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15 November 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 319: The Sea Devils, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s always a good sign when my notes seem to keep making reference to how much an episode feels like it’s from Season Seven. Right from the opening of the episode, with the submarine under attack, through the look of the setting, the Doctor’s outfit, and the similarity of the Sea Devils to the Silurians, the last twenty-five minutes have felt like they could have come from two seasons ago.

Even the Doctor seems to be perfectly in-keeping with his Season Seven appearance. Quite apart from the fact that we’ve ditched the red jacket (which has become more-and-more common for his Doctor over the last few stories), his whole attitude is very much in line with the earliest version of his Doctor. He’s full of charm when he’s caught inspecting the charred lifeboat, and grins with a smile that couldn’t fail to sway even the most dedicated of security forces. When he doesn’t need to resort to such pleasantries, he’s back to being aloof and above it all, suggesting that he doesn’t carry any of his official UNIT papers because it’s a load of ‘bureaucratic nonsense’, and being keen to jump right in and investigate before his colleagues can be brought onto the scene. Maybe his trip to Peladon with Jo has given him a liking for working alone with a companion once more?

I’m also actually pleased to have the Master back again! By the time we’d reached the end of last season I was - quite frankly - sick of him, but having now had a couple of Master-less stories on the trot, it’s nice to see him being brought back into the fold. It’s good to see that it holds the continuity with the end of the last season, too, with the Master in custody. He’s also back to being the suave version of the Master. He and the Doctor make small talk like two perfect gentlemen, and then it’s right down to business as it’s revealed that he’s running things from behind the scenes. There’s plenty of parallels between the two Time Lords as they piece together the idea that the sea fort is at the heart of the current mystery, and we even get to see him enjoying an episode of vintage British television in the form of The Clangers.

(While I’m on the subject, here’s another opportunity to look at when the UNIT era is set. I’ve heard people talk of the venetian blind TVs in this story as an indication that the story is set somewhat in the future - and yet the Master still needs to specify that he’d like a colour TV set. BBC2 started broadcasting in colour from the start of July 1967, and BBC1 had been gradually switching more and more of its content over to colour since late 1969. While many people would still have been watching in black-and-white by the time this serial was broadcast, it seems strange to think that they’d predict a ‘futuristic’ telly but not think of colour as simply becoming ‘part-and-parcel’!)

Aside from that opening attack on the submarine, the first ten minutes of the episode are all taken up by the Doctor and the Master having a catch up. I’ve spent the last four days complaining about too much talking and not enough action, but for some reason I’m completely riveted by the pair of them. Delgado and Pertwee really are so perfectly suited to each other, and it’s nice to see them given another opportunity to square off against each other. It also gives me hope that the episode may not end up being too padded out - a worry now that we’re back to a six-parter. If we can spend this long on the set up and still keep it interesting, it bodes well for the rest of the tale…

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