5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
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WARRIORS OF THE DEEP
"I suppose you know what you're doing."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US
We loved The Silurians. It was a brilliantly written story with complex morality and no easy conclusions. Then we hated The Sea Devils, which was a retread of The Silurians only without any originality, subtlety or point. So guess what we thought of Warriors Of The Deep?
It's not just that it's bad. It's that it does such a comprehensive job of trashing whatever was still standing after The Sea Devils that we wonder whether The Silurians was worth it. Why, God, why? Why take a story that's already been over-mined and mangle the continuity so that neither of the previous two stories make any sense, all to end up with a bog-standard base under siege?
The continuity part's particularly annoying. We're not the kind of fans who write outraged letters to the BBC when the Doctor's hat's on backwards, but even we notice when a monster's third eye suddenly starts blinking along with its speech as if it's been crossbred with a Dalek. (Who is that Icthar guy, anyway? And are the Silurian Triads some kind of Asian criminal outfit or something?)
And it's not just that kind of continuity, either. The Silurians and Sea Devils are noble races bent on peace, are they? Were we watching the same programme? If they insist on rerunning old monsters, why in God's name do they then totally ignore the past they're so hot on re-creating? It's a bit hard to concentrate on the tragedy of it all when you're busy going "But wait a minute...". Put it this way: we all agreed it was a senseless, pointless, tragic waste, and it wasn't the body count we were talking about.
So there's very little continuity with the past. And sadly, there isn't much sense within the story either. The Doctor and companions, on arriving at the base, set off to find the guy in charge. All fine, business as usual, etc. So why are they the next minute desperately fleeing the base's inhabitants before you can say "Take me to your leader"? Yes, they triggered a security alarm, but so what? Same diff if they ran into a security patrol, isn't it? Then after an exceptionally flabby fight the Doctor takes a bath. Turlough must be more persuasive than we thought: not only does he managed to convince Tegan the Doctor's snuffed it after about three seconds in the water, he's obviously won round the guards too, since they don't bother glancing into the pool to see the Doctor dog-paddling away. That was lucky, wasn't it?
The Doctor makes a dramatic underwater escape, then barely pausing to wring out his celery he's nicking some guy's clobber. (Some unconscious guy. Given his performance in the fight, it's pretty clear the Doctor wouldn't have had a hope in hell of getting it off him any other way.) So now he's cunningly disguised. Explain to us why this was necessary again?
Blah blah blah, and then the Doctor's facing off with the head honcho. He dramatically gives up his gun, which seems impressive until you realise that fronting up to the base commander unarmed was his original intention anyway. He then explains that he knows whose ship that is, but the Captain's not falling for that one. Asking the Doctor what he was talking about? Well, that'd just be too obvious, wouldn't it? Then, after a track record of running away and sneaking around, the Doctor ask the Captain to trust him. Unsurprisingly, the Captain isn't impressed by this request. It's only after he lets fly with all barrels at the mysterious ship that the Doctor thinks it might be a good idea to reveal that said ship has a particle suppressor. Ha! That'll teach ya!
And so on and so forth, and on and on and on. Escapes, recaptures, the traditional monsters who can't shoot straight and who a snail could overtake, evil villains, cheesy dialogue ... something like that, anyway. We can't really be more specific, because we fell asleep. It's strange, though, because we all had these really weird dreams. Something about people running down Persil-white corridors, and this giant pantomime lizard. And why did we all wake up muttering "Excellent!"?
We wouldn't mind about the ineptness of it all so much if any of it was even slightly coherent. But between the references to a past that never existed and the feeble scrabble to make something highly morally meaningful out of a base under siege, the story loses its way early on the piece and never finds it again. The Doctor seesaws between being devious and being indignant that nobody trusts him, and as for the nobility or otherwise of the reptile dudes, they just can't seem to make up their mind: one minute the Doctor's saying that they were honourable and only wanted to live in peace, and the next he says the Silurians see humans as an evolutionary error they want to correct.
