We’re now only a short time away from the next Doctor Who special, Legend of the Sea Devils, which is scheduled to air on April 17. Excitingly, this story will see the return of the classic era creatures, the Sea Devils, who haven’t appeared in a new TV episode since 1984.
For those who don’t know them, the Sea Devils are a species related to the Silurians (who have popped up a few times in the revival era of Doctor Who). Before humans came into existence, they led an advanced civilisation on the Earth but, like the Silurians, they had to go into suspended animation in order to avoid a cataclysm. In the interim, humankind have become the dominant species.
Legend of the Sea Devils will see the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, and Dan encountering these old foes in nineteenth-century China. In this story, they’ll find that a small coastal village is under attack from not only the Sea Devils but also the historic pirate, Madam Ching (a.k.a. Zheng Yi Sao). It’s shaping up to be the seafaring adventure we didn’t quite get in 2011’s The Curse of the Black Spot.
If you want to make sure you’re up to speed before you see the new episode, we recommend watching the following classic Doctor Who serials:
The Sea Devils (1972)
This classic story sees the introduction of the iconic creatures and is often regarded as one of the Third Doctor’s best adventures. It features not only the Sea Devils themselves, but also The Master who, at the start of the episode, is held in a maximum security prison following his actions in previous stories.
In an attempt to escape prison, the Master has made contact with the Sea Devils and is ultimately using them for his own gain. Conflict ensues and, like the Silurians before them, the Sea Devils are tragic villains – a people who have lost their home and end up caught up in hostilities due to a clash of interest with the humans. In terms of production value, this is one of the best looking classic stories and the dynamic between the Master and the Doctor is a joy to see.
Warriors of the Deep (1984)
While The Sea Devils established that the titular race was related to the Silurians, the two groups did not cross paths until Warriors of the Deep in 1984. Here the Fifth Doctor encounters both species working together in an attack on an underwater sea base towards the end of the twenty-first century.
Written at the height of the Cold War, the story mirrors real life events, with two global superpowers on the edge of nuclear war and the combined efforts of the Sea Devils and the Silurians hope to tip the scales and wipe out the humans. While both species are certainly more villainous here than they are in other stories, it’s great to see them together – although some of the visuals don’t hold up as well, particularly the Myrka (a giant lizard).
Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970)
This story doesn’t actually include an appearance by the Sea Devils. However, it, alongside The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep, make up a loose trilogy, with this story introducing the Silurians, the next introducing Sea Devils, and the final one bringing them both together for their second and final appearances in the classic run. Handily, all three of them have been included together in a boxset called Beneath the Surface.
This was part of Doctor Who’s seventh season (the Third Doctor’s first). At this time, they seemed to be going for a darker, grittier tone for the show and it works really well. This story is a perfect representative of this era and if you can look past a few dodgy special effects, you’ve got a really solid seven episodes here.
The Silurian Gift (2013)
We’re not going to delve too far into the Doctor Who expanded universe, but we did think it was worth mentioning that the Eleventh Doctor also encounters the Sea Devils in the 2013 novel, The Silurian Gift, by Mike Tucker.
This is another story that’s set in the not-too-distant future and which features the Silurians (and Sea Devils) taking advantage of a real world problem. Here, humans have made contact with them at a South Pole base and they’ve offered humanity a solution to the world’s energy crisis. It’s part of the ‘Quick Read’ series, so you can easily finish it in just one or two sittings, and if you want the first instance of a ‘new’ Doctor encountering Sea Devils, we recommend giving it a read.
Legend of the Sea Devils will be set before all of these stories, but you never know how they might tie together. Even if it’s just a little tip of the hat, it’s always more fun when you understand all the references and connections.