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19 November 2013

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

Day 323: The Sea Devils, Episode Five

Dear diary,

As I make my way through the Pertwee era, I’ve been playing a little game in my own head of ‘spot the Torchwood member’. The game dates right back to The Web of Fear where I pinned the title on the only Welsh member of the cast, but various other characters since then have staked s good claim to the job. Masters in Doctor Who and the Silurians made the list as a potential candidate simply for being a bit self-serving. Professor Stahlman was on there being he was in charge of a dangerous and foolhardy project. I sort of abandoned the game a little during Season Eight, as my interest wained a little.

Today though, as soon as the Parliamentary Private Secretary entered the naval base, he was right up there among the possible members of Torchwood. To be honest, I think he initially made the list simply because he was a bit misogynistic, and so keen to go for a violent solution to this entire situation. The more we saw of him on screen, the more he seemed to fit my idea of just what a member of 1970s Torchwood would be, even going so far as to brush off the idea of letting the Doctor die because ‘war calls for sacrifice.’

I thought at that point that if I stretched the idea a little, I could argue that he knows (or at least suspects) that the ‘Doctor’ who’s been turning up at the base (and no doubt will have been noted in official reports by Captain Hart) is the same one that his organisation has been charged to combat. He’s so desperate to set the ball rolling in regards to an attack not because he’s desperate to see an end to the Sea Devil situation, but because if he acts quickly enough, he can kill two birds with one stone, and really reap the glory for being the man who caught up with the Doctor.

Well then, when the pair actually meet, he makes a point of saying ‘Our duty is to destroy the Queen’s enemies’ He even goes on to cite from the National Anthem as a way of underlining his point. I don’t even have to squint and bend to make this idea work - the man is definitely working for Torchwood! I’m rather hoping that he leaves the Doctor to die again in the next episode just to add even more weight to the theory.

Elsewhere, we’ve got another contender for the story’s iconic scene, when we see even more Sea Devils rising from the ocean. I’m starting to wonder if when people talk about it, they just mean the story in general, as it seems to happen an awful lot. Today’s rendition seems to be more in line with what I’ve always imagined it to be, but it’s the shots after they’ve made it to land that impressed me the most. The sight of them sneaking around the naval base are fantastic, and yet more examples of why Michael E. Briant is becoming one of Doctor Who’s best directors.

I can’t say I really noticed his style all that much during Colony in Space, but here it’s head and shoulders above lots of the stuff we’ve had in this era. There’s a few occasions down in the Sea Devil base which seem to perfectly show it off, when we get lovely close-up shots of both the Master and the Sea Devils, and they really do look great. I’m glad that the costumes are still holding up so well, but the oddly bulging necks are starting to look a bit weird for me in some of the studio scenes…

The only thing I have found odd about the direction comes as part of the the cliffhanger reprise. Frankly, it’s much better at the start of today’s episode than it was at the end of yesterday’s. I’d worked out that the capsule was empty (could it be anything else?) but the way Katy Manning plays the shot makes it look as though she’s staring at something in particular (though at that angle, it can only be a Sea Devil clinging to the ceiling…) Today, we get an added few seconds in which Jo ducks back out from the diving equipment and whispers that the Doctor has gone. I can’t help but think that we’d have had much more impact at the end of yesterday’s episode if we’d ended things on that note!

Just while I’m on the subject of whispering - hooray! The Sea Devil’s voices are actually really good. During Doctor Who and the Silurians, apart from being a little disappointed by the quality of the Silurian costumes, it was their silly voices that really let things down for me. Their aquatic cousins seem to have done well in all respects, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

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