Doctor Who (2005) s13e08 – Legend of the Sea Devils

Legend of the Sea Devils is incredibly genial. As Jodie Whittaker's penultimate "Doctor Who" outing, it's terribly disappointing, but Whittaker's entire run has been disappointing. It's far from her fault; rather, it's showrunner Chris Chibnall (who also co-wrote this special) being exceptionally milquetoast. But this special is a look at how blandly acceptable Whittaker's recent season could've been; they did a six-part series instead of individual episodes, meaning new companion John Bishop never could get situated.

He's situated here and fine. Bishop tries very hard in his scenes with Whittaker and other companion, Mandip Gill. But he also seems to know they're the regulars, and he's still the new guy. They've got a plot together, though, whereas Bishop's just their pal. This episode addresses Gill's recently revealed romantic interest in Whittaker, which is a "Who" no-no. No time for love. Though two of the five Doctors in this revival series have had significant romance or ostensible romance arcs, and now they're shoehorning it in for Whittaker at the very end.

It's a middling resolution; sincere enough it'd be nice to see Whittaker and Gill in something else together, breezy enough it doesn't slow things down. There are no other subplots in the episode which has the TARDIS going off course and landing in 1807 China, where the Sea Devils are attacking humans. The episode doesn't give the full details, but Whittaker has had dealings with them in the past. Well, the future, sort of. The Sea Devils are from the early seventies "Doctor Who," making the lousy costumes a little better. Obviously, it doesn't make the outfits look any better; it just means there's an excuse for them looking like… lousy seventies alien costumes.

Whittaker and Gill have to go the past to find a treasure while Bishop befriends a recent orphan (Marlowe Chan-Reeves) as they get in trouble with pirate Crystal Yu. It's fine. It'd be a completely solid, albeit uninspired regular episode. As a special—as Whittaker's penultimate "Who"—it's maybe wanting, but only because it's too little too late for the new team.

The special effects are sometimes wonky; the CGI background skies are terrible for whatever reason. Maybe it's intentional, like the alien costumes. There's also seemingly a Goonies visual reference, which is cute, and the other special effects aren't bad. Though the swashbuckling sword-fighting is wanting. Director Wang does much better with the emotional stuff than the action while not doing particularly well with any of it. Not bad, though. Just… not good.

Sea Devils feels like a contractual obligation, which just makes it remind how Whittaker never really had a chance with Chibnall driving the boat.