Legend of the Sea Devils leaves me a little underwhelmed, a Doctor Who special that wasn’t, well, special enough
“No ship, Sherlock!”
It’s impossible to quantify just how much Covid has derailed Doctor Who, particularly as we move ever closer to Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall’s departure from the series. Necessarily restricted by lockdown but able to film under strict conditions, the arrival of Legend of the Sea Devils is a testament to creative fortitude in and of itself.
With that in mind, this adventure – co-written by Chibnall with Ella Road and directed by Haolu Wang – it’s hard to know exactly how to pitch any criticism. A short running time and some way choppy editorial decisions suggest logistical struggles. But it’s hard not to feel that a story that both alights on a fascinating historical figure and reintroduces a classic monster, whilst also serving as a penultimate episode for a Doctor.
Trying to recap the would-be swashbuckling story feels like a hiding to nothing. Suffice to say, both the iconic Sea Devils and the legendary Madame Ching are both after a mystical treasure, but to very different ends. But all told, we found out very little about pirate captain supreme Ching. And the Sea Devils were frustratingly vague as villains, with a hodge-podge of powers used rather inconsistently.
Nods to continuity provided more effective moments. Dan getting to chat to Diane and touching on the traumatic events of Flux, the Doctor and Yaz talking about the depth of their feelings and the difficulties of workplace romances. I longed for something deeper though – Timeless Child/Fugitive Doctor-relatedv- to ramp up into the forthcoming final special, just for the sense of occasion. That trailer though…! Ace! Tegan! *faints*.