Timestamp #131: Warriors of the Deep

Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep
(4 episodes, s21e01-e04, 1984)


Welcome to the dark ethical corner.

We last saw the Silurians and the Sea Devils in the Third Doctor’s era, and now they’re teaming up to attack an underwater base. From the opening and the title, I assume that’s where the base was, but there are armed guards in the passageways. Are armed incursions that frequent despite being isolated by high pressure water?


A Silurian submersible triggers the base’s sensors but disappears soon after. The commander launches a probe to investigate, ready to fire missiles at their enemy on a moment’s notice, but the probe is destroyed. The Silurians are investigating the fate of their Sea Devil brothers (presumably the ones who were entombed when their underwater base was destroyed back in the Third Doctor’s era), curious as to why the latter have not woken up after so long. They find the sleeping Sea Devils and awaken them from their slumber.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is driving and Turlough announces his decision to remain aboard for the near future. The Doctor is skeptical of this decision (as am I) but informs the lad that they are headed to Earth and that he should inform Tegan. When they materialize, they find themselves in Earth orbit and under the guns of a sentry satellite. The TARDIS dodges the sentry’s weapons and materializes in the sea base’s engineering section. Being the Doctor and crew, the travelers explore the area and the Doctor determines that they have arrived in another cold war era in Earth’s history. While exploring, they trip a security alert and run for the TARDIS.

Ensign Maddox, a young and inexperienced officer who temporarily replaced an officer who was killed in a freak accident, is nervous about going to war. After the probe is destroyed, the station commences a missile run, and Maddox freezes under the pressure. After being coerced into the sync chair, the missile run is revealed to be a simulation and Maddox collapses. The ensign is taken to the infirmary where he is declared unfit for duty, but the medical staff (Doctor Solow and an officer named Nilson) suggests reprogramming the young officer’s brain. The commander releases the sensitive reprogramming disk to their custody before returning to the bridge. We also discover that Solow and Nilson are working for the enemy as a freshly rebooted Maddox is returned to duty.

En route to the TARDIS, the Doctor sets the station’s reactor to overload as a distraction, but they are discovered by the roving security teams. The Doctor defends his companions, an act that sees him falling off the catwalks into the waters below as they run away. The Doctor takes the opportunity to swim into a nearby hatch.

What’s with that one guard knocking senselessly on the wall?

The Silurians, led by Icthar, and the Sea Devils, led by Sauvix, hatch a plan to attack the seabase. Meanwhile, Turlough is captured, the Doctor dons a guard’s uniform, another set of guards miss their disrobed comrade lying in a passageway, and Tegan meets up with the Doctor. The “what have you been eating” joke was a little funny, but only once in the two-minute span that it was repeated.

Turlough spills what he knows about the Doctor and the TARDIS, but before he is taken away for a mind probe, he is rescued at gunpoint by the Doctor. Meanwhile, the roving guards find the TARDIS and walk right in (oh, for the love of…!), establishing a tentative trust between the travelers and the base commander. This trust is tested when the Silurian battlecruiser approached the base and the commander opens fire against the Doctor’s recommendation. The Silurians turn the energy beam back on the base with their deflectors, opening a way through the base’s defenses.

The Doctor harbors a lot of regret about the Silurians, who he calls a noble species who only wanted to live in peace. He tries to persuade the commander to his cause but is interrupted by the Silurian forces as they attack with a creature called the Myrka (which is pretty much a seaweed-clad space pantomime horse). While the base is distracted, Solow and Nilson activate Maddox’s programming, forcing him to work for them as they sabotage the base.

Tegan and the Doctor are trapped in the airlock as the Myrka smashes through the inner door. The commander orders the airlock to be sealed, locking Tegan and the Doctor inside with the Myrka. Turlough runs from the guards, who then take station as the Doctor and Tegan fight the Myrka. Turlough ends up on the bridge and coerces the crewman to cycle the door. The Doctor and Tegan escape, but the Myrka jams the door with its leg, escaping into the base and wreaking havoc.

