Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep Review (or ‘Deep Shit’)

I’ve had to take emergency action.

I found that I just couldn’t watch Warriors of the Deep last thing at night in bed because it was just sending me to sleep.

In four days I got through just over one episode, and I just couldn’t let that carry on any further because I’d still be watching it into May at that rate.

So I put it on while I had my lunch, and I kid you not, I fell asleep during episode 4.

Right in the middle of the day, feeling perfectly fine and not tired going in, Warriors of the Deep sucked the life out of me so much that I entered the Land of Nod.

I remember the first time I saw it, when it was shown as part of a UK Gold Doctor Who weekend in the mid-90s, and I was immensely disappointed by it, and that’s taking into account that kids love most things, especially if they convince themselves that it will be good before they even watch it.

From the pictures it looked good, and it had two of my favourite monsters in it together.

Even allowing for all that though, I distinctly remember thinking “Well that was just rubbish”.

The only time I’ve ever been more disappointed in watching a TV show was when my brother – having talked the show up for years – bought the VHS of the Tripods when it was released. Urgh, that was awful.

But I digress…

In the same vein as my Five Doctors review, I get the feeling that you already know the tone that this review will take…

Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep Review: What’s This One About

The Silurians and Sea Devils attack an underwater base.

That’s all you’re getting from me on that score.

Thoughts

There was a comment left on this blog a few weeks ago from someone saying that they couldn’t wait for me to get to this review, because they’d made the assumption that I’d savage it. And you know what? When I read that comment I thought

From The File Marked "Pointless Direction": What possible point is there in having the Sea Devil miss Ian McCulloch at point blank range?

From The File Marked “Pointless Direction”: What possible point is there in having the Sea Devil miss Ian McCulloch at point blank range?

“Hmm, I’m not sure that’s necessarily true”, but evidently I was forgetting just how ropey this story is.

If you watch the documentary on the DVD you’ll get some kind of idea of the problems that the production team had to deal with when it came to working against the clock, scheduling, costume design and other such things because of the snap general election that was called at the time.

And while that’s something I think should be taken into consideration, I have to judge it based on the state that it’s in, and not the state that it could have been in.

What we have is a terrible Doctor Who story on almost every level.

Is There A Missing Story I Don’t Know About?

There’s an anecdote on the documentary about how Ian Levine found a ridiculous amount of continuity errors in the initial and subsequent drafts of Warriors of the Deep, and it got to the point where Eric Saward flipped his lid and questioned whether or not the story was being written for fanboys or the general public.

I think both sides have a point here, and I’ve said on many occasions in these reviews that the insistency on continuity and harking back to the past in this era of Doctor Who is a bit much considering there was no way of seeing the old stories at the time.

But these are never black & white situations; there are always shades of grey. Back in my Genesis of the Daleks review, I criticised Terry Nation for rewriting the Daleks’ continuity that he wrote himself. There’s no excuse for that; he should have known better.

Here, I think it’s fair game to complain, and I’ll tell you why.

The problem is not that the continuity has crept in to the detriment of the story, but rather that the story is making up fake continuity to make it work.

Somewhere along the line, the Doctor has become familiar with the Myrka beast and how it works, he’s met Icthar and he talks about how these reptiles are friendly, peace loving types always look for a way to find a non-aggressive solution to their problems.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Doctor says that in the middle of a Silurian attack on the base, and ask a more pressing question.

Did writer Johnny Byrne – he who penned Season 20 turkey ‘Arc of Infinity’ no-less – bother to watch Doctor Who & The Silurians or The Sea Devils before he sat down to work on this?

It doesn’t seem like it.

For one thing, neither the Silurians nor the Sea Devils were remotely friendly or peace loving. Yes, the leader of the Silurians was interested in peace, but he was one person. The rest of the Silurians in the story were intent on wiping out the humans and actually killed him for thinking that way.

