Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils
April 18, 2022 6:01 PM - Season 13 (Specials) - Subscribe

In 19th century China, a small coastal village is under threat -- from both the fearsome pirate queen and a monstrous alien force; the Doctor must emerge from this swashbuckling battle with the Sea Devils to save the planet.

This is Jodie Whittaker's penultimate episode as The Doctor. One more special due October 2022. (Trailer for that.)
posted by crossoverman (29 comments total)
I didn't actually watch this episode myself but I am interested in thoughts on it. I only watched the recent NY Special because people had good things to say about it. I'm sad this era is almost at a close and I've given up on it. Though, admittedly, that was true of my experience with the show under Moffat, too - I didn't watch every ep of Smith's run, gave up after a year or so of Capaldi, though I came back for his final year.

What did people think?
posted by crossoverman at 6:08 PM on April 18, 2022

posted by Kyol at 6:23 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I didn't hate this but have forgotten it already.

Man, Jodie Whittaker got done dirty.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:03 PM on April 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

If you have already given up on the Chibnall era then don't bother with this one. It's a filler episode with bad CGI (even for Doctor Who) and some weird choices that were probably due to covid restrictions.

If you're really invested in The Doctor / Yaz relationship then there are moments but they can probably be summed up in 3 gifs on twitter.
posted by Gary at 8:12 PM on April 18, 2022

I prefer this sort of fun but forgettable episode to the world-ending high stakes affect-the-continuity-forever trash that passes for most Who these days. I always enjoy watching Jodie, but I'm looking forward to seeing what RTD has up his sleeve. I find that a year like this, with only two scheduled episodes, does not necessarily leave me longing for more. We may be nearing a second great hiatus.
posted by rikschell at 8:33 PM on April 18, 2022

This was so bad I stopped it at the 5 minute mark and commented on /r/gallifrey about the terrible editing. At the ten minute mark I paused it again and commented on metafilter chat about how bad it was. Even looked for a thread here on fanfare. Then I watched the rest of it.

It is confoundingly bad.

My personal most hated episode of Nu-Who is "Vampires of Venice" which I've likened to a student film version of the series. But at least I can understand that one -- cast and crew head over to Italy, get in some sightseeing, a few drinks, manage to get their location shot list. Fly back to merry ol' and do some hungover greenscreen and then call it a day while half the editors and cgi folks are still off on vacation. Slap some credits on and give it to the world. At least The Doctor still cared about not killing back then.

But this hour of television has, at about the 4 minute mark, a cgi explosion that's worse than the Numberjacks. That terrible cgi ship reminded me of something out of The Matrix or perhaps the Broodal's ship from Super Mario Odyssey. It's so dreadfully bad I began to wonder if all the scenes on the Tardis were directed by someone different, perhaps months before. You could feel a difference in the actor's energy every time the action shifted there. And those were so brief. Overall I'd say this was the worst directed, put together, and edited episode of NuWho.

And as someone on /r/gallifrey pointed out, 6 of the last 10 episodes have ended with The Doctor blowing up the bad guys at the end. The Doctor in this one chastises Dan for killing one sea devil and then he goes and kills six more! But The Doctor sucks them all into a singularity in the end. "Even the Sea Devil IT department!" as someone on reddit pointed out.

This episode is Razzies level bad, start to finish.
posted by Catblack at 9:34 PM on April 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've heard lots of complaints about bad editing. Some have theorised that there was originally set-up for the next special weaved in - a continuation of the dreaded Timeless Child ongoing thread, but it was cut out to make this wholly standalone. For a special, at only 47 minutes, something drastic got cut and patching together the holes must really stand out.

If you're really invested in The Doctor / Yaz relationship then there are moments but they can probably be summed up in 3 gifs on twitter.

I think I've seen all 3, so that part is sorted for me. Even though I kinda hate that it's happening now, at the end of this run. This will not end happily for Yaz.

I find that a year like this, with only two scheduled episodes, does not necessarily leave me longing for more. We may be nearing a second great hiatus.

