Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Sea Devils Episode Four

The one where the Sea Devils emerge from the ocean...

These Sea Devils are quite bloodthirsty fellas, aren't they? It's assumed by everybody from the start that they are aggressive and homicidal, and indeed they are. There's no mercy or lenience shown by these creatures, they are intent on simply killing any humans that cross their paths: the crews of the three vanished ships, Clark and Hickman, the Doctor, and now the innocent prison guards on the beach. Unlike their Silurian cousins, these Sea Devils seem much more like generic monsters than intelligent beings; wordless murderers rather than reasoning thinkers.

In one of his less wise (but braver!) moves, the Doctor leads Jo through a live minefield, using his trusty sonic screwdriver to detect where the buried explosives are (amazingly, this is only the third time the Third Doctor has used the sonic). He then uses the sonic to deliberately detonate the mines close to the pursuing Sea Devil, which screams repeatedly in some considerable distress before scarpering back into the sea. The explosions on the beach are pretty impressive, it must be said!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Sea Devils Episode Three

The one where the Doctor goes from prison visitor to prisoner...

It seems Michael Briant thought the end of episode 2 was so good that the reprise should last more than 90 seconds, which is a bit of a chore (I know contemporary viewers had had a whole week in between, and I've had just a day, but still...). The Master needs to brush up on his knife-throwing skills because he misses the Doctor (chilling that he was aiming for his head!), but I'm wondering whether he missed on purpose because when he subsequently has the perfect chance to kill him, he doesn't bother. The Master claims he'd rather the Doctor witness the extermination of his beloved human race instead. Hmmm... those shifting priorities of the Master's.

There's not a lot to this episode, as it mainly concerns the Doctor being imprisoned and escaping, but it's a fantastic showcase for Jo Grant, whose ingenuity and determination really pay off. Before embarking on this Pertwee marathon, I always considered Jo Grant to be a rather dense, kooky clot, but after having watched through, episode by episode, I must admit she's a brilliant companion, and a true friend and sidekick to the Doctor. They adore one another, and Jo's innate resourcefulness is often highlighted.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Sea Devils Episode Two

The one where the Doctor and the Master sword-fight...

The hulking, heavy-breathing monster in the shadows was Clark all along, in a classic cliffhanger twist from writer Malcolm Hulke. The terrified, wounded Clark mumbles something about "sea devils", a name for the creatures that sticks from hereon in as if it is their actual name, rather than an invention of a frightened man's fractured imagination. A similar thing happened with the Ice Warriors, who were named as such by Walters in The Ice Warriors, and ever since then everybody's called them that (rarely Martians).

The first five minutes of this episode rattle along at breakneck speed and manage to be both thrilling and scary in equal measure. The Sea Devil watches the Doctor, Jo and Clark from the shadows, contemplating its next move.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Sea Devils Episode One

The one where the Doctor visits the Master in prison...

The episode opens with a great introductory scene in which the crew of the SS Pevensey Castle are under attack by an unseen enemy, and are forced to abandon ship. It transpires that it is one of three ships which have vanished without trace of late, with all hands lost. It's a great way to set up a story (reminiscent of the first scene of Terror of the Zygons), and I love the way the picture fades into a shot of the Doctor and Jo approaching the fortress island aboard Robbins' boat. Malcolm Clarke's eccentric soundtrack feels eerie and mournful, somehow capturing the maritime theme without resorting to cliched hornpipes.

The score bubbles and burbles, with moments which evoke a "lost at sea" yearning, a maritime melancholy. I realise Clarke's music for The Sea Devils is a controversial one - there are aspects of it which startle, such as what I call the 'Sea Devil sting' - but I adore it, it's so wonderfully strange and experimental, in the best tradition of the Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire. Parts of the soundtrack sound unexpectedly ahead of their time, as if lifted from a 1980s Doctor Who story such as The Twin Dilemma (also Clarke), or a 21st century movie soundtrack such as Disasterpeace's It Follows. It's also reminiscent of some of John Carpenter's spookier work. I really, really love this score!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Curse of Peladon Episode Four

The one where Hepesh leads a revolt against the royal house of Peladon...

The first few scenes of episode four feel like one huge info-dump on the part of writer Brian Hayles, who tries to have his characters (principally the Doctor) explain everything that's happened in one long summary and Q&A. Arcturus has been exposed, and destroyed by Ssorg, reduced to nothing more than a gooey green blob with a disgorged eyeball (it's not as if he consisted of very much to start with!).

The Doctor explains that Arcturus and Hepesh were in cahoots, and that Hepesh's ultimate aim was to unseat King Peladon and seize control of the planet for himself, thereby preserving its ancient customs and ridding his beloved people of the Galactic Federation altogether. This doesn't quite ring true with me because at no stage did Hepesh come across as your typical power-mad conspirator. All he really wants is for progress to go away. He is not a man who embraces change; he prefers tradition and custom. He's the sort of man who catches the same bus to work every day for 40 years and always sits on the same seat, reading the same newspaper, and doing the same crossword.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

The Curse of Peladon Episode Three

The one where the Doctor fights the King's Champion...

It's not a very appealing pair of options, is it? Death, or trial by combat. Especially when the fella you're fighting is the King's Champion, Grun, who towers over you with arms and legs the size of railway sleepers. It's the best that King Peladon can do for the Doctor, who is accused of sacrilege and seems doomed to perish in some way at the behest of High Priest Hepesh's barbaric beliefs.

There's lots of knowing and accusing looks from Jon Pertwee toward Geoffrey Toone, as it seems the Doctor's sussed out that Hepesh is the fly in the ointment here, the one who's trying to scupper the galactic alliance and keep Peladon in the dark ages. Pertwee's great at these subtle glances and accusatory looks ("You're a wily old bird, Hepesh"), with a tiny smile in the corners of his mouth to express his knowing bemusement (however, I doubt he'll ever better the scene with Fulton Mackay in episode 3 of Doctor Who and the Silurians).

Friday, March 08, 2019

The Curse of Peladon Episode Two

The one where the Doctor is sentenced to death without trial for desecrating a holy temple...

The falling granite statue misses its target thanks to a quick-witted Doctor, but this attempt on the life of a delegate makes everybody very jumpy (particularly Alpha Centauri), and the conference is in danger of falling through. Luckily, the Doctor has taken very easily to his newfound role as chairman of the committee, and pleads with everybody to remain calm and retire to consider the way forward.

In their quarters, the Doctor and Jo have a good chinwag about what they think is going on and who they suspect of trying to scupper the conference. Yet again, the chemistry between Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning is obvious as the two tease and chuckle their way through the script like old friends just having a good time. They're physically close in frame too, reflecting the "mother hen" nature of Pertwee's portrayal, and it's a delight when Jo prods the Doctor's self-importance by saying: "You love all that chairman delegate stuff, admit it!", and he replies, "Well how do you like being a princess, princess?"