Aired 5 – 13 January 1984
The Fifth Doctor is an extremely intriguing incarnation, one with a gentlemanly and compassionate demeanour and a shrewd wisdom far beyond what his youthful appearance might suggest. However, whereas other incarnations seemingly had a knack for taking control of any situation with the utmost ease, the Fifth often runs into trouble when he tries to get those in positions of authority to listen to him. Accordingly, revisiting the iconic SIlurians and Sea Devils from the Pertwee era, prehistoric foes in two serials featuring humanity’s inability an unwillingness to seek a peaceful resolution to conflict, is a perfect fit for the version of the Doctor most looking for peace. Despite the inclusion of some clever notions, though, the script’s lack of philosophical depth along with gratuitous violence and budgetary constraints keep ‘Warriors of the Deep’ from delivering its intended moral impact.
The seabase set is actually quite impressive for the most part, and its shining sterility manages to mirror the rather impersonal conflict at hand. Similarly, though the costumes for the Silurians Sea Devils are hardly among the best the classic series ever produced, the modest updates from the original designs work quite well and help to compensate for the poor showing of the Myrka that loses all of its credibility and impact once it is visually revealed. Sadly, ‘Warriors of the Deep’ features a radically different tone that either of its Pertwee era predecessors, and the overall effectiveness of the prior denizens of Earth is lost along the way. Whereas in the previous serials the reptilian races were well-rounded and written with a mixture of virtue and fault alongside the humans, each race here is simply written as selfish and guilty. There is hardly any mention of the fact that the Silurians and humans were incredibly close to reaching an accord in ‘The Silurians,’ only to be undone by chance and a conspiratorial faction, and the reptilian races launching a seemingly unprovoked attack with intent of genocide undoes much of the goodwill that made them such sympathetic presences earlier.
Even though the humans are hardly well-developed entities here either, it’s clear that they are no better as they still violently interact with the people and world around them even a century in the future. In this sense, the humans and reptiles are again portrayed similarly, but the tone is so dismally dark that any shred of optimism for a peaceful resolution stemming from the prior stories is lambasted and shown to be impossible from the start. While it was not abnormal to hear the Third Doctor support the Silurians and the Sea Devils as he optimistically looked for peace, it’s strange to hear the pacifist Fifth Doctor continue to support the reptilian races after their unprovoked attack and declaration of genocidal intent, especially as he continues to berate the humans in the process.
With an incredibly high death count, ‘Warriors of the Deep’ can hardly be considered a resounding success on a personal level for the Fifth Doctor, and it’s telling that he exclaims that there must have been a better way for events to unfold. The performances of the three leads are admirable and do lend some needed depth to the story, but ultimately this is a tale satisfied with violence that seems to forget much of what made the returning foes so unique in the first place.