The Sea Devils made their first appearance in Doctor Who in 1972 – some 50 years ago! Here’s everything you need to know about these iconic monsters.
Actually, the Sea Devils’ origins go back to one of Jon Pertwee’s earliest Doctor Who stories, ‘The Silurians,’ which first aired in 1970. In this adventure, the Doctor encountered a race of lizard-like creatures who had been sleeping under the earth for thousands of years. Apparently, they had retreated underground and hibernated in preparation for an apocalypse that never happened. This had been the approach of the Earth’s Moon which didn’t strike the planet as anticipated, but fell into Earth’s orbit.
But what has this got to do with the Sea Devils? Well, the Silurians are their relatives, woken up by a nuclear power station that has started operating just above their subterranean city. And the Silurians are deeply suspicious of the human race (or “the apes,” as they call them) and want to wipe them from the face of the Earth and reclaim the planet for themselves. Naturally, the Doctor tries to broker peace between the two species – but not before the Silurians unleash a deadly and highly infectious virus on the humans, and the Brigadier blasts the Silurians’ base to smithereens.
Naturally, when the Silurians’ cousins – the Sea Devils – emerge from under the sea two years later, they are none too happy, and their faith in humanity is wafer thin. But in the 1972 story ‘The Sea Devils,’ the Doctor also has his arch enemy the Master to contend with. At the beginning of the story, he is a prisoner, following on from his arrest at the end of ‘The Daemons‘ – but this is no hurdle if you’re the Master. He has the prison guards under his thumb, and they are supplying him with the vital parts he needs for a machine that will help him to communicate with the underwater baddies.
Unsurprisingly, it is not long before the Master has summoned the Sea Devils from under the ocean. His plan? To control them, and build a vast army for himself with which he can conquer the Earth. Understandably, the Sea Devils aren’t overly taken with this idea, and imprison both the Master and the Doctor.
At the same time, the Doctor’s plan for a peaceful resolution is again scuppered when the Navy drop depth charges on the Sea Devils’ base. But ultimately, the Doctor defeats the Sea Devils himself by sabotaging the machine they were using to revive their city’s inhabitants. In fact, he “reverses the polarity of the neutron flow” – a phrase that would go on to become iconic in Doctor Who lore.
After this, the Doctor didn’t encounter the Sea Devils again until the 1984 story ‘Warriors of the Deep,’ which starred Peter Davison. In this adventure, a sea base in the year 2084 is invaded by the Silurians – and this time, they have teamed up with the Sea Devils with the ultimate goal of wiping out humanity and reclaiming planet Earth as their own. Are you seeing a pattern?
This time, though, their plans are more complex – they are hoping to use the sea base to launch a nuclear missile that will trigger a war between humanity’s dominant powers. Mankind will, in effect, wipe itself out, meaning that the Silurians and the Sea Devils can pick through the remains and rebuild planet Earth in their own image.
With tension mounting, the Doctor quickly realises that if he doesn’t destroy the Silurians and the Sea Devils, they will wipe out the human race. His only option is to flood the base with poison gas and destroy the creatures before they can put their plan into operation. It’s not a decision he takes lightly, however, and as he stands in the control room towering over a sea of dead bodies, he delivers the iconic line: “There should have been another way…”
‘Warriors of the Deep’ is also famous for introducing one of Doctor Who‘s most memorable baddies – the Myrka. This is a giant sea creature that the Silurians dispatch to take on the humans, and there is one particularly famous scene where the character of Doctor Solow tries to fight the monster head-on using karate. Since then, this scene has been used many times to poke fun at Doctor Who‘s production values, and was included in Michael Grade’s Room 101 interview when he discussed his reasons for cancelling the show in 1985.
But as we all know, Doctor Who returned in a blaze of glory in 2005, although viewers had to wait until 2010 before they would get their next dose of Sea Devil action. Or, more specifically, the Silurians; in ‘The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood,’ the Doctor encounters yet another iteration of their species, and they have been awoken from their millennia-long slumber by a drilling project, which they mistake for a hostile attack. As a result, they stick to their primary goal – that of wiping out the “apes” that now dominate planet Earth, and reclaiming the planet for themselves.
True to form (and seemingly undeterred by previous setbacks) the Doctor tries to find a way for the humans and Silurians to share the planet. And this time, the discussions do actually get underway – only to be scuppered at the last minute by the drill, which the humans are now using to attack the Silurians. The Doctor manages to de-activate it, but not before the peace negotiations have completely broken down and his companion Rory has been killed.
That being said, ‘Cold Blood’ does not end in a complete bloodbath. A number of benign Silurians survive and go back into hibernation, hoping to re-emerge in a thousand years’ time and have another crack at sharing the planet.
So where does this leave us? Well, it has just been announced that the Sea Devils will be returning to the world of Doctor Who in the 2022 spring special. Titled ‘Legend of the Sea Devils,’ this adventure will see the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz and Dan land in 19th century China where, according to the synopsis, “a small coastal village is under threat – from both the fearsome pirate queen Madame Ching (Crystal Yu) and a monstrous alien force which she unwittingly unleashes.” The synopsis adds: “Will the Doctor, Yaz and Dan emerge from this swashbuckling battle with the Sea Devils to save the planet?”
Let’s hope so! Stay tuned for more news about ‘Legend of the Sea Devils’ as we get it.
In the meantime, how do you feel about the return of these classic baddies? And which is your favourite story involving the Silurians or Sea Devils? Let me know in the comments below.
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