Chapter 87. Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep (1984)

Synopsis: The Earth was once home to a race of intelligent reptiles who dominated the land and the sea. Having spent millions of years in hibernation, they are now preparing to awake and reclaim their planet. As the personnel of a nearby underwater military base run tests in preparation for a potential war, their paranoia and stress is being exploited from within by agents secretly working for a foreign power. The Doctor has failed to broker peace with the reptiles before, but now the Sea Devils and Silurians are working together to trigger a war that could eradicate humanity entirely.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Intruder
  • 2. The Traitors
  • 3. Hunted
  • 4. The Sea Devils Awake
  • 5. The Attack
  • 6. The Myrka
  • 7. The Breakthrough
  • 8. Sabotage
  • 9. The Hostage
  • 10. Captured
  • 11. Counterattack
  • 12. Sacrifice

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for the serial broadcast just four months earlier.

Notes: By 2084, Earth is divided into two power blocs, East and West (suggested on screen but not spelled out) and after space stations proved vulnerable to ‘spy-satellites and the searing blast of laser beams’, many of Earth’s defence systems are now housed under the sea. Commander Vorshak has ‘the rugged good looks of a recruiting-poster hero, much to his own embarrassment’. The hull of the Silurian vessel has an irregular surface, as if it were ‘grown rather than manufactured’. The Silurians are ‘immensely tall, robed figures’…:

… brown-skinned with great crested heads and huge bulging eyes. Their slow, almost stately movements, their coldly measured speech-tones gave evidence of their reptilian origin.

Icthar is confirmed as the sole survivor of the ‘Silurian Triad’ and it’s made clear that the Doctor specifically remembers him as one of three Silurians from their origin story [see The Cave Monsters for Okdel, K’to and Morka – thought he could be one of the other bystanders who survives the end of the story only to be entombed]. He led the return to hibernation and awoke over a hundred years later. The Sea Devil warriors are in suspended animation in a chamber in the bowels of the Silurian ship (not in their own base as on TV), which is where Icthar found them, frozen under a polar ice cap (so Sea Devils and Silurians presumably had an alliance at some earlier point, considering the Sea Devils are piloting a craft that the Doctor recognises as specifically Silurian). There’s a handy addition to the backstory of the Earth Reptiles, summarising their two previous appearances. Apparently, many of them had developed’ almost mystic powers, the Silurian ‘third eye’ being ‘the source of psychic energy that enabled some Silurians to dominate lesser races by sheer mental force’.

Terrance Dicks still considers Tegan to be an ‘air-hostess’; she hasn’t been one for some time now, after she was sacked, and hadn’t actually started work prior to Time Flight, so it might be time to accept that she’s ex-flight crew now and let her move on, eh?

Doctor Solow was recruited by Nilson to the cause of the Eastern Bloc. She was ‘disappointed in her career, left alone by the death of her husband and her parents’ so she fell ‘an easy prey to Nilson’s arguments’. Icthar found the Myrka along with Sauvix’s ship and revived it. The beast is ‘like a kind of pocket dinosaur’ with a ‘hideous dragon-like head’ and ‘a long tail’ that is agile enough to use as a weapon against its attackers.

The Doctor climbs out of his stolen sea base uniform as soon as he’s handed the gun over to Vorshak. The charred bulkhead door reminds Turlough of toast, which triggers a memory of ‘study teas’ at his public school, ‘with a terrified fag to make the toast’; for non-English readers, this isn’t quite as offensive as it sounds, referring to the public-school practice of forcing the younger boys to work as servants (or fags) for older boys. The fact that he finds himself running towards the sound of battle with a gun in his hand strikes Turlough as odd. Later, he and Preston shoot down two Sea Devils to rescue the Doctor and Tegan; Turlough reminds Preston to ‘Aim for the head’. Tegan is surprised by Turlough’s change of heart but decides to give him the benefit of the doubt. As the Doctor laments that there ‘should have been another way’, he also recognises that Bulic won’t be the sole survivor and maybe he can lead the others and get the base running again.

Cover: The first release boasts a straightforward portrait of a Sea Devil warrior by Andrew Skilleter. Alister Pearson’s 1992 cover is really classy, with the sea base and the Doctor between a Silurian and a Sea Devil. There’s also a new brand logo, the colourful target is dropped in favour of a hollow, white line drawing.

