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?

Anyway…

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.

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One thought on “Timestamp #131: Warriors of the Deep

  1. I love the tone of this one and that final statement is perfect.

    One thing I’ll note about this is that Doctor Who had been on the air so long that producer John-Nathan Turner hired a “fan advisor” who was supposed to make sure that the show conformed to all the continuity. The only problem was that in those days before VHS tapes of the series were released and before the internet, fan knowledge was limited to memory, which is why some of the continuity is still wrong (they refer to two attempts at peace, but peace was only ever on the table in The Silurians. In the Sea Devils, they’re just basically acting as the Masters stooges).

    I’m greatly looking forward to your analysis of the fifth Doctor’s era as a whole, especially since I know that you started out not being to keen.

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