REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils’ is Refreshing

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Legend of the Sea Devils

“Legend of the Sea Devils” is the Easter Special episode of the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who. The current showrunner is Chris Chibnall. The episode is written by Chibnall and Ella Road and directed by Haolu Wang. The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, with Mandip Gill and John Bishop serving as her companions. 

The Doctor, Yaz, and Dan land in China in the early 1800s, 400 years later than intended. They discover Sea Devils terrorising a seaside village and using a flying pirate ship to do so. In addition, there’s a dread pirate looking for lost treasure. Unfortunately, the answer to its location is at the bottom of the ocean. 

As a concept, the plot is superb. What “Eve of the Daleks” lacked, “Legend of the Sea Devils” has. It’s wide-reaching and adventurous, with an untapped part of history to explore. And from the very start, the excitement is there. The pirate theme gives the story a fun element, while the search for treasure leads to a mystery. The story remains interesting, but it can be easy to forget what is happening. The monsters and the swashbuckling help maintain interest, but the core story fizzles out. The conclusion wasn’t quite as satisfying as I hoped, dwindling in its momentum. What is key to this episode is the tone. It is jovial and fun throughout, refreshing after so much darkness. But all of it leads to that final moment, which is brutal and heartwrenching.  

The characters and performances remain entertaining. One of the shining parts of the special is the relationship between Yaz and the Doctor. There is tension overhanging the episode after the romantic connection between the Time Lord and her companion was acknowledged. The emotional blow carries over, lingering as they get separated from Dan. In the quiet confines of the TARDIS, alone, that wanting to say something is intoxicating and intense. And they do have words about it, reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor’s struggles with Rose. Chibnall teases with the hearts of fans, giving little flickers of hope. Aside from the romantic sub-plot, Whittaker’s liveliness is infectious once again.

A possible criticism of the romance between Yaz and the Doctor is that it has reached this point too late. This is the second-to-last episode of Whittaker’s run, so to explore this now may seem bittersweet. The chemistry between the Doctor and Yaz has been simmering since the first season. Their friendship and intimacy was so powerful that Graham and Ryan felt like intrusions. Even now, Dan is still like an outsider compared to the connection Gill and Whittaker have built. All through Doctor Who: Flux, one of the most emotional aspects of the storyline was the separation. So the relationship has been there even without recognition. 

Dan has much less present in this special. He has a bit too much dialogue, which only serves to drag out the exposition. Nevertheless, Bishop still provides humour and positivity to the cast. Crystal Yu plays the dread pirate Madam Ching brilliantly, full of menace and hidden pain. And the Sea Devils themselves are absolutely tremendous, blending Classic Who and New Who. They have an unsettling demeanor while also being charming.

The visual aspects of this era of Doctor Who continues to be exceptional. The camera work is excellent, with the neon colours making a return and the costuming is personal and fun and detailed and essential for character building. The CGI is incredible, from the huge, vibrating pirate ship that levitates in the air to giant sea creatures. There are also entire locations captured in CGI as the TARDIS lands somewhere mesmerising in its beauty.  

“Legend of the Sea Devils” is a refreshing bundle of fun. The plot is nowhere near perfect, but the location and setting are eye-catching enough to be brilliantly entertaining. This episode reminds us of the lighthearted nature of the series, especially with the giddy energy that Whittaker brings at the drop of a hat. And above all else, I think this is something that is needed, given what is coming. Because on the horizon is the end.

“Legend of the Sea Devils” is available on BBC America and BBC iPlayer in the UK.


Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Legend of the Sea Devils is a refreshing bundle of fun. The plot is nowhere near perfect, but the location and setting are eye-catching enough to be brilliantly entertaining.