; Date: Sun Apr 17 2022
Jodie Whittaker's time as The Doctor is drawing to a close, and she deserves to finally get a good script to work with. An uber-fan like me should have excitedly watched the episode all the way to the end. This episode on paper should have been excellent. A chance to revisit a classic Doctor Who villain race, plus another historical story, and the promise of a large sea monster. But...
This episode appears to be another Fictional-Historical Doctor Who episode. In this case there are some historical figures from Chinese history, that I've never heard of. As is often done with Doctor Who historical stories, some fantastical element is inserted, in this case the Sea Devils.
It's worth reminding the reader at the outset that part of the original remit of Doctor Who was to educate young people about history. Hopefully, the time machine would give the show the excuse to visit any time in history, and bring that period to life rather than it feeling like a dull boring history book.
Given that The Doctor did her fan-girl-over-reaction to this female pirate character, she must be a historical figure that I've never heard of. And, the treasure being spoken of must have been historical, as was the earlier sea captain who I also have never heard of.
These images sure exude swashbuckling excitement. They imply some excitement, some intrigue. But...
I apologize for not remembering any names, and not doing my usual over-thinking deep analysis. I found myself unable to finish the episode because it was bordering on boring.
I don't understand this. Chris Chibnall is an uber-fan of Doctor Who, and he has produced some excellent television shows. On paper he should have been a good Doctor Who show runner. But, I can't wait for his time to end, because the stories he's pushed on us have gotten worse and worse and worse.
Why would The Doctor do a fan-girl-fan-boy overreaction to meeting historical figures? This happened when meeting Rosa Parks and all the others. It does not fit all previous incarnations of The Doctor. In every previous time, such meetings involved zero googly eyed adoration but instead was like s/he was meeting any other kind of person. The uber-fan-girl-fan-boy reaction is out of place, since The Doctor is very well aware of the need to avoid perturbing history. A meeting with a historically significant person has the risk of perturbing history if that person gets a clue of their eventual significance. Hence the fan-girl-fan-boy thing grates on my nerves every time.
So, the story? On paper it has the elements of a great episode. A modern return of the Sea Devils, an exotic location, historical larger-than-life figures, a giant sea monster, and curious anomalies. But.. it all just seems so ridiculous.
One of the ridiculosities was even stated by The Doctor. For what possible reason would Sea Devils have a sailing ship? This makes absolutely zero sense. Sailing ships are a tool of surface dwellers, and Sea Devils are not surface dwellers. Further, why would a Sea Devil ship (if they had one) have glowing levitation pods? That makes no sense.
I feel there's a need for a tangent into what the Sea Devils are. These creatures date from one or two Jon Pertwee (The Third Doctor) episodes. In Doctor Who lore there are two races, the Sea Devils and the Silurians, which had ruled Planet Earth tens of millions of years ago. They foretold a great cataclysm that threatened their survival, and both races buried themselves in the depths. The Sea Devils buried themselves in the oceans, while the Silurians buried themselves under land masses. Modern society has been probing the depths, and that has woken up portions of these races. Inevitably when they come to the surface, there is chance for conflict where the Sea Devils or Silurians want to retake control over the surface from those pesky humans. Usually, The Doctor ends up trying to parlay a peace treaty under the belief that both races should attempt to work together rather than engage in war.
The Pertwee-era Sea Devils appearances were much better than this. You'll have to get past the cheap props - the Sea Devils literally looked like guys wearing rubber suits - but the story was much better. I watched those stories all the way to the end, but couldn't get past the halfway point of this one.
Doctor Who episodes are supposed to follow the Hero's Journey format. That means, the story starts with the Hero at the start of a journey, and as the story goes things get scarier and riskier at every step. The mid-point of the story must be tense, with the tension building towards a climax. At the climax, the hero wins out, gets a great big healing response, and everything is great. Another aspect of the Doctor Who format is to split the story into four segments, where the segment boundaries are points of ratcheting up the tension. By the fourth segment all heck has to have broken loose.
That's not what Legend of the Sea Devils did. Instead, it felt like a cardboard story, cardboard characters, surrounded by a spectacle that should have been an excellent story. Instead of satisfying Doctor Who, it was boring blahness. I don't remember ever giving up a Doctor Who episode in disgust like this - that even includes the one with the Absorbaloff guy, which was a horrid idea, but I did manage to finish the episode. Again - cardboard story, cardboard characters, surrounded by a spectacle that should have been a good story, which I could not finish.