The Tennnant Specials year was pretty similar - varying quality, nothing that made them feel very special and I was just waiting for him to go. I liked Tennant but RTD was "looking tired" and I was anticipating Smith and Moffat.
posted by crossoverman at 9:52 PM on April 18, 2022

Dreadful. Just dreadful.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:35 PM on April 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

The fight choreography also stood out as terrible.
posted by biffa at 12:11 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yep, just all round bad.

The one thing the show has had going for it in the Chibnall era has been looking pretty good, but the editing was so appalling here even that didnt work.

There was just nothing here. The fundamental idea of the Doctor leading a crew in a sword fight against sea devils is pretty fun, but the show managed to fail to build a good path to get there.

I mean... why keep that guy alive for 2 centuries? Are they torturing him? Whats the point?

How about the son who swears revenge, and then just immediately gives up on it and joins the pirate queens crew?

How about the sea devil threatening to kill the doctor, the doctor pulls a lever and then they just cut to apparently everyone leaving?

How about the sea devil just not killing them all in the first place?

How about Dan just murdering 6 sea devils who apparently arent familiar with how their own swords work? This is such a common theme in Chibnalls series; the heroes are presented with a threat they shouldnt be able to overcome, and rather than doing something clever, they just succeed anyway!

The stuff with Yas and the Doctor was fine, I guess, although it was pretty weird for her to claim that apparently Yas is better than River and Rose (and, well, everyone!).

I think this episode would have worked a lot better if they had started at sea. Make a tribute to Obra Dinn, land on a ship under attack from sea devils, all eager to claim the waystone that the ship already has. Then theres some drama; she needs the waystone to ransom her sons (make it so just her sons are kidnapped, rather than her whole crew which is just dumb), so wont just give it up, and all the while more and more crew die to the attacks of the sea devils.

That would actually give everyone a bit more to do, and also cut out a lot of wasted time on the shore. I mean, to be honest, do anything but what this episode did.

My standards are pretty low for Chibnall Who and yet they still arent being met
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:54 AM on April 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

h/t for Obra Dinn reference there.

I agree with what people are saying and find it disappointing how J-Whit did not have a chance to really shine in her tenure with some bad writing. Though maybe I am spoiled with some good tv (more Michael Schur please), since historically not much of Who has been tv gold.
posted by Marticus at 1:00 AM on April 19, 2022

Yes, it was just sloppy at almost every turn. Plot, script, editing, direction, sound, special effects. They were all poorly thought out or realised.

The real hallmark of nu-who was always the amount of care involved. There was a real sense that just about everyone involved knew they had a real responsibility for this series, and it showed.

The ball has been sadly dropped.
posted by jjderooy at 3:07 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen this yet (I wasn't even aware it was on!), and judging by all the reactions, I'm in no hurry to see it.

I'll be so, so glad when Chibnall is gone. Everything Who-related he writes feels like a badly-rushed first draft turned in two minutes before the deadline.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:18 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen this yet (I wasn't even aware it was on!), and judging by all the reactions, I'm in no hurry to see it.

Same here. When did this air? I didn’t see any promotion (in the US) for this at all. And, given how BBC America has never repeated showings of Who in the past, I’m not sure I’ll be able to see it. Though, given the reactions here, I’m not sure I want to. Poor Jodie.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on April 19, 2022

Just really bad in every way - there’s just no sense that anyone in the production team actually cares about it anymore. Chibnall certainly seems to be well rid of Who from the couple of interviews he’s given.

I teach 16 year old media students who would have done a better job editing that looney tunes net trap scene at the start…
posted by brilliantmistake at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have defended the recent direction of the show (liked Flux and the Eve of the Daleks) but this was very sub par. I liked the look of the show but action scenes have never been Dr Who's strong suit and the sword fights here were at a Power Ranger level. I think they were hampered by a requirement (or choice) not to show any injuries or violence on screen which lead to some very choppy and confusing fights.

I know this was an episode aimed at a younger audience but surely it could have been better.