The Sea Devils? Well once again, their leader was interested in peace, but only for about two minutes before he too decided the correct course of action was to destroy humanity.

What we see in Warriors of the Deep bears no resemblance to the characterisation in these stories. There wasn’t a character called Icthar in their last appearance, the only Silurian he got on with the aforementioned murdered leader and there was never any mention of a ‘Triad’.

The Sea Devils weren’t actually called ‘Sea Devils’ either; it was a name given to them by the fat bloke who saw them on the rigs. And yet here that’s their assumed name. Fair enough though, that’s a Doctor Who standard (see also: Ice Warriors,

The mask flailing out the back of the Sea Devil costume is a classic example of shoddy design and - again - direction

The mask flailing out the back of the Sea Devil costume is a classic example of shoddy design and – again – direction

The)

So the continuity is bad, but it could have been worse; what Ian Levine apparently prevented with his insistence on continuity was the removal of errors like the Silurians coming from the planet Siluria and having in depth knowledge of the Time Lords.

We can at least be thankful for that.

Other Writing Issues

There are more issues with Warriors of the Deep though that go beyond continuity errors and are simply down to bad writing.

The dialogue is excruciatingly bad, with the characters talking in exposition and doing one of the things I hate the most – naming each other when they don’t need to. Nobody talks like that. When you’re speaking to your mate Bob, you don’t call him Bob every time you utter a sentence to him, do you?

Then you’ve got some awful plotting which just makes you shake your head. When the travellers find and remark upon the gas that kills reptiles in Episode 1, they may as well have turned to the camera and said “Can you guess how this story is going to end, kids?”

Meanwhile the idea that we must “Face it, the Doctor has drowned” because he fell into a pool of water from a height of about 8 feet is nonsense, and it was shown to be nonsense at the start of the next episode when it turned out he was perfectly alright.

Also, I just couldn’t get my head around the subplot with the sync operator, although that may have been more to do with lack of interest in what was on the screen.

Really, it’s just another poorly written story from a shonky writer. He must have used up all his good ideas in The Keeper of Traken

Production

Blame for Warriors of the Deep must also rest with the production team.

The costumes for both the Sea Devils and Silurians look fine if you see pictures of them, but in action they are terrible. The Sea Devils heads wobble about to the point where you feel concerned they are going to fall off, The Silurians have such a rigid design that the actors can barely walk in them (that big, plastic, turtle-shell-like plate looks like it’s cutting into the crotch of the actors when they move about) and the faces have absolutely no mobility, to the point where they had to add a Dalek-like light on the head that flashed whenever one of them spoke.

Then you’ve got basic errors like the masks hanging out the back of their costumes.

As for the Myrka? Well it looks like a giant pantomime horse, and it actually manages to look more cuddly than frightening. Still, it’s not as bad as lore suggests.

The sets meanwhile are a mixed bag. Many people criticise the ridiculous level of lighting, and though I can understand the problem, I wonder if a theoretical Underwater Base might not be brightly lit? Even so, it would have been better if it was

Mon Then!!

Mon Then!!

presented more atmospherically.

While the quality of the sets aren’t all that bad, that rubber door just looks stupid.

Direction

Nobody is spared criticism here, as the direction is staggeringly bad at times.

Although it’s bad pretty much all the way through, I found Episode 3 really highlighted the problems.

For a start, the amount of dead air is incredible. So often the characters – especially the Silurians – just stand about doing nothing if they aren’t moving incredibly slowly. There’s a scene that probably lasts about a minute and a half that involves one Silurian walking over to a switch and making sure it’s on. Baffling.

The action scenes are just as bad though. Some might blame the sets, but there can be no excuse for choreographing numerous battle scenes where rows of Sea Devils and humans stand out in the open shooting at each other.

And perhaps you could explain the point in having that Sea Devil initially miss the static and blinded Ian McCulloch before finally shooting him? What purpose did that serve?

Acting

The acting isn’t up to much either.

