Thursday, 11 June 2015

Story 130 - Warriors of the Deep

In which the TARDIS becomes disabled in orbit above the Earth. The ship is detected by an automated defence satellite - Sentinel 6 - which fires upon it. The Doctor makes an emergency landing and the ship materialises in a storeroom in Seabase 4. It is 2084, and two power blocs are poised to go to war. The detection of the TARDIS puts the base on heightened alert. Missiles can only be launched via a Synch-Operator, whose brain has been modified to link to the battle computers. Two enemy agents - Dr Solow and second-in-command Nilson - have arranged the death of the base's experienced Synch-Operator and plan to brainwash his young replacement, Maddox, into working for them. After evading capture for a time, the Doctor gives himself up by presenting himself in the control room after Tegan and Turlough have already been captured. Detectors pick up activity on the seabed nearby. This is the arrival in the area of a Silurian battle cruiser. It has docked with a Sea Devil shelter. The Silurians intend to reanimate the Sea Devil warriors and use them to capture the base. They will then use its arsenal of missiles to provoke full scale war between the two power blocs. Once the humans have wiped themselves out, they will reclaim their planet. Unaware of this new threat, Solow and Nilson begin work on Maddox.

The base commander, Vorshak, fails to heed the Doctor's warnings and attacks the Silurian craft. It is able to reflect their weapon back upon them. Soon, the Sea Devils begin to break into the base through the airlocks. With them is a huge reptilian creature called the Myrka. It can generate a powerful electrical charge, fatal to the touch. The Doctor knows the three Silurians who are leading the attack - the Silurian Triad - and he insists that he can negotiate with them for a peaceful resolution. Maddox is compelled to sabotage the base missile systems, and to murder one of the crew when they try to stop him. Fleeing the base, Solow is killed by the Myrka. Nilson then tries to make his escape, taking Tegan with him as a hostage. The Doctor has arranged for an ultraviolet light weapon to be set up near the control room - on the principle that the Myrka lives in the depths of the sea and will be destroyed by this. The Doctor uses the weapon to blind Nilson, who then stumbles into the path of Sea Devil commander Sauvix, who shoots him dead. The Myrka is destroyed by the UV weapon.

The Silurians and Sea Devils soon overrun the base and take control. Leader Tarpok refuses to negotiate with the Doctor. They have a device which can override the sabotage caused by Maddox, and so launch the missiles. Realising that he cannot find a peaceful resolution after all, the Doctor has the base flooded with hexachromite - an industrial sealant which is deadly to aquatic and reptilian life. He had previously noticed cannisters of it in the storeroom where the TARDIS materialised. The Sea Devils are all killed, but the Doctor tries to save the Silurians - but first he has to stop the missile launch. He must link his mind directly to the battle computers in order to stop the countdown. A dying Silurian kills Vorshak. All but a handful of humans are left alive. The Doctor wishes there had been some other way...

This four part adventure was written by Johnny Byrne - his third and final script for the series - and was broadcast between 5th and 13th January, 1984. It is the first story of Season 21, which will be Peter Davison's last, and sees the return of two classic Pertwee monsters - the Silurians and their aquatic cousins the Sea Devils.
It is the first base-under-siege story since the last time a classic monster was brought back - Earthshock with the Cybermen. There is a sub-plot concerning the enemy agents which doesn't really get anywhere. One nice touch is that the power blocs are never identified. Seabase 4 has crew members with Eastern European sounding names, as well as Western ones. The Earth of 2084 needn't necessarily be one of East v. West.
Not content with bringing back two monsters from the '70's, we also have a new creature added - the Myrka - which fails on almost every level. Plot-wise, it is unnecessary - as the Sea Devils are perfectly capable of storming the base on their own. Then there is the design. It might just have worked had it been confined to the shadows, but this is one of the most over-lit productions in the history of the programme. A lot of the blame for this has gone to the visual effects team, but the blame must really go to producer JNT - and to Margaret Thatcher.
An early General Election was called in 1983, and the TV studios had to be available for coverage, so production on this story was brought forward. As such, the Myrka costume was not ready in time. (The paint was still wet - it can be seen on actors' costumes if you look carefully). JNT should really have taken the decision to drop it, but he insisted on its inclusion - believing that it could be the story's USP. Inside the Myrka are the two blokes who used to play Dobbin, the pantomime horse, in children's series Rentaghost.

