real feature of this six-part adventure, the only Pertwee story so far set on Earth but without UNIT.
|He's back! And he's an Admiral?|
We do, however, see the return of the Master. Inevitable, yes, predictable – even more so. I’m surprised after five stories in a row with him, Barry Letts didn’t hold off a little longer before bringing him back. It’s a pretty good story for Roger Delgado too. On top of that the story has two government officials of dubious moral character to infuriate the Doctor – such characters have become the staple of the Pertwee-era as far as I can see.
|Trenchard and Captain Hart.|
We have Trenchard, the prison-warden in charge of looking after the Master but ever so easily manipulated by him, and Walker from the ministry, who keeps ordering food and wanting to blow things up. Trenchard ends up dead when he realises the folly of his way, and it is a sad death in the end at the hands of the sea-devils.
|The Master comes to the aid of the Sea Devils.|
The monsters of this piece, the ‘Sea-Devils’, are a more successful form than the Silurians, if still far from being perfect. Their eyes don’t move at all which always results in the destruction of belief on behalf of the audience, the actors inside the suits had their heads in the necks of the costumes so the heads wobble but not in a believable way, but the skin is pretty well done and if you don’t look too hard you could be convinced. Maybe.
More to the point only one can speak, and the voice is better than that of the Silurians, and we are spared the dreadful dialogue those particular ancient reptiles had forced upon them. A definite plus. It’s great to see a story with so much shot on film too. Minor quibbles are the end of episode four (I think) when the Doctor disappears in the diving vessel. Jo pokes her head inside and the Doctor is gone, but it’s not very clear. Then at the start of episode five she reinforces the point with ‘he’s gone’. I really hate it when they spell things out like that!
|A great story for Jon Pertwee.|
The combination of stock footage coupled with filming on actual navy vessels gives it a really authentic feel. Hulke writes a bunch of different characters – two men on the sea fort and the men in the submarine in particular – which don’t see a lot of action but are both well written and well played.
|Pertwee clamours through passageways.|
There’s some wonderful humour injected at times which Jon Pertwee plays superbly – especially when a radio blows up in his hand. He has a particularly good story, finding himself in diving suits, boats and being very much the action hero. The navy were happy to join in as extras and provide all the vessels etc. Pertwee himself had a military history and had starred for many years on the radio drama ‘The Navy Lark’.
Sets are very good, especially the castle and navy base ones. The Sea-Devils’ base suggests that they had run out of cash, mostly just black walls, but effective in its own way. Definitely preferable to white or light walls. The final episode seems an ‘almost’ pre-emptive nuclear strike, the Master fake his own death, boat chases and the Doctor blow up the Sea-Devil base. He turned on them a bit quickly for mine, to be fair, to resort to that when he was so upset by the Brigadier taking the same action in ‘The Silurians’. The Master also is very trusting of the Doctor considering their history. But minor quibbles.
Episode Six is action-packed indeed as I have mentioned, it needed another five minutes as it ends very abruptly. The story keeps good pace for a six-parter throughout. A great Doctor Who tale.