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16 November 2013

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

Day 320: The Sea Devils, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It’s odd to think that this serial is written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael E. Briant, and yet the whole thing feels so much better than Colony in Space did. I made a note yesterday to talk about the direction of the episode, but it somewhat got lost under lots of other praise for the story. Today, we’ve got even more examples of something interesting and new being done with the direction - it really looks very different to normal.

The best example is probably the Doctor being chased through the fort by a Sea Devil, where the camera angles really help to sell the moment. By the time he and Jo chase the creature back through the same corridors, the cameras seem to have slipped a little, and we’re veering into Batman territory…

My one complaint with the direction is probably the way that the Sea Devil’s initial reveal has been handled. Throughout the first episode, we’re given plenty of shots of a scaled hand creeping into view, over the side of a boat or around a corner on the fort. As the episode goes one, we were given more-and-more glimpses of the creature - shot from behind, or moving through the corridors hidden by shadows. I was rather hoping that we’d be in for a repeat of the situation we had for Doctor Who and the Silurians, where we were teased by the creature for a while, before it finally steps into the room and reveals itself to us as part of a cliffhanger.

The final reveal of the Sea Devil does mimic the earlier example by being about the creature emerging into a room… but it’s done simply with the creature wandering through a doorway, and doing something of a double take when it sees the Doctor. Even the attempt at communication from our Time Lord has nothing on the earlier ‘Hello, are you a Silurian’ exchange. It’s a shame that after some nice build-up, they seem to decide that it’s gone on for long enough and simply give us a full view of the creature.

I am surprised at just how linked to Doctor Who and the Silurians this story is. I’ve always known that it’s a follow-up tale (and that the creatures team up together to fight the Fifth Doctor further down the line), but I think I’d always assumed that it was something applied retroactively to the story by fans further down the line, eventually leading to Warriors of the Deep as one of those ‘fan pleasing’ ideas from the 1980s. Here, though, we’ve got references to ‘those creatures in the caves’, and Jo even gives us something of a potted history of the event. The Doctor uses the opportunity to correct a few mistakes made in the earlier story, too, though I’m not sure that calling them ‘Eocenes’ will ever catch on…

Elsewhere in the story, I find it slightly odd that the Master goes to all the trouble of getting a naval uniform, hiding in the back of a car to sneak onto the base… and yet doesn’t bother to use one of his clever masks. They were all the rage last season, and they were pretty infallible, but here he accidentally allows himself to be seen. I suppose you could argue that he’s not expecting the Doctor and Jo to be there, but in yesterday’s episode he noted that the Doctor will be interested by the boats disappearing, and then finds out that he’s been directly told about it. Surely the Master should have pieced it together? It just seems a shame that he’s still managing to make silly little mistakes when he’s been coming across so well.

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