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Tv Review: Doctor Who legend of the Sea Devils

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The second of three Doctor Who specials this year has been released titled ‘Legend of the Sea Devils’, this story is the penultimate episode for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, who will regenerate this autumn. 

The episode, written by showrunner Chris Chibnall and Ella Road, sees the Doctor and companions Yaz and Dan (Mandip Gill and John Bishop) face the Sea Devils, who have returned to the show for the first time in decades.

I had a lot of hope for this episode mainly because, unlike last years ‘Flux’, it’s a standalone story and the idea of the thirteenth Doctor in a pirate setting seems a lot of fun. However unfortunately this one really let me down.

As a big fan of Doctor Who I always want to love the show, but this episode featured very poor writing and filmmaking that I could hardly be bothered watching it, never mind defending it.

The Sea Devils return to Doctor Who. Image credit: BBC.

While there is certainly a lot to like about the episode, the overall writing and filmmaking just lets all of it down. For instance, the sets, costumes and make-up are all spectacular, but the editing, lighting and dependency on close-up shots means that you never get to appreciate any of it or take it in. And while Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the cast do a great job in their roles, the plot is just confusing and the character work minimal, so no one can reach their full potential.

As mentioned, the main problem was the filmmaking in general. Most of the episode (and this era in general) is shot in close ups, but it is particularly an issue here as the geography of the scenes isn’t established and it means following the action during what should be exciting scenes is quite difficult. The editing is also very choppy and it appears as though a lot of the episode ended up on the cutting room floor, because much of the plot seems missing, especially in the beginning.

Another main issue was how they decided to split up the Tardis trio yet again. They’ve been split up in just about every episode they’ve been in together and end up having very little screen time together, despite the brilliant chemistry that all three actors share. 

The 13th Doctor with companions Yaz and Dan. Image credit: BBC

Joining the main cast is Crystal Yu who plays Madame Ching, a 19th century pirate Queen. While Chibnall usually does a great job with historical figures, such as Rosa Parks, Nikola Tesla and Mary Seacole, this character gets hardly anything to do and we don’t really learn anything about the real life pirate Queen. Which is a shame because it would’ve made for a great episode on it’s own, but instead it’s just another under developed aspect of this story.

A main talking point about the episode is that it features the Doctor’s first same sex relationship on screen, with her companion Yaz. 

While both actors do have chemistry together and their scenes together are certainly highlights of the episode, the lack of development leading up to the relationship and the fact that there’s only one more episode left to do anything with it makes it feel like a waste of potential. Saying that, it was good that they finally developed it and gave both actors some good, emotional scenes to work with that gave some insight into both characters and how they feel. Hopefully the relationship can be fleshed out further and given a satisfying conclusion in the last episode.

Speaking of the upcoming final episode, the tease at the end of this one looked very exciting and promising.

A tease of the 13th Doctor’s upcoming regeneration episode. Image credit: BBC

The centenary special, which is set to debut in the autumn, will be the regeneration episode for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, with the baton passing to returning showrunner Russel. T Davies and a yet un-cast 14th Doctor. The episode will also feature the return of fan favourite classic companions Tegan and Ace.

Overall this episode was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m still optimistic about this era of the show and am excited about the upcoming feature length regeneration episode, which I hope can give a satisfying conclusion to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor.

Feature Image Credit: [BBC]

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First year film and media student.

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