Doctor Who

Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep – Script and Production Problems Abound

Written by Johnny Byrne and Sydney Newman
Directed by Pennant Roberts

Doctor Who is a British science fiction television series which has been around off and on since 1963. The main character is just known as “The Doctor” and is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. This means he travels through time to various places. One of his favorite places to visit is Earth. Typically, he has a companion traveling with him, usually female, sometimes male, sometimes one of each. He travels in a time machine known as a “Tardis” which is disguised as a British Police booth.

A Time Lord can regenerate if fatally wounded, which has accounted for all the different actors who have played The Doctor throughout the years. In this episode, the Doctor is portrayed by Peter Davison. He is traveling with Tegan (portrayed by Janet Fielding) and Turlough (portrayed by Mark Strickson).

The Doctor is taking Tegan to see the future of Earth as he promised her.  Unfortunately, the future he finds is a somewhat bleak one.  The Earth is locked in a nuclear stalemate.  Under the sea, a strategically placed Sea Base has a cache of nuclear weapons pointed at their opposition. At the time of the Tardis’ arrival, the crew of the Sea Base is inspecting some odd readings, which they don’t realize is the result of the Silurians and Sea Devils being reawakened once again.

Silurians? Sea Devils? For fans of the series, the names will strike a chord.  They were last seen back during the Doctor’s UNIT days.  Both creatures once called the Earth home but put their species into stasis to survive a cataclysmic event.  The only problem is they seem to have overslept and only awakened once humans now rule the planet.

They are identified as hostiles, first by a probe that the Doctor destroys, then by the inhabitants of the Sea Base.  The Silurians intend to initiate a war between the humans on the planet, then come in and reclaim their rights to the planet once all has been destroyed.

This is one of the story arcs that has garnered the most criticism over the years.  I have plenty to level at it, but not for the same reasons other people have.  Yes, the creatures in the rubber suits are pretty bad, but that’s been a trademark of the show for years.  The sets aren’t the greatest, either, and the lighting isn’t used in such a way to hide the faults and instead bring those to the forefront.  Those issues aren’t deal-breakers for me, though. Most of the problems I have with the episode are in regard to the story and should have been taken care of and could have quite easily.

A few examples:

Instead of the usual confusing techno-babble that somehow seems to make sense, the writers seem to get lazy.  The Doctor describes one of the maneuvers he’s about to do as a materialization flip-flop.  Flip-flop?  Hello? This was two decades before our 2004 Presidential campaign.

The cliffhanger ending of episode #1 has the Doctor falling into the water unconscious. Tegan is about to go in after him when Turlough stops her saying “face it, he’s drowned”.  The Doctor hasn’t even been in the water for ten seconds, why would they believe him to be drowned? Even in 1984, people were being revived after longer periods in the water.

The inhabitants of the sea base look like characters from a bad 80’s music video, with crazy makeup on the women included.

At one point on the way to rescue the Doctor and Tegan, Turlough forces one of the sea base techs to open up a bulkhead door the Silurian creature was sealed behind. This action results in the death of other inhabitants of the sea base.  I can’t imagine the Doctor ever being all right with other people being killed so he can live, nor he and a companion.  There should have been another way to do this, not to mention the consequence of Turlough’s decision is never addressed.

There is some debate as to whether it was the story itself at fault or if a decent story was hampered by the budget.  Some people claim that there were sequences that were supposed to be cut but were left in due to there not being money in the budget for a second cut.  However, I look at scenes like the ones I highlighted above and there seem to be issues that point to problems with the script as well as production values due to a limited budget.

The acting is fine and I don’t level any blame at the actors here.  Peter Davison is convincing in his portrayal of the Doctor, something astounding considering how badly this story arc plays out.  For as much as Janet Fielding seems to disparage her days on Doctor Who during the various commentaries I’ve listened to, she gives her all to a storyline that wasn’t the best she had.  Turlough also seems to be coming into his own as one of the team, and there is a feeling of camaraderie when he is with the Doctor and Tegan now, although the stupid actions he takes still seem to indicate a need to prove himself.  That’s not the fault of the actor, though, as Strickson does a fine job with the material.  The guest cast is fine if forgettable.  The most outstanding thing about them seems to be the crazy ’80s makeup.

As usual, the story arc is given great treatment for the transfer to DVD even if the story isn’t all that great.  There’s commentary with members of the cast & crew as well as featurettes and previews among the DVD special features.  The print itself is excellent with no noticeable issues in the audio and video department.

I really don’t recommend viewing Warriors of the Deep, especially for fans new to the series and those who have only seen the newest incarnation of the Doctor.  The production values have changed so much over the years that it will leave most people scratching their heads as to why anyone would watch this show to begin with.


• Commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Script Editor Eric Saward, Effects Designer Matt Irvine
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