Here’s my guess as to why “The Curse of Peladon” looked a little, shall we say, financially underwhelming. “The Sea Devils” teams up writer Malcolm Hulke, director Michael E. Briant, and guest star Roger Delgado from the previous season’s “Colony in Space” and it looks twice as expensive as any other period Doctor Who adventure, with lots of location filming, a great big cast, and a real sense of space, three important qualities that “Peladon” lacks.
The home video copy of “The Sea Devils” is an uglier than usual washed-out mess that was returned from Canada, reverse-engineered into PAL, then re-converted to NTSC, so the images I’ll use to illustrate posts about this serial will be pretty ropey, but if you haven’t seen this one, you really should. It’s a great adventure story, with Hulke turning down the politics in favor of really impressive set pieces. The Master has been sentenced to life imprisonment on an island, in nearly solitary confinement under the watchful eye of a Colonel Trenchard. But it didn’t take long for the Master to start running the place. He’s got Trenchard running errands for him, and is every bit as interested in the recent sinkings of three ships as the Doctor is when he finds out about it.
While our son was most charmed, of course, by the Master showing off his fascination with children’s television – Trenchard interrupts him when he’s trying to enjoy Clangers on his weird Venetian blind color TV – he was properly creeped out by the shadowy appearance of a strange monster on an old sea fort. “We’ll watch part two tomorrow night, and I hope those strange sea monsters won’t freak you out,” I told him. “I’m ALREADY freaked out,” he replied.