This story in a nutshell: After allying himself with the Axons and the Devil, the master is back in cahoots with another race that could determine the fate of humanity...
Dippy Agent: Katy Manning looks fabulous in her white suit and there is no sign of the dizzy blonde here, she’s a professional spy once again and responsible for beating up three guards and rescuing the Doctor twice. The last time we saw her this resourceful was The Mind of Evil and I although I find she matures beautifully in her last season I’m not sure she would ever be this practical again. The chemistry between Manning and Pertwee is effortless at this point. I love her ‘that was my favourite DJ’ scene with him when they are trapped on the Fort together. She’s learnt the paralyzing ‘Judo Chop!’ technique, knocking out guards with a single blow. This is not the work of the Doctor, she has clearly she has been taking lessons from her old pal Tara King.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The point Mr Parliamentary Private Secretary is that you have not destroyed them. You have just made them angry. Very, very angry!’
‘You said man is weak!’ ‘So he is! Soon you can surge from the sea in your millions and exterminate them!’
The Shallow Bit: I hadn't realised that the submarine Commander was Donald Sumpter! He was quite a hottie in his youth!
Result: I have been far too hard on this story in the past. I had always written it off as an ugly looking, tuneless repeat of the Silurians with about half it's intelligence and lacking its decent characterisation. Whilst some of those criticisms do hold water I can feel a counter argument brewing in my mind even as I type those words. Yes the story is drenched in miserable colours and the location work does look grainy and dour but the direction in general is of an extremely high quality and the action is covered dynamically throughout. Yes the music is extremely experimental but at least the show was trying something different and occasionally Malcolm Clarke manages to strike upon something genuinely spooky and atmospheric (the submarine scenes are very well scored). And yes the character work may not match Doctor Who & the Silurians for shades of grey but Malcolm Hulke is too strong a writer to let even the smallest of characters slip by without some colour and conviction. Like all six parters it is stuffed full of padding but as a complete story it holds together far better than I have ever given it credit for, aided by the high action content which adds a war movie credibility to the piece. We can thank the Royal Navy for that, ensuring that when Walker orders a strike against the Sea Devils it genuinely looks like they have the facilities to blow them off the planet. Michael Briant's direction is excellent and he ensures the pace rarely lets up, filling the story with exciting set pieces (and some nicely handled scares) and I can understand why Barry Letts kept turning to the youthful and risk taking director. The Doctor and the Master dance around each other, revelling in their rivalry and yet always on the verge of polishing each other off. It would be fair to say that in stories of this type that Roger Delgado's Master is every bit the central character as the Pertwee's Doctor and during parts of The Sea Devils you might even find yourself siding with the villain such is his mesmeric influence. On its own strenghts I would probably give this story a 7 but this has been one of my biggest surprises since I ran this higgeldy piggledy marathon and I felt a tingle of excitement that you get when discovering a great Doctor Who story throughout which bumps it up to a: 8/10