For Jodie Whittaker's 13th Doctor, the end is nigh. Materialising this Sunday is the second of 2022’s trilogy of Doctor Who specials and it sees the return of a monster not seen in nearly four decades.
Legend of the Sea Devils (on BBC One at 7:10pm, Sunday, 17 April) will be Whittaker’s penultimate Doctor Who story ahead of her final episode, due to air as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations this Autumn.
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So, what do we know about the latest Easter special? Well…
The Sea Devils are back
Although they’re one of Doctor Who’s most instantly clockable monsters, these sea-dwelling critters have only appeared twice in the show, first in 1972 during Jon Pertwee’s reign and again in 1984, opposite their land-lubber cousins, the Silurians, in the Peter Davison story Warriors of the Deep.
“We didn't start with Sea Devils at all,” admits outgoing Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall, “but the great thing about Doctor Who’s history is sometimes you can pull on all of that history and go, ‘Oh wait okay, the perfect monster has already been created, and is already in there!’ So you can spend a long time thinking about creating or making a bespoke monster for this story, but actually, we thought, ‘If you add the Sea Devils in, this becomes really exciting.’”
When Chibnall brought back the Silurians in Matt Smith’s first season, the decision was made to radically alter the monster design. For the arguably more iconic Sea Devils, however, it’s still very much that same look that monster man John Friedlander created 50 years ago.
Says Chibnall: “It felt like there were ways that we could fit that original, brilliant and recognisable design into this story and have a bit of fun with it, ‘pirate’ them up a little bit while also doing little bits of updating and augmenting – but fundamentally retaining the incredible design by John Friedlander.”
It’s Doctor Who’s first real swashbuckler
Doctor Who has dipped its toes into pirate waters before, notably with the 2011 episode, The Curse of the Black Spot, but Legend of the Sea Devils promises to be a rip-roaring adventure of the type Hollywood used to knock off in its sleep.
This one finds Team TARDIS in 19th century China, where they stumble across a small coastal village under threat from both pirate queen Madam Ching (played by Casualty’s Crystal Yu) as well as the dreaded Sea Devils.
“It’s a big standalone bank holiday action romp for all the family!” enthuses Chibnall. “A rollicking, swashbuckling adventure for the Doctor, Dan and Yaz with big monsters, big pirate ships, the sword fights, lots of fun, loads of action, lots of lovely jokes and a great, fun tone before we go into the big epic battle for survival with Jodie's final episode.”
Expect more ‘Thasmin’
Doctor Who's New Year special Eve of the Daleks confirmed what many viewers had suspected had been brewing in the 2021 Flux series, that Yaz had something of a crush on the Doctor. Well, for all those that have been excitedly anticipating more ‘Thasmin’ (as fans have tagged the Yaz/Doctor ‘romance’), rest assured that it’s addressed in Legend of the Sea Devils.
“In Eve of the Daleks, both Yaz and the Doctor have hinted that they have feelings that they are suppressing and keeping quiet about,” reveals Chibnall. “So there are some conversations that need to be had and you'll see those conversations developing and taking place.”
“The relationship between the Doctor and Yaz has definitely developed further,” adds Mandip Gill, who plays Yaz. “There’s not an awful lot I can say about it but there's a lot of bravery, there's a lot of emotion and a lot of understanding, and openness. Conversations are not concluded in this episode, but they still definitely have advanced from where they were at the New Year’s episode.”
Time is nearly up for the 13th Doctor’s — and Chris Chibnall
It’s been three and a half years since Jodie Whittaker took her bow as the first female Doctor, and the same amount of time since Chris ‘Broadchurch’ Chibnall took over from Steven Moffat as Doctor Who’s head honcho. And this Autumn, both are bidding adieu, with Chibnall making way for returning showrunner Russell T Davies and Jodie moving aside for… well, we still don’t know.
“It’s lovely doing the post production on these last two specials because you're not having to write and film at the same time,” says Chibnall.
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“As showrunner, when you're doing Doctor Who and you're in the thick of it you're doing three jobs at the same time. You're writing for episodes down the line, you're looking at all the filming that's happening and you're in the edit and post production on multiple episodes. So it's really nice now that I don't have any other episodes to think about.
"I love the post production process, it’s one of my favourite bits because you're just watching teams of geniuses produce great work! So it's nice not to have the workload, it’s nice not to have the pressure of what’s coming up.
I'm sort of combining having a break with finishing these episodes and working on other things so it’s lovely right now.”
Legend of the Sea Devils is on BBC One on Easter Sunday, 17 April at 7.10pm.
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