July 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “Legend Of The Sea Devils”

The Doctor deals with 19th century Chinese pirates and the Sea Devils.

The revival show has, to date, been pretty good about reviving classic era Doctor Who adversaries, to the point where it’s hard to believe it took them this long to get to the Sea Devils, those aquatic cousins to the Silurians.

Eh, the Sea Devils probably got less exposure on the original show to begin with…even if the end results were usually the same.

See, here’s the thing about the Silurian/Sea Devil stories:  they usually involved the Doctor meeting the reptile people, then trying and generally failing to negotiate a way for them to share the planet with the humans.  The plan pretty much never worked, but at least in more recent years, there have been Silurians here and there that made good allies to the Doctor.  With that in mind…nothing like that happens in this episode.  The Sea Devils are not the slightest bit interested in sharing anything, and the Doctor doesn’t even try to work things out.

That may be due to the fact the Sea Devils here appear to be some sort of pirates.  Set off China in 1807, the Sea Devils here are after something while the historic pirate Madame Ching is looking for a treasure of her own.  There’s some hijinks where Dan and a local peasant become her only crew while Yaz and the Doctor go looking for clues as to why rocks sent skipping across the water suddenly veer off in a scientifically unlikely direction involving what the Sea Devils want in the first place.

This one is actually pretty straightforward.  Legendary Chinese sailor Ji-Hun disappeared with his ship when he seemed to betray humanity to the Sea Devils and was likewise betrayed by said Devils.  Only he wasn’t betraying humanity but saving them by hiding the keystone the Sea Devils wanted to use to move the Earth around and flood the planet.  Ji-Hun was kept in suspended animation for centuries and eventually sacrifices his life to stop the Sea Devils.  It’s a lot of lighthearted swashbuckling all around, where the worst thing I can say about all that, aside from the usual overstuffed episode for this era, is Jodie Whittaker has some rather bad-looking fight choreography to hide the fact, I am guessing, that she maybe doesn’t know how to use a sword very well.

Instead, let me take a moment to say a bit about Yaz and Dan.  My usual habit is to hold off on watching any new episode of anything until I have written up the previous one, but for this instance I made an exception because I didn’t know if I would have to wait who-knows-how-long before “The Power of the Doctor” appeared in HBO Max, and in the meantime, I could watch it live on BBC America.  I just didn’t have the option to write this up first because I just plain didn’t have the time to do so, and I was somewhat rushing through these last few episodes to get to the finale.  As such, I type this up having already seen the next one and knowing full well what happens to Yaz, Dan, and this incarnation of the Doctor.

As such, I want to touch on Yaz…and to a lesser extent Dan, saving whatever thoughts I have on the Thirteenth Doctor for next time.  Dan, well, he’s a funny guy, but that’s about all I can say.  He was in a single series of episodes, and quite frankly, he exits the next one pretty early to focus the narrative more on Yaz.  I’m fine with that.  Not every companion needs some grand going away, and the fact that the woman he was interested in is starting to show some interest back is fine by me.

But then there’s Yaz.  The Doctor here characterizes Yaz as among the best she’s ever known, in part because the Doctor learned thanks to Dan that Yaz is smitten with her.  A part of me realizes this is how the Doctor in different incarnations always refers to her current companion.  I mean, the Twelfth kept referring to Clara as his best friend, and when she finally left the show, I wrote up a whole thing about other past companions–most notably Amy Pond, Sarah Jane Smith, and Jamie McCrimmon–who all probably fit that bill better than Clara did.  I chalk that up mostly to how Clara was written, and maybe a lack of chemistry between her and the Doctor.  The next companion, Bill, made a far better fit as “the Doctor’s best friend”.  But Yaz?  Well, I would like to say I can see it, but the Thirteenth Doctor’s adventures were often so full of characters and plot that Yaz could fall to the wayside a bit.  I mean, just about every companion did except arguably for Graham.  But sure, the Doctor would totally say that, especially this Doctor, arguably the warmest and friendliest Doctor the series has seen since, well, ever.

But did Yaz have to be in love with the Doctor?

Now, I don’t object to an LGBTQ+ character on this or any show.  The closest I can come to any sort of quibble is that more often than not, the character is a woman on far too many shows I have seen.  Men go that way too.  No, my objection, and that is probably too strong a word, is that it is always the female companion who falls for the Doctor.  Imagine if it had been Ryan or Dan who fell for the Doctor.  The (admittedly very nice) scene where the Doctor very gently, or as gently as this verbal wrecking ball of a Doctor can be, lets Yaz down largely works.  Is Yaz the best?  Maybe.  I somehow don’t doubt it when the Doctor says as much because the Doctor probably always believes it.  For a quasi-immortal being, I suppose the best friend is always the one literally closest at hand, but I’ll have more to say about the nature of the Doctor/companion relationship next time.

But imagine the difference it makes if the Doctor mentions to a smitten male companion that she has a wife.  The reaction would probably be very different without being any less confused.

Oh, and Captain Jack doesn’t count because he’d sleep with anyone of any gender.  He wasn’t so much in love with the Doctor as generally down for anything.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say here.  Next write-up is Whittaker’s last.