Doctor Who/Recap/S9/E03 The Sea Devils

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Sea devil 223.jpg

The Doctor: If Horatio Nelson had been in charge of this operation, I hardly think that he would have waited for official instructions.
Captain Hart: Yes... a pretty impulsive fellow. If one can believe the history books.
The Doctor: History books? Captain Hart, Horatio Nelson was a personal friend of mine.

The Doctor and Jo go and visit the Master in his high-security offshore prison and find out that ships have been disappearing at sea. The Doctor investigates, and finds that the sinkings appear to centre around an abandoned sea fort. Heading out there, they encounter what one sailor calls a "Sea Devil" - apparently an amphibious breed of "Silurian" (see "The Silurians"). In fact, the Doctor hangs a lampshade on an error in the previous serial by pointing out that the discoverer got the name wrong - the creatures are from the Eocene period, not the Silurian.

It turns out that the Master has got his prison governor under control and the latter is procuring parts so that the renegade Time Lord can build a machine to revive the Sea Devils from hibernation.

The Doctor goes down in a diving bell to try and negotiate with the Sea Devils, but politicians have got involved now and a depth-charge attack soon puts paid to negotiations. In the confusion, the Doctor frees a captured British submarine and heads back to the surface.

The Sea Devils attack and capture the nearby naval base and with it the Doctor, who is taken to the Master and forced to help him finish the machine. But the Doctor sabotages it, and the two Time Lords escape as the base explodes. The Sea Devils are all killed in the explosion, but the Master makes his escape in a hovercraft.


  • Action Girl: Jo Grant is one in this episode. She rescues the Doctor, incapacitates a guard and pilots a hovercraft.
  • Author Appeal: More like Actor Appeal, really: Jon Pertwee was, according to accounts, in seventh heaven during the filming of this serial, as a number of vehicle sequences were written in expressly for his benefit, including a jet-ski chase.
  • Air Vent Passageway: Jo climbs into the ventilation shaft and onto the roof after the Sea Devils have chucked her, Captain Hart and the Personal Parliamentary Secretary in a room.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: The Royal Navy loaned the production crew both facilites and sailors for shooting. The RN realized it was a good deal all around: They got some extra combat training for the "squaddies", the lads got to tell their friends they were on Doctor Who, and the BBC got some semi-free extras.
  • The Brigadier: Not, for once, the Brigadier, but Captain Hart.
  • Crystal Clear Picture: The Clangers: the picture is inserted via yellowscreen (yellow was the preferred matte color for BBC Chromakey work in the '70s).
  • Fake Shemp: In the jetski chase, the Master is played by a stunt double, which is why he tries to keep his face hidden.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The Doctor, Jo and The Master share a couple of jokes and chat amiably for a few minutes when The Doctor and Jo first arrive.
  • Hazardous Water: The Sea Devils make every attempt to turn the North Sea into this.
  • For the Evulz: Why is the Master working with the Sea Devils? So he can get rid of the Doctor's favorite species. That's all the reward he needs.
  • Idiot Ball: Right at the very end, the script punts the ball squarely in the Doctor and the Navy's direction, and they catch it. The Navy has the Master under guard, with The Doctor watching, on a relatively small hovercraft. Somehow, even among all those sailors and one Time Lord, in a confined space, The Master is able to a) hypnotize a sailor into playing dead, b) slap a perfect mask of his face onto the poor schlub, and c) swap clothes with him. And then, he's able to make off with the hovercraft, because the Navy decided not to have at least two people mind it.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: You can almost hear "these aren't the droids you're looking for" as The Master hypnotizes a CPO set to guard him in the last episode.
  • Latex Perfection: The Master pulls one of these, along with another faked death, to escape at the end of the episode.
  • Lima Syndrome: Colonel Trenchard falls under the Master's influence without even needing to be hypnotised.
  • The Master
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: The Master mistakes The Clangers for actual aliens. (an Alternate Character Interpretation, supported by watching the Master's reactions carefully, suggests that he knew full well that The Clangers was a TV show, but was toying with Trenchard by playing dumb.)
    • As an ALTERNATE Alternate Character Interpretation, the Master knew it was a children's show and was briefly amused by it: he's smiling and whistling along as he watches. Trenchard enters and catches him, and the Master has to pretend not to understand what he's watching in order to save face. His "Oh~" when he's informed that they're just puppets is said in that sort of false, semi-interested tone you use when someone tells you something you already know but you're being polite. He casually crosses the room to switch the TV off, and then out of Trenchard's view grimaces in exasperation at having to turn off a program he was enjoying.
  • Noodle Incident: The Doctor lets on that he was a close personal friend of Admiral Lord Nelson.
  • Office Golf: Colonel Trenchard seems to be fond of this. The Doctor has a go, too, but he does it blindfolded.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: That little nuclear sub? A modified toy from Woolworth's.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Bofors gun firing in the last episode, and many of the rifles throughout, don't seem to have their sounds adjusted, and were recorded as they'd naturally sound, making for a less-than-dramatic effect for those unaccustomed to how guns actually sound when fired.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Averted. When trying to rent the launch from the quaymaster, The Doctor mentions that his leg was injured in The Crimea. The quaymaster doesn't buy it. Then he tries Gallipoli. Still no luck. Finally he tries El Alamein, by which time he gives up and says "It really doesn't matter, does it?"
  • Reverse Polarity: The Doctor sabotages the Master's machine by "reversing the polarity of the neutron flow". This is the only time the Third Doctor utters the whole phrase instead of just parts of it.

Doctor: Before you reactivated it, I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow.

Master: Do you know who I am?
Guard: You're The Prisoner.

    • Which might explain why his guards all wear cloaks and badges, and drive about in quirky white cars.
  • Sword Fight: Consisting of the Doctor disarming the Master, holding him at swordpoint as the Doctor munches down on the Master's lunch and then tossing the Master back his sword simply because he's having too much damned fun.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The Master whistles along to the Clangers.

It seems to be a rather interesting extraterrestrial life form.

  • Why Does it Have to be Water?: According to the crew, Roger Delgado was not happy at all about having to float in the ocean for the rescue scene (while fear is stretching it a bit, the crew recalled him being extremely uncomfortable around water). For the skiboat chase, they had to have Jon Pertwee chase a stunt double, as Delgado flat-out refused to shoot the sequence.