Review: Doctor Who Easter Special – “Legend of the Sea Devils”

Before you read on, there are spoilers ahead for this week’s review of Doctor Who. The Sea Devils last emerged from their aquatic depths in Warriors of the Deep. Thirty-eight years later, the iconic sea creatures are back. The amphibious cousins of the Silurians are naturally up to no good. It’s 1807. Madame Ching, the infamous pirate queen, enters a village and sabotages a stone statue of a Sea Devil.

The creature runs amok in a small Chinese village. The Sea Devil, the Chief of its aquatic clan, hunts down the villagers with an energy sword, killing them with hexo-toxic poisoning. Among the dead include Ying Was, who attempts to stop Ching from freeing the alien in the first place. After a swift death by Sea Devil, the focus turns to his son, Ying Wai, for the rest of the story. More on him later.

The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan arrive to discover some peculiar geomagnetic disturbances and a flying pirate ship piloted by the Sea Devils. Madame Ching hunts for Sin Ji Hun’s fabled Flor De La Mar treasure lost at sea in a bid to pay a ransom for her two children taken by Gun Podai and the Black Flag fleet. 

The Sea Devils - Doctor Who.
The Sea Devils – Doctor Who. (Pic: BBC).

Out at sea, the Sea Devil’s ultimate weapon, the Hua Shen (a massive sea monster), eats a trawlerman and his boat. In order to gain Ching’s trust, the Doctor and Yaz return to 1533 to find out what happened to Sin Ji Hun’s ship. Initially, it appears that Ji Hun allied with the Sea Devils and mutinied against his crew.

Ji Hun entrusted a crew member with a piece of powerful Sea Devil technology, the keystone. In the present, we find out that Ying Wai and his father were descendants of Lei Bao, one of Ji Hun’s crew. Bao was the crew member entrusted with the keystone. 

Since 1533, the descendants of Bao’s family swore to protect the statue and the keystone. With Ji Hun’s ship destroyed by the Hua Shen, the Chief Sea Devil imprisoned Ji Hun and attempted to retrieve the keystone. The Sea Devil became imprisoned by the technology as a statue.

The combined power of the keystone and Sea Devil technology beneath the ocean would disrupt the Earth’s poles, causing said geomagnetic disturbances before inevitably flooding the world and giving the Sea Devils free rein to reclaim the world once theirs.

Dan the Pirate - Doctor Who.
Dan the Pirate – Doctor Who. (Pic: BBC).

The Sea Devils, who’ve spent the best part of three decades off-screen, are a welcome return to the series. There’s nothing to fault them. They make worthy adversaries to Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor. Sometimes you need a bit of old with the new, and with a splash of pirate-ness added to the mix, “Legend of the Sea Devils” makes a perfect Easter weekend special.

The induction of the Doctor and Yaz’s same-sex relationship in the New Year’s Day Dalek special was unexpected. It was a notable highlight within an otherwise drearily predictable holiday feature-length. The storyline is handled with careful consideration as the Doctor addresses the status of her relationship with Yaz. 

The Doctor admits that she’d choose Yaz for partnership if she could make it work. She holds Yaz in high regard but explains that she won’t be able to have a relationship. She reveals that there’s every chance she might, but inevitably, it will hurt. Instead, she later asks if they can simply live in the present and continue their adventures the way they always have. It’s a fitting, well-written and bittersweet conclusion to the storyline. 

Yaz - Doctor Who.
Yaz – Doctor Who. (Pic: BBC).

With Jodie Whittaker’s finale looming ever closer, the Thirteenth Doctor sits with Yaz by the water and makes a wish as she skims a pebble. In the final scene of the episode, Whittaker’s Doctor wishes for her adventures to go on forever. If only they could, but as we know, everything will inevitably change. 

Other highlights include Dan’s phone call with Diane. She tells Dan she misses him and hopes he’ll be returning home soon. His pirate outfit, however, is pretty awful. He was a dab hand with a frying pan against the Sontarans, and this time, he’s trying his luck with a Sea Devil energy sword. He has some marginal success against the aquatic fiends, impressing Sin Ji Hun. 

Madame Ching is pushed to the sidelines as multiple plot points compete for space in a cluttered story. However, the clutteredness of the episode relates to the number of characters occupying the episode. At less than fifty minutes long, it’s no easy feat to condense a story into that timeframe. The story is a tad convoluted but easy to follow for the most part.

The Doctor - Doctor Who.
The Doctor – Doctor Who. (Pic: BBC).

The same for Ying Wai. His father’s death left a door open for Wai to develop as a character and take on a more meaningful role in the episode. Sadly this did not come to pass. In the end, Wai served a purpose to push the narrative forward, and no more. Aside from occasionally tame special effects, the Sea Devils themselves look stunning.

As far as the special effects go, the Hua Shen, otherwise known as the giant sea monster, looks incredible. However, the Hua Shen is sadly the weakest aspect of this story. There’s a semi-entertaining showdown between Madame Ching’s ship and the monster as they fire cannons at the creature.

The monster further eats a trawlerman and his fishing boat to confirm its implacable nature against humankind. It later eats the TARDIS, a neat way to bring the Doctor and Yaz into the Sea Devil’s secret underwater location. Much like Ying Wai, the Hua Shen is a contrived plot device.

Doctor Who’s Centenary special, commemorating 100 years of the BBC, will be airing on BBC One on November 23rd, 2022, and there’s certainly a lot to wrap up before the end of the series. 

For more Doctor Who content, Flickluster reported that Christopher Eccleston had ruled out any future multi-Doctor stories. What did you think of Doctor Who? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Matt Bailey

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