At Airlock Five, Commander Vorshak and the Doctor confer with considerable confrontation. The Doctor enacts a plan to stop the Myrka as the Sea Devils breach the airlock and push back the human defenders. As the commander’s team seals the corridor bulkhead, Turlough arrives and is pressed into service with his rifle. The Sea Devils burn through the bulkhead, and the commander heads for the bridge to call for help, an act that will reveal the base’s location to the world.

The Doctor’s team assembles an ultraviolet radiation beam projector in the Myrka’s path. Meanwhile, Doctor Solow leaves the bridge with Maddox’s disc, intent on delivering it to her superiors, but contact with the Myrka (and an ill-fated karate kick) end her journey in short order. The guards return the disc to Vorshak, which clues him into the nefarious schemes afoot. He returns to the bridge, confronts Nilson, and discovers Maddox tearing the computers apart. Vorshak tries to stop Maddox, and Nilson disables Maddox with his controller. Back in the corridor, the Doctor kills the Myrka with the ultraviolet beam, looking somewhat sad about the necessity.

Vorshak questions Nilson, but the traitor gets the drop on the commander (and the Doctor and Tegan as they report in). Maddox comes to his senses and draws his sidearm, but Nilson kills him with the control box. After a brief scuffle, Nilson takes Tegan hostage and leaves the bridge with the promise that once he leaves, the base will be destroyed. The Doctor receives word that the intruders have taken Turlough and security officer Bulic hostage, prompting him to pursue Nilson, catching up to him at the ultraviolet generator. Tegan distracts Nilson, and the Doctor blinds him with the beam. Nilson stumbles into the Sea Devils and they kill him, then they take aim on the Doctor and Tegan but the situation is temporarily defused when the Doctor identifies himself. Tegan is ushered to the holding cells while the Time Lord is reunited with Icthar.

The Doctor negotiates with Icthar, but the Silurian is jaded by the last two attempts at peace and plans to instigate mutually assured destruction among the humans so that the Silurians can take the planet. Icthar forces Vorshak to start the launch process while Tegan and Turlough spearhead an escape and rescue attempt. In the escape attempt, the Doctor joins the human survivors and infiltrates the chemical storeroom. A Sea Devil inadvertently triggers a hexachromite leak and is dissolved. The human soldiers suggest using it on the invaders on the bridge, and the Doctor angrily dismisses the proposal, opting for a non-lethal solution. Unfortunately, a missile alert warns them that launch is imminent and the Doctor decides to follow the lethal recommendation.

Sauvix finds the group and threatens the Doctor’s life. Officer Preston sacrifices herself as Bulic gasses the Sea Devil, and the team continues to the bridge. The Doctor pleads for peace one last time, but the Silurians and Sea Devils fight until the gas overtakes them. Tegan gives them oxygen while the Doctor syncs with the computer, stopping the missile launch at the last moment. In the process, the commander is fatally wounded by Icthar, who is then killed by Turlough.

The day is saved, but the price is high. The Doctor, in a mix of anger and sorrow, looks upon the carnage and remarks, “There should have been another way.”


At its core, this was a decent base invasion/chase story. I enjoyed seeing the noble Silurians and Sea Devils again, and despite a little padding and the large amounts of violence, this tale was quite good. I did appreciate the Doctor sticking to his values until it was proven by the Silurians that there was no other way, and I’m glad to see the message of intellect and romance triumphing over brute force and cynicism shining through.

We haven’t seen it in a while, and it has an added power here: The Doctor obviously keeps the message in his hearts, but today he failed to achieve it… and it’s tearing him apart.



Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Awakening



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.


Timestamp #62: The Sea Devils

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils
(6 episodes, s09e09-e14, 1972)

Timestamp 062 The Sea Devils


The Master returns to Doctor Who, scheming and plotting from his island prison cell. The Doctor and Jo pay him a visit, and the Master claims to be rehabilitated, but he refuses to reveal where he parked his TARDIS, so the Doctor is skeptical.

Adding to the Doctor’s uneasy feeling is a recent rash of ship sinkings in the area and Colonel Trenchard, the very odd prison warden who (unbeknownst to the Doctor) is working with the Master to defeat some unknown enemy agents. The Doctor goes to the nearby naval base and enlists the help of the base commander. He and Jo head to the nearby sea fort to investigate, but are stranded as the Sea Devils destroy their boat. The Sea Devils give chase inside the fort, where the Doctor and Jo find a single half-mad survivor before calling for help and escaping.