Plot-wise, I guess it was sort of OK but Pirates of the Caribbean style stories do not fit in well with Dr Who, and do a disservice to the actual historical figures.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2022

I'm always so torn between wanting Doctor Who to be GOOD and wanting Doctor Who to be BAD (but in the right way). I got into it in the classic run, when it often looked cheap and included a lot of pointless filler. And yet. The best Who is done with a wink, doesn't take itself too seriously, but also includes interesting ideas and characters and has an unfettered imagination (despite its very fettered budget).

But I have learned that what I want from Doctor Who is not necessarily what most people want from Doctor Who. A lot of people want it to LOOK GOOD and MAKE SENSE and BE IMPORTANT. And I can't argue that those are all things that would seem to be preferable in a TV show. And yet.
posted by rikschell at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

I liked Chibnall's first season, even though it was uneven, because it gave me a different kind of show than RTD and Moffat gave me. It also had diverse voices, stories of POC by POC. The stakes were smaller. The historicals were of great interest.

(Chibnall had more female writers in his first two seasons than all the previous seasons under RTD and Moffat. I hope RTD keeps hiring women to write this show, especially if he also casts a woman.)

I'm fascinated by how the show went from that to this. Where did the heart go? Why is the show now just excess piled on top of contrivance?

I think RTD has nowhere to go but strip the show back again. Make it like he did in 2005 - Doctor, one companion, stand-alone adventures with a strong character arc. I always imagined the 60th Anniversary might have been another multi-Doctor story but I think it might be better if he's just introducing a new Doctor and a new show called DOCTOR WHO that doesn't resemble what we've been saddled with for a while.
posted by crossoverman at 6:21 PM on April 19, 2022

I don't post much here on FanFare - I mostly lurk here for the fun little insights from knowledgeable fans, and to find recommendations for new shows to watch.

But this episode was so god-awful that it's compelled me to come out of my lurk-hole and scream into the abyss.

For me, Doctor Who's hokeyness has always been part of its charm - I have very fond childhood memories of watching Jon Pertwee's Venusian aikido, and "spaceships" which were very clearly just models suspended on fishing line. I was genuinely looking forward to seeing the Sea Devils again, with their dodgy rayguns that look like re-purposed spotlights. So I'm normally not bothered by crappy special effects or awkward fight scenes in the modern Doctor Who - that stuff usually feels pleasantly nostalgic. I'm pretty easy to please, basically.

But this episode just comes off as an incredibly lazy piece of work. I don't even understand how this made it onto the screen, really. Is this some sort of weird first draft that has yet to be cleaned up? Is that why the editing is so jarring, and why there are more plot holes than plot? Halfway through the episode I genuinely thought about just giving up on Doctor Who altogether, and that's a big deal for someone who's been watching it since childhood.
posted by yours in calendrical heresy at 4:11 AM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wow, that was bad. Things just sort of happened without any rhyme or reason. Even my 12-year-old couldn't help but to blurt out how it made no sense at all throughout the show. Besides the terrible non-sensical plot, it felt like they trimmed a 2 hour of show down to fit in 1 hour, but failed miserably at it.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:34 AM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Halfway through the episode I genuinely thought about just giving up on Doctor Who altogether

The best thing about Doctor Who is that you can give up and then come back later and it's like a new show. I mean, every week it's like a new show, so sometimes the next episode can be a big improvement.
posted by crossoverman at 4:41 PM on April 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, at worst I've been kind of annoyed that the central plot has been sort of sliding from a sort of general sci-fi tinted mystery whodunnit, why has history changed, why is this thing we've arrived at happening, let's investigate! to just a series of events punctuated by more and more doctor-flavored deus ex machina. Instead of 2-3 episodes of tense weirdness before the reveal that, like, "ah hah! the management of this facility is trying to use daleks as laborers THE FOOLS" now it's just WAH HEY SEA DEVILS / DALEKS / CYBERMEN / SONTARENS *zot* TIMEY WIMEY *zot* FIGHT SCENE *zot* touching seemingly undeserved romance scene *zot* RESOLUTION *zot* "Well, that was fun, wasn't it?!?"


