Okay ... I think it was Russell T Davies who said, or expressed the view, that if you were writing a Doctor Who and you came across something in your story/plot which could be filled with something from the show's past, then why not use it. Better to use it, even, than to invent something 'new' but which was, in actuality, exactly the same. I think this was how the Macra came to be involved in the 'Gridlock' story. It seems that current showrunner Chris Chibnall both understands, but fails to understand this approach.
|Original Sea Devils, 1972|
Anyway ... for the purposes of writing about them, I'm going with the flow and calling them Sea Devils as well.
These are Sea Devils from 1533 ... and possibly earlier. There's no information given as to how long they had been around and active. Again, from the earlier story, and with no background given in this one, the Sea Devils (and Silurians) put themselves into hibernation when the Moon, as a rogue asteroid/planetoid was thought about to crash into the Earth. It didn't and went into orbit instead (note that this is 'Who' history and bears no resemblance to real life history!), and the hibernation chambers then failed to wake the creatures. They eventually woke when disturbed by humanity's explorations of the sea bed and underground digging ... Potentially not something that was happening in 1533! So it's not explained why the Sea Devils were active, or even what they were doing in 1533 ... presumably trying to change the Earth's poles to create climate instability and to flood the place so they could take over again ...
|The Myrka, 1984|
And then there's their 'creature', the huge and brilliantly realised Huasen, which emerges from the sea and attacks everything it encounters! Now ... in 1984 the Silurians/Sea Devils had a sea monster called the Myrka - which, frankly, was dreadfully realised, looking more like a bright green pantomime horse than any viable threat. So why not call this new sea monster a Myrka? It's back to that original comment that if you have something which could be from a past story, then why not use it?
And the Doctor utters the phrase which probably got this story commissioned: Pirate Sea Devils in 19th Century China!
So Madame Ching is looking for the lost treasure of the Flor de Mar, a ship which sank in 1533 ... she wants it to pay a ransom on her sons who have been captured by other pirates. But no-one knows where the wreck is ...
The Doctor and Yas are now, suddenly and inexplicably in the Sea Devil base. So where is it? Inside the Huasen? No idea. But the Sea Devils have the captain of the Flor de Mar, Ji-Hun (Arthur Lee), captive in stasis, as well as the TARDIS. It seems that these powers come from the gem - to freeze light and time, and to transport matter - which the Doctor says is Sea Devil technology. See my earlier comments! And IF these powers all come from the gem, then how could Marsissus teleport and fly and whatever without it earlier on in the story?
Anyway, so the Doctor engineers an implosion/explosion sort of thing, but inexplicably for it to work, two cables need to be held together, so she tells Yas to get out! But Ji-Hun is there and he insists on making the sacrifice himself. So the others all head back to the beach before the ship explodes, presumably killing all the remaining Sea Devils on it as well as Ji-Hun - the Doctor doesn't seem so upset about this. She's too busy leading Yas on and making provocative statements about loving their time together and wanting it to last forever ... wasn't that what Rose said to the Doctor in 'New Earth'?
ROSE: It's beautiful. Oh, I love this. Can I just say, travelling with you, I love it.
DOCTOR: Me too. Come on.
My overwhelming feeling having watched the episode twice now, was that it improved on the second watching as you knew which bits to try and listen to for explanations ... the sound mix is awful and the effects and music often drown out key pieces of dialogue, especially from the Doctor as she tends to gabble, her accent also getting in the way of understanding what she's saying.
|The Doctor, Yas and Dan meet Madame Ching|
I wonder about Marsissus and his Sea Devil pals. He presumably vanished back in 1533 when he was turned to stone and displayed at the village (and why was the statue giant-sized and holding a tiny human in its hand?) ... so what happened to the other Sea Devils? Are they all just incredibly long-lived and so sat around in their underwater lair, twiddling their fins, waiting for their boss to come back. Why didn't they slaughter the village in 1533 and take their leader back? And when Marsissus is revived in 1807, how come all the Sea Devils are suddenly there to take commands and attack and whatever ... are these new Sea Devils? Or the same as before? Where have they been hiding? Why haven't they been attacking and generally pirating while their boss was away ... and no other Sea Devil became the boss? No-one took charge and decided what to do?
This theme continues with things happening which you just have to roll with ... yes it's all exciting and looks amazing, and the music is great ... but you need a good plot to weld it all together ... and this is something that Chibnall and his writers (this episode is co-written with Ella Road) seem to consistently miss. I have to say though, that as the Whittaker era has progressed, things have slowly improved in the plotting department. Her first season was pretty woeful, but improved in the second, Flux showed a lot of promise, but they totally dropped the ball on most of it at the very end. And now we have 'Legend of the Sea Devils' which actually has no apparent Legend in it ...
I can't even hand on heart say that it's some new modern way of storytelling, as series after series of other shows prove that you can tell emotional and exciting stories in a 45 minute format ... that you can care about characters and plot, and make it all work ... it's just Doctor Who which seems to muff it every time and lose sight of the importance of plot and character over flashbangwallop.
Finally ... and yes this has gone on a bit ... when fans are more excited over the trailer for the next episode, than the episode you've just seen, then it must be obvious that something is not working ...
And a CODA: people commenting that I didn't like it ... well strangely I did enjoy it ... faults and all it rushed past in a manic panic ... visually stunning, some great performances, loved ALL the costumes and sets ... it's just that darned annoying thing called a plot that was lacking!!!