The moral dilemma in The Silurians had a real heft to it, but here? With monsters about to wipe out the entire human population? Let's face it, the hexachromite was a no-brainer. We know we're meant to get all teary when the Doctor does his best anguish-with-a-touch-of-compassion look and delivers the famous "There should have been another way", but that just ain't gonna happen. Murderous monsters and pigheaded humans: what other choice was there?
Unsurprisingly for a show as rushed as this one was, the acting's not exactly stellar. Tegan in her relentless needling of the Doctor is at least more tolerable than usual, Peter Davison struggles manfully with the dreck he's been given, and everyone else is in the ordinary to appalling range. Of course, at times it's hard to tell whether this is due to a lack of thespian talent or to the script, which is a giant steaming pile of compost. (Poor Tegan actually has to say "This is madness!" at one point.) We're probably supposed to be entranced by the spectacle of Turlough wrestling with his cowardice, but frankly, we couldn't care less, particularly after his moronic insistence on writing the Doctor off as drowned when he's their only ticket out of there.
Our advice? Fish out The Silurians again to remind yourself that there was once a good idea in here and pretend Warriors Of The Deep never happened.
MORAL: Don't kid yourself. You're not keeping that deadly gas around "just in case".
DO THAT TO ME ONE MORE TIME
We've never really understood why fanfic writers like pairing up the Fifth Doctor and Turlough (ewww! Turlough?). But after seeing the first episode of Warriors Of The Deep, we're starting to see where the inspiration comes from. Their opening dialogue's wildly slashy.
IS THAT CHEESE AND PICKLED ONION, OR ARE YOU JUST PLEASED TO SEE ME?
What's that triangular pocket on the back of the base crew's jumpsuits for? Their sandwiches?
HOLD ME NOW
How come the TARDIS always lands in the cargo hold?
DO YOU WANT ME TO REPEAT THAT?
"[Hexachromite] is lethal to marine and reptile life." Doingg! "Don't let this disc out of your sight. If it gets into enemy hands..." Doinnggg!!!
BUT PLEASE DON'T TELL ANYBODY
Ingrid Pitt, who plays the Venusian-aikido-practicing Solow, was previously the queen in The Time Monster.
LOOKS HARMLESS ENOUGH TO ME
The base crew decides that the TARDIS is "not of this planet". Huh? It's a police box! And how on Earth do they manage to conclude it's not armed?
MAKE UP YOUR OWN HEADING. WE DON'T WANT TO GET ARRESTED
All right, our minds are in the gutter, but we think that shot of the Silurian advancing with the cutting device thrust out at groin level's right up there with the unfortunate ambassador in The Curse Of Peladon.
Why does Maddox take such a long time to do the computery stuff he's supposed to do? Are they running Windows ME?
I COULD TELL YOU, BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU
We're probably supposed to be in awe at the subtle political point being made that they don't name two political power blocs, but we just think it's silly. "The power bloc opposed to this seabase"? Who talks like that?
ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE'S THAT WINDOWS ME THING
The Doctor says: "The technology of these creatures predates yours by millions of years. If they intend to fire those missiles, they have the means, I assure you." First we've heard of old technology being a technological advantage.
I, UM, THOUGHT HE SAID LIES
"If one of you tries to follow me, [Tegan] dies." Notice the way the Doctor follows him?
THIS ROOM WITH AN AIR-CONDITIONING VENT SHOULD DO NICELY
Isn't it lucky that the Silurians kill all the no-name humans but for no visible reason take the ones with speaking parts captive?
SHE AIN'T HEAVY, SHE'S MY COMPANION
We love the way the Doctor grimaces as he gives Tegan a leg up.
A SPORTING CHANCE
Why work desperately to bring the Silurians round when you've just tried to knock them out and when you know they're going to be hostile?
A STICKY SITUATION
No matter how bad Warriors Of The Deep is, it's all worthwhile, because there's GREEN GOO!
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US