If ever a Doctor Who story needed updated special effects and some kind of edited cut along the lines of Day of the Daleks it is this one. There is a good story in this four part serial but it is let down by the effects and the directing.
After watching the episodes, I then watched the BTS documentary and listened to the audio commentary. Both of those special features reveal that, because of Prime Minister Thatcher calling for a snap election, the filming of this story had to be brought up and it lost weeks of production. This resulted in a very rushed filming schedule where scenes were filmed with little to no rehearsal and where the costume for the Myrka wasn’t even done until the day it was needed to film.
That doesn’t excuse everything about the poor execution of this story but it does explain at least some of what went wrong.
The idea to bring the Silurians and Sea Devils together is a good one. Both sects have reasons not to trust the humans and both ruled the planet before humans showed up.
I didn’t like how they retconned the Third Doctor adventures with the two reptilian races. The Doctor made it sound like the Silurians and Sea Devils were extremely peaceful people that would never launch an unprovoked attack. That goes against what happened in both those stories. The Silurians and Sea Devils attacked the humans first without provocation. Yes, there was one Silurian who wanted peace but he was immediately killed by an underling and the Silurians then launched a deadly virus to wipe humanity out. The Sea Devils considered peace for about two minutes until the navy launched a counter attack against the Devils because they had sunk so many human vessels. Neither race really started with peaceful intentions.
I also didn’t like how the Doctor raged against humans and humanity at the end simply because two of the last three living humans wanted to use the deadly gas to kill the reptilians and prevent Armageddon. I could understand the Doctor having that reaction if the humans had wanted to use the gas immediately before the Silurians and Sea Devils launched their attack but it is less understandable once the two races have managed to kill all but a handful of humans on the base.
This was a pretty dark story for the Doctor because once again he wasn’t able to bring about peace between humans and reptiles. I’d say he had even less of a chance here because the Silurians had been planning on wiping out the humans from the start. Their minds weren’t going to be changed. The ending was a gut punch as the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough stand amongst all the dead bodies and the Doctor says, “There must have been a better way.”
On the commentary Davison says he decided to leave the show right before this season started. He had gone back to do a Christmas special on his previous show All Creatures Great and Small and I guess seeing how different the two shows were produced helped make up his mind. He was tired of the late nights and long shoots on DW. He also didn’t like the fact that the producer, John Nathan-Turner was going to bring in an American companion. It’s not that Davison hated Americans but he said the only reason JNT was adding an American was because the show was starting to do well in America and JNT figured having an American aboard the TARDIS would help make it more popular in the States. Davison thought it was a bad gimmick and that Americans liked the show because it was British and was different from shows they normally watched.
Tegan does fine in this story. She handles herself well in most situations and doesn’t really complain like she has in the past. In fact, she wants to throw herself into danger, refusing to be sent back to the TARDIS. She is rather disillusioned by the fact that humanity is once again in a state of cold war between two powerful blocs. It probably wasn’t the vision of the future she was hoping for.
Turlough says he wants to stay on board because he can learn a lot from the Doctor. The Doctor seems to take that with a grain of salt, which is probably wise when it comes to the devious schoolboy. To be fair to Turlough, he does act rather heroic here. Yes, when he believes the Doctor is dead from drowning he is quick to leave and at the end when he doesn’t see a way to save the Doctor he wants to save himself. He does still end up going to help free the Doctor, though.
In the rest of the story he is quite brave. When it becomes apparent he will be captured he tells Tegan to forget him and to keep running. When the Doctor and Tegan are locked in the airlock with the Myrka he grabs a gun and runs to the bridge to demand their release. He later fights against the Sea Devils with the security officers. He had plenty of opportunities to run and hide but he doesn’t.
That’s what makes Turlough a fascinating companion, at least to me. He doesn’t mind putting himself in danger if he thinks there’s a good chance he will survive or that he can save his traveling companions. At the same time, he is the first to cut and run if he thinks a situation is hopeless. He is a pragmatist and is looking out for number 1, but he does care about numbers 2 and 3 enough to risk his life to save them on occasion.
Okay, I have to discuss the Myrka now. Honestly, I felt this could have worked for the same reason that its designer, Matt Irvine, does. If the director had shot the Myrka only in close-ups and with less lighting the obviousness of it being two men in a suit would have gone down. Using the less is more approach like Jaws did with the shark or Alien did with the xenomorph would have benefitted the Myrka and the story. Instead there are too many shots of the creature in all of its, well, glory I guess. I’m not saying it would have fixed all the problems with the costume but it would have helped.
It really is too bad because the story does a good job of building up the Myrka and making it sound like this almost unstoppable creature. I will give the effects team some credit because the creature was rushed and they were still working on it as filming commenced. Under the time constraints they didn’t do too badly. It would have been interesting to see how the Myrka would have turned out given enough time and a director who knew how to shoot around its limitations.
Oh, I have no idea what the evil Dr. Solow was thinking when she performed those really terrible karate moves against the Myrka. She sees a giant reptile creature and thinks she can bring it down with a kick? I laughed so hard.
The action scenes were pretty bad. When the Sea Devils first break into the base they get into a line opposite the humans who are also in a line and just blast away at each other. What makes it worse is that it takes longer than it should for either side to actually hit someone. It was such a lazy way to shoot that scene. They couldn’t have brought in some boxes or crates for the humans to hide behind? I have to say, watching the Third Doctor stories more or less alongside the Fifth Doctor stories does make for some interesting insights. While the action is sometimes laughable in the Third Doctor stories it is usually at least somewhat engaging with people running around and shooting and karate chopping. Some of that would have been appreciated here.
The base itself looks really good. I give the design team lots of credit for that. It is definitely one of the better designed bases I’ve seen.
I’ve written a lot more about this story than I intended. I think overall I actually did like Warriors of the Deep. I felt that it had a strong story that was let down by a rushed filming schedule and some bad effects on the Silurians, Sea Devils, and Myrka. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough though were put to good use and they all had good moments to shine. The pacing was rather good with something always going on. I was never bored. I think with a different director and more time this could have been a much better story than it turned out.
Edited by Virgil Vox, 18 August 2019 - 06:24 PM.