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18 November 2013

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

Day 322: The Sea Devils, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I had to double check against the screen captures on the Tragical History Tour website, but I think the model submarine in this story could really stand up against the one they used earlier this year for the shots in Cold War. Oh, sure, the newer model has a bit more detail to it, but I’m really impressed by the work on the one in this story - it looks absolutely fab on screen.

Thankfully, that seems to be a note I’m making about a lot of things in this story. The opening to the episode gives us more of the sequence with a single Sea Devil on the beach, and I made a point of noting down just how great the mask looked shot on film. I thought it was going to become another one of those times where I simply waffle on about wishing the whole programme was shot on film (and don’t get me wrong, I still do wish that. I’d love to see the submarine shots rendered in HD. You could almost substitute the shots from Cold War and no one would really notice!), but then a little later on we get to see the mask close up in the studio, on video, and it still looks pretty good!

I’ve never really given much thought to the look of the Sea Devils before. Because I’ve never seen the story, my only real frame of reference for them has been the action figure - and I’ve never been all that fond of that one. The sculpt itself is pretty good, but I seem to remember always thinking that the paint job on it was a little too ‘flat’ for me. It always looked like plastic, whereas I’d have liked it to have more of a sheen - as indeed they do in this story. Seeing the creature advance across the beach gives us plenty of opportunity to see the full costume, and it really is something a bit special. It shouldn’t work, really, because it’s just a basic lizard-looking suit covered by a tatty string vest, but there’s something rather brilliant about them.

I’m pretty impressed by them turning up on the submarine, with a great effect of the melting door the herald their arrival. That shot towards the end, as the Doctor peers out from a porthole in his diving equipment and sees a creature heading towards him is great, too, and I think I would have actually preferred that as the final shot. Almost as soon as they started raising the machine back to the surface, I knew that the Doctor would be absent. Now I’m interested to see how close Episode Five comes to Doctor Who and the Silurians. The Doctor was captured by the creatures in that story, too, so I’m keen to try and spot some parallels.

We also get today what might be the scene I was waiting for yesterday, with the Sea Devils rising from the ocean. Is this the famous, iconic bit? Surely not? I get that they’re trying to swell the numbers a bit, but seeing a group of the creatures walk out of the tide and onto the beach, before we cut to what appears to be the start of the shot as they rise from the ocean itself threw me a little, as did the light of the scene. It seems to have been shot at dusk, but it just made the picture look a bit grimy. In my head, after years of hearing about ‘the shot where the Sea Devils rise from the ocean’, I’d imagined five or six of them coming out of the water and onto the beach in daylight, and in a long static shot. If this is what all the fuss is about, then I’m sorry to say that I’m really a bit let down.

Thankfully, it’s not enough to ruin the story for me, and I’m finding myself enjoying it more and more. I spent the first couple of episodes expecting UNIT to show up on the scene, before remembering that this is the one present-day-Earth story in which they don’t feature. I’m glad in a way, because Captain Hart and the Navy are fulfilling all the same roles that we’d usually see inhabited by the Brigadier and his men. While you could pretty easily swap any of these characters out for our regular UNIT crew, it feels fresh to see something a bit different - even if it’s only down to the uniforms being a different colour to the ones I’m used to.

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