Warriors of the Deep
Warriors of the Deep was the first story in Season 21 of Doctor Who. It marked the return of two enemy races last seen during Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor: the Silurians and the Sea Devils, who make their only televised appearance in the same story. The Silurians and Sea Devils hadn’t appeared in the series since Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Sea Devils (respectively), and this story currently marks the final televised appearance of the latter species.
Off set, this story was notorious for its troubled production and poor execution, with particular regard to the Myrka (which was negatively compared to a pantomime horse by critics). This story was beset with numerous production problems and even political considerations (Margaret Thatcher had called an election when production began, and the reference to two superpowers in the story would be seen as a reference to the Cold War). There were a number of continuity problems concerning the Silurians and Sea Devils in the original script. Editing removed many, but some remained in production.
The story is generally acknowledged by fans and critics as one of the worst-produced Doctor Who stories. According to former BBC controller Michael Grade, the finished product was bad enough to convince him to try and cancel Doctor Who entirely when he took up his now-infamous position. In the long run, this story’s lackluster outcome ended up creating negative repercussions for the show. This eventually culminated in its cancellation in 1989, concluding the 26-year “classic” run of the series.
The year is 2084, and there is a cold war in progress. The world is divided into two opposing superpower blocs. One of the blocs has created a secret underwater base, Sea Base 4, which is strategically positioned and has nuclear weapons aimed at the opposing bloc. As a security measure, the base’s nuclear weapons can not be activated unless a trained human operator can “sync” his/her mind with the computer and authorize their deployment.
However, the bridge sync operator, Lt. Michaels, has been mysteriously killed and has been succeeded by his inexperienced apprentice, Ensign Maddox. Maddox is nervous, fearing he is not ready to take over as sync officer and will not be able to cope if a missile run is ordered. An unidentified reading is detected by the base’s long-range sensors, but the base’s commander, Vorshak, and one of his officers, Bulic, dismiss it as nothing more than a glitch. The reading on the sea base’s sensors is, in fact, an undersea craft; on board is the Silurian Icthar, with his subordinates, Scibus and Tarpok.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor has set coordinates for Earth, telling Turlough he has promised Tegan to show her some of her planet’s history. The TARDIS materializes in orbit over Earth, but is confronted by a robotic security satellite, Sentinel Six, which demands the TARDIS transmit the proper security code.
Meanwhile, the sea base sends out an unmanned probe to check on the identified reading, just to be sure. Taking note of the probe, Scibus is concerned that they will be detected, but Icthar sends a Myrka, a large aquatic reptile with the ability to electrocute other organisms (similar to that of an electric eel’s) that the Silurians control, against it; he assures Scibus that the creature will destroy the probe before they are detected. They then descend to a secret underwater berth where their cousin-species, the Sea Devils, have long been in hibernation.
Sea Base 4 undergoes a missile run and Maddox is synched to the computer; it turns out to only be a practice drill but when it ends, Maddox is overwhelmed with anxiety and faints. The base’s chief medical officer, Doctor Solow, declares Maddox is unfit for duty. Vorshak is concerned; until Maddox can return to his duties or a replacement is assigned, the function of the base is compromised. Another officer, Nilson, suggests to Vorshak that they use a special security disk to reprogram Maddox’s brain and help the sync operator cope with his job. Vorshak agrees and releases a duplicate program disk to Nilson and Solow, who take Maddox to the medical area’s psycho-surgery unit. Nilson and Solow, however, are actually enemy agents for the opposing bloc; they plan to program Maddox so that he will destroy the nuclear weapons computer.
Exiting the TARDIS, the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough find themselves in a chemical storage area. From the design, the Doctor accurately surmises the year and is aware of the time period’s cold war. Turlough signals for a lift, inadvertently triggering an alert in the base’s security system. A team lead by Bulic is dispatched to investigate. The Doctor sets a reactor to overload in an attempt to avoid capture; this allows Tegan and Turlough to escape, but the security guard catches up to the Doctor. The two struggle and the Doctor falls over a ledge into a pool of water.
The Doctor swims underwater and escapes through a hatchway. Tegan and Turlough escape through a bulkhead, sabotaging it so they cannot be followed by Bulic and his security guards. A security guard is electrocuted while trying to open the bulkhead. The Doctor finds the guard and takes his radiation suit. Meanwhile, Turlough allows himself to be captured in order to give Tegan a chance to escape.
In the underwater berth, Icthar revives the Sea Devil warriors of Elite Group One from their hibernation and orders their commander, Sauvix, to attack Sea Base 4. They may kill the humans, but Icthar needs the base intact and undamaged.
