Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Warriors of the Deep

Jokingly called ‘Warriors of the Cheap’ by fans, ‘Warriors of the Deep’ actually, for the most part, looks like a good deal of money was spent on it, but it just wasn’t quite enough to cover the bad bits – the wobbly rubber door, the Myrka and to a lesser extent the Sea Devils and Silurians. We have a large set, though overlit and maybe not exactly right for the story I think it’s a good set that works. For me, the greatest issues are with the story, as always. Johnny Byrnes is not my favourite writer, as I have alluded to in the past. The thing is - I think this is his best story.
Maddox in the Sync machine with Ian McCulloch

Doesn’t mean I think this is a good story, mind you!
So what did I like? Well, two power blocks poised to blow each other up in 2084? The cold war was still very much alive when the story was written, and I wouldn’t have a hard time believing we could end up there again. I liked the idea of the ‘sync operator’ and the character Maddox, the espionage, and I feel that if Byrnes had concentrated on that and got rid of the Silurians and Sea Devils, it would have been a great script. But, he didn’t.
Not convinced by these Sea Devils
The Silurians are written even more one-dimensionally than in their first story. Apparently Ikhtar, the leader, survived which seems unlikely. So all the story is essentially about is a very slow invasion of an underwater base, a declaration of war and a very bad monster. The two power blocks are merely a setting for the story and little else, and mores the pity that they are. The costumes for the Silurians are ok, the ones for the Sea Devil, with added armour, are a bit dodgier and it’s twice as obvious as it was in ‘The Sea Devils’ that the actors’ heads are in the necks.
Solow (Ingrid Pitt) and the Myrka
Why did they decide to bring them both back? Well, JNT was in the mood for bringing things back – he had been since ‘Earthshock’. It’s just a pity they didn’t use them in an interesting way because the idea behind the Silurians and Sea Devils is interesting. Instead we have over an episode of them just slowly taking over the sea base. The direction is so rushed by Pennant Roberts, because they lost two weeks of production time thanks to a general election at the time, that these long sequences look ridiculous. It’s basically ‘stand in a line two metres from the Sea Devils. Shoot at them. They shoot at you. Eventually most of the humans die and one or two retreat’. And then it gets repeated scene after scene.

I won’t go into the Myrka. I feel for
the effects team and Marr Irvine because with no time or money (they were still adding paint as filming went on) it was never going to work. And then it was shot out in the open in bright white corridors. It could not have possibly worked. Some bits just needed to be scrapped altogether. Byrnes asked a lot of the production team, and then two weeks were taken from them. It’s a real pity because so much of ‘Warriors of the Deep’ looks really good, slick and like money was spent on it. We have some underwater scenes and ripping end to episode one when the Doctor appears to have drowned. A lot of the model work is good too.
Then we have a guest cast featuring Ian McCulloch, from ‘Survivors’ fame, who gives a great performance, balancing out Ingrid Pitt’s return to Doctor Who where she has no idea what she’s saying half the time and dies inexplicably trying to karate-kick the Myrka. Now that is definitely one of the most bizarre (and to be honest, bad) sequences in Who-history. Peter Davison is in full control as the Doctor by now which is nice, Janet Fielding doesn’t get a lot to do, Mark Strickson as Turlough gets a bit more. He’s quite cowardly in this one actually, but that flip flops a bit.
I just think there was an opportunity missed here to make a really interesting futuristic political thriller.


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