Wednesday, March 28, 2012


"At least I don't need a haircut, monkey boy."
"Why? What are they so hostile? What have we done to them?"
"Well, they still think of Earth as their planet, Jo, and they want it back. As far as they're concerned, man is just an ape that got above himself."

1) Oh Lord, does this serial drag. This thing seems to take forever to play out, and there are whole episodes that are literally twenty minutes of filler with three or four minutes of actual plot floating in the middle of it.

2) And the biggest part of the filler is, sadly, The Master. There is simply no reason for him to be in this story, and he seems to be there solely because, you know, Hey...we've got The Master. Episode Two, in particular, seems weighed down by the character's presence.

3) Is it just me, or do the episodes of this serial feature some of the lamest cliffhangers in the series' history. I mean...The Master throws a knife at The Doctor? A guy runs down the hall at our heroes who proves to be a scared man? A Sea Devil raises his gun but does not fire? These final moments fill me with ennui....

"I'm eating a sandwich while swordfighting...because eating
sandwiches while swordfighting is coo'..."
4) While I understand that since Barry Letts got the cooperation of the British Navy for this serial he felt the need to use them a lot, this is a story that sorely needed the presence of UNIT, and of the Brigadier.

5) There are elements of the Sea Devils I actually find fascinating. The way they seem to press hands together as a greeting and as a way of pledging loyalty, for example, or the elegant design of their weapons. Those elements sort of balance out the silly blue netting that serves as their clothes.

6) I know there are people out there who insist if I give Jo a chance she'll grow on me, but she doesn't here, being content apparently to stand around waiting to be ordered about. And she's the center of one particularly annoying bit of filler where a scene is stuffed with endless bits of silent pantomine. That scene takes up an extra minute and change of watching Jo at a window waving her hands about in random attempts at communication.

7) I usually don't mention much of Ron Grainer's synth-skronk heavy scores...but while I respect the attempt to do something different for this serial, the score is thoroughly annoying. All the seemingly random squeaks and shrieks and sonar pings just interfere with the episode, distracting us from the action at hand.

8) There are certain plot twists in the Letts/Dicks era that at this point simply don't work. The late introduction of a Government Asshat to inhibit any chance of a peaceful solution is pretty hamfistedly handled, and yet another 'Master Needs The Doctor's Help' moment falls flat because we know The Doctor isn't going to switch sides by now. They even bring out the ol' 'regional/rural comedy figure' trope in Episode Two, although thankfully the character disappears after that.
"Damnit, I'm The Master--I belong in every serial, even this one!

9) I don't understand what the whole 'summoning device' thing brings to the story. I mean, they already established in the first episode that the handful of Sea Devils we see in the story is up and about and wrecking havoc on ships that wander into their we really need the whole foderol with the prison and the Master and stealing electronic parts for building the signal device. Excising that angle saves us an entire two episodes, and since the only thing we get is some minor fun exchanges between the Doctor and The Master, well...I'm willing to give that up.

10) Maybe it's because The Doctor is separate from his UNIT supporting cast, or maybe it's because he's busy underwater while the Government Asshat is causing problems with the navy, but he seems a touch...softer in this serial than in the last two I've viewed. While I appreciate that some of that softening works--the whistful sadness with which he talks about the Master in Episode One is actually very effective--I missed the sharper edges of those previous serial. That softness will soften further later on, but right now it's just a niggling feeling that I don't care for.

Overall...overlong, overcomplicated and, well, for long periods boring, this is a four parter--hell, maybe even a three parter swimming in a six-parter bag. And even though there are some interesting elements, it's not worth watching for them.

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