According to the Doctor, these Sea Devils are related to the Silurians: They are adapted to living underwater, and they share the same motivations as their cave-dwelling cousins.

Trenchard sets the Master free, and he goes to the naval base in the guise of a Navy commander. He steals some sonar equipment, assaults a Chief Petty Officer, and escapes after being spotted by Jo. When the Doctor and Jo return to the prison, the Master is back in his cell as if nothing ever happened. The Doctor sends Jo to inform UNIT as the Master escapes and a random swordfight breaks out. Trenchard arrests the Doctor, and the Master explains his evil plan to take over the world with the Sea Devils.

Meanwhile, the Sea Devils take over a rather spacious submarine. Who knows why at this point, but they do.

The Doctor escapes with Jo’s help and they run for the beach, but are soon trapped among the Master, the colonel’s troops, a minefield, and a Sea Devil summoned by the Master. The Master’s plan goes south as the fearful soldiers attack the Sea Devil, the Sea Devil kills the soldiers, the Doctor and Jo run for the minefield, the Sea Devil enters the minefield, the Doctor triggers a mine to scare the Sea Devil back to the ocean, the colonel questions the Master about the creature who slaughtered his men, and the Master sends a handful of them to attack the prison and kill Trenchard.

Take a moment here to breathe as the secret service Sea Devils take their luxury submarine somewhere. Who knows where are this point, but they do.

The Doctor and Jo go back to the naval base, and the Doctor takes a diving bell to the foundation of the sea fort to investigate. The Sea Devils abduct him and take him to their leader, with whom the Doctor almost brokers peace, but is interrupted by the arrival the Master. Further complicating matters are Parliamentary Private Secretary Walker, a sexist, pompous, arrogant ass who arrives to “solve” the missing ship problem with his depth charges.

The Doctor escapes from the sea devils, rescues the submarine crew, and they all break free from the underwater base in a moment of okay, sure that had me setting aside my background in undersea warfare. At least they wrapped up the dangling plot thread about that stolen sub. Not to be dissuaded, the Master and the Sea Devils take over the naval base, and the Master tries to convince the Doctor to help him revive all of the Sea Devils around the world. The Doctor sabotages the machine, which incapacitates the Sea Devils so the sailors can escape. The Doctor fixes the “mistake” just as the sailors stage an assault to retake the island, but the Master runs with the machine and the Doctor gives chase. They end up back in the waiting fins of the Sea Devils, who are now tired of all of these Time Lord shenanigans. The Doctor sabotages the machine by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow (huzzah!), which creates a bomb that the Master unknowingly activates. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open the cell, and he and the Master escape. The Sea Devil base explodes, but the Master works his mental magic to escape in a hovercraft.

All of that in six episodes, which normally poses a problem for me, but this story was so well paced that it didn’t matter. Each thirty-minute block just flew by.

Despite the pace, there were a couple of down notes. First, the third episode must have been a bit short since they repeated the whole swordfight from the previous episode. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I wasn’t watching these in rapid succession, but when the episodes are back-to-back, long repeated story points shred the pacing. Second, it’s becoming standard operating procedure for the Master that his eyes are too big for his metaphorical stomach. His plans always double back on him, usually because he’s trying to wield too much power. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense with the megalomaniacal bag full of cats that is the Master, but it’s become predictable. Especially after an entire season of stories with that common thread.

On the plus side: First, the writers did their homework with all of the naval trappings. Even though the submarine was the standard Hollywood-style hotel underwater, it was still okay with me in practice. Second, Roger Delgado is deliciously evil and melodramatic in this serial, and while Series Eight was decent with his portrayals, for some reason this serial really worked for me. Last, I loved how the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver as a tool to navigate the minefield, set off one of the charges to scare the Sea Devil, and escape from a jail cell. The prop also has a totally ’70s sci-fi vibe, and I adore it.

This fast-paced and fairly tightly written serial shook out to a high 4 when I was done, and I have no problem rounding that up.


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mutants



The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.