Earth’s two power blocs are close to destroying one another. Under the ocean, the Silurians and Sea Devils are provoking a war that will leave them sole heirs to the planet…
I think I’ve frequently said, coming to stories that have a poor reputation make them a bit of a challenge when it comes to reviewing them. Warriors of the Deep is one of those stories that has a reputation that definitely precedes it.
I think that a lot of Johnny Byrne’s story is a good idea but it is hampered majorly by production issues. The decision to rush production has definitely harmed this story and having the Sea Base being overlit makes it feel very sterile. It could be argued that the bright lighting is there to support the crew of the base to adapt to living under the water, but the sets just seem too clean and not at all lived in and the lighting just lays those problems bare. The script is by no means perfect, but Byrne has decided to take contemporary concerns of the Cold War and transpose them into the future and bring two related Doctor Who aliens into this environment. It is perhaps the production team’s preoccupation with meeting the needs of continuity that mean it isn’t as good as the premise could potentially have made it be. Even little things, like the two power blocs that are at the brink of war not being named, led to ridiculous lines like “the power bloc opposed to this Sea Base”. I can understand that there may be political considerations for the program implying that the Cold War would continue for another hundred years, but they could have fun with it and suggest different countries that might be in conflict a century in the Earth’s future. Once you’ve got as good a script as possible, maybe then focus on the continuity aspects rather than worrying about the continuity when you’ve essentially got a first draft and there is no need to make the lead Silurian, Icthar, be someone who has a past with the Doctor when it seems so utterly perfunctory to the rest of the story.
The unfinished feel of the script means that none of the characters feel like they have any real nuance. Nilson and Solow feel like they might as well be twirling their mustaches and telling people explicitly that they act for an enemy power. Ian McCulloch and Ingrid Pitt’s performances do not help, especially when we get to the weird fight scene between Solow and the Myrka. The characters all feel one-dimensional, and it is so important for these base under siege stories for us to root for the guest cast as we spend so much time with them. Perhaps it is because this is a story script edited by Eric Saward, so you feel like the crew of the Sea Base are doomed anyway, but it would be good to have a standout character in here. Perhaps the one that we are meant to feel the most for is the base commander, Vorshak, but Tom Adams’ performance is so wooden that we don’t feel anything when he dies shortly after the Doctor saves the day, which the direction certainly indicates that we should.
The story sees the Silurians and the Sea Devils team up to try and wipe out humanity and reclaim the planet, but they seem completely opposed to their previous appearances. This makes it all the more meaningless bringing back a character from the Third Doctor’s era. The Silurians and Sea Devils seen previously have been honourable and their plot to destroy the Earth using the humans’ weapons doesn’t strike me as symbolic of that. Additionally, the new designs of both costumes don’t really work and look quite ugly. The fact that the Silurians now have a flashing headlight every time they speak just makes them feel like the Daleks. Whilst the original Silurian design was not fantastic, the Sea Devils look great in The Sea Devils and I’m glad that the modern show reverted to that design in Legend of the Sea Devils. When they are in their armour, the Sea Devils just blend into an indistinct mess of black.
I think that one thing that cannot be laid at the door of Peter Davison is that he wasn’t trying his utmost to try and drag this story from the mire. He’s good from the off in this episode, in that rather tetchy exchange with Turlough about whether he will still wants to leave, almost stating that he doesn’t believe he’ll stick with his decision to stay but he is secretly quite pleased with himself. It’s quite an action-packed story for this Doctor, almost in keeping with having to face off with two adversaries from the Third Doctor’s era and it felt almost unusual to see him scrapping with the crew of the sea base. The Doctor’s dismissive attitude towards humans and the final line are perfectly delivered by Davison. He gets a raw deal quite often in some of his stories, but he can never be said not to try. The companions here also get quite a bad hand, with Tegan and Turlough barely given anything to do. It is probably not a surprise that when they do, Fielding and Strickson feel like they need to do more than the script is asking them to do.
Verdict: Warriors of the Deep feels like a first draft that made it to screen. The rushed nature and concerns about continuity rather than the actual story means that a promising idea suffers considerably. 2/10
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Tom Adams (Vorshak), Ingrid Pitt (Solow), Ian McCulloch (Nilson), Nigel Humphreys (Bulic), Martin Neil (Maddox), Tara Ward (Preston), Norman Comer (Icthar), Nitza Saul (Karina), Stuart Blake (Scibus), Vincent Brimble (Tarpok), Christopher Farries (Sauvix) & James Coombes (Paroli).
Writer: Johnny Byrne
Director: Pennant Roberts
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Composer: Jonathan Gibson
Original Broadcast Dates: 5 – 13 January 1984
Behind the Scenes
- The production problems with this story were in a part due to a snap general election being announced, which meant that preparation time was curtailed. Producer John Nathan-Turner was given the option of canning the story or bringing production forwards.
- During production of this story, Peter Davison and Janet Fielding announced their decision to leave the show later in the year.
- Eric Saward apparently had to rewrite the script on numerous occasions due to complaints from Ian Levine that the Silurians and the Sea Devils were not properly represented.
- The costume for the Myrka was finished half an hour before filming and the paint and glue were not dry by the time cameras rolled. Additionally, the actors inside the costume got lightheaded due to the fumes and the costume marked the set due to the wet paint. Director Pennant Roberts begged John Nathan-Turner to drop it, stating:
It is not the icing on the cake but the lard at the bottom of the pan.Pennant Roberts describing the Myrka
- Writer Johnny Byrne was critical of the finished product, stating that he wanted the seabase to be menacing, which it wasn’t due to overlighting, and was disappointed that his parallels to the Cold War were toned down. He would not write again for the programme, but was involved in two unmade film scripts The Time Lords and The Last of the Time Lords.
- Peter Davison may have contracted hypothermia from swimming in the water tank seen in Part 2, as the operators of the tank had not filled sufficiently in advance for the water to warm up.
- Ingrid Pitt had previously appeared as Galleia in The Time Monster. Along with her husband, Tony Rudlin, she submitted a story pitch called The Macro Men which was eventually adapted by Big Finish into The Macros.
- Stuart Blake had previously appeared as Zoldaz in State of Decay and the Commander in The Five Doctors.
- Vincent Brimble would go on to play Gerald in Village of the Angels.
I think that the stunt – the Doctor falling into the pool of water – is pretty great and unexpected.
I sometimes wonder why I like the people of this miserable world so much. The Silurians and Sea Devils are noble races. They have skills and talents you pathetic humans can only dream about.The Fifth Doctor
Previous Fifth Doctor story: The Five Doctors