Doctor Who has been delivering thrilling episodes, but “Legend of the Sea Devils” falls short of expectations. This episode, although it may have been enjoyable within a regular season, fails to live up to the hype of a special. The return of the Sea Devils, a classic monster from 50 years ago, the historical setting of 19th century China, and the inclusion of pirate ships should have made for an exciting adventure. However, the execution falls flat.
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A Perfunctory Episode
The lack of tension surrounding the Sea Devils dampens their threat. They simply state their intention to take over the world to the Doctor, but there is no build-up or genuine sense of danger. While these creatures boast an impressive redesign, they don’t evoke the classic fear that Doctor Who is known for, aside from a brief moment at the beginning of the episode.
The supporting characters, Madame Ching, Ji-Hun, and Ying Kei, receive little development or background. Their motivations are clumsily conveyed through exposition and then left untouched. Their arcs remain unsatisfying, leaving the audience disconnected. By the third act, it feels as if the episode is running out of time, and everything fizzles out except for some emotional resolution for the Doctor and her friends.
The Limitations of Production
The constraints of shooting during the pandemic are evident throughout “Legend of the Sea Devils.” Wide shots of empty boat decks and awkward transitions highlight the limitations of the production. The episode feels empty, lacking the usual energy of Doctor Who. With a small primary cast and few scenes featuring actual people, the stakes feel low. As a result, it becomes difficult to care about the Doctor’s mission to stop the Sea Devils from carrying out their evil plans.
Although Doctor Who has successfully produced cheap-feeling, small-scale episodes in the past, “Legend of the Sea Devils” falls short of capturing the same magic. The ambition to create a grand high-seas adventure is apparent, but the execution fails to deliver. Even the trailer for the next episode at the end of “Legend” generates more excitement than the episode itself.
The Strength of Emotional Connections
Despite the lackluster adventure, “Legend” successfully provides moments for the Doctor and Yaz to explore their complicated feelings for each other. As the penultimate episode before Jodie Whittaker’s departure, the focus on their relationship adds an emotional core to the episode. While the idea of a romantic relationship between them seems doomed, given the Doctor’s warnings about her nature as a Time Lord, it is important to see their affection openly expressed.
These vulnerable moments between Yaz and the 13th Doctor signify growth and evolution for both characters. It is especially significant for the Doctor, who has struggled with her darker impulses and a tendency to be dishonest with her closest friends. Opening up to Yaz, even if it means acknowledging the barriers to a true relationship, is a step towards healing and confronting her pain.
The future holds further heartbreak for the 13th Doctor as her final days approach and a battle with old friends and enemies ensues. As a show about time travel, Doctor Who thrives on the excitement and potential of what lies ahead. While “Legend of the Sea Devils” may have sacrificed some present excitement to set the stage for the future, it is the anticipation of what is to come that keeps fans engaged.
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