The Doctor meets up with Tegan, who he leaves in hiding he while he enters the bridge to find Turlough. Tegan, however, is found by Preston, a worker on the Sea Base, who he takes to the bridge. An undersea craft comes into view of the base and Vorshak orders a missile run. The Doctor reveals himself and tells Vorshak to call off the attack, stating that the Silurians are a noble race. Vorshak ignores him and the Silurians use a particle compressor to neutralize the base’s defenses. In the confusion, Solow and Nilson use Maddox to sabotage the station. One of the base’s personnel, Karina, discovers this and attempts to stop Maddox, but Solow and Nilson force him to kill her.
The Silurians then launch their attack, dispatching the Myrka against the sea base’s airlock 1 and the Sea Devils to assault airlock 5. The Doctor and his companions head to airlock 2 while Vorshak, Preston, and a team head to airlock 5. The Myrka breaks the door down, trapping Tegan and killing some of the base’s crew with its electric touch; the Doctor stays to free Tegan, but the other other crew members retreat, sealing the bulkhead and therefore leaving the Doctor and Tegan trapped in the airlock with the Myrka.
The Doctor temporarily blinds the Myrka with a rifle power pack. Turlough races to the bridge and threatens Nilson with a rifle to open the airlock in which the Doctor and Tegan are trapped. After Nilson complies, the Doctor and Tegan escape and head to Airlock 5. This also releases the Myrka. The creature begins making its way toward the bridge, killing more of the base’s personnel. The Silurians prime up a device called a manipulator and prepare to enter the base.
Preston leaves Vorshak at airlock 5 and heads off to help the Doctor and Tegan stop the Myrka. He finds Maddox still sabotaging the base’s controls. The Sea Devils blow open airlock 5 and ruthlessly kill the defenders, suffering no casualties of their own. Vorshak manages to survive and retreat. Dr. Solow tries to flee the base with the reprogramming disk by way of escape pod, but is killed by the Myrka. The Doctor is eventually able to destroy the Myrka using an ultra-violet light generator.
The Sea Devils continue their the push towards the bridge, killing any crew that stand in their way. The Silurians follow in their path. Vorshak reaches the bridge and finds Nilson, now revealed as an enemy agent, holding Preston at gunpoint. Maddox tries to stop Nilson, but Nilson overloads the control unit for Maddox’s brain, killing him.
Nilson leaves the bridge and encounters the Doctor and Tegan, taking Tegan as a hostage in an attempt to escape. The Doctor blinds him with the ultra-violet generator. A group of Sea Devils arrive and kill Nilson. Locking Turlough and Bulic in the crews’ quarters, they then turn their guns on the Doctor.
The Sea Devils take the Doctor to the bridge, now under the control of the Silurians, and lock Tegan and Preston in the crews’ quarters with Turlough and Bulic. The Doctor recognizes Icthar from his third incarnation and confronts him about the massacre in the base. Icthar explains to the Doctor and Vorshak his plan to destroy mankind by starting a nuclear war with the base’s missiles. The nations of the world will retaliate, wiping one another out. They undo the damage caused by Maddox’s sabotage and connect the manipulator to the systems.
The Doctor manages to escape from the bridge and tries to find something to use against the reptiles. He discovers some cylinders of Hexachromite gas, which is lethal to all reptile life. A Sea Devil discovers the Doctor’s presence and attempts to shoot him. He misses the Doctor and hits one of the gas containers which sprays all over the warrior. As a result, the warrior begins to dissolve. Preston urges the Doctor to use the gas on the Silurians and Sea Devils. The Doctor adamantly refuses, accusing Preston of advocating genocide. Turlough reminds the Doctor of what the Silurians will do if they are able to launch the missiles; when he is unable to find anything else harmful but less lethal, the Doctor regretfully begins to connect the gas containers to a central air pump. The Doctor is discovered by Sauvix before he can turn the pump on. Preston grabs a gun, but is killed by Sauvix; Bulic sprays Sauvix with the gas, killing him.
As the Silurians prepare to fire the missiles, the Doctor feeds the gas into the ventilation system. Bulic stays in the chemical store to ensure that the gas keeps flowing, while the Doctor and his companions leave for the bridge to try to stop the Silurians. Scibus activates the missiles as the Sea Devils begin to collapse from the gas, and the Doctor tells Tegan and Turlough to give the Silurians oxygen to keep them alive. The Doctor, aided by Vorshak, tries to stop the missiles by linking himself into the equipment as the sync operator. The Doctor succeeds, but Vorshak is killed by Icthar. Then Icthar is himself killed by Turlough. Finally, it is all over. The Doctor, his companions, and Bulic are the only survivors. The Doctor is left in despair for both the base’s personnel and the Silurians, regretfully pondering, “There should have been another way.”