Nobody is that bad, although Ingrid Pitt’s karate scene is a joke, but almost the entire cast is pedestrian at best.

Once again Janet Fielding is terrible as Tegan, putting in no enthusiasm or interest to her role. Look at her reaction to having a giant metal door land on her and then seeing a giant sea monster coming straight for her. She looks bored.

I thought Mark Strickson was ok, and but for him initially ignoring the effects of being shot and then just suddenly dying, Vorshak is acceptable enough.

There's Tegan, once again emoting boredom in the face of peril. Here, she's being crushed by an enormous metal door and stalked by a deadly sea monster. You wouldn't think it.

There’s Tegan, once again emoting boredom in the face of peril. Here, she’s being crushed by an enormous metal door and stalked by a deadly sea monster. You wouldn’t think it.

So What IS Good About Warriors of the Deep?

To me there’s only one positive about Warriors of the Deep and that is Peter Davison.

Against all odds, with poor production, design, direction, acting, costumes and writing, Davison takes his job absolutely seriously and delivers a strong and passionate performance as the Doctor.

He manages to be more impressive than he was during most of his first and second series, and it’s that performance that – in spite of everything – manages to drag this story slightly above the likes of Time Flight and Terminus in my estimation.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

Well he’s had a haircut since the Five Doctors, and Tegan’s hair has grown a bit, so you have to expect that some time has passed.

But in terms of screen time, this is another story that has only lasted a day.

Random Observations

  • What is up with the makeup most of the women are wearing here? I know the stock response will be “Ach well, it was the 1980s”, but they just look terrible.
  • There’s a school of thought that suggests the Ingrid Pitt karate scene is key to Doctor Who being cancelled in the mid 80s. On Room 101, Michael Grade used it as an example of why he hated the show. So they might have a point. That scene – put in at the request of Pitt so she could show off her supposed skills and appear spritely in her middle age – should never have made the final cut. It’s embarrassing.
  • It’s around this point that I – as a viewer not specifically looking for it – pick up on Eric Saward’s penchant for killing as many of the supporting cast off as he can. This time he manages to kill almost everyone.
  • In amongst a large collection of problems, one thing to look out for especially is a scene in Episode 3 where the Myrka kills four extras. The acting on display is just beyond the pale. Look at the woman with the big arse ‘collapsing dead’ by very cautiously manoeuvring herself to the floor.
  • Janet Fielding really annoys me. Not only is her character unlikeable, but – like I said earlier – she acts bored throughout, and shows a disregard for the programme both while she was in it and once she was out of it. While most companions seem thankful to have been part of the series, I recall seeing her at the one and only Doctor Who convention I ever went to, back in the early 90s. While there, her talk was to the effect of “I don’t like the show and I don’t understand why you all come to these things. Doctor Who’s time has come and gone and should be replaced by something like Robin Hood”. When you watch the DVD documentaries and listen to the commentaries, you’ll also notice a thinly veiled contempt for it. Now that’s all fair enough, because if she doesn’t like it then fine, but what I find galling about the whole thing is that she’s quite content to take the money. It doesn’t sit well with me.
  • The “What have you been eating” joke smacks of something that one person found funny and expected everyone else to love as well.
  • Why was there a bloke standing right at the door when the Doctor & Tegan escaped from the Myrka, and why did he move so dangerously close to it?
  • What’s the point of having Tegan looking at blinding ultraviolet light when the Doctor tells her not to, and then not follow up on it? Or did they and I was just so bored that I missed it?
  • I’d have preferred the Sea Devils to still be wearing the fishnet outfit.
  • But credit to the production team for making sure they at least had the right voices. The Silurians sound like robots, and it’s made worse knowing that the same voice would be employed for the Kandy Man.
  • Ultimately, the Sea Devils are irrelevant to the plot, and their presence only serves to make the Silurians look like they can’t handle themselves.
  • One unfortunate issue with the plot is the idea that the Cold War is still ongoing. It would be churlish to complain about that though.
  • Nothing to report regarding the Incidental Music, which is a good thing.
  • Don’t listen to the commentary; Mat Irvine is on it. He’s just soooo dull. Whatsmore, he ignores what’s happening on screen as he drones on about pish nobody gives the slightest toss about. I put the commentary on to listen to the cast’s reaction to the Ingrid Pitt karate scene and it was very nearly missed – and would have been if not for Davison forcefully interrupting him – because of Irvine’s tedious drivel.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #185. You look at that and think “Yeah, fair enough”, but then you see The Time Monster, Meglos, The Horns of Nimon, The Space Museum, The Dominators, The Space Pirates, Fear Her, Dragonfire  and TheUnderwater Menace ranked lower and think it’s grossly unfair.

Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep Review: Final Thoughts

I’m surprised at how much I’ve written here, but there’s just so many things wrong with Warriors of the Deep that I couldn’t help it.

Almost nothing in it works, and but for the performance of Peter Davison it would be a story with no redeeming qualities, which would be terrible considering I think I managed to say something nice about every story up to this point, even the

All The Myrka ever wanted was a cuddle.

All The Myrka ever wanted was a cuddle.

ones I have ear-marked for the Bottom 10.

And really, as things stand I honestly believe Warriors of the Deep will be in amongst them.

What’s surprising to me is that when I started these reviews, I didn’t envisage so many Peter Davison Era stories being so poorly rated compared to other eras, but there are now four stories that I consider truly rotten.

I do think – or at least expect – that this is his last absolute stinker, but you never can tell.

Warriors of the Deep is a deeply unsatisfying, mind-numbingly boring mess beset by production, direction, acting, writing, design and costume problems.

Avoid it like the plague.

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4 Responses to Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep Review (or ‘Deep Shit’)

  1. Rob L says:

    The hexachromite scene in episode one is often brought up in reviews as clumsily signposting the story’s resolution. I always get the impression that it was meant to be the huge moral choice of the story – the Doctor was aware all along that it was an option, but instead chose to try and bring about peace instead. As a result, his dithering means that everyone ends up dead, reptile and human alike. However, nothing is made of this beyond that first scene (which the viewers back in 84 would have probably forgotten by the time of episode 4) and the final line – if the story had instead made this plot element more pronounced, with the Doctor’s refusal to compromise his ideals resulting in the deaths of those he was trying to save and his consequent guilt, it might have been a bit more effective.

    The stuff with the Doctor knowing about the Myrka, the Triad and Icthar didn’t bother me, simply giving the impression of an untelevised adventure, something RTD did rather a lot with Rose and Number 10. On the other hand, Janet Fielding really does get on my tits. Whingey character, whingey actress. And I can’t see anything positive about Davison’s performance, either in this or any other story. He comes across half-arsed throughout his run.

    You’ve still got Resurrection, Planet of Fire and Frontios to endure. You poor, poor man.

    Any chance you’ll do the new adventures and 8th doctor who books after the classic series?

  2. sgmilne says:

    The thing is though that by the time RTD got to Doctor Who, the idea of missing adventures and stuff happening off screen is accepted as a definite.

    When Warriors of the Deep was on the only story to hint at it was Face of Evil. Plus, there’s reference to the “two times the Doctor has met them before”, which implies the two Pertwee stories.

    I just think it’s poor writing.

    As for reviewing the New Adventures and 8th Doctor Books; I just don’t think I’ll have the time. I might do a “Best and Worst of Doctor Who books” based on what I’ve already read, and I plan to do the same with the Big Finishes.

  3. Perry Armstrong says:

    My nickname for this show is ‘Warriors of the DERP’, and I actually find it quite enjoyable when in the right mood (think MST3K).

    Best ‘Mon Then’ yet 😉

  4. NickR says:

    Love your subhead – very apt. Good review of a crap story. And don’t worry – Resurrection, Frontios and Planet of Fire are much better than this!

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