I mean, as tiresome as the Rose, Amy and Clara shipping was, at least it was semi-deserved inside of the world of the show - Rose killed all the Daleks, Amy... uh that whole River-shaped plot, sure, and Clara had her own timeless thing. What has Yas done? What has she been given the opportunity to do? I mean, yay for representational shipping, sure, but maybe I missed something during the Flux?

And yet, I'll keep watching it because it scratches a particular itch just the same.
posted by Kyol at 8:51 AM on April 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

(Ironically, as I went back through the episode history to see what has all happened on JW's tenure, honestly it's mostly been the sort of low stakes sci-fi weirdness that I like and not the universal destruction that got tiring? I'm blaming the writing for not really knowing how to make it engaging without making it universe ending, I guess?)
posted by Kyol at 8:53 AM on April 21, 2022

The only thing that really made me groan was the Doctor casually abandoning Dan to zip off to a different century for a while. Otherwise I thought this episode was OK. Not great, but more coherent and involving than plenty of episodes that aired early in Chibnall's run. The effects were dodgy and the music was too loud, but that's kind of par for the course with Doctor Who. I'm fully prepared to hate anything Chibnall does on this show but I gotta admit he's been doing OK for a while.

I only knew this episode existed because my DVR caught it, which really does not bode well for this show. I mean, I'm a Doctor Who fan, and this was so under-promoted that I almost missed it! BBC America seems to be just about done, they've reached that stage of channel rot where they just show Men in Black II and The Shawshank Redemption all day, so maybe they just don't have the gumption or manpower to promote an actual BBC show anymore. My understanding was that Who's American success was keeping it on the air, even as the show faded in the UK, but now it seems like the show is fading fast in the US too. I'd be surprised if the BBC outright cancels it, but they already go a year or two between seasons and I can imagine those gaps lasting longer and longer...

I sure hope RTD can save it. I loved a lot of what he did and I want to be excited about his return, but I find myself flashing back to some of the cheesier stuff from his run. You know, the soap opera crossovers and Anne Droid and all that. If anybody can save the show he may be the one, but I really hope he doesn't pull a George Lucas and come back with the worst possible version of this great thing he did.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:09 PM on April 23, 2022

I think it's Interesting that none of the 10 pirate streaming sites I checked, which usually have anything on the first one or two sites, still do not have any uploads of this special. Not paying the 3 bucks for it on Amazon, can't find a shared copy... might be a sign. This doctor deserved better, wish she wasn't going away before anyone good got a chance to work with her.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2022

Nothing nothing? Or misfiled as S13 E08 (per imdb) instead of the scene's thetvdb's S00 E159 apparently. I see something like 6 groups doing Who releases in the tracker I still have access to.
posted by Kyol at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2022

Chiming in to agree with all the "this is terrible for reason X" comments; so much bad in this episode it is hard to even pick one thing to mention.

But OK, let me pick this detail: the Doctor's complete and utter disbelief that the Sea Devils have a flying pirate ship. "That's impossible!" Really? A technologically advanced species putting some hover-jets on a boat is THAT shocking to you... just because they haven't used boats before? Yet another example of Chibnall writing the Doctor as kind of a chump.

Also, billing something so insubstantial and pointless as a NY Special is a bit much -- it would have been disappointing but tolerable as ep. 6 of a 10 episode season, but as the 1 of 2 shows for the year...
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:01 PM on May 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

OK, the episode wasn't much cop, but that trailer! I grew up in the Davison/Baker 2.0/McCoy era, and I'm really pleased to see some familiar faces.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:02 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

A lot happened in this one, but almost nothing was anything I cared about. A couple hours after I watched it, I had already forgotten how the Doctor defeated the Sea Devils, but some inner voice posited "she whammied the whatsit, then floozled the hooskah."

I'll be glad when Chibnall leaves. I've had a problem with suspension of disbelief in a lot of his episodes, and I can't shake the feeling that he doesn't even like science fiction; he's just here for the easy paycheck.
posted by johnofjack at 6:13 PM on August 6, 2022

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