The airing of The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood saw the much anticipated return of the Silurians, following a 26 year absence. Following the controversial re-design of the Daleks, I was more than a little apprehensive â€“ but there was no need! The story, like the reptiles, was fast, slick and impressive. So to celebrate their triumphant return, we take a look back to their last appearance, as we review; Warriors of the Deep.
Itâ€™s 2084 – and aboard Sea Base 4, Commander Vorshak and his crew detect an unidentified object. As they investigate, a Silurian ship monitors their activities. Their mission; to invade the Base with the help of their reptilian brothers the Sea Devils, turn its weapons on the rival power block and invoke a war which will lead to their reclamation of the Earth.
With the TARDISâ€™ dramatic materialisation on the Sea Base, all the major pieces are soon in place. Its crew, recovering from the enjoyable romp that was the anniversary special, set off to investigate – their detected arrival is the latest of a series of unexplainable events which leads to the order of their capture and the build up to one of the most memorable cliff-hangers in the programme’s long and illustrious history.
Though Iâ€™d watched the last series of the Fourth Doctor in wide eyed wonderment as a child â€“ all things â€˜Whoâ€™ really fell into place for me with the arrival of the Fifth Doctor. Perhaps it was my affection for cricket or the lengthy blonde hair I sported as a child, but it took just a brief appearance on Pebble Mill for Peter Davison to be confirmed as â€˜my Doctorâ€™.
As I watch the moment again many years on, it feels like only yesterday that, confronted by armed guards, the Doctor is forced into the water below. As his body sinks motionless, Turlough struggles to restrain his companion; â€œFace it Tegan, heâ€™s drowned!â€ he declares. I still remember the shock â€“ as I looked to my parents for comfort â€“ surely this wasnâ€™t the end already? Surely he couldnâ€™t regenerate at the end of episode one, they wouldnâ€™t do that â€“would they? My mind raced and my parents silence only added to the tension. The days went by as slowly as an attacking Myrka – but episode 2 soon provided relief from my anguish….. Arenâ€™t ones formative years hard enough without having to cope with such worry?
Itâ€™s not long before the Doctor comes face to face with a familiar shape on the Sea Base scanner, as the Silurian Battle cruiser leaps into action. The Sea Base weapons are rendered useless and the Doctor offers to negotiate as, one by one; the air locks come under attack.
The joy of classic Doctor Who for me is in the extremes in which it operates. We move seamlessly from the building tension to the utterly ridiculous action sequence that follows. The Myrka forces entry to the Sea Base â€“ helped greatly by the foam doors that protect it. As one drops on Tegan, the Doctor struggles admirably to a) free his companion and b) convince the audience of its considerable weight â€“ despite his best efforts he is unsuccessful in both, leaving the lumbering Myrka to unwittingly assist. The rampaging aggressor then goes on a bizarre, sluggish and unconvincing rampage as the Silurians head for the base, brushing off Doctor Solow’s bizarre kung-fu attack, but finally succumbing to the Doctor’s Ultraviolet light show.
Capture escape and recapture follow until the Doctor and Tegan are finally escorted to the bridge, where the Doctor reintroduces himself to Triad leader Icthar who reveals the Silurian plot. The Costume limitation of a race unable to turn their heads, allows the Doctor to escape by walking off in the other direction to rejoin his companions.
With Icthar ordering missile launch, the Doctor is forced to release Xochromide gas into the ventilation system – he hopes to use the time the gas takes to spread, to negotiate the Silurian/Sea Devil withdrawal. Following his unsuccessful attempts, there is only one option – to link his mind to the Base computer and send a phased charge at the ignition circuit. During disarmament, Icthar shoots the Commander â€“ now all aboard are dead. â€œThere should have been another wayâ€ reflects the Doctor poignantly as the episode draws to a dramatic close.
The Doctorâ€™s on fine form, serving humour, anger, warmth and regret in equal measure with equal skill â€“ a performance matched by his companions who are superb throughout.
We witness the developing relationship between the main characters and the continuing exposure to their strengths and vulnerabilities; the troubled Turlough, switching between bravery and cowardice in the blink of an eye and a fiercely loyal Tegan â€“ brash, abrasive, warm and caring in the same instant.
Like the post office on pension day â€“ itâ€™s all a little bit slow. Not till the final episode do we really feel the menace and desperation thatâ€™s intended.
The introduction of the irritating speech activated red light bulbs â€“ this was nearly as distracting as the ill fitting reptile costumes!
The IKEA Sea Base setâ€“ the bright/airy feel is as out of place as the compulsory use of eyeliner for the Sea Base crew â€“ this is an underwater military base â€“ not a 1980â€™s disco.
Definitely worth a watch – but remember to wear your rose tinted swimming goggles!
Overall Story Information:
Story Title: Warriors of the Deep
Production Code: 6L
Writer: Johnny Byrne
Director: Pennant Roberts
Script Editor: Eric Saward
Length: 4 episodes (25 minutes)
Peter Davison – The Doctor
Janet Fielding – Tegan Jovanka
Mark Strickson – Vislor Turlough
Ordering this story:
Warriors of the Deep was released on DVD in 2008 and can be bought as part of a larger set entitled Beneath the Surface, which also includes The Sea Devils and Doctor Who & The Silurians.