Final Analysis: Terrance Dicks has form for improving on the limitations of what could be achieved in a studio: Adapting a story that was famously overlit because of external pressures, he tells us here that the whiteness of the sea base is intentional, a design choice to counter the blackness of the deep sea; while the Silurians walk and speak slowly not because of restrictive costumes but because it’s dignified to do so; the heavy bulkhead door lands on Tegan, whose foot is ‘only trapped, not mangled’; and the Myrka is a horrific beast with a lithe and deadly tail! In truth, I’ve always loved this story, so it’s gratifying to see Terrance do it justice, even if some of the enhancements are tongue in cheek, it at least allows him to pay tribute to his friend Malcolm Hulke in reminding new readers of the origins of the Sea Devils and Silurians.

We should remember also that this novel, like the story it retells, was released in 1984, the year that Ultravox released Dancing with Tears in My Eyes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood topped the charts with Two Tribes. While the TV episodes and the novel both predate the harrowing drama Threads this was the peak year for anxiety of mutual annihilation from a nuclear attack, the most ‘1984’ story we could have got, short of a celebrity historical where the Doctor meets George Orwell.

Chapter 9. Doctor Who and the Sea-Devils (1974)

Synopsis: The Master has been tried and imprisoned with a ‘life-long’ sentence (commuted from a death sentence by the Doctor’s plea for mercy). When the Doctor and Jo visit him in his high-security home, they are only briefly reassured that he’s secure before he escapes and sets into motion a plan to resurrect more of the homo reptilia race – this time from beneath the sea.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. ‘Abandon Ship!’
  • 2. Visitors for the Master
  • 3. The Vanished Ships
  • 4. Stranded!
  • 5. Air-Sea Rescue
  • 6. ‘This Man Came to Kill Me!’
  • 7. Captain Hart Becomes Suspicious
  • 8. The Submarine
  • 9. Visitors for Governor Trenchard
  • 10. The Diving Bell
  • 11. ‘Depth Charges Away!’
  • 12. Attack in Force
  • 13. Escape

Background: Malcolm Hulke adapts his scripts from the 1972 serial (the smallest gap so far between story transmission and novelisation, at two years, six months and two weeks).

Notes: It’s a little less even-handed this time as Hulke plays the Sea-Devils (not ‘Sea Devils’) as the aggressors from the start (and what a great opening scene as the crew of the ss Pevensey Castle abandon ship and are pulled under water one by one). Hulke also doesn’t give names to any of the Sea-Devils. There’s some background from the Master’s trial, where the Doctor begged for his best enemy’s life; although the death penalty was repealed for murder in the UK (except Northern Ireland) in 1965, it was still available for treason until 1998.

Governor George Trenchard’s backstory is elaborated upon to be both comical and rather tragic. Th Doctor and Jo’s walk up to the chateau is given extra detail with the engraved wall-tap and the mysterious poem that reveals ancient local legends and somehow inspires the Doctor to deduce a pun on ‘the scales of justice’. The Master reveals that he’s worked with the Ogrons before (not in the TV version, but this was written soon after Frontier in Space, so would be fresh in the mind of the author and his audience). And the lead character is referred to as ‘Doctor Who’ twice.

Cover & Illustrations: The first cover by Chris Achilleos (a yellow maelstrom with the Doctor, Jo, two Sea Devils and a submarine). The first cover I owned was the 1979 John Geary reprint with the green and yellow Sea Devils and a bluey-pink background. The illustrations are once again by Alan Willow and my favourite is either the Doctor ducking as a Sea-Devil fires a heat ray or a Sea-Devil watching the submarine on TV.

Final Analysis: Another corker from Hulke. Even though the Sea-Devils are more overtly villainous than their cave cousins, they repeat their claim on the planet and at least appear to waver before going on the assault (stirred up by the Master). There’s the oft-quoted business about Trenchard wanting to be brave and being killed by Sea-Devils because he left the catch on his gun, and the Doctor switching it off before Captain Hart notices, but this is only one of many moments of charm for the characters – in fact if anything, it’s Jo who comes across worst, brash and impatient and occasionally compelled to back down when she gets too hot-headed.