The Silurians and the Sea Devils are given a design overhaul. The Silurians now have more turtle-like faces, with beaks, and a hard carapace. The third eye flashes when they speak - like a Dalek - and is never used as a weapon or tool, as it was in their first appearance. The Sea Devils have gone all Samurai. The added weight of the helmets make their heads loll to one side on several occasions. Monster actors' white T-shirts are glimpsed often. Seems silly to bring back a popular monster then muck about with the design. Mind you, in 2010, the Silurians will be brought back once more as generic sub-Trek lizard people, with no third eye at all. And then they'll get spaceships...
Also seems silly to reference two earlier stories then get the details totally wrong. There must have been an untelevised adventure, as the Silurians we saw back in 1970 had no battle cruisers or ruling Triad. Naturally, Gary Russell had to write a Virgin novel to slavishly address this apparent lack of continuity.
The three principle guest artists all phone their performances in from elsewhere. Horror icon Ingrid Pitt (The Time Monster) was never a very strong actor at the best of times. Her attempts to kung-fu the Myrka are laughable. The late Tom Adams is rather wooden as Vorshak, and the normally reliable Ian McCulloch (playing Nilson) hams it up somewhat.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor has been knocked unconscious and fallen into a tank of water. Turlough drags Tegan away, insisting there is nothing they can do. The Doctor has drowned...
  2. The Doctor and Tegan are trapped in the airlock as the Myrka advances towards them...
  3. The blinded Nilson has been killed by Sauvix, who then trains his weapon on the Doctor...
  4. Surrounded by dead humans, Sea Devils and Silurians, the Doctor bitterly wishes that there had been some other way...

Overall, a great disappointment. This was probably great on paper, so I wouldn't blame Johnny Byrne too much. Let down by poor production values and acting. When fan-boy continuity attacks. Sadly, it won't be the last time this happens.
Things you might like to know:
  • Byrne had intended that the base be dank and dimly-lit - a claustrophobic space. Someone really should have listened.
  • In interviews Byrne claimed that he had reused an old Space: 1999 script - but if that is the case no-one knows which. Must have been an unused one, as no story in either of the two series comes close to this. He was shown the two Pertwee stories, but only after being shown Earthshock first - a case of redo these old stories, but just like this newer one.
  • The Doctor pointing out to his companions the hexachromite gas - deadly to both reptilian and aquatic lifeforms - in the first few minutes of part one must count as one of the most blatant plot signalings of all time.
  • As well as the calling of an early General Election, VFX man Matt Irvine was busy working on something else when he should have been starting work on this. Instead of a month's prep, he had half that time. Steve Cambden's excellent book The Doctor's Effects lists some 57 VFX requirements for this story. That's not 57 items. 12 rifles constitute one requirement on the list.
  • Did you spot the reused Cyberman gun as part of the Silurian equipment in their cruiser?
  • One plus point that really should be mentioned - some very nice model work, especially the underwater stuff.
  • The actors who were to play the Myrka - John Asquith and William Perrie - were to have had a week of rehearsals with the costume, but instead only got their first go in it when it was time to film it.
  • Ingrid Pitt was originally supposed to play base crew member Preston, but had her agent get her the role of Solow instead.
  • This was director Pennant Roberts' last work on the programme. JNT had generally been averse to using directors from before his tenure as well as writers, but he had been in touch with Roberts due to the use of Shada clips in The Five Doctors, and so was offered this.
  • Eric Saward heavily rewrote a lot of this, and the decision to kill off everyone at the end was probably his. However, he does seem to have missed bumping off security chief Bulic.
  • Shellsuits were never cool - and I'm not talking about the new Silurians...

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