Warriors of the DeepBookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 September 2004 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

I have now decided, after a particularly fine weekend with my best friend and fellow Who-nut Matthew, that I have been far, far too kind to this story in the past. We sat through four episodes of excruciating agony, Matt finding much more positive things to say than I, and I have rarely been as bored watching television as I was during this sleep-fest. 

People blame the production for the generally poor reputation but the script doesn’t do the story many favours either. Taking the show as a whole it takes simply ages for anything to happen, the Sea Devils aren’t woken up until the end of episode one, the invasion of the Sea Base doesn’t start until the end of episode two and it takes a full one hundred minutes before the reunited reptilian forces enter the action and serve a decent plot purpose. Some might say that this is deliberate plot pacing, spacing out the juicy stuff so the third (often the most criticized instalment) and fourth episodes aren’t left to pad out the tale but as a result of this slow moving plot the story seems to drag on and on and on…

The ideas are serviceable; I can see some merit in uniting the Sea Devils and the Silurians and for them to attack the humans in response to atrocities commited against their respective races in the past. It does effectively link the two species in a way that was only hinted at in their debut stories and pairing them up does give them both a ‘hook’ (the Silurians are the brains of the operation and the Sea Devils are the brawn). However, this is the ninth story in a row to heavily involve continuity from the past and it does start to feel like overkill. Maybe its having both species back in one story or maybe its because JNT decided to heavily redesign the creatures and gets it all wrong. 

Even the Sea Base is a nice idea, during a time of international crisis, a weapons station with missiles ready to launch should the political situation become untenable. You can just imagine a really good film coming from these ideas, huge sea monsters, a base falling to pieces, traitors aboard and possible Armageddon. It could have been really tense. So can somebody explain to me why this story is so tedious? Is it the sub standard performances? The weak direction? The tacky score? The terrible special FX? The diabolical dialogue? No my friends, it pains me to inform you that it is all of the above. Oh and it has Tegan and Turlough in it. Just to rub salt into the wound. 

For a start I cannot understand why JNT had to completely redesign the Sea Devils and the Silurians. I know I was whinging in Arc of Infinity that he DIDN’T redesign Gallifrey but that was a planet in serious need of a paint job. The original designs for both these monsters was fine but here they look ridiculous, oh so cumbersome and walk so bloody slowly it takes them five minutes to get from end of the set to another. The Sea Devils are supposed to have this Samurai feel to enhance their soldgier-like appearance but their strange spiky collars have the unfortunate effect of drawing to the attention their lack of facial movement. They look dreadfully static lumbering about the corridors of the Sea Base and both races talk rea…lly…slo…wly, which makes them appear even more leisurely. Its no wonder it takes them so long to get involved, they drag themselves along like geriatrics to a bingo hall. It doesn’t help when the central threat is so…unthreatening. 

Next up…the Sea Base. Instead of a rusting, creaking, echoey castle of doom we get an airy, bright, sterile looking palace. It’s not the most inspiring settings for this tale of nightmarish monsters especially when the blinding lights continually expose the creatures deficiencies. Plus I saw three sets wobble during the story, hate to join the ranks but there were consoles, walls and doors threatening topple. Even when the Sea Base is in darkness it refuses to hide away any of production mistakes. There are lots of good places to shoot the story with, up stairs, in between storage crates, through grates, around corners…instead poisonous director Pennant Roberts decides to opt for a lifeless point and shoot approach, constantly using long shots to expose large sets when a more intimate, cramped approach would have helped. Script wise this story is no better than say, Seeds of Death with a similar low budget feel but look how well Michael Ferguson managed to disguise that money loss through his thoughtful and dynamic direction. 

Can I just put one thing to rest please? How you anal fifth Doctor fans (and please feel free to call me an anal sixth Doctor fan, as I am!) justify his approach to the Sea Base staff is astonishing! Yes he does hand over his gun to suggest his peaceful intentions but only after he has ran away from their security force and beaten up two of them after they tried to approach him. Hmm, yeah what a pacifist. Tegan is screaming, “Doctor!” in disgust as he is thrown over a precipice when he started the damn fight! The only time he approaches them in an orderly fashion is when he has a gun in his hand. Rob Matthews is right, he is a coward, his ‘principles’ abandoning him until he is in a position of power. 

There is an attempt to dramatise the story by having the fifth Doctor take a very moralistic approach, condemning the humans for trying to wipe out the pesky lizards that are trying to take over their nuclear base. His scorn is twisted and senseless, the Silurians and Sea Devils have invaded the Sea Base, sent in their bloody great monster before them to kill as many people as possible to achieve their position on the bridge and he thinks they shouldn’t fight back? Huh? Negotiate with these homicidal nasties when their methods have wiped out half the crew? On your bike mister! I could understand insulting both sides of this conflict (much as the third Doctor did in the Silurians) but the Doctor takes a very lizard-friendly attitude which given the plot seems hard to agree with. His later “there should have been another way!” that apparently climaxes the story on a thoughtful note would be a damn sight more effective if his principles had kicked in earlier (he himself puts the Myrka out of action!). As ever the writers don’t seem to know what direction to take this tricky incarnation into and Davison plays it every which way, pretty effectively it has to be said, his anger towards the humans and despair at the end is very palpable but the writing just doesn’t match the consistency in quality of his performance. Story of the fifth Doctor’s life really. 

The Myrka, ahh the dear old Myrka, so astonishing it deserved a second story (the rather wonderful Bloodtide!). I hate to admit this but when the Myrka is on screen was one of the few times I was genuinely entertained during this story, this lumbering, groaning beast, clearly unfinished and awkwardly pawing his way through the base is quite a vivid image. So vivid Michael Grade decided the show was a budget-less exercise in science-craption and seemed to think that every story contained a Myrka of some sort, leading to the snowballing decision to cancel the show. Its really, really bad but excusable in the same way that The Chase and Time and the Rani is, so utterly inadequate you want to weep but you laugh your head instead (or else you would commit yourself to a mental asylum for enjoying this garbage). You think nothing could be worse than the Myrka bursting through the airlock door which turns out to be a mattress that flattens dear old Tegan but then Doctor Solow receives her long overdue death scene by attempting a bizarre techno-karate move on the creature and is buzzed to death. Oh I know which scene that would turn up on Ingrid Pitt’s before they were famous…

I spent far too long pointing out the obvious mistakes of Warriors of the Deep…so I might as well continue. Hexachromite (I fear I might have spelt that wrong) and therefore the denouement are revealed in the first episode. Tegan and Turlough do sod all which seems to be their purpose in much of their scripts. The corridor wandering is endless. Continuity is royally fluffed up when the Doctor claims he has met the Silurian leader before (if it is an unmentioned story there is no indications of it). The apparent bravery of not mentioning what the two Earth power blocks are lacks resonance, it would have been braver TO name the two blocks and face the consequences (and besides when one character says “the power block opposed to this base” it becomes really obvious they are skirting around the issue!). The fact that this is the opening story to a season that is hardly a ratings spectacular is understandable. Oh and the guest acting ranges from the mildly awful to the diabolically unwatchable. 

I find it insulting that Doctor Who could produce something this bad in its twilight years and that we should be expected to enjoy it. Season Twenty-One is a real mixed bag of the generic and the magical and Warriors of the Deep kick starts the year in the worst of ways, its classic Michael Grade fuel and proof to those ‘only telly Doctor Who counts’ that their legacy wasn’t so perfect. I have never read a book or listened to a CD that has made me this embarrassed to be a Doctor Who fan.

FILTER: - Television - Fifth